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Foster homes needed

by Larry S. Chowning

JoAnn Wilson-Harfst, director of social services in Middlesex and Mathews counties, recently addressed members of the Middlesex Ministerial Association on the subject of foster care.

She reported there are only four registered foster homes in Middlesex, and that the local foster care caseload is on the rise.

Robert Crump, chairman of the Middlesex Board of Supervisors, was also at the April 15 meeting in Urbanna, and he told county ministers that a home setting with the right foster parents is an appropriate and beneficial way of caring for many foster children who need a home.

Since there are so few foster homes in the county, most Middlesex foster children end up in “therapeutic foster care”—a type of overnight care in private homes where foster parents are trained to recognize and aid children with problems. These homes are usually found in more urban settings—not in Middlesex.

Usually these “therapeutic” homes costs the county more money than local foster care.

“It does cost us (the county) a great deal of money for therapeutic foster care, but this is not about money,” said Crump. “It’s more about love and being able to place a child in a good wholesome environment.”

Wilson-Harfst noted that many times the foster child is a baby with no therapeutic needs. The child simply needs a wholesome place to live.

“Some kids could really thrive in a foster home right here in the county, but we often have to send them away,” said Crump. “Some kids just need a loving person to look after them.”

Wilson-Harfst said many foster children come from homes where abuse and neglect take place. She said that 75 percent come from homes where alcohol, drugs and domestic violence are present. “Effects of domestic violence is a long-term problem,” she said.

When there is “gross neglect,” many times grandparents—by default—are forced to raise their grandchildren, but children who do not have that support end up in some type of foster care, she said.

Last year, Middlesex County spent over $600,000 for comprehensive services for abused and neglected children. Included in this is the cost of local and out-of-county foster care. It also includes paying for children who are not suited for foster care and have to be put in permanent facilities.

Middlesex County Administrator Charles Culley noted a lot of this expense cannot be avoided because some children will not behave in a regular or therapeutic care foster home setting. However, he said there are some foster children who just need an understanding and caring place to go. 

posted 04.29.2009

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