There is always a need for more people to become foster parents, according to the Clark County Department of Family Services.
“We are looking for people willing to help children,” said Brenda Herbstman, who works with the department. “We don’t care your race, ethnicity, if you’re married, single, divorced, widowed, gay, straight or have a partner. If you have space in your home and love in your heart, we will work with everything else.”
There are about 3,000 children in the foster care system in Clark County, ranging from infants, toddlers and teenagers to sibling groups and children with special needs.
The department receives a mix of applicants interested in becoming foster parents from younger single people to grandparents, she said.
The first step for any interested person is to attend a basic information session.
Orientation meetings are usually offered from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturday of the month or 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday at the Department of Family Services, 701 N. Pecos Road.
“This just gives you the basics of the foster care system and gives you the minimum requirements,” she said.
People can choose to become a foster parent, foster to adopt or offer to be a respite care provider, in which they would be called upon if a foster parent goes out of town and needs to place a child for a short period of time.
Once applicants are interested, they go through a prescreening and background check followed by a 10-week course.
During the three-hour weekly classes, participants are educated on a variety of topics such as how to deal with the loss and grieving foster children are going through or common issues they face.
Herbstman said there aren’t currently courses for children whose families are applying to be foster parents.
“There is curriculum for it,” she said. “We just don’t have the staffing available.”
Families are encouraged to talk to each member during the process to make sure everyone is up to the task.
Herbstman said that during the process, the department also does home visits to address safety issues such as does the home have a fire extinguisher or safety ladder available.
“We also make sure the environment is emotionally safe,” she said.
Other requirements include first aid training, obtaining at least five references, showing transportation reliability and looking into financial stability.
After the courses and inspections, prospective foster parents are approved or denied.
With the rewards of being a foster parent comes the potential for heartbreak.
“Reunification is the No. 1 goal of the agency, not adoption,” Herbstman said. “If the birth family isn’t the safest environment for the child, then we go to Plan B.”
However, if the birth family does prove it is capable, then the child and parents are reunited.
“It is the hardest thing to go through when someone comes into your home and you pour your love into them and love them like they are your own kids,” Herbstman said. “It can be heartbreaking to see them leave.”
She encourages families to try to establish relationships with birth parents while the child re-establishes connection. Despite hardships, Herbstman said it’s worth it, and people should consider it.
“We always need really good, qualified people who are doing it from the heart,” she said.
For more information, call 702-455-0181.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.