NAUGATUCK — Wanted: caring families to provide a safe, supportive environment to children who cannot live with their own families.
The Department of Children and Families is looking for families in Naugatuck to boost the ranks of foster homes in the borough.
Of the 20 licensed homes in Naugatuck, most are relative and special study care, which means blood relations and others with a pre-existing relationship with the child. Those licenses only apply to that particular child or siblings.
There are only 11 foster homes in Naugatuck.
A few weeks ago, there were about 25 Naugatuck children in DCF care, but only 14 or 15 were placed in Naugatuck, according to Joesph Baranowski, DCF foster care supervisor. Others were placed in Waterbury and other surrounding towns.
“What that does is displace the child from their community, from their friends, from their school,” Baranowski said.
Baranowski said the primary goals of DCF when placing children are to keep siblings together and keep them within their community.
At a meeting with the Naugatuck Social Service Network May 19, DCF representatives solicited ideas for getting the word out into the community about the need for more foster homes.
Members of the network suggested holding open houses in local churches, at the Senior Center, and through the network of youth sports.
Marcus Stallworth, a licensed social worker in the foster and adoptive unit, said there is often a spike in need for fosters homes in the spring when child abuse becomes more apparent as children shed their winter layers.
“As the economy increasingly gets shaky, a lot of times people, how they manage their stress, how it gets played out creates additional stressors, and that’s kind of unfortunate,” Stallworth said.
Stallworth said a lack of education and resources often force children into foster care. He said a lot of times people have an interest in becoming foster parents, but they don’t know where to start the process or what the requirements are.
Foster families can be single, married, in a same-sex relationship, young, old, living in their own home, renting, and can have their own children or not. Financially, foster families have to be able to meet their own needs, but there is a stipend to help pay for the care of the foster child. The DCF also pays for health care for the child, helps with college tuition, and provides other support programs for families. Foster families must go through a background check and home visit before becoming licensed.
“When you get licensed through us, you will be licensed as a foster parent or potential adoptive parent, but you’re home will be licensed as well, saying it meets the criteria through the state of Connecticut,” Stallworth said.
Potential foster families go through a ten-week training course on their responsibilities and resources.
Stallworth, who grew up in Naugatuck, said he knows it is a close-knit town and hopes to use the network of people in the borough to find good families.
“I would like to think that the folks in Naugatuck, when they have more information about the kids that are here, that they will probably take foster care and adoption into at least, bare minimum, consideration,” Stallworth said.
He said the best publicity is word of mouth.
“If we speak to 100 people and get one person …that’s a win for those kids, and for that family,” Baranowski said. “An increase of five, 10, 15 would make all the difference in the world.”
Stallworth said that any day, more kids might need to be removed from their homes and placed with a foster family. He said the community needs to be proactive and ready to receive children to keep them in their town.
The DCF will hold an informational open house May 26 at 6 p.m. at Prospect Street School for anyone interested in learning more about foster and adoptive care. For more information, call Stallworth at (203) 759-7034.