Consider being a foster parent to help children in need

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2018

There is a great need for foster parents across Mississippi and the rest of the United States. Every day, children find themselves unable to remain with their birth families and in need of a temporary home.

“There are many reasons and circumstances that make it difficult for biological families to meet the needs of their children, which include poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, loss of a job or lack of support from extended family and community,” an article by the National Foster Parent Association states.

According to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services’ website, the goal of foster care is to provide a stable environment for a child to stay until they can be reunited with their birth parents. Due to the varied nature of each case, children may find themselves within the foster system for days, months or even years.

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Being taken away from their family – even if they were neglected or in an abusive environment – can be very traumatic for children. According to the website, many children develop emotional issues because of this transition, and may need additional care.

Courtney Knight is a Pearl River County resident who has been fostering children for about two years. She said there is a constant need for foster parents. Knight said she and her husband receive calls nearly every Friday asking if they would be willing to care for another child. Since she already has children of her own, she is able to provide a safe, fun environment for foster kids.

Knight said sibling groups often have the biggest need, since it is difficult to find families willing to take more than two children at a time. Knight said she and her cousin provide foster homes to area children, so if a sibling group of three or four are in need of placement, they will often split the group between them so the children can still interact with each other.

She said government entities often seem to contradict themselves when taking children in and out of care, which often leads to additional problems.

“The right hand doesn’t always know what the left is doing,” Knight said.

She said that sometimes children will come into her care with severe emotional issues. She recently cared for a boy for about 10 months who suffered with depression. Every day she tried to get him excited about school, toys, etc. to no avail. In an attempt to get him interested in something, she told him that by the end of the school year, she wanted him to tell her what he wanted to be when he grew up. When the day came for her to return him to his birth family, he told her he wanted to be a photographer.

“He said, ‘I want to take pictures just like you so I can have you in my heart,’” Knight said.

Knight said there have been positive outcomes involving parents turning their lives around so they can be reunited with their children, however that is not typically how it works out. Often, children end up returning to the system over and over again.

When parents are able to regain custody, Knight said seeing the foster child leave is always extremely difficult. She said fostering takes a significant emotional and physical toll on those who volunteer their time. However, she said it is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

“I’ve always said the Lord never fails to provide,” she said.

According to the MDCPS website, there are three types of foster care: emergency and respite care, regular care and therapeutic care. All three types require different levels of time, dedication and experience. To learn more about becoming a foster parent, MDCPS can be reached at 1-800-821-9157.