ena is 5 years old; she has a loving mom, Spc. Regina Jones who works very hard every day serving her country as a Soldier in the Army. Lena and her mom have endured separation before when her mom has been away for training.† Usually her Grandma Nettie comes to stay with her. But, her mom has not been feeling well lately and now they want her to stay at the hospital for a while. Grandma lives far away and does not have the money to come get her. What will happen to Lena? Who is going to take care of her?

When children are in need of a home, the foster care program provides temporary and sometimes long-term placement for children with Families who have been trained to care for them. Children who are removed from their homes are afraid, scared and worried about their Families, friends and future. For military children, there may be the added stress of living with a Family who may not understand how life operates in the military, especially on post. They also most likely have to switch to another school. That is why there is such a need for certified foster care parents who are on active duty or even retired.

If Lena is placed with military foster parents, who understand about military life and how to get on post, where Lena needs to go to see her mom, and where her school is, the stress for her and her mom is greatly reduced because she is with a Family who understands her world.

The Military Foster Care program is recruiting interested singles and couples who want to open their homes and hearts for military children in need of foster care.

What does it take to be a foster parent? Military foster parents must meet a set of requirements that are standard for all foster parents. They must be at least 21 years of age, and be able to provide bedroom space in their home, either on or off post. Foster parents can be married or single, however all adults residing in the home must attend training, submit to a background check and fingerprinting, which are a part of the application process.† Because the goal of most placements is Family reunification, foster parents must work with the birth parents and the county Department of Social Services towards achieving this goal through participation in meeting the needs of the child, including attending court visits, doctors appointments and counseling sessions.

The Family Advocacy Program, in conjunction with the Department of Social Services, has made a commitment to help them recruit qualified military foster parents to provide a home for children like Lena. Those who are interested can take the first step by attending a foster care informational meeting.

Lena spent a week with Staff Sgt. Patrick and his Family. She stayed at her school on post, visited her mom every day and even went to her momís unit where they had a birthday party for her.† After about two weeks, when her mom was released from the hospital, they were reunited.

If you have the desire to help our military children in a time of crisis like Patrick and his Family, you can contact FAP or one of county DSS offices for more information.

Here is some additional information related to the local foster care programs.

A foster parent is someone who is certified to be able to take a child into their home for 14 days or longer, when that child has been separated from their parent(s) due to an emergency or to ensure the childís safety from abuse or neglect. When a military child is taken into foster care, it can disrupt their whole life as they are not only separated from their home and Family, but also from post schools or other things about military life that they are used to.

A military foster parent, like the military foster child, has a military ID card, has access to all post services and can greatly support these children and provide them with a more familiar home.

Cumberland County Department of Social Services oversees the care of foster children within the county, which includes most of Fort Bragg. Anyone interested should attend a foster care informational meeting, which happens every third Thursday of the month from noon to 1:30 p.m. and also from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the DSS, first floor Conference Room, 1225 Ramsey St., Fayetteville.

Foster parents are required to be at least 21 years old.†
† Applicants should be willing to submit to fingerprints and a background check, which are part of the application process.†
† Foster parents can either rent or own their home or reside in on-post housing, but it is preferred that parents have a separate bedroom for the foster child. Parents who live on post will not be allowed to have a larger set of quarters because they are foster parents. Quarters are assigned according to the number of actual dependents residing in quarters.†
† Potential foster parents are required to complete 30 hours of training.†
† The typical period of care for a foster child is usually a minimum of 14 days.†
† Foster parents must be willing to work with the birth parents/Family members of the child and support the Department of Social Services treatment/care plan.†
† Parents receive a stipend meant to defray costs of living expenses, food, clothing, etc.†
† Both married prospective parents must attend the 30 hours of training but it is allowable for one parent to care for the foster child if a Soldier/parent is deployed. It may also be possible for a deployed parent to complete the 30 hour training after they return.†
† Free childcare can be arranged for foster parents who work.†

How to get started. The first step for any parents interested in participating in this program and providing priceless support to military foster children in our area is to attend one of the foster care informational meetings. You can also contact the Department of Social Services Foster care recruitment staff directly, at 677-2897 or 677-2450 or p11@ccdssnc.com.

Harnett County Applicants contact Georgina Landers, at 814-6673. Hoke County applicants contact Anna Watson 878-1981.