BELTON — Prospective foster and adoptive families met with caseworkers and adoption agencies Thursday evening at the Bell County Museum. About 100 families and nine agencies discussed children waiting for foster or adoptive homes as well as the training and verification needed to become a foster or adoptive home.
“We’re here recruiting for new families for the children,” said Megan Avery Zellner, foster and adoption program director for Settlement Home for Children. “At any given time there are about 700 children available for fostering or adoption in the Central Texas area.”
Families go through state-mandated training and observation, Zellner said. Training includes working with a child’s attachment and bonding, biological parents and cultural background.
“It’s important for foster parents to understand that, inevitably, they will foster a child of a different ethnicity and to be aware about how to present that child with the appropriate opportunities to experience his or her heritage and spiritual development,” Zellner said.
Although it typically takes about three to four months for an applicant to be sufficiently trained and vetted to become a foster home, the process can be quicker, said Stacie Campbell, regional intake recruiter for Foster in Texas.
“It all depends on how frequently an applicant goes to training,” she said. Unlike private adoption agencies, groups that work to place children in the foster system don’t charge prospective families for services.
“Applicants have to pay some nominal fees to be certified in CPR and have their homes inspected but that’s about it,” Campbell said. Because of the complexity of the process, parents looking to foster or adopt a child “can’t just jump in. There’s a lot of paperwork because we have to make sure that we’re getting the right people.”
Although the process to become a part of a child’s life is long and complicated, Jason and Ange Jackson aren’t discouraged. The Jacksons have been fostering children for two years and are looking into adoption.
“We take older kids who don’t often get placed as much,” Jason Jackson said. “We do it because we have the room in our family and there are so many kids who need love and we can provide it.”
So far the Jacksons housed a 17-year-old girl, who moved back in with her family soon after being placed with them.
“The Department of Family and Protective Services has really changed the way things are done now,” Ange Jackson said. “It’s more about finding a good fit for the child than it is about finding the right match of family and child.”
Cari Kaparich, an adoption worker with the Department of Family and Protective Services, explained that any changes to the adoption process are made with the best interests of the children in mind.
“The ultimate goal is to find a safe and secure place for the children,” Kaparich said.