MT. VERNON — Being a foster parent can be challenging, but it has its rewards.
"We're doing outreach, trying to raise awareness about the need for foster parents, and a safe and stable home for foster care," said Carmen Grimmett, licensing specialist recruiter for Lutheran Child and Family Services. "We need people to step up and help us with this."
The agency received 242 referrals in Jefferson County for foster children this year, and serves 40,000 individuals annually with foster care, counseling and residential youth programs.
LCFS believes children do their best when they have strong families, preferably their birth families. However, when this is not possible, a stable relative, foster or adoptive family is found.
"The need right now is for the different types of children we serve: traditional children, specialized children and we have an adolescent foster care program and we also have a Regenerations program. Our greatest need lies with the older age — from adolescents age through teenage years (about age 11 to 18) and our specialized behavior children," Grimmett said.
That is where people like Cindy Welch, a foster parent, is helpful to the organization.
Welch is in the process of being a legal guardian for a 17-year-old male in Mt. Vernon. Welch has provided foster care for the youth for about one year. Welch has been a foster parent — for different organizations — since 1983.
"I started out being a foster parent through a half-sister who I took in at age 23. All the kids from my dad's second marriage were placed into foster care. So I took in my half-sister," Welch said.
"I had her for 1 1/2 years until she was place into another adoptive home. I quit for awhile before returning in 1989 because I wanted to adopt, and I've been doing it since then," she added.