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No quick fix for foster care crisis: tough, long process to become a foster parent

No quick fix for foster care crisis: tough, long process to become a foster parent

CREATED Jul 25, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Arizona’s foster family program is in the midst of a big crisis: too many kids, not enough beds. Some nights, foster kids are bunking in office buildings.

We’ve been on top of this story for several days, and many of you – our viewers – have responded by volunteering to help.

But what does it take? How long does it take? And what challenges will you face?

The economic downturn and the rise in drug abuse are a couple of reasons why there are more kids who need foster homes now. However, becoming a foster parent is a months-long process that is followed by something even tougher.

Leslie Michotte adopted all her pets, but the registered nurse – and with her husband – are making a bigger move to become foster parents. She is at the end of the process to get approval.

“It was a win-win for me, for my husband, for the community and for some hopefully cute kids,” Michotte said.

Sandra Watson of Casa de los Niños tells us the process usually takes about four to six months and involves:
-    extensive interviews with and fingerprinting of everyone in the home
-    a physician’s statement, proving the parent is of sound health
-    proof of income, showing the parent can pay for bills without outside assistance
-    making the home safe with smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
-    and 3 hours of training for 10 weeks

“Going through [the training manual] and finding how to get a pediatrician, how to get kids enrolled in school and daycare – all that is going to be new to me,” Michotte said, adding she is glad to have gone through the rigorous process.

Other parenting challenges include caring for kids who have been neglected or abused.

“Many of the children have behavioral issues. Some have emotional issues,” said Sandra Walters, Assistant Program Director for Casa de los Niños. “They may come to your home needing some extra special patience, encouragement and love.”

Walters said about half of the people who start the process of becoming a foster parent, drop out for various reasons, such as the time-intensive training or for smaller reasons like fixing up their house.

Michotte, though, is determined to provide a stable home.

“I hope I can instill in them the fact that they are loved … that they’re wanted, they’re number one, that I want them,” she said.

The state of Arizona gives foster parents about $600 a month to pay for expenses for each foster child, which include food and transportation. The amount varies depending on the age of the child and whether there are additional special needs. The state also covers daycare and health insurance.

If you would like to help, give Casa de los Niños a call at (520)326-8250. An orientation for would-be foster parents will take place Monday, August 6th from 6pm to 7pm.