| Rockland/Westchester Journal News
Kent family: From fostering to adopting
Trudy and Warren Kent fostered six children and are now parents to three they have adopted.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Across the country, there is a perpetual need for foster families. But like so many other aspects of life in 2020, it’s a need exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have foster parents who are either immune compromised or have other health issues, and they worry about expanding their household now,” said Beatrice Prophete, senior caseworker in New York’s Rockland County Department of Social Services Home Finding Unit.
Prophete adds that there are foster parents who have lost their jobs and don’t believe they are financially stable and emotionally available enough to open their homes to a child in need.
And there’s increased risk of infection.
In Rockland County, there was a child who was diagnosed with COVID-19 just as the Department of Social Services was investigating a report of neglect.
“We were trying to find family members but no one could take her in,” Prophete said. “She was removed and placed and we found a family and they decided to take their chances.” The teen is now well and her foster family remained safe.
Still, Prophete said families also contact the department with fears that their children will get lost in the system if the parents are hospitalized with COVID-19 or worse.
“Basically they wanted the agency to look for foster homes for their children because (the parent) tested positive and they didn’t know where that would lead,” Prophete said.
DSS helped them identify people who could step in, in addition to providing flexibility in helping families facing crisis.
Meet the Kents
On any given day, there are approximately 424,000 children in foster care nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And, in recent years, a total upwards of 670,000 are served annually.
As the need for homes is never ending, Rockland DSS is recruiting more foster families in partnership with local Wendy’s restaurants. Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas was long an adoption advocate, and for the past nine years, the local Wendy’s have collaborated with DSS during National Adoption Month in November.
In 95% of cases, Prophete said, a child’s adoptive family had been the foster family.
That’s the path that built the Kent family.
Trudy and Warren Kent are mom and dad to Ariel, who turns 7 this week; Giana, 7; and John, 3. Trudy works for the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York, a nonprofit that works alongside DSS to support families.
The Kents started fostering Ariel as a newborn, with her joining their home straight from the hospital. Giana, or Gigi, joined the family at 17 months. John was 3 days old. The family has fostered six children all together over seven years.
While Trudy Kent advocates for adoption, she said it’s important that families understand the challenges.
“Every child is different,” Kent said. “Every individual situation is different.”
Kent said that adoptive families need to respect their children’s whole lives and do what they can to support any ongoing relationship a birth family can offer. Her children have varying kinds of relationships with their birth families. She works hard to make that successful and loving, because her children need nothing less.
“Understand that a child does grieve the loss of their parents even from birth,” Kent said. “There is a loss. There is a first trauma there.”
Reflecting on one daughter’s relationship with her birth family, Kent said, “It’s all very sweet.” And she’s taken a keen perspective on it: “It will take a village to raise her.”
Task of being a foster parent
A child can stay in a foster placement until they reach 21 years old.
Foster parents receive a monthly stipend, depending on the child’s age and level of needs for the child. There is also a quarterly clothing allowance. When children are removed in emergency situations, they may come with very little; a foster family can be reimbursed for getting them clothing and other items. “The foster parents want to give them new things,” Prophete said, “to make them feel a little bit more comfortable.”
Qualifications for foster parents are flexible in some aspects: Couples, a single person, a homeowner, an apartment dweller can foster. But people must pass various background checks, be fingerprinted, get a physical. They must go through parenting training.
Kent said foster parents should also take advantage of ongoing training and support systems. “Understand what it is to parent this child,” she said.
But the basic qualification, Prophete said, is that “they have love in their hearts and they have space in their homes.”
Follow repoert Nancy Cutler on Twitter at @nancyrockland.
Source: USA Today