Winnemucca in desperate need of foster families

Winnemucca in desperate need of foster families

Winnemucca in desperate need of foster families

The Division of Child & Family Services (DCFS) is actively seeking members of the community to provide temporary foster care to displaced children. According to authorities, the current number of foster families in Winnemucca is insufficient to meet the ongoing needs of the community.

Two informational panel meetings were held on March 14 to give interested individuals a chance to find out more about the process and ask questions.

DCFS Supervisor Kimberly Schmeling explained that currently the community is in a position where kids aren’t able to be placed in Winnemucca for temporary foster care. As a result, the children may be taken to available foster homes throughout the state, which could be in Elko, Fallon, Tonopah or another city where there is an available home. This might mean the child is placed a long distance from their family, can’t have visits as often, and are disconnected from their community. If there is only one bed available in a foster home, the division is forced to split up siblings, potentially throughout the state, she said.

Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Montero said, “I can think of just a couple of cases that I’ve dealt with recently and are still dealing with where kids are split up great distances. It’s hard for kids and their families but also for the people that work in the system, the state workers are running all over the state.”

Becky Richard-Maley is a contractor for DCFS, and provides the training to potential foster parents. At the informational panel, she spoke about the effects on a child’s brain when experiencing a traumatic situation, such as those that may occur leading up to foster care. In the training she helps individuals learn how to effectively help kids who may have recently experienced trauma.

DCFS Foster recruiter Lori Nichols shared some statistical information. As of the end of February, there were 418 children currently in the custody of rural Nevada foster families throughout the 15 rural counties. There are six foster homes currently in Winnemucca; two are currently full, and three only have one bed, leaving only one home that could potentially take a sibling group together. “There might be a child waiting specifically for you to make that step,” Nichols said.

The process to obtain licensure as a foster home includes successful completion of the following: a phone interview to determine eligibility, a background check and pre-screening process, attendance of the three-day training, completion of an application packet and successful completion of a home study inspection to determine the home is suitable to house the displaced children. It doesn’t cost anything to go through the licensure process.

Once foster home licensure is obtained, the individual or couple can specify details of the children they are able to care for and are licensed accordingly. The foster licensure process can take anywhere from four to six months, said Nichols.

Humboldt County District Attorney Michael Macdonald gave some insight into the situation.

“These kids are needing our help and it’s unfortunate that when they’re found in a situation where it may not be safe or ideal to be in their home and we have to look at alternatives or fosters, it’s unfortunate that the kids have to go through that but then it’s compounded by not having foster families here,” he said. “Sometimes we’ve got siblings in different parts of the state. Not only are they removed from family but they can’t spend time with their brother or sister. That doesn’t help when we’re trying to make them happier or healthier.”

Families can also go through the licensure process and sign up to only be a respite care provider, which means taking in kids for short amounts of time to give other foster families a break, maybe for just a weekend. “I highly recommend starting out as a respite care provider and then moving up from there,” said Nichols.

Eric and Julie Peters have been providing foster care in Winnemucca for approximately 10 years. During the panel, they welcomed questions about providing foster care and openly discussed the experiences they’ve had. They also said they still maintain communication with almost every child they have cared for over the years. “The first time you can get that kid to smile, it just makes you melt,” said Eric.

Foster care parents are compensated by the state of Nevada for the time they are caring for a child and to help pay for the basic needs of the child.

A training session will be held April 6 – 8, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., all sessions are required for receiving a certification of completion. Individuals interested in becoming a foster parent can contact Foster Care Recruiter Lori Nichols at 1-888-423-2659.