Need for foster parents increases at pandemic slows recruitment efforts

MARYLAND – The impact of the pandemic has been felt in pretty much all areas of life. That doesn’t stop at foster care and adoption efforts.

“The primary way of recruiting foster parents in this area has been through in person events. When COVID-19 started, all of that was shut down. So, we really weren’t able to get out in the community,” said Kassidy Spencer, regional resource recruiter for Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset counties under the Tri-County Department of Social Services.

Spencer says even before the pandemic, it could be challenging to find those willing to be resource parents. “We have a lot of kids coming into care who need homes willing to work with the agency on reunification with their biological parents, and also willing at the same time to adopt if necessary,” said Spencer. “It’s a unique need because we’re asking people to be willing to take children who need a home, but also be willing to give them back to their family when it all goes well and the parents can take their children back.”

As recruitment efforts were slowed down by the pandemic, Spencer says the need for more people to sign up increased more than ever. “A lot of our current resource parents were having a difficult time with the changes of the world. So, we lost some there. When you’re losing some, it’s hard to also have them recruit for you. With uncertainty in what is going on, people are more skeptical to sign up for something like this,” said Spencer.

Spencer says health and safety concerns also played a role in the declining number of resource parents. “People are also nervous about bringing strangers into their home when the pandemic is going on,” she said. “When you have a child in foster care, you also have visits from case managers and there’s court things. There’s a lot more people in and out of your life, so I think that also stressed people out.”

Now, Spencer says the department needs your help in boosting their resource parent numbers. If you’re interested in becoming a resource parent, there’s a process you must follow. First, reach out to your local social services agency. In Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties, you would be connected with Spencer. Next, prospective resource parents must undergo a training class that takes about a month. Spencer says the class is being held virtually during the pandemic. In the class, you’ll learn about the roles and responsibilities of a resource parent. Then, candidates are subject to a home study process. Spencer says that includes assessments on the safety of prospective homes, checking of references, and running background checks.

Spencer says being a foster or adoptive parent isn’t always easy. But, she says it could be one of the more rewarding things you ever do. Sometimes, she says it even leads to lifelong connections. “It’s difficult. It can be sad, it can be emotionally draining. But also, on the flip side, it’s really rewarding because you get to be their advocate. You get to be someone who’s in their corner and fighting for them in ways like helping them learn about resiliency and coping through some of the things they’ve experienced,” said Spencer.

For more information on becoming a resource parent, click here.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, Maryland