Q & A with Medina County Job and Family Services for Foster Care Month

Written by Kristen Minichello

May 31, 2022

126 children are currently in the custody of Medina County Job and Family Services (JFS) – Children Services

 

Medina County Job and Family Services screens calls through the Child Abuse Hotline, investigates concerns, trains and certifies foster families, refers families to services, and helps families work through a case plan with the goal for children to be safe in their homes.

If you are concerned that a child is being abused or neglected, contact the Child Abuse Hotline at 330.661.0800 or 911 if there is immediate danger. All calls are anonymous and confidential.

The Children’s Center of Medina County is a separate non-profit organization that partners with Medina County JFS to provide Child Advocacy Center Services and Family Visitation Center Services.

Below is an excerpt from an interview Kristen Minichello conducted with Mary O’Connell, Sharon Holmes, and Cindy Kollert. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When are children removed from their home and placed in Foster Care? 
We don’t remove on a whim, we don’t take people’s kids just to take them. We are taking children into custody that we feel are in immediate danger of harm. Otherwise, we are doing our best to work with that family while keeping the child safe. There are a lot of options that don’t result in removal.

What can foster parents expect?
We tell foster parents from the very beginning, it is all going to be about reunification. We don’t do very many adoptions. From day one, it is all about reunification. Mom and dad are working a plan to remedy their situation. As foster parents, you are working with the child to help the child get to the place where they need to be. Medical, dental, mental health, school – any of those things can be helped while the kid is in your home. That is what we are asking you to work on in connection with our caseworkers here. Everyone is working together. Maybe the child has just been running around and the foster parent can help them learn how to just sit down to have dinner. That is one less thing that mom has to worry about when the child goes back home. That is the foster parent’s role.

Isn’t it hard to bond with a child and then have them go back home?
It could be 24-hours, it could be a month, it could be a year, it could be two years for the child to be in your home. You are going to get attached. You are going to love each other. That is what we want you to do. We want you to treat them like your own children. Sometimes it is hard when a child goes back home, but there is also a sense of accomplishment because you’ve gotten that kid so far. You’ve seen such a big difference by the time the child goes back home.

I just met with a foster parent yesterday who has only had the baby for a short time. You can already see the attachment there. She’s really good. She knows it will be hard, but she just wants the kids to get healthy.

The goal is always for them to be safe and at their home – if possible.

Is there a role for foster parents after reunification?
Sometimes the relationship can continue between parents and foster parents because they become a support for them. Other times families are not interested in maintaining ties, which is okay too. But those different scenarios can happen. Foster parents can often become a resource for the birth family.

We have wonderful foster parents. They are in a cool position because they don’t work for us, so they can maintain a relationship with the family and be a support without wearing a CPS badge. Our foster parents do a wonderful job transitioning kids home and being a support to them. It’s a tough job.

Who decides when the child goes home?
Once it is a court case, it is the court’s decision. The agency presents evidence to the court and they decide whether or not it is appropriate for the child to return home.

How many children are adopted through foster care?
We typically have 4 or 5 adoptions a year. We tell foster parents if you are looking to adopt, you probably want to check with a private agency who can work with you better on identifying children because that is not what we do here. If your case does go all the way through to where adoption is an option, that is going to be rare in our community. If you want to do that and that’s where your heart is, we don’t want you to have your heart broken here.

In 2021, six children were adopted. We had eighty children come into custody and six were adopted. We have a good amount of reunifications or custody to relatives or kinship. Kinship doesn’t have to be a relative, but a support person who has cared for that child that takes custody, but the parent still have rights. They can still see their child, but they are not going to go home to live with that parent. We are trying to get them home safely – or with a relative.

Medina County needs additional foster families especially for children over 10 years old. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent call Layne at (330) 635-9165 or fill out an inquiry form here: https://www.mcjfs.us/foster-and-adopt

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