‘There is a need … for foster parents’

 11 certified homes, monthly average of 24 kids in need

By Kevin Spradlin

* May 19: NC foster children find family support

Some might consider D’Juna Bostick and her husband, Johnny, to be failures.

In principle, they agreed to take in four children on a temporary basis through the Richmond County Department of Social Services. When the time came, the Hamlet couple  and licensed foster parents simply couldn’t give them up. Technically speaking, they reneged on their agreement.

D’Juna and Johnny, however, see it only as following through on their commitment. The couple has adopted three boys and a girl that previously came to their home as foster children. Olivia, 7, was adopted on Feb. 10, 2011. Jordan, 8, was adopted Oct. 8, 2010, and on May 7, 2007, the Bosticks welcomed Jacob, now 10, and Justin, 11, to their home on a permanent basis.

Submitted photo Olivia, 7, was adopted on Feb. 10, 2011. Jordan, 8, was adopted Oct. 8, 2010, and on May 7, 2007, the D'Juana and Johnny Bostick welcomed Jacob, now 10, and Justin, 11, to their home on a permanent basis.

Submitted photo
Olivia, 7, was adopted on Feb. 10, 2011. Jordan, 8, was adopted Oct. 8, 2010, and on May 7, 2007, the D’Jana and Johnny Bostick welcomed Jacob, now 10, and Justin, 11, to their home on a permanent basis.

That’s the good news. The problem is that leaves their home eligible for only one foster child.

Theressa Smith, of Richmond County DSS, said there are approximately two dozen Richmond County children in her agency’s care who need  temporary living situations. The problem is that through DSS, the county has only 11 certified families.

“There is a need in Richmond County for foster parents,” Smith said on Wednesday during National Foster Care Month. Of the 11 homes, “that doesn’t necessarily mean 11 openings.”

The local workload makes it difficult to keep up with demand. The Richmond County office receives an average of 91 reports of child abuse, neglect or dependency each month. Officials consider each complaint and evaluate or assess an average of 77 cases each month, a transition of 84.62 percent. That far exceeds the state average. Across North Carolina, there are 11,195.9 complaints each month and investigators manage 7,421 of those cases — a 66.28 acceptance rate.

Yes, Smith said, “the percentage is a lot higher in Richmond County than North Carolina. There are state guidelines that talk about what neglect is, what abuse is, what dependency is. In our county, I think we tend to err on the side of the child. It may be that we choose to do an investigation or assessment on something that’s questionable just to ensure the safety of the child.”

Bostick believes the larger need in Richmond County can be traced to “the growing use of drugs.”

She called drug use locally an epidemic, “especially meth.”

“There’s so much going on out there with parents using drugs,” Bostick said. “You know that some of them are using the drugs around the children … or making (other) decisions not in the best interests of the child.”

D’Juana Bostick, for one, wishes state regulations would permit a home like hers to be a home for additional children. She said if the people in the home have proven to local social workers that the children are loved and cared for, the limitations on the number of children should be flexible — whatever, she said, is in the best interests of the children in need.

“Especially,” Bostick said, “if you’ve shown that you can do it.”

Bostick and her husband have been doing just that for nearly her entire life. She took in her first child when she was 19 years old. Bostick said she grew up in the environment. Her mother took in children all the time whenever they needed a place to stay. Her mother’s efforts were less regulated than being a certified foster parent, but the idea was the same: provide a safe, nurturing environment.

Bostick, who has 20 years in the mental health field and now is a stay-at-home mom, has been a certified foster parent since 2004. With only one spot open in her home according to current state rules, a pair of siblings could be separated if one child is placed in her home and the brother or sister goes elsewhere.

What it takes

Being a foster parent isn’t for everyone. Smith, who oversees the DSS foster parent training program for Richmond County, is the first to recognize that reality. She called the 10-week training period — three hours one night a week — “a selection process” for both the potential foster parent and for DSS.

Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) is the basis for the training. Smith said the classroom type covers how the Department of Social Services works, describes the type of children that come into DSS care, what kinds of things to expect and what is and is not acceptable in terms of caring for the children, including discipline.

“It gives the potential foster parent an opportunity to learn about foster care and to make sure this is the right thing for them,” Smith said. “It also gives us an opportunity to get to know the potential foster parent to make sure this is a good fit for them.”

Smith acknowledged that a lot of people become foster parents for different reasons. For anyone thinking it’s about the money, Smith has one message: Think again.

“This is not a source of income for a foster parent,” Smith said.

She acknowledged there is a stipend for foster parents, but “I guarantee that Mrs. Bostick spends more to provide for her children than” what the state provides.

Even the basics — bills for food, electric and water — increase, along with potential school fees, activity fees and more.

“These children are not free to provide for,” Smith said. “You should be, as a foster parent, trying to provide as normal a life for them as you can.”

Smith said there is no ideal foster family. There are single foster parents, traditional couples like the Bostick family and “we actually have a sibling (pair), sisters living together and jointly foster.”

“We want to have a great variety of options so when a child needs placement,w e can not put them there just because there’s a bed but because it’s the best place for them,” Smith said.

A foster parent must be at least 21 years old and successfully pass a criminal background check and be fingerprinted. They also must maintain a drug-free environment and complete the required state-mandated training.

To learn  more, visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website, call 877-625-4371 or call Smith at 910-997-8446.

The foster family

There is no average length of stay for a child in a foster home, Bostick said. Sure, a statistic could be configured, but it probably wouldn’t mean much.

“Most of my kids come in long term,” Bostick said, but that’s not always the case. “They could bring ’em in for the night and the next day come and get ’em.”

The longest foster child who has stayed in Bostick’s home is four years. Older children, she said, are often in foster care longer than younger children.

Smith called the four-year stay “not the optimum, not wha we want.”

“We want to help the children reach permanency faster than that,” she said. A variety of factors go into what is ultimately a judge’s decision on with whom a child lives.

Smith said it’s important to remember that foster care “is sort of a last resort.”

The first option DSS officials and the legal system strive for is to keep the child in their own home. When that’s not possible, they try to have the child stay with a relative or someone else designated by the parent.

Remember, she said, foster care is temporary care.

“Our first goal is to try to reunify the family,” Smith said. “Foster parents should go into (each foster) knowing they are a temporary placement. It is not, this child comes to you and you’re making your long-term plans.”



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