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Still great need for foster parents

Though the Department of Human Resources has made great strides in attracting new foster parents, there is still a grave need.

Lesa Syler, director of the Covington County Department of Human Resources, said Wednesday that there is a need especially in the Andalusia City Schools District.

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“We look for quality homes in school districts,” she said. “Think about it, if you had to wake up tomorrow at a new job, in a new city without any notification. That’s why we try to place children in homes within their current school districts.”

On Wednesday, there were only three foster homes in the Andalusia City School system and they were full.

That means that any children placed in foster care who currently attend an Andalusia City School would have to go to school outside of Andalusia or even outside of Covington County.

Over the least few years, Syler and her staff have actively recruited new foster parents by engaging local churches.

“People did not recognize our needs,” she said. “We started talking to our churches and sharing with them the needs of their areas.”

Syler said fostering children is definitely a calling.

They have gone from one licensed home in the county to 17 licensed homes and all 17 are full.

Syler said they currently have 46 children in foster care. Five years ago there were only three.

“What’s the reason for the rapid increase?” Syler asked. “The drug epidemic here affects so many families. The majority of our cases have a drug component.”

Syler said that when they see an increase, they are often forced to place children out of county.

Syler said over the last three years, they have seen many foster parent adoptions.

“Children can’t stay in foster care for long,” she said. “Twelve months.”

Syler said they work to be able to place the child back in the home of the parent or if that’s not possible, for an adoption.

To become a foster parent, you must attend a 10-week foster parent class, which prepares you to deal with foster children and the trauma they have gone through.

The next class starts in August, she said.

“The process can seem intimidating,” Syler said. “You have to do the 10-week class, two home studies and a comprehensive background check.”

The maximum amount of foster children you can have at one time is six, but Syler said in Covington County that max is usually around two or three.

Those who choose to become foster parents will receive a room and board payment each month, which ranges from $450 to $485 per month per child depending on age.

There are adoption subsidies, as well.

Those include special needs and learning disabilities, and sibling groups. Children over 14 will have their college paid for.

Medicaid also covers children in foster care.