Giving and Leading: Foster Parent Recruitment

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With over 19,000 kids in foster care in Arizona, efforts are underway to recruit more foster parents, including single people and same-sex couples. Torri Taj, the CEO of Child Crisis Arizona, will tell us more.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona giving and leaving looks at efforts to recruit more foster parents in the state as over 19,000 children are currently living in out of home facilities. Joining us now is Torri Taj, CEO of child crisis Arizona, and Judy Krysik, Director of ASU's center for child well-being, which conducts research to improve community, based public services to children and families. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Torrie Taj: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Why do we have so many kids in out of home care? What's going on out there?

Torrie Taj: Well, at child crisis Arizona we are seeing the number of children increasing and we recently just had to increase the number of our capacity at our Phoenix shelter location for children eight and under.

Ted Simons: Why do you think that's happening?

Torrie Taj: There are just a lot of rots, a lot of families struggling. They are not able to care and provide for their children. In the correct way.

Ted Simons: Foster retention rates are not so good either. What's happening on that side of the equation?

Judy Krysik: Foster parents needs to be supported. Sometimes they have to deal with difficult situations, difficult behaviors and they don't feel they have the support that they need.

Ted Simons: So there's an effort to recruit new foster families. What's going on? Describe the efforts.

Torrie Taj: At child crisis Arizona we're recruiting foster families and we're always looking for individuals and couples who are interested in opening up their hearts and their homes to consider taking in one of the 19,000 children in the state's care. So we are having orientations all the time. Two to three times a month. Just inviting people in to come and learn what it would take for you to consider being a foster family.

Ted Simons: What are the requirements to be a foster parent? What are the rules?

Torrie Taj: So there are many different rules. So we do adoption and foster care recruitment. You need to be 21 or older to be a foster family. 18 to actually adopt. We do not need to be a married couple. We take same-sex couples from all different backgrounds. We welcome anyone who cares about children and they can go through our screening process and go through about a three-month process.

Ted Simons: Do you get to choose the child you want to foster? How does that work? [laughter]

Judy Krysik: The department of child safety works on matching. They try to make the best match they can so that child will be in stable placement.

Ted Simons: I would imagine probably more difficult for teenagers. That's always the case, isn't it?

Judy Krysik: It is difficult to place teens often. There may be behavioral issues. Teens want independence and that can sometimes be hard for families to manage.

Ted Simons: Do you need to be licensed to be a foster family?

Judy Krysik: Yes, you do, but often family take their family members and then work towards their licensure.

Ted Simons: What about the nonlicensed kinship families? How often does that happen?

Torrie Taj: It's really happening and it's very important. The first thing the department of child safety will make sure they look for other family members who can care for this child and are going to be familiar with them. That's actual the the best thing to look for first, but there are so many children out there in need of a safe place that we real need to ramp up recruitment efforts in Arizona to let people know there are not enough families available. We need to recruit more families to take in foster children.

Ted Simons: You mentioned earlier support. What kind of support do foster families get right now?

Judy Krysik: They may have support with basic needs. That can come from all different parts of the community. Maybe they need a bed or they need additional food. Then maybe they need counseling or support to deal with behavior. It runs the whole continuum.

Ted Simons: Medical costs, dental costs?

Judy Krysik: When children come into care they do receive support for medical and dental.

Ted Simons: What about living costs?

Torrie Taj: So yes, the state provides for all of those things. The state contracts with agencies like child crisis Arizona and we help those families get prepared for all those things that they will encounter when they bring a child or children into the home. Everything from comprehensive dental and medical care to just they need to learn the ropes of parenting differently, perhaps, than they parented their own children. A lot of the children coming into the foster homes have some behavioral issues, physical, chronic health conditions, so we really need to work with the families to make sure that they understand all the issues that can arise when they come into foster care. That's our job to make sure they are prepared and ready.

Ted Simons: You have to be prepared, don't you? these issues do exist, do they not? What do you see most as far as issues with foster families?

Judy Krysik: I think a lot of people might not know how to get involved, and so there are many ways that citizens can become involved in helping out these children. If they are not ready to be foster parents they may consider being a court appointed special advocate or sit on the foster care review board, sit on the citizens review panel and learn about the child welfare system before they actually decide to become a foster parent.

Ted Simons: That's a good idea. Last question. How often do foster families adopt?

Torrie Taj: It does happen. So some foster families will decide we're empty nesters, children just went off to school. We have parenting experience and we want to be able to do this. So they can have children in their home maybe for a year or two but they might adopt. We have seen it happen many times at child crisis Arizona, but it's a different process. There's a certification and a licensing process that many times you can do that and a lot of families will really want to see about adoption but will try foster care first. It's really an important step. Going through an agency that will license and work with you is so important so that you really know what -- the worst thing that can happen for these children is they go to foster care and they disrupt. Disruption rate is 10%, not accept until.

Ted Simons: Thank you both for being here. We certainly appreciate it.

Judy Krysik: Thank you.

Torrie Taj: Thank you.

Torri Taj: CEO of Child Crisis Arizona

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