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Help wanted: foster parents

At the first foster/adoptive parent information meeting of 2007 at the Saratoga County Children's Services office, no one showed up.

The gatherings, which serve to inform, encourage and recruit new foster parents, are held monthly, and children's services caseworkers are hoping word spreads that more people are needed to open their doors and hearts to kids in need, and in particular, teenagers.

In Saratoga County, more families want babies or toddlers, said Christine McNall, a caseworker at the Saratoga County Department of Social Services (DSS), children's services division.

"We have just 60 foster families in the county, and 75 percent want young kids. We have a very difficult time placing older children."

Kids in crisis

Children of all ages enter county foster care systems after being removed from their homes by authorities, typically following a call by police to a domestic violence or abuse situation. Caseworkers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and calls come even in the middle of the night. Many children are taken from their homes immediately.

"If there is a danger to the child to remain in the home, a caseworker removes them that night," said McNall. "They try to pack up at least a change of clothes and the kids' schoolbooks, but often they arrive with only the clothing on their backs."

Whether the children arrive in the night or by daytime, caseworkers must place them in a safe place before the end of the day. They then begin the arduous task of phoning every family on their list and asking them to take in the child, even on an emergency short-term basis. Siblings must be kept together.

At the Albany County Department of Children and Families, program coordinators rely on about six families willing to take in children on an emergency basis.

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