DHR seeking fosters to open homes and hearts to Lowndes County

Published 7:04 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Lowndes County Department of Human Resources seeks families willing to serve as foster families.

“We try to minimize the effect of trauma on the child with their removal [from a home,]” said District Judge Adrian Johnson. “The goal in recruiting foster parents in Lowndes County is to keep children here so they have a sense of community, particularly if there’s a situation where the parents are involved and we’re trying to reunify the parents with the child. Keeping them close allows us to be able to facilitate reunification, if that’s possible.”

Currently, there are 12 children in the county’s foster care system. With only one licensed foster home in the county, two children live in that home and the others are placed outside the county, some as far away as Mobile.

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“The children live in foster homes, therapeutic foster homes, or residential treatment facilities, depending on the need,” said Felicia Thomas, DHR Director.

Thomas said children in need of additional help are placed in therapeutic foster homes. Children go into third party treatment facilities when they are unable to manage behaviors in a traditional or therapeutic foster home.

Lowndes County has no therapeutic foster homes or treatment facilities. Of the 10 foster children housed outside the county, Thomas said six live in traditional foster homes across the state and could have remained in the county if additional foster homes were available.

“It’s very disheartening when you have a county like Lowndes, a very close-knit community where everybody knows everybody, but we have to go in and remove a child from their home, their schools, and their church and uproot them to take them to another county where they don’t know anybody because there are no homes available in our county,” Smith said.

She added DHR personnel try to place children as close to home as possible to encourage connection between the child and existing support systems within their community. Placing children outside the county makes maintaining those connections much more difficult.

“Transportation becomes an issue,” Smith said. “We try to place them close, but sometimes that’s not possible. We had one child in Mobile. Think about trying to go visit your child once or twice a month and having to go to Mobile.”

According to Johnson, the most traumatic impact on a child removed from their home is the removal from the home and their community.

“Obviously we can’t do anything if the circumstances dictate that the child needs to be removed, especially in a situation of abuse or neglect” Johnson said. “But then, to have to remove the child from the community, and everything they know only adds to the trauma.

“Our goal in trying to recruit foster parents in Lowndes County is to at least be able to keep children in the community so they can maybe attend the same school, possibly even the same church. Maybe the child plays sports and they could continue playing those sports.”

Married couples and single adults can foster if they are at least 19 years of age, Smith said. DHR seeks foster homes which are safe, conform to the Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes, have space for a child and their belongings, are in good health, and willing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.

“We have a slogan that we always use,” Smith said. “Open your home, open your heart. The very first thing is to love the child, because that’s what they need. They just want love.”

For more information, contact Lowndes County DHR at (334) 548-3800 or call (866) 4AL-Kids.