"We have a core group that will take in a child within an hour, but we are constantly recruiting," said Barbara Lynch, Foster Homes and Adoption Supervisor for Albany County.
The emergency placements can last up to 90 days as the children are transitioned into a home where they can stay up to 12 months. If there isn't a family willing to take in the child or children, caseworkers have no choice but to send them to a group home, such as Northeast Parent and Child facilities, or Parson's Therapeutic Foster Care.
"We're sometimes forced to send teenagers to institutional settings even if they don't need that level of care," said Lynch. "This is by far the greatest need."
Unfortunately, most kids entering foster homes must change schools due to their change of address.
Lynch said caseworkers are seeing an upswing in "kinship" foster care, in which another family member takes in the child or siblings.
"We always look first to kids' relatives, and if someone comes forward that would provide a good home for the child, we can expedite a speedy placement," said Lynch. "We check everything " fingerprints, references, and a new law passed in January requires us to do background checks on the New York state level and with the FBI."
Providing foster care in hopes of adopting
The issue of foster parenting being a pre-adoptive stage continues to be a thorny one.
"We have a lot of young couples who are unable to have their own children, and want to adopt sometime in the future," said McNall. "It's important for people to know we're not an adoption agency. We accept that couples may be looking for this, but we still encourage them to take in an older child. They learn they can parent this child; it's not as hard as it seems."