Each year, almost 3,000 Montana children enter foster care due to abuse, neglect and other serious difficulties within their families. However, the number of resource families available to provide safe, caring homes for these children has not kept up with the need - especially for minority children, older youth, and sibling groups.
By opening your home and your heart as a resource family, you can restore hope to a child's future. The term resource family refers to foster, adoptive, kinship, and concurrent families that provide homes for Montana's abused or neglected children. The demands on resource families may be great, but the rewards are extraordinary.
Foster children placed by the Child and Family Services Division, Department of Public Health and Human Services, range in age from infants to 18 years old. Often sibling groups need to be placed, hopefully, together. The children reflect Montana's cultural diversity. Many of the children have physical, emotional, or learning challenges. Temporary and permanent placements in safe, stable homes are needed for all the children.
Resource families provide children with predictability, nurturing, and safety when their own family cannot. Usually, resource families are needed for a period of time while the issues within the child's family are addressed. If the child's parents are unsuccessful in resolving the issues, a permanent placement is developed for the child. Resource parents, in cooperation with agency staff, work to reunite children and their families when it is safe to do so.
What Is A Resource Family?
Resource families are foster, adoptive, kinship, and guardianship families that have opened their hearts and homes to include children in need of a safe placement.
Reasons Children Are Separated From Parents
In most cases, children are placed in foster care when their own families are unable to provide them with the safety and protection they need. Some of the reasons for removing children from their families include:
Resource families are required to complete 17 hours of pre-service training and licensing/approval requirements. Resource families often need to expand their parenting skills with additional training to meet each child's needs.
Resource families are responsible for providing the physical needs, emotional support, love, and safety for each child in their care.
The Child and Family Services Division, of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, does not exclude anyone interested in becoming a resource parent because of race, creed, religious belief, or marital status. However, because of the importance of their work with children, resource parents must be of good character, in good physical and mental health, and capable of providing a safe living environment for children. Some important characteristics of resource families are good parenting skills (or the willingness to learn them), the time and energy to invest in a child's life, and a genuine concern for the well-being of children and families.
To safeguard the well-being of children placed in foster care, Montana law requires that every resource family have a valid license or approval. This ensures that the resource family and their home meet the required standards for the care and safety of children. Resource families undergo an extensive evaluation of their suitability, the safety of their home environment, and the skills to meet the needs of abused and neglected children.
The Options - Temporary or Permanent Care
While a child's placement in foster care is usually thought of as temporary, sometimes children may never be able to safely return to their families. In those cases, every effort is made to find the most permanent living arrangement possible, such as guardianship or adoption. Among the children who are adopted through the foster care program, about 70 percent are adopted by their resource family.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: We don't have any experience with parenting. Is that a problem?
A: While experience working with children may be an asset, it is not a requirement. As important as actual parenting experience is, the willingness of a resource family to develop the skills necessary to meet the needs of children who have been through abuse or neglect in their young lives is vital.
Q: Are resource parents paid to care for the children placed in their homes?
A: No, however resource parents do receive a "reimbursement" to offset some of the costs of a child's room, board, clothing, and related expenses.
Q: Are single people allowed to be resource parents?
A: Yes. A person's marital status is not the measure of his or her ability to be a resource parent. What is most important is the ability to provide a family environment that protects and promotes the well-being of children.
Q: How long do foster children live with their resource families?
A: The length of a child's stay in out-of-home-care can be a few days, months, and - in some cases, years. It depends on how soon a child can safely be reunited with their family, or - when that isn't possible, placed in a permanent home.
Q: Our family lives on a modest income. Would that interfere with our opportunity to be resource parents?
A: No. Financial wealth is not a requirement to become a resource parent. You do need to have enough income so the expenses of fostering are not a financial hardship for the child or your family.
Q: Do I have to be a homeowner to be a resource parent?
A: No. Resource parents can be homeowners or renters, but the setting where a foster child will live must be safe.
Q: What other supports may a family expect from the agency?
A: Every foster child is assigned a social worker who works with resource parents in meeting the needs of the children placed in foster care. Resource parents may also take advantage of support groups, social activities, and training opportunities where available.
We'd be glad to talk to you about how you can make a difference in your community.
For more information about becoming a resource parent, please call your Child and Family Services county office, of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, or call (406) 841-2400.
Page last updated: 12/31/2012