Sherry Roy-Hunton, manager of LifeSkills’ therapeutic foster care program for more than 20 years, says there are more than 9,000 Kentucky children in out-of-home care, which includes foster care.

“More and more kids in the commonwealth are in need of being placed into a foster care home every single day,” Roy-Hunton said, “and we are just now beginning to realize the truly devastating effects of the global pandemic on our youth. I believe we will continue to experience an escalation in these numbers for years to come.”

Roy-Hunton said increased anxiety combined with not attending school caused even well-adjusted and healthy youngsters to fall about a year behind in maturity.

“School is where a lot of youth gain social skills and structure,” she said. “Some also depend on school for food, encouragement and kindness. Teachers are reporting that their freshmen are behaving like eighth graders and so on. In families where substance abuse, depression and anxiety have increased, youth are majorly impacted by having little to no supervision or positive interactions with adults.”

LifeSkills hopes to find more foster parents for its therapeutic foster care program, which involves placing children and young adults from birth to age 21 who have been abused or neglected into homes that are trained to address their specific needs.

“Right now we are seeing an increase in sibling groups and teens,” Roy-Hunton said. “So, if you are up for the challenge, you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Lots of people dream of being a stay-at-home parent, or working from home, and our program can help to make this happen. We offer reimbursement for care, as well as a 24/7 crisis line, supportive staff, case management services, excellent training prior to becoming a foster parent and on-going training afterward.”

Roy-Hunton said LifeSkills is always looking for safe and nurturing homes.

“We value attributes such as kindness, patience and stability. We love having foster parents who are 55 years or older and also those who are retired. They have so much wisdom to impart, life lessons to pass along, stories to share and are excellent teachers. These kids need guidance. They need to learn independent living skills and be with someone who will celebrate their successes and work to build up their self-worth and confidence.

“We are open to married or single people who are already parents or people who are not already parents but simply love having kids around.”

Roy-Hunton said an added bonus to therapeutic foster care is becoming a part of the foster care community.

“Foster parents are very close and supportive of one another. They are united in the fact that they change lives every day … and some times they even save lives,” she said.

To receive an informational packet, contact LifeSkills therapeutic foster care program assistant Sarah Miller at 270-901-5000, ext. 1215, or at samiller@lifeskills.com.

– Maureen Mahaney coordinates public information for LifeSkills Inc., a nonprofit, behavioral health care corporation that plans for and serves the people of southcentral Kentucky in three main areas: mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities. Her column appears monthly.

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