Courtney Hunt appears on WISH-TV's Indy Style program.

Fostering Kids Full-Time Isn’t an Option? Consider Becoming a Respite Parent

Courtney Hunt didn’t begin fostering kids the way most foster parents do. She saw how things worked from the administrative side, and the good she witnessed prompted her to offer her own help.

Hunt used to be a case manager for the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). “It was during that experience that I saw the need for foster homes,” she said. “Being a family case manager, I was fairly familiar with all of the contractors that were out here. A close friend was in charge of all the LCPAs (Licensed Child Placing Agencies) and she listed three agencies weren’t in hot water with her, and Adult & Child Health was one.”

RELATED CONTENT: Fostering 100 Children Over 16 Years? Tom Gaunt Shares His Story

What is a Respite Parent?

Courtney is a respite parent, which means she isn’t fostering kids in her home for extended periods, as most foster parents do. She watches foster children when their full-time foster parents need a date night or have another reason to take a break. Through A&C’s Therapeutic Foster Care program, foster parents are allowed one paid “respite day” each month.

“Anytime they need a break or they need a date night, or oftentimes when the child is recently removed and DCS is in search of placement, we provide that temporary home for the children until a more permanent home can be found in the foster care agency,” Courtney said.

Courtney has been a respite parent with A&C for four years, and some times of the year are busier than others. She said she had three requests from foster parents on Valentine’s Day, as an example.

Watch Courtney’s interview on the topic with WISH-TV (Channel 8) below.

RELATED CONTENT: A&C Foster Care Parents Share Their Expertise, Advice on Fostering Children

Why Fostering Kids is So Rewarding

Courtney said the most rewarding aspect of fostering kids is the connections she’s made, even though she doesn’t spend as much time with the kids as a full-time foster parent would. “Just seeing the young ladies that have come through my home has been rewarding,” Hunt said. “I’ve been able to maintain some good connections with them. One of them invited me to her open house when she graduated from high school.”

Courtney suggests anyone who’s thinking of fostering should consider the positive impact they could have on a child’s life.

“Know that you have special gifts and talents that you’re able to offer to these young people,” she said. “Parenting a child with trauma is different than parenting your own child. A&C is supportive, so don’t be afraid of it. Take time to determine what type of children you want in your home. Be honest with yourself about what you can do.”

Are you interested in becoming a foster parent? See the requirements and training.

Not interested in fostering kids, but want to donate to our Therapeutic Foster Care program? Here’s how you can help.

Tom Gaunt interview

Fostering 100 children over 16 years? Tom Gaunt shares his story.

Adult & Child Health Board of Directors Chair Tom Gaunt knows as well as anyone the positive effect fostering can have on a child’s life.

He’s been a foster parent to over 100 children over a 16-year period.

That includes a sibling group of nine that Tom and his wife, Jeanne, adopted together as a way to keep the children together.

Tom appeared Jan. 25 on WISH-TV (Channel 8)’s Indy Style show, which features lifestyle and local topics, to talk about his experience as a foster parent, the need for more parents and Adult & Child Health’s role.

Here’s an excerpt of what he shared:

Adult & Child Health Board Chair Tom Gaunt with his wife Jeanne and nine of the siblings they adopted through fostering.

How did you become associated with A&C?

“I was a foster parent, and my foster children and adoptive children were being seen by Adult & Child long before I became a board member.

“Foster care was such a priority for Adult & Child that they asked me to become a board member to make sure the program had a voice at the board level.”

RELATED CONTENT: A&C Foster Care Parents Share Their Experience, Advice on Fostering Children

What made you decide to do this?

“My wife’s father was a foster child, and so after we married, we decided to be foster parents in honor of her father.

“It’s about helping kids. We’re no better than the children we bring up into this world. There’s over 400,000 children waiting to have foster parents, including 9,000 here in Indiana. Foster parents are unsung heroes.”

What’s a bad reason to become a foster parent?

“If you’re looking to fulfill something in your life, it’s probably the wrong motivation. The loss of a child, and you’re looking at maybe taking foster children to replace that loss … maybe it’ll make your marriage better if it’s not doing so well … those would be the wrong reasons.

“The right reason to become a foster parent is to help make a change in someone else’s life. We need good parents to extend what they know to make a difference in another child’s life.”

Watch the WISH-TV interview below.

RELATED CONTENT: Learn More About Foster Care. Set Up a Virtual Meeting with Us on Your Schedule

Why is A&C an ideal foster care agency?

“At the time we had nine foster children, all siblings, on the path to adoption, and as such, my frame of reference for today comes from the help my family received, and what made A&C’s Foster Care program special for us, and all the other foster families A&C serves.

“The value of our agency to our foster parents: A strong focus on community – meeting with other foster parents that understand and emphasize, ‘it takes one to know one.’”

What does our program offer?

Adult & Child Health’s Therapeutic Foster Care program provides parents with all the assistance they’ll need. From eligibility requirements to licensing to placement and more, we’re here for you. Here are few other benefits:

Do you want to learn more about becoming a foster parent? Email us or call 1-317-893-0207.

Can’t foster, but still want to help? Donate to us.

A&C Foster Care Parents Share Their Experience, Advice on Fostering Children

A breast cancer diagnosis is usually a nightmarish scenario for anyone. It doesn’t usually motivate them to begin fostering children.

Megan Mendez received the bad news three years ago. She and her husband, Jorge, turned that negative into a positive.

Why? Here’s their story, in their own words.

RELATED CONTENT: Learn More About Foster Care. Set up a Virtual Meeting with Us on Your Schedule

Jorge and Megan share their story on fostering children

“I have had breast cancer twice, and we always had talked about having multiple children. We had our one (biological) daughter and I used to (work in) home health, so I worked with a lot of foster families. That’s how I found out about A&C. The two of us talked about it & decided to go for it.

“We have two foster boys age 2 and 1,siblings, and we’re in the process of hopefully adopting soon. We got the 2-year-old when he was 6 months old. He had just turned 2 & found out his birth mother had another baby. We have a set of siblings we had for 2 years. An older set of siblings (ages 9 and 6) were the first two foster kids we got. They went home because of COVID, but are back in the foster care system as of August, and we’re trying to get back in our home. We also have an 11-year-old biological daughter.”

Watch Jorge and Megan Mendez share their story on WISH-TV:

What you should know

“The most rewarding aspect of fostering children is the happiness you see in the kids’ face, and just knowing that if they weren’t there, I think about where would they be. It makes me feel good to know it doesn’t matter, they’re here now.

“I see in the Facebook group I’m in that people want to give up. Push through the hard times, and there are great times. The hardest part is getting kids adjusted to your routine, then visits come into play and it messes up the routine. It’s definitely a rewarding thing to do and it’s definitely something your heart has to be in.”

“The biggest misconception about fostering children is how hard it is to see the kids going home to their biological families. A lot of people say that’s the hardest thing, that it’s hard to see them leave, but in our two situations, there was a rewarding thing to see their dad step up. A lot of people talked about dealing with biological families.

“We’ve had rough times and good times with that; everyone just has to be willing to have those good moments. You just have to know when to step away.”

RELATED CONTENT: Our Foster Care Services Are Still Here for You During COVID-19. Here’s How We’re Doing It.

How fostering children affects your birth children

“Our biological daughter doesn’t hide her feelings very well at all. She had her troubles when the foster kids first came, but when we told her about them coming back, she was explaining it to someone else and said, “My sister’s coming back,” so there was definitely a bond.

“I know our daughter missed them since they left. She’s obsessed with the boys. It’s hard for us to say they’re foster kids at this point. They’re our sons.”

Watch Jorge and Megan talk about fostering during the holidays.

Want to help our foster care program, but fostering children isn’t an option for you? Consider donating.

 

Learn More About Foster Care. Set Up a Virtual Meeting With Us on Your Schedule.

Virtual meetings have made life more convenient for everyone involved. Our Therapeutic Foster Care team utilizes them often, from trainings to meetings with foster parents.

Sometimes, though, life gets in the way of those types of meetings, too. Schedules fill up. Emergencies happen.

That’s why our team is offering virtual informational meetings via Zoom that fit your schedule. You pick the day and time, and we’ll meet you online.

RELATED CONTENT: Our Foster Care Services are Still Here for You During COVID-19. Here’s How We’re Doing It.

Our Therapeutic Foster Care team is offering informational virtual meetings for anyone who might be interested in becoming a foster parent.

How our virtual meetings work

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, we offer informational meetings. But they don’t happen sporadically. They happen whenever you want them to happen, and the 1-on-1 environment allows prospective parents to ask more personal questions that might not be comfortable in a group setting.

Trainings have historically been set up one time monthly, but this allows the foster care team to do an informational meeting for a shorter time commitment. Then, prospective foster parents can determine if they are ready to take the next step to begin the training process.

“It allows me to individualize training when necessary,” said Lynn Farmer, Community Outreach Development Specialist. “For example, we still do pre-service trainings on Saturdays even virtually. However, occasionally Saturday doesn’t work around work schedules. Virtual training allows me to meet the prospective parent on their timeline.”

The 30-minute informational sessions cover the basic requirements to become a foster parent, the required training, the placement process and more. Prospective parents can ask questions at the end of the meetings.

Those advantages complement the convenience that virtual meetings provide.

RELATED CONTENT: COVID-19 Resources for Your Foster Home

What parents are saying

Here’s a sampling of what our current foster parents say about the 1-on-1 virtual meetings:

“Less interruptions of the speaker.”

“It allows you to still engage but at the convenience of your everyday life. I think that it is very beneficial with taking care of so many other things because it gives you more time for other stuff like 1-on-1 with kids.”

“I have my own time to focus and really zone in to what I’m learning. I’m not worrying about the kids because I am home.”

“Questions of others. Time for explanation.”

“You still get the same information as if you were face to face.”

“You’re more at ease when taking in information.”

“Well, with the virus going around, I feel safe in my home.”

How you can register for a virtual meeting

Would you like to schedule your own 1-on-1 virtual meeting to learn more about becoming a foster parent? Call 317-893-0207 or email Lynn Farmer. Once you’ve settled on a meeting date and time, we’ll send you a link via email to join the meeting.

RELATED CONTENT: Not Sure About Becoming a Foster Parent? Here’s 6 Reasons You Should

Our Foster Care Services are Still Here for You During COVID-19. Here’s How We’re Doing It.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, it turned our lives upside down. Fortunately, our Therapeutic Foster Care team adjusted so the foster care services they offer won’t suffer.

From virtual meetings to more flexible training, the team maintained services, and improved them in some instances.

“We have the ability to be more flexible with our trainings as they are able to be offered virtually,” said Julie Stewart, Adult & Child Health’s Director of Child Welfare Services. “This has given us the opportunity to review our training schedule and see where we might be able to make some additions and/or adjustments with trainings that are being offered.”

Here’s a look at the services that remain available, some new resources and how the team changed some foster care services:

RELATED CONTENT: COVID-19 Resources for Your Foster Home

Foster care services virtual meetings

“We continue to provide our full spectrum of services,” said Lynn Farmer, Community Outreach Development Specialist. “From licensing new homes, to maintaining certification/license, to providing the clinical/support services determined necessary.”

Lynn Farmer

The virtual trainings will be more convenient for foster families, even in a post-COVID world.

“We are offering more trainings online, making it easier for parents to attend,” Farmer said. “We have also started offering an online version of CPR/First Aid (pictured above). This allows parents to take the classroom portion of the training online, and then they only need to be tested on the physical maneuvers (chest compressions).”

Virtual training and service provision is new to most, but it offered unforeseen benefits, according to at least one Therapeutic Foster Care team member. Dakota Reynolds, Therapeutic Care Specialist, said some youth and parents could focus more during the sessions together. She also enjoyed sharing a more personal side of herself with clients by introducing them to the pets she has in her home.

RELATED CONTENT: Not Sure About Becoming a Foster Parent? Here’s 6 Reasons You Should

What’s new?

The team recently set up a virtual support group for foster parents. They offer the meetings multiple times during the day to try to gauge what fits best into people’s schedules.

Therapeutic Foster Care also can allow foster parents to assist directly with virtual supervised visitations with biological family members. That assists in building bridges for youth.

“Having the opportunity to provide services virtually has allowed us to figure out creative ways to make connections that might otherwise be difficult due to scheduling/location of siblings and/or biological families,” Stewart said.

In addition, the foster care services licensing process has become more virtual out of necessity. “We have the ability to send forms electronically and can also drop off/pick up paperwork through ‘no contact’ methods,” Stewart said.

COVID-19 specific foster care services resources

In addition to this one-stop shop of resources, the team offered this frequently asked questions list for foster parents to utilize. Among the examples:

Q:What if someone in the household has a fever? If they have no known connection to the coronavirus, is a fever alone enough to stop visits?

A. You should notify Adult & Child Health and the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) immediately. Any individual with a fever should be treated as if they are potentially positive for COVID-19, and quarantined until fever-free for 48 hours. Continuously monitor the person’s condition. If symptoms worsen, seek medical assistance as previously outlined.

Stewart said the team will treat COVID-19 cases in foster homes on a case-by-case basis.

“We are working with our foster parents to help them come up with individualized plans about how to help them in this case,” she said.  “For example, if a foster parent contracts the virus and becomes too ill to care for the child, we work with them to develop a child care plan to ensure that the youth’s need will continue to be met.”

Whether a family member contracts COVID-19 or not, Farmer emphasized self-care during the current stressful environment.

“As the stressors mount, from isolation, home schooling, work/financial pressures, it is imperative that foster parents take care of themselves,” he said. “We recently started a virtual support group that meets at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. every other Tuesday.”

Want to learn more about becoming foster parent through our Therapeutic Foster Care program? Learn the basics, call 317-893-0207 or email Lynn Farmer.

 

 

 

COVID-19 Resources for Your Foster Home

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of society in myriad ways, and foster homes are no exception.

Our Therapeutic Foster Care team hasn’t stopped working during this pandemic. It’s available as much as ever through Telehealth appointments and website resources.

In the meantime, our team wants to share plenty of other resources you can utilize in your foster home to get through the pandemic.

RELATED CONTENT: WATCH: A&C Foster Care Parent Shares Her Experience

Adult & Child Health foster home guidelines

Our team has devised this list of guidelines for foster parents to follow during the pandemic. As usual, our team is available to answer your questions. Please call 317-893-0207 or email Lynn Farmer, our Community Outreach Development Specialist, at .

Government resources

 

 

WATCH: A&C Foster Care Parent Shares her Experience

Rosemary Reid has been a foster parent for 15 years. She estimates she’s provided foster care for about 25 children during that time.

Amanda Orr, A&C Licensing Team Leader, has worked with Rosemary every step of the way. Orr and A&C offer Reid and other foster parents with training opportunities, licensing for new foster parents and a bevy of other resources.

RELATED CONTENT: Not Sure About Becoming a Foster Parent? Here’s 6 Reasons you Should

Watch the video below as Reid and Orr share their stories about why the foster parenting experience is so special for everyone involved.

Are you interested in assisting our foster efforts, either by becoming a foster parent or helping in other ways? Visit us here.

Check out more of our foster stories.

Why foster parents should attend the Every Child Symposium

Are you a licensed foster parent in Indiana? Are you in need of training credits? We have a solution for you! The Every Child Conference, set for March 14,  is a one day symposium on behalf of Indiana’s vulnerable children. They are bringing nationally recognized speakers.

The best part? Foster parents will earn 5.5 hours of credit, get lunch, and it’s only $25 if you register before Feb. 14 and $30 if you register afterward.

The details for foster parents who wish to attend

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 14

Where: Eastern Star Church, 5750 30th St., Indianapolis.

Cost: Early bird (before Feb. 14), $30 general, $25 for adoptive, foster care or Safe Families; cost increases by $5 on Feb. 14.

More information: email

Who will speak?

Kristin Ballard

Ballard is a dedicated mother, wife, and philanthropist. A passionate and tireless volunteer, she regularly supports the Indiana Department of Child Services, Hands of Hope, Books For Youth, and the Indianapolis Colts Women’s Organization. A champion for children, when she’s not supporting her own family, Kristin spends time advocating for children and families in the foster care system. While Kristin and her husband, Chris, were raising their three children, they also began caring for two cousins of their family who they eventually adopted through foster care.

RELATED CONTENT: Interested in more training opportunities? Here’s our 2020 training schedule

Willie Moore Jr.

Moore is a nationally syndicated radio personality, actor, social media influencer, activist, musician, husband and father of four children. Moore has proven that innate charisma, abundant creativity, and a passion for empowerment can translate in the faith-based community and the general market. As the host of the top rated “Willie Moore Jr. Show,” Willie reaches over 1.7 million people weekly.

Outside of entertainment, Moore is an advocate for adoption and foster care. As the President of the WILFLO Foundation (named after his forever family Willie and Flora Moore,) Moore brings awareness to the adoption and foster care system. Each year, thousands of African American families sign up to be foster parents and/or adoptive parents through these efforts. Willie continues to tour the world bringing inspiration through his innovative storytelling and comedic approach to speaking and music that’s transforming lives throughout all generations.

RELATED CONTENT: See how our Youth Development Program is Helping its Participants Excel

Stephanie Fast

Fast was abandoned at a young age, she wandered the war-torn countryside of Korea. Due to her biracial ethnicity, she was abused and violated in every way. Finally, she was discarded and left to die in a garbage dump. A World Vision nurse miraculously rescued Stephanie and placed her in an orphanage.

Around the age of nine, a missionary couple came to her orphanage. Overlooking her physical and emotional state, they listened to the voice that spoke to their hearts. David & Judy Merwin, setting aside their desire to adopt a baby boy, obeyed that voice and adopted Stephanie.

Despite the lavish healing love her adoptive parents poured into her, Stephanie’s past tormented her throughout her teens. A profound personal encounter with Jesus Christ enabled her to exchange her pain with Him at the cross and see her identity and purpose in the light of God’s love. Stephanie shares this message with anyone who will listen.

RELATED CONTENT: Not Sure About Becoming a Foster Parent? Here’s 6 Reasons you Should

Over the past 30 years, her story and teachings have been on TV, radio, in magazines and other people’s books. She recently wrote her first book; She Is Mine. Stephanie and her husband reside in Portland, Oregon, surrounded by their children and grandchildren; her childhood dream lived out in reality.

In addition to these dynamic speakers, there are a host of others scheduled to present:

  • David Reed, Deputy Director of Child Welfare Services, Indiana Department of Child Services
  • Sue Orlosky, LBSW, has over 30 years’ experience working in the child welfare profession. These experiences include DCS Case Manager, Supervisor, RAPT Trainer, Home-Base Provider, Visitation Facilitator, Foster Care Worker, and Adoption Worker. These are just a few of the many presenters that will be present.

 

 

Foster Care Christmas Party 2019 photos

Our Therapeutic Foster Care team hosted 83 guests at its annual Holiday Party on Dec. 7.

All of the kids engaged in crafts and games. They decorated cookies, made picture frames, got their faces painted, participated in a cake walk, and played cornhole.

RELATED CONTENT: Not Sure About Becoming a Foster Parent? Here’s 6 Reasons you Should

The parents had a chance to network and get to know each other a little better. Adult & Child Health Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Yoder attended, along with Board of Directors Chair Tom Gaunt and his wife, Jeanne. Director of Child Welfare Services Julie Stewart helped make picture frames, and the rest of the elves helped with the other activities. Everyone had a great time!

Here are some photos from the party (photos courtesy of the Therapeutic Foster Care team).

Not Sure About Becoming a Foster Parent? Here’s 6 Reasons You Should

Becoming a foster parent isn’t a decision to make on a whim.

All sorts of training and licensing await parents who wish to become foster parents. They must consider how it will change their current family structure. They have to be sure it’s something they want to do.

Beyond that, folks who consider foster parenting can be apprehensive for myriad other reasons. Adult & Child Health’s Therapeutic Foster Care team frequently consults with parents and prospective parents about their concerns. One of the most common worries they hear goes something like this:

“I’m not sure my heart will be able to handle it whenever the foster child has to leave our home.”

RELATED CONTENT: See how our Youth Development Program is Helping its Participants Excel

The A&C foster care team processes 400 to 450 placement requests each month, on average. The agency operates at 98 percent capacity most of the time, which means it doesn’t have enough families to handle some requests.

We talked with Julie Stewart, Adult & Child Health’s director of welfare services, and members of the Therapeutic Foster Care team. They shared the most common questions they receive – and concerns they hear – from prospective foster parents.

Here are six reasons you shouldn’t let your fears about foster parenting dissuade you from taking the next step and becoming a foster parent:

RELATED CONTENT: Have more questions about becoming a foster parent? Click here for answers.

1. You have more control than you think.

“Most people considering this are not clear on what their role would really be,” Stewart said. “Being able to have the final say about whether or not to accept a child into their home is 100% in the hands of the foster parents. The goal of everyone involved, most importantly a youth needing placement, is to ensure there is a good match.”

The foster care team will listen to the criteria foster parents believe will be a good fit for their home, based on age and gender. Team members will then contact parents if they have a situation available that fits their desires.

2. You have resources here to help.

“You’re not doing this alone,” one TFC team member said. “You have a team behind you.” The TFC team offers a variety of resources, from free in-house training for licensing foster parents to simply a network of support. Also, A&C offers primary care, mental and behavioral health assistance, school-based support and a bevy of other resources. “We’re a one-stop shop,” another TFC team member said.

3. Think about the child’s future.

“You never know what kind of impact you’re going to have five or six years from now, but you can have an impact now,” one TFC team member said. “You’re getting something out of it, and they’re getting something out of it.”

Are you interested in becoming a foster parent? Contact our Community Outreach Development Specialist, Lynn Farmer, at 317-893-0207, ext. 1207.

4. The rewards outweigh the sadness at the end.

The feeling of losing a foster child when their allotted time is up scares parents, TFC team members said. Their response? “Understand you’re going to provide something so much bigger than how you’re going to cry when you’re going to leave. There’s never too much love. You can’t love a kid too much. Allow yourself to feel.”

Foster parent Tina Davidson added, “If your heart is broken when they leave that house, you’re the type of person who should be fostering.”

5. Where you are in life right now doesn’t matter as much as you might think.

Foster parents come in various ages and stages of life. Some are married, others are single. Some are cohabitating, some are LGBTQ. We license a wide variety of foster parents because we believe this diversity will provide the best placements for kids. We encourage and support foster parents regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender. If parents are at least 25 years old, can support themselves without public assistance, have reliable transportation and a valid driver’s license, sufficient bedroom space and all household members pass background checks, they’re eligible!

6. We need you.

Our foster families are consistently at about 98 percent capacity, which means our current foster families probably don’t have the space to take on additional children. The more families that are available, the greater the likelihood we can place siblings together. When our foster family base is more diverse, we can more easily match a child’s needs to a family. The more families we have dispersed throughout our service areas, the more likely we can place children in or near their own communities and avoid disrupting positive familiar connections for the child, like schools, peers, and positive role models.

Still don’t want to become a foster parent? Consider a donation to our Therapeutic Foster Care program.