Help wanted: foster parents

Lynch said she agrees.

"Foster family agencies are not a back door to adoption," said Lynch. "People also need to remember adoption isn't a 'magic wand.' Even if they are adopted, the children will still have the transition issues."

However, foster parents are given first preference to legally adopt the child who has been in their home for 12 consecutive months. Under the New York State Family Court Act, the courts can file a termination of birth parents' rights, but these cases are rare, and few adoptions actually result from foster care.

"Most foster children never become available for adoption, because the ultimate goal is to return them to their homes," said McNall. "The birth parents receive parenting classes or rehabilitation such as drug or alcohol counseling. There are regular bi-weekly visits, supervised by the caseworker. In the past, children remained in the foster care system for years; that's no longer the case."

"We believe people can change," said Lynch. "There is a court-ordered service plan for each child, and we must make what's called 'diligent efforts' to birth families to give them all the services we have available for a minimum of 12 months. The cases also remain open for monitoring and preventative measures."

Becoming a foster family

State laws require each home be certified before a child is placed.

Certification gives the number, age and gender of the children the foster family may receive, and must be updated annually. State and Social Services regulations require the following:

Each foster parent must be over the age of 21.

Each member of the household must be in good physical and mental health.

The family must be self-supporting apart from payment made for the room and board of the child. Foster moms may work outside the home, but child care and supervision must be suitable during the day.

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