AP NEWS

Eastern Kentucky private program seeks foster parents

February 3, 2019

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — There is a critical need for local foster parents with loving homes.

In the Ramey-Estep Foster Care Program there are currently 66 foster children that are placed in 37 different homes throughout the five-county region (Boyd, Carter, Greenup, Lawrence and Elliott).

“We’re turning down kiddos every single day ... There’s not enough foster homes to place these kiddos, that’s why a lot of homes have four or five kids because there’s just not enough beds available,” said Ramey-Estep Foster Care Program Director Jenna Hill, adding there are almost 10,000 kids in Kentucky that are in the foster care system.

Ramey-Estep Foster Care operates as a private foster care agency, providing treatment foster care. Hill said the organization certifies its own foster homes and then provides services including medication management and case management to insure a child’s mental health, medical and educational needs are met. Ramey-Estep also provides in-home support as well for foster parents and foster youth.

“We also provide therapy services so our kiddos receive individual services and they receive family services if the goal is to reunify with their parents or a relative,” said Hill.

Hill said children from birth up to the age of 20 are in the program, noting each have their own challenging backgrounds ranging from abuse to neglect. She pointed out that it is rarely a child’s fault that they are placed into foster care, explaining they are not bad kids — a stigma often associated with being a foster child.

Hill said the children have been through traumatic events and have ended up in the program in order to keep them safe.

“They’re awesome kids, they just need someone to give them a chance and to love them and provide a safe environment for them,” said Hill.

She added this is why Ramey-Estep educates its foster parents so they can manage the behaviors and symptoms that come with trauma. All foster parents are required to go through an extensive training process before their home can be open to foster children. The training usually lasts from five to six weeks and covers areas like behavior management and development and mental health issues.

Hill said home inspections and background checks are also carried out, adding potential foster parents have to show they are financially stable to take in children as well.

“Once their (home is) open they have to attain training every year, so they have to have 22 hours of training to maintain their certification with us. So we’re constantly teaching them skills to work with these kids that we get in foster care and we provide ongoing training because things change,” said Hill.

Hill said Ramey-Estep wants families that truly understand foster care and are looking out for the best interest of the children, noting the organization is focused more on the quality of families over the quantity.

Because of this, foster parent recruiter Jennifer Swann Smith said Ramey-Estep turns down more homes than they open.

“We want good, loving homes that’s going to take care of our kids,” she said.

Hill pointed out foster children are often bounced from home to home, explaining choosing the right families for foster children is critical to prevent any disruptions from happening.

Hill said the foster families in the program are also never alone and have someone to talk to 24/7.

“There’s not any incident our foster parents go through that we’re not there with them. So I think that makes it easier knowing you’re not alone in it and our kiddos always have an advocate and always have a champion by their side and help them work through this process,” she said.

Hill said fostering can be a difficult task to ask others to take on, but noted Ramey-Estep’s program has grown over the past several years and has had success. Swann Smith said there has also been successful adoptions, pointing out that Ramey-Estep averages about 12 to 15 adoptions a year.

Hill said Ramey-Estep also has respite, or temporary, foster care as well for those who do not want to commit to being a full-time foster parent.

Hill encourages those with even the slightest interest in becoming a foster parent to call Ramey-Estep Foster Care with any questions they may have at (606) 547-4400. Ramey-Estep Foster Care’s office is located at 835 Central Ave.

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Information from: The Independent, http://www.dailyindependent.com

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