HONESDALE—Noting that there are 33 Wayne County children and young adults in the foster care system and an interconnected team of county workers and private families enriching these adolescent lives, the Board of Commissioners proclaimed May to be Foster Care Month at their meeting last Thursday, May 3.

Foster Care Month is “... an opportunity for all of us to show our gratitude towards the families in our own community who work with us every day and night to provide homes for children who aren't able to be with their families,” said Wayne County Resource Family Supervisor Cindy Batzel. “They certainly put in way more hours than any of us could imagine in terms of the care, the nurture, the support the provide these children.”

Of the 33 children mentioned above, Batzel stated 19 were able to be placed in approved homes.

Ten of those 19 are able to be placed in kinship homes, places where children can be looked after by relatives.

Children attended to in the foster care system range from newborns to as old as 21 years old.

The process it takes to register as a foster home has become more detailed over time, said Batzel, noting it can take up to four months for approval of single-child foster care and even longer to become kinship home.

“It definitely demonstrates commitment, right from the beginning,” said Batzel.

Commissioner Wendell Kay noted, “In the old days...I don't think we took as close a look at foster parents as we do now, and perhaps even as you mentioned kinship foster care, I think in those days ... if you were grandma or grandpa or aunt or uncle, we kind of just operated on faith alone that things were going to work out ok.”

Batzel noted research trends point toward keeping children in homes with relatives as a positive experience for the child.

“Children are much more successful when they're able to stay within their families,” she said, explaining there is a statewide trend toward increased number of kinship foster homes.

In providing foster service for children in the county, Batzel explained, “We operate off of the premise that children should be returned to their homes whenever that's safe and feasible to happen.”

When that is not possible, the next solution Batzel and her team seek is to establish permanency for the foster children.

“The next most permanent gaol that the state recognizes is adoption,” she said. “If rights are terminated, we do pursue adoption goals for these children. Often times, that's able to be achieved in the homes that they're placed in. That's our goal.”

Batzel explained foster homes are more frequently being looked at as eventual permanent homes, going so far as to include a question in the application inquiring as to the care giver's willingness to provide permanency.

Recounting his time spent working with students in the school system, Commissioner Joseph Adams pointed out this sense of permanency benefits children on an academic, personal, and social level as they can maintain some level of continuity by staying in the same community, school district and with the same circle of friends.

Commending the workers for their efforts, Kay stated “We thank all of you people who are so dedicated to this work, and knowing that it is not always easy work.”

He continued, “Not everyone can do those kinds of jobs so it's critically important for all of us that you do what you do.”

Adding to this, Adams said, “Hats off to the work that you do ... for these kids and families.”

He added, “We recognize how hard you work and how important your involvement is in the whole process.”

Those interested in becoming foster parents can contact the Wayne County Children and Youth Services at 570-253-5102 for more information.