HOUGHTON - As May is Foster Care Month, Linda Sanchez of the Placement Services program with the Good Will Farm is encouraging people to consider being a foster parent.
"We're always looking for more foster parents," Sanchez said. "That way, we can find a good fit for kids so they're not moved from one foster home to another."
Being a foster parent is not the easiest job in the world, according to Sanchez, but it's ultimately a rewarding one as it fulfills a vital role.
Daily Mining Gazette/Zach Kukkonen
The Good Will Farm in Houghton is seen Friday.
"Foster care provides a temporary, safe, nurturing environment for children until they can be safely united with their families," she said. "We work with foster families in both training and licensing to make sure they have all the necessary training to become a foster parent."
Becoming a foster parent is not an overly difficult process, however, it does take some time and energy.
"You have to be at least 18 years of age, record clearance with the Central Registry, have fingerprint clearance with Michigan and the FBI, have an income enough to support yourself and whoever else is your family and be of good moral character," Sanchez said.
The typical nuclear family is not one of the requirements, Sanchez said, as they work with a variety of families, including cohabitants, single parents and gay and lesbian families.
"We're actively recruiting in the three-county (Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw) and all over the state, really," Sanchez said.
Starting the process is as easy as getting in touch with the Good Will Farm.
"We would take the initial, basic information," Sanchez said. "I make a home visit and bring a packet of information the foster parents get, with rules and regulations on being a foster parent, a Good Will Farm policy book, child protection laws and even a DVD.
"I also talk to them about why they want to become a foster parent," Sanchez continued. "I answer any questions they have, like some folks are worried that they have dogs, and of course, that doesn't make a difference."
The next step would be a home study, which includes an environmental study of the home if it is in the country - homes in the city do not need an environmental study.
"It's not a lot of hard things to go through, but it does take a while," Sanchez said. "It's about a 13-page document that asks all sorts of questions of the foster parent, like how they were disciplined and what's their relationship with their parents. They also need a health certificate saying they are healthy enough to take care of children."
Once someone becomes a foster parent, they have to realize things are not necessarily going to be easy with the child or children at first.
"Kids come with mixed emotions," Sanchez said. "I tell foster parents don't expect a big hug and a thanks for helping me.
"The main thing is keeping children safe," she added. "We encourage the foster parents to help the birth parents as much as they can; sometimes it's a good relationship, and sometimes it takes parents a little while."
Training also continues as the foster parent process goes along.
"We have monthly meetings ... (where) they can have companionship and talk with other foster parents," Sanchez said. "Our foster parents are quite good resources because they've been foster parenting for a long time."
For more information about becoming a foster parent, contact Sanchez at 487-9832 or firstname.lastname@example.org.