TROY — SAFY (Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth) of Sidney opened its arms to the Troy community during an open house held at Troy-Miami County Public Library this week.
Families were invited to bring children to make keepsake crafts and color cards for first responders. While attending, families could learn more about becoming a SAFY foster parent, respite parent, alternative care provider, or volunteer.
Foster care recruiter Lisa Barham savored the opportunity to reach out to the Troy community with the public venue.
“This is my first time at the Troy-Miami County Library,” Barham said. “What I hope to do is teach people who were are in the community, and how we serve families, whether it’s through foster care adoption or outpatient health care services. We do offer outpatient counseling, play therapy, and psychiatric services at our Sidney office. We also offer those services at our Dayton location.
“I’ve found that a lot of people haven’t heard of us, and aren’t aware of what we do. There are very few services for pediatric mental health in the area, and we are one of few places that offer psychiatric care for children.
Barham explained that the services offered by SAFY and similar organizations are more prevalent than ever, due to the rise in children displaced from homes affected by heroin and opiates.
“We’re trying to establish more of a presence in Miami County,” Barham said. “It’s one of the counties hardest hit by the heroin and opiate crisis, being just one county north of the epicenter. If we can find foster families throughout Miami County, it’ll help keep children closer to home that might come from Montgomery County.”
“One of the things we’ve noticed with the crisis is that we’re getting more sibling groups in. It used to be harder to place teenagers. Now, the challenge is finding enough homes for all the young kids that come in groups, and trying to keep them as close as possible.
Sometimes it poses a challenge keeping siblings together, and this is a statewide and nationwide issue, because there’s simply not enough foster homes. In August, when I went to the Attorney General’s press conference, he estimated there were about 15,000 children in care. The last numbers I looked at in November read 15,400, so there was an increase of hundreds of kids in three months alone.”
Barham also hoped to encourage people interested in SAFY’s services, despite many false assumptions the public may have about what they do.
There are some misconceptions about the requirements of foster care,” Barham said. “Some are that you have to be married, or that one parent has to stay at home, or that you can’t be a single parent. I’ve been trying to clear up a lot of those misconceptions. We welcome single parents, we welcome co-habitating couples. It’s okay that both parents work. We welcome same-sex parents – in my experience, there have been children who are victims of abuse who specifically ask for homes with two moms or two dads, because they did not want to chance a reminder of their trauma.
We train our families for therapeutic foster care. That way, they’re informed and trained on how trauma affects the brain, and how that will affect behaviors in turn, since more and more kids are coming in from traumatic backgrounds.
Barham also clarified that after six months of care, foster parents could have the option of transitioning into adoption to children they foster, an opportunity with benefits that exceed many in private adoption.
“The out-of-pocket expenses are drastically different from private adoption,” Barham clarified. “Another big difference is the support that families receive. Children will either come in on Medicaid or eligible for it. At SAFY, they’ll have 24-hour access to case coordinators or on-call therapists. If there’s an emergency, there’s always someone foster parents can contact. By being on Medicaid, children have access to insured support they wouldn’t normally through private adoption. I do have several friends who have adopted through foster care.”
For those who are reluctant to take on long-term commitments, Barham highlighted other opportunities that are available.
“We have a high need for what we call respite parents,” Barham said. “These are people who come in temporarily to take care of children anywhere from one night to two weeks. One of the things that people often tell me is, ‘I want to do it, but I don’t want to get attached.’ I even had someone joke with me that if they could take kids for a couple days or a week, they’d be all for it, and we do have that option.
“We also have a need for what we call alternative care providers. Those are, in a way, certified babysitters. They can watch children for up to 12 hours at a time. If people want to get involved but have concerns about attachment, respite parenting and alternative care are great options.
Barham will be holding similar open house events in the coming months. The next event will be a “Cocoa and Caregivers” open house on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at Turntable Cafe in Piqua, which will run 2-7 p.m.
After that, Barham will also hold a “Foster Parent Freecycle” clothing swap and donation drive on Thursday, March 8 at Amos Library in Sidney, in which people will be able to donate new or gently used clothing, as well as shop from the donations. The event will run from 4-7 p.m.
Barham has worked in Sidney for about a year, with seven years of experience in foster care recruitment prior to her arrival.
“It’s been a very positive experience so far,” Barham confirmed.
SAFY is a national nonprofit organization providing an integrated system of care for families and their children.
For more information, visit www.safy.org, or visit Safy of Sidney on Facebook.