SIDNEY — SAFY is looking for the community’s help in recruiting foster families for Shelby County.
SAFY, Specialized Alternatives for Family and Youth, is a nonprofit foster care agency that recruits, trains and licenses foster parents in the area. The organization also offers on-site mental health services to the children and foster parents which include trauma healing, parent skills building, school success mentoring and teaching coping skills. Currently SAFY of Sidney works with 25 foster families in Shelby, Miami, Auglaize, Mercer, Logan, Champaign and Darke counties, 10 of the families are located in Shelby County.
Foster families are in short supply, but every week hundreds of children get placed into foster care. Sylvia Roop from Sidney’s SAFY location provided statistics from the week of Sept. 12-16. During this week 144 children were placed into foster care throughout the seven counties SAFY of Sidney works with. There were 102 referrals of children and sibling groups made to SAFY of Sidney and 58 of these referrals were either teenagers or sibling groups with teenagers. Of the 144 children entering foster care from Sept. 12-16, Roop and the team at SAFY of Sidney were able to place 16 youth.
“What happens to these youth that don’t have a place to go is they go into group homes. They don’t get to go into a loving foster home, they have to function in an institution which is not fair,” Roop said.
According to Roop and the statistics SAFY of Sidney keeps for every call they receive about a youth in need of a foster home, the organization averages about a 6% success rate of placing children and youth into foster homes on a weekly basis.
“We’re talking about the state of Ohio, so kind of like what’s happening in our own backyard, so to speak. Foster families would have received 34 calls (from Sept. 12-16) if they lived in our community. Usually one of the biggest questions I get is, ‘how big is the need?’ It’s literally a crisis all across the state,” said Roop.
To encourage more families or individuals to become licensed foster parents in the area Roop explained that she and the SAFY of Sidney team stay with parents and youth every step of the way. SAFY helps potential foster parents through the entire process of becoming licensed foster parents. Roop will meet with parents for an information session to pass along all details including what to expect in their training and the paperwork process before the potential foster parents begin the application and training process. Currently, training to become a licensed foster parent is 36 hours of virtual training.
Not only is SAFY staff like Roop available during the first steps of the process, the organization also has case coordinators who are there for the needs of the youth and foster parents throughout the youth’s time in the foster home. SAFY of Sidney also has a 24/7 service phone which connects foster parents with a case coordinator from their office rather than someone who is likely not familiar with that specific youth’s case.
SAFY’s foster families are encouraged to be aware of their biases to know what kind of children/youth they would be willing to be accept into their homes. With SAFY, foster parents have complete control over which youth they open their doors to; whether they’re open to fostering sibling groups or only one child, if they only want to foster males or females or if they are willing to take in teenagers or only younger children.
Roop uses what is called a referral phase sheet for teenagers in care. Referral phase sheets lay out the most basic information about a youth for potential foster parents to consider before choosing to taking them in. Referral phase sheets include the most basic information and often labels teens aggressive or disruptive for the smallest things like slamming doors or falling asleep in class and one of Roop’s priorities is to educate parents and remind them to ask questions and get more specific details about a youth before declining fostering a youth based solely on the information on their referral phase sheet.
“They get labelled so easily because they are in foster care. Just imagine everything you’ve ever done being written out for families to say ‘no, maybe I don’t want them in my home.’ That’s absolutely nerve wracking and there is that huge stigma. We teach our families to be as open as possible, to try to teach them some of those stigmas,” said Roop
Foster families and households can be any family or home. According to Roop, foster families fostering with SAFY can include single-parent homes, dual income households, families with children of their own, parents that work night shift and any other family/household dynamic that exists can become a foster family. Fostering youth does not require the biggest, most modern home; foster parents can even be renters instead of homeowners.
“We simply do not have enough foster homes to keep our youth that are coming into care in our community. Nine times out of 10 when a kid doesn’t have a placement to go to in their community, they get placed elsewhere. So not only are they losing their home and maybe mom and dad, no they’re losing their school, friends, bus route, everything. It’s really important for kids to stay in the community,” said Roop.
Roop’s biggest goal is to spread awareness in any way she can and hopes that she can open people’s eyes to the immediate need for foster parents. She is always open to attending church services, luncheons, club meetings or simply speaking with anyone who would like to look into becoming a foster parent. She can be reached at her office, 937-497-7239 ext. 1709, via cell phone at 937-407-0584 or by email at [email protected].
“Our biggest need, other than finding foster parents, is finding those connections, having that word of mouth. We can connect with people to hang flyers, put out our yard signs or even just liking us on social media and sharing our posts. You never know who has thought about becoming a foster parent… This is not just SAFY’s problem, this isn’t just my problem, it’s the community’s problem so let’s come together to raise awareness and help find foster parents within our own community,” said Roop.