By Stephanie Dolan
We’ve all seen the news broadcasts and film footage of children in detention centers because their parents, who were seeking asylum in the United States, brought them into the country illegally. These children have been removed from their parents, and are often moved far away, while their parents are either detained or deported.
It’s heartbreaking to watch and makes one wonder, “what can I do?”
Well … you could write a letter to a senator or donate to the ACLU. Or, you could become a foster parent.
Bethany Christian Services is a placement service that has rolled out a new program in Indiana of transitional foster care.
“Bethany is a licensed child-placing agency,” Cindy Neal said.
Neal, of Fountain Square, has been with Bethany for 17 years in foster care licensing and recruitment.
“We do social services related to children and families in Indiana as well as several other states around the country and internationally as well,” she said.
Bethany offers a program of transitional foster care that is an option for children who might otherwise languish indefinitely in a detention center.
“Obviously it’s very difficult to see children who, for whatever reason, are not able to be with their families,” Neal said. “In this program – transitional foster care – we’re dealing with children who have fled dangerous situations, and it’s great to know they’ll be around adults who will care for them and do what they can to help them.”
The goal with children in transitional foster care is always to reunite them with their parents.
“Our goal is to always reunite children with families who are already in U.S. as quickly as possible,” Tamara Timm said.
Timm is also in foster care licensing and recruitment and has been with Bethany for six years.
“You should have a heart for families and children,” she said. “Potential foster parents should want to invest in children and families here in Indianapolis as well as worldwide.”
Malinda, who cannot further identify herself or her foster child, lives on the Southside of Indianapolis. She was licensed for foster care in August and received her first placement just over a week ago. A young girl has made a temporary home with Malinda while she waits for the time when she can reunite with her family.
“It’s gone really well,” Malinda said. “I’ve been surprised at how quickly she adjusted and how little she’s frustrated with us.”
Malinda said that she and her husband had always considered foster care and had been planning to wait a little longer until they heard about the transitional program.
“We felt like we should do something,” she said. “There’s a lot of hard stuff going on, and it felt like this was something we could do. We’re not bilingual, but we thought it was an incredible program.”
And has she thought about the time when she’ll have to inevitably say goodbye?
“I’m sure it’s going to be difficult because she’s integrated into every part of our lives at this point,” Malinda said. “But we went in knowing that this was temporary – that makes it a little easier for us.”
Malinda also said that she feels the transitional foster care program is a great way to get your feet wet and get more knowledge about the system.
Bethany has had transitional foster care systems in other states since 2012. Since 2013, Bethany has reunited over 7,000 children with their families.
“I think that people should know that this is a huge and ongoing need,” Neal said. “This continues to be a huge need. The Office of Refugee Resettlement had more than 40,000 children referred to their care in the first few months of the year. We would love to be able to serve more children and families, but we cannot do that without foster families.”
How to become a foster parent
Guidelines for potential foster parents include a minimum age of 21. Singles and married couples are welcome to apply. Couples must be married at least a year before applying for the program. All potential foster parents must go through state-based training. Foster parents must be CPR and first aid certified. A home study is completed with paperwork, including references and background clearances. There is an interview with a social worker to make sure potential foster parents can offer a safe and stable home for a child. The process takes about three to four months. For more information go to Bethany.org/help-a-child/foster-care/us-foster-care.