HAYFIELD TOWNSHIP —
By Jane Smith
Special to The Tribune
Although described as a “small operation,” the Child to Family Connections has been successful in placing children needy homes into foster care and ultimately adoption in 90 percent of the time.
Founded in 2002, Child to Family Connections is a private, non-profit agency to help match children with parents. Karen Cross is director of the agency, which is located in Meadville.
Marie Schwartz, foster care supervisor for the local agency, said last year 13 families finalized adoption proceedings. But, there is still a big need for foster parents — now who are being called by the term “resource parent,” who are open to becoming adoptive parents as well. Especially needed are people willing to become a parent of a “special needs” child and especially teenagers, Schwartz said.
Some children are placed in homes for only a short period of time — usually until other family members can be contacted to see whether their family members are available to take care of a child. These are children who have been removed from their home on a permanent basis aftter being given up voluntarily or involuntarily by their biological parents.
Schwartz said sometimes the foster parent may have a child for two or three years and then the court returns the child to the natural parents. “There is no guarantee,” she said. The first goal for Children and Youth Services — the agency which is responsible for the children — is for reunification. The second goal is for adoption — to give that child a permanent home.
State criteria must be met for people to become a foster or adoptive parent. First, they must be 21 years of age. They can be single or married and be in good physical and emotional health.
They must be able to provide a “stable, loving and nurturing home,” Schwartz added. Inspections are made of the home, but the home doesn’t have to be a mansion. It must have drinkable water (either on a municipal system or a well), smoke detectors on all floors, locks on all medicine cabinets or cabinets containing something dangerous to children, fire extinguishers, and separate beds for each child (not necessarily separate bedrooms though). Parents must have first aid and CPR training as well.
Schwartz said new state and federal regulations have allowed adoptions to become final much sooner than in the past. Where it once took as long as six years, it now can be done in one to two years.
She said the agency attempts to place children in homes within the same school district in which they are now attending so there is less disruption in their lives — especially during a school year.
For children with specific special needs, some financial assistance is available to help with medical and/or other needs.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent may contact Schwartz at 333-3007.