DHR gets record turnout

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, March 4, 2015

High volume of potential foster parents attend class

The Covington County Department of Human Resources has set a record for the number of participants in their foster parents classes and the number of people who participated in a panel about foster care.

Natalie Pinson of DHR said Tuesday that 19 people participated in their “Group Preparation and Selection of Foster and or Adoptive Families” (GPS) classes.

“We usually have three to five participants,” she said. “We can have as many as 20 to 22.”

Representatives of the state DHR said the number of participants in the classes was comparable to turnout in a mid-size county such as Montgomery or Houston County.

“In Covington, we have never had this many participants at one time,” she said. “We will be able to get 11 new homes out of our class.”

Those who complete the program go through 30 hours of training.

On the final night of the education, which is 10 weeks of classes, DHR holds a “panel night.”

“This is our final week and each participant invited their support system, extended family members, birth children, and more,” she said. “Including our panel, DHR workers and the GPS participants and guests, we had 82 people.”

The panel, which consisted of District Judge Julie Moody, DHR Director Lesa Syler, a DHR attorney, attorney Deb Smith, and even a teenage foster child, fielded questions from participants and their families.

“It is very beneficial for our participants,” she said. “I have been here 12 years and each time I learn and am encouraged by our panel.”

The county has 38 children in foster care with some having to be placed outside the county to keep up with the demand.

Pinson said Syler has been working with area churches over the past few months to target specific areas in the county where foster homes are needed.

“Each church that Lesa visited had someone represented in our class,” Pinson said.

Pinson said when a child is placed in a foster home, DHR works diligently to try to place them with a family who lives in their current school district to help keep things as normal as possible for the child.

Pinson said recruitment efforts will continue until the next set of classes in August.

“It is our goal to continue to work throughout the county to build a network of loving and safe foster homes for our children who are in need, as well as community sponsors for the foster parents and the children in their homes,” Syler said. “Many people may not be ready to make a decision to foster a child, but there are other ways they can help us care for these special children. Some examples are becoming a sponsor for an individual foster child, collecting gift cards to various restaurants to be given to the foster parents, volunteering to tutor a foster child, coordinating a foster parent’s night out event, providing birthday gifts for foster children.”

Syler said those a just a few examples of ways the community can help.

For more information, call DHR at 427-7900.