Foster Care in Mississippi
By Alicia Stevens
According to Lea Ann Brandon, director of Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS), there are currently 4,200 children in the foster care system of our state. 4,200! This number includes all ages, from newborn on up to age 18.
Although this number has decreased significantly, this still leaves many children in need of placement. The primary goal of the MDCPS is to reunify the families by giving steps to strengthen and improve parenting and the overall living situation, to provide a stable and healthy living environment for the child(ren). The foster parent’s role is to provide such an environment until reunification with the child’s birth family can occur… if it’s possible.
“We rely so heavily on our foster families because even though it is traumatic, the best alternative is to put them in a stable home setting,” Brandon explained.
It is a serious decision to become a foster parent. Read on about making this important decision.
Things to consider before becoming a foster parent
These children do not feel they are being rescued. Their life situation is normal to them, so foster parents are trained on expectations of a child’s behavior after they are removed from their homes.
“We’re infusing our practices in the court and with our volunteers in trauma-informed care approaches,” Brandon said.
It will be important to consider whether you really can help a child cope through these life changing events, and whether you are able to allow the time necessary to let them build trust with you and your family. Through a shared parenting role, foster families work with the birth family to keep the bond with their child and can be integral in providing mentorship through family team meetings. A notable benefit Brandon has witnessed is that birth families have learned good parenting techniques from foster parents; this benefits both themselves and their child.
How to become a foster parent
Start with the online application found at https://www.mdcps.ms.gov/become-a-resource-fosteradoptive-parent/. After your application is approved for continual evaluation, you will be required to take a series of five classes which can be completed in a matter of weeks, depending on your availability. These sessions cover topics such as: how children come into our custody; how to explain adoption to a child; understanding the process of separation and attachment; child development; and how to manage behavior according to the MDCPS website. Following this, a home study will be conducted during which time a social worker will interview you and assess areas for child safety in your home.
As part of your application process, consider what age range, gender and the number of children you would like to take under your care, as well as whether or not you would be willing and able to care for any with behavioral issues or special needs.
Once a child is placed in your care, you will remain in contact with the social worker to help with the adjustment and assist with efforts to eventually reunify the child with his or her family. You will not be left alone; there will be support!
With thousands of Mississippi’s children currently in need of a foster family, there’s a vast need for many, many more safe, stable and loving foster homes; maybe you can help.
For more information, visit https://www.mdcps.ms.gov/become-a-resource-fosteradoptive-parent or call 1(800)821-9157.
Alicia Stevens, a resident of Pearl River County, is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two who enjoys traveling with her family and friends.