CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County has a pressing need for foster families to care for teens and children with special needs.
Though its statistics do fluctuate, the county typically has between 90 and 110 children in foster care, said Erin Rowles, resource parent coordinator/Children & Youth Services, who spoke during Tuesday’s workshop meeting of the Clearfield County Commissioners.
“… Over half of those children are teens,” she said, noting it’s increasingly difficult to place 13- to 18-year-olds and especially those with special needs, which—along with their age—create a “barrier.”
Because these children so often require extra supervision, out-of-home support services and appointments, etc., families do receive a higher foster care subsidy payment, Rowles said.
In addition, there’s a need for single-parent homes, she said, as many children struggle with family dynamics like mother or father figures, other children in the home, etc.
Foster parents are limited to six children (including biological), though Rowles can seek a waiver, if for example, it involves kinship care or a group of siblings.
For those who desire to help a child but cannot commit to full-time foster care, Respite care is a short-term option that’s very much needed, Rowles said.
Respite care is short-term care—typically 24 to 72 hours—and gives CYS workers time to find children a permanent foster family, or provides some relief to current foster parents.
“Foster parents really are our unsung heroes,” giving a lot of children their first experience of a traditional “American family,” expressed Commissioner John A. Sobel, board chairman.
Commissioner Dave Glass agreed, adding it was better to find these children the best possible care now to prevent them from entering the criminal justice system later.
“It will save us, our community—time and trouble—if we take care of them right while they are younger.”
Rowles said CYS really “pushes” to find older children families so they don’t find themselves institutionalized and as 18- to 21-year-olds unable to function in a family setting.
While children can “sign out” of foster care at age 18, she said county caseworkers encourage them to remain in the system until they “age out” at 21 years old.
Children await their foster placement in residential group homes or emergency shelter care, with the closest being Pentz Run Youth Services in DuBois.
It was noted the county has a “definite need” for a children’s home like the one that once operated on South Second Street.
But, the pressing need for foster parents isn’t just a Clearfield County issue, it’s a national issue, Rowles said, that’s left a lot of states and counties opening up homes where beds are limited and waiting lists are long.
Individuals and families interested in caring for foster children may contact Rowles by phone at 814-765-1541 or e-mail email@example.com.
Individuals must be at least 21 years of age, pass medical and background clearances and complete required training hours. The application/licensure process takes approximately 45 to 60 days.