Sherry Roy-Hunton, LifeSkills’ therapeutic foster care program director, has been a professional in the field for 15 years. “Never before have I encountered so many children in need of therapeutic foster care,” she said.

When asked why this might be the case, Roy-Hunton said she has thought long and hard about it and feels contributing factors may be an increase in parental drug use coupled with the fact many families are still trying to recover from our country’s economic crisis, which took away countless jobs and homes.

“There are currently 900 children and teens in foster care in our region alone,” Roy-Hunton said. “That is a very big number and I’d like to spread the word that we are looking for people to open their hearts and homes. I know there are folks out there who would be great at this, and I encourage them to give these kids a chance.”

Single or married people can become therapeutic foster parents.

“People think we are looking for perfect homes,” Roy-Hunton said. “That is not the case. What we value in prospective foster parents are traits like patience, flexibility, consistency, perseverance, determination and unconditional nurturing skills … along with a willingness to provide a safe and stable environment.”

Some of the biggest challenges include finding placements for large sibling groups of five or six children who don’t want to be separated.

“It’s difficult to find a home that can take so many kids,” Roy-Hunton said. “And they are going through so much, we hate to separate them. We also have an abundance of teens to find homes for at this time. They need positive role models in their lives who can guide them and teach them daily living skills like how to clean, cook, do laundry, shop for necessities, plan a budget, open a checking account, pay bills … real-life tools to prepare them for a hopefully brighter future.”

Some of the smaller counties in our region, such as Metcalfe, Allen and Logan, are without any LifeSkills therapeutic foster care homes at all, and Roy-Hunton said that makes it extra difficult for kids to be uprooted and placed in a different county.

“They are dealing with so many changes,” Roy-Hunton said. “They might be used to a small town, country setting and we hate to uproot them from their schools, friends and communities. We would love for people in the smaller counties to reach out to us.”

Potential foster parents complete a comprehensive 12-week training course designed to prepare them for their new roles. “Building Foundations for Successful Parenting” addresses a wide array of topics including pediatric abusive head trauma, medication administration, first aid, CPR, child sexual abuse training, trauma training, stages of grief, cultural competency, child development, anger management skills and much more.

After becoming a foster parent, in-home help is provided. A specialist is on call 24/7 to assist as needed. Foster parents can also join a foster parent-led support group. Each child has his or her own fully-developed support team including a case manager and therapist. Quarterly foster-care trainings keep people updated on all training requirements in an effort to continually increase knowledge of working with foster children. Compensation and reimbursement are provided to help offset the expense of adding a child to a family.

Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a therapeutic foster care parent can attend an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at the LifeSkills building at 380 Suwannee Trail St. in Bowling Green. Call Amanda Niedwick at 270-901-5000, ext. 1266, to reserve your spot today.

— 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.