By Amie Sites
---- — The Cass County Department of Child Services is trying to recruit more foster parents for area children.
Although it's not always easy and can be a give-and-take process, Julie Rottet has found being a foster parent rewarding.
Rottet first became a foster parent about 16 years ago. It eventually led to the adoption of the child who was placed in her home.
After not taking in any additional children for a few years, Rottet and her husband decided to begin again. They currently have four foster children.
The Cass County Department of Child Services is pushing for foster parents, like Rottet, to provide homes so children are able to stay in an area familiar to them.
There are more than 4,600 abused or neglected children in Indiana currently living in non-relative foster homes because it is unsafe for them to live in their own homes, according to a press release for the Cass County DCS.
In Cass County, 19 abused or neglected children live in foster homes, the release said. In Cass County, there are currently about 15 homes that are licensed and most are at capacity, according to a local specialist.
Kathy Phipps, foster care specialist with the Cass County DCS, said there is a push to recruit additional foster parents so children can remain in Cass County – an area they call home.
“Our policy is we want to keep kids in their home and if that’s not possible, with family members,” Phipps said. “Sixty-six percent of the time we’re allowed to do that — the other 34 percent we’re trying to fill that gap and find a nurturing family.”
In the case of unfortunate removals, if there isn't a home available in Cass County, they have to be moved elsewhere, said Brian Brown, director of Cass County DCS.
“We are doing a push for more foster parents right now because we want there to be less trauma for the children,” Phipps said. “We want them to be able to stay in their own school and community and maintain contact with their friends and teachers.”
Informational meetings will help shed some light on the need for foster parents, Phipps said. There will be three 30-minute sessions at 10 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Cass County DCS office, 330 E. Broadway.
Those interested will learn at the informational meeting they have to pass a background check, take part in 15 hours of pre-service training hours and must be certified for first aid and CPR, Phipps said. There will also be a home check to make sure there is enough room for the child to be placed — there must be at least 50 square foot per foster child in the bedroom, Phipps said.
Since August, there have been 15 kids who have gone through Rottet’s house, she said. Some children only stay for a few weeks before being able to go home or return to family members.
“A lot of people say, ‘I could never do that, it would just break my heart,’” Rottet said. “Those people would probably be the best foster parents because their heart is in the right place. The time the child spends in your family outweighs the heartbreak.”
It is not always a big, happy picture, Rottet admits. The first few weeks are rough for both the children and the parents as each adjusts to the other’s schedule, she said.
“A lot of the kids feel it’s their fault they were taken away from everything,” Rottet said. “It doesn’t take long for them to figure out it’s not their fault. We work together through the good and the bad.”
Phipps expanded on the feeling of blame, explaining some children are stripped away from their home and parents.
For Rottet, being a foster parent has been rewarding.
“When my husband and I were talking about doing this, you wouldn’t believe all the people who said, ‘oh, the horror stories,’” Rottet said. “I don’t find that to be true. You just have scared little boys and girls and once they have trust with you, their life is different.”
Rottet said they have had both boy and girl foster children ranging from ages 2 to 15. During the application process, employees at the Cass County DCS try to match the age of the kids that need a home with an age potential parents have in mind, Phipps said.
“It’s hard to explain how being a foster parent makes you feel,” Rottet said. “At the end of the day when you go to make sure the kids are all covered up [for bed], you know why you’re doing it.”
If people are interested but unable to attend the meeting, Phipps can be reached at 574-722-3677 extension 10857.
Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her: @PharosAES.
If you go: WHAT: Meetings for prospective foster parents WHEN: Three 30-minute meetings at 10 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Saturday WHERE: Cass County Department of Child Services office, fifth floor, 300 E. Broadway