Campaign “raises hope” for Cass County foster childrenPublished 5:27pm Thursday, October 17, 2013
The budget may be shrinking at the Cass County Department of Human Services, but the determination to find homes for children is not.
Licensing through the Cass County Department of Human Services was decreased from an $8,000 budget last year to a $5,500 budget this year, a 30 percent decrease. Licensing funds recruitment and retention of foster care families, which is crucial in finding homes for the 150 children currently in foster care in Cass County.
“Each year we develop a plan of different recruitment activities. With a decrease in budget, we wanted to do something cost effective that would reach a lot of people,” said Kristin Williams, Foster Home Licensing Supervisor for the Cass County DHS.
The DHS resolved to purchase and distribute yard signs with the message, “Raise hope and foster dreams,” a theme utilized by foster care programs across the state of Michigan.
“We purchased 100 (signs), and we’re trying to select the best places in the community that will get the most exposure,” Williams said. Williams said she and the other two licensing workers at the DHS have been working hard to find locations with high traffic where drivers are driving slowly enough to read the message.
Williams’s hope is that the signs will inspire Cass County citizens to become foster parents.
Williams projects that Cass County has approximately 30 licensed foster homes, which is not nearly enough to cover all of the children in need of foster care.
“When protective services have to remove children, we always look at relatives first. We believe that children belong with their families if at all possible,” she said.
Williams said there are two types of homes — family homes and group homes. Family homes can take up to two or three kids, and group homes can take four or five. She said the average foster parent takes between two and three kids.
“About 40 percent of our youth groups are placed outside of our county, and 50 percent of our sibling groups are split,” Williams said. “We have a large need for homes that can take sibling groups (three or four children), and homes for teenagers. That’s a very difficult population to place.”
Williams also noted that Cass County is in need of homes for children who are victims of sexual abuse.
“They come with their own special issue, and they need extra special attention,” she said.
Williams said she and her team are trying to find affordable alternatives to costly recruitment events that sometimes have low attendance. She and a representative from the Berrien County DHS recently volunteered their time to set up a booth at the Cassopolis High School Homecoming game to raise awareness for the cause.
“What a great resource to capture families with school age children. We’re trying to keep up those low-level cost collaborative (events),” she said. “We try to coordinate with neighboring communities as much as possible, especially with Berrien (County) because we share the Niles area.”
Parents wishing to foster children in Cass County should contact Tammie Peffley at (269) 303-4167 or Tammy Richards at (269) 303-3426.
“If any groups, sororities or civic groups have any ideas for events, they should give us a call,” Williams said.