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DHR sees decrease in foster parent interest during COVID-19 pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, local employees of the Covington County Department of Human Resources have not been able to recruit future foster parents, causing a decline in interest in the area.

“We haven’t been able to go into the organizations, church and places to recruit the quality homes like we usually do,” Natalie Pinson said. “It has definitely hurt us in that way, but we have tried to utilize social media.”

Though there have been a lot of people to reach out, Pinson said there are not a lot of people that follow through with the process.

“We have had less people committed through the end,” Pinson said. “We need those to complete the training and become licensed. We still need those good homes for teens and adolescents, not just babies.”

In the beginning of the shutdown, Pinson said it was really difficult for foster parents.

“It was difficult because we had to put together all of our resources,” Pinson said. “Just to try and take care of children who were out of school. They have been through a lot, just with that. Statewide, we have been getting a huge amount of requests to use our foster homes. I think we are blessed here that we have not had that problem as much. Even we are low on numbers to where I am uncomfortable. I mean, I don’t want to send children out of county, but statewide, it has just been multiple emails every day.”

Foster parent Courtney Bowers said her experience raising foster kids during the pandemic was similar to what other families had to deal with.

“It was a big change and it happened really quickly,” Bowers said. “However, we have an incredible community of friends and family. DHR was wonderful to help in any way they could. During the time COVID-19 hit, we had a sibling group of three in our home. For us, we had two in daycare and one in elementary school. So, when daycare shut down and then schools closed, my husband and I were still working. So, we immediately had to go into a plan B of sorts to figure out who would take care of the kids when we were at work and how were we going to homeschool them when we got home.”

Through the help of the community and DHR, Bowers said they were able to work things out.

“For us, the support we had was just wonderful,” Bowers said. “We have a sweet friend who is a babysitter for us and she was a lifesaver. Our parents were very helpful and our whole family really stepped up just to help take care of them while we were working. Once daycares opened back up, all three were able to go back. DHR had plenty of resources for us and it would have been very difficult if it weren’t for the help of DHR and the help of our family.”

“I think we actually had the potential to have more resources because we had foster children,” Bowers said. “We had DHR providing us with tutors, with care or with babysitters. To me, it added more resources for help because they were foster children. So, I would encourage any family to foster because no matter how great the social worker is, no matter how good or bad the birth parents are, no matter how good or bad the situation is, the kids are still there and there is a need. So, at the end of the day, someone has to fill that need for these children and they deserve a family. They don’t deserve the situation they are in, but they do deserve a family to love them. And, COVID doesn’t change that. COVID shouldn’t change the way that these children are loved. We just want to love on them and pour into them as much as possible.”

Another Foster Parent Training begins on January 10, 2021 in the Covington County DHR training room with Pinson.

“These parents will have 30 hours of training that they will have to go through,” Pinson said. “The classes will teach them about trauma, learning about the children being away from their parents and the abuse that they have gone through and it covers all ages of children. At the end, they will be able to handle children who have experienced loss and grief.”

For more information on the classes, or foster parenting in general, email Pinson at Natalie.pinson@dhr.alabama.gov or call 334-427-7933.