“A positive quality of our rural area is its natural beauty and the friendliness of its people, but a downside of living in Essex County has been living with a sparseness of resources available to support its people.
“We have been diligently working to improve the services available to families and children.”
The county initially tries to help families remain together during times of crises, but foster care is a resource that can be used when other options have not been successful.
Sparks Allwell agrees with Becky Provost that the foster family should work with the biological family to get kids back to the moms and dads as quickly as possible.
“We diligently work to reunite families, so that children have permanent homes,” she said. “Children do not (always) do well in foster care. Kids need permanency.”
If efforts to reunite biological children and parents are not successful, Social Services will then seek other avenues to provide that permanency, including the option for biological parents to surrender their parental rights and efforts to find adoptive parents or permanent foster homes for those children.
“Our foster and/or adoptive parents are some of the most important members of Essex County DDS,” Sparks Allwell said. “We can’t do the work we do without them.
“Although fostering/adoption is very rewarding work, it requires the use of some skills,” she added. “We give our parents these skills in a series of trainings, which is mandatory for foster-home certification.”
One of the objectives of training is to help applicants decide whether to become foster or adoptive parents. As participants learn more about the program, they can make a more informed decision on whether foster care is for them.
“We periodically need to replenish our list of homes, as oftentimes foster parents adopt and become permanent resources for kids and don’t have space to continue taking children,” Sparks Allwell said.
Email Jeff Meyers:firstname.lastname@example.org
TO LEARN MORE
The Essex County Department of Social Services is currently involved in a Foster Care Training Program. Anyone interested in participating should contact Cynthia Sparks Allwell at 873-3419.