On the evening of May 30 at the Salt River Community Building, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Social Services Department held an informative event for interested couples and families about becoming foster parents to Community youth.
To begin the evening, current Miss Salt River High School Alia Shaw sang “God Bless America” in O’odham.
Social Worker II Avarae John with SRPMIC Social Services welcomed everyone to the event and explained the Foster Care Program. Guest speakers provided information on the Foster Care Program and explained the steps involved in becoming a licensed foster care parent. A spaghetti dinner was served.
Making a Family
Two current foster parents shared their personal experiences and spoke about how the program was a great success for them and their families.
“I would like to thank the program for making it possible for me to have two wonderful, beautiful daughters,” said Kathy Kline, a foster parent since 2010.
Kline is an enrolled Community member, and when she first expressed an interest in foster parenting, she did not have any parenting experience. “So when I applied I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into,” said Kline. “I have been a foster parent now for two years, and so far it’s been an easy road.”
Kline said she was at a Community event when she first saw information on becoming a foster parent. At that time, the tribe did not allow individuals to become foster parents if they lived off the Community. So this ruled Kline out, because she lives in Phoenix. It wasn’t until the Community changed the requirements that she was able to apply and be approved to become a foster parent.
Once approved, Kline had to attend parenting class to prepare for the children, and Social Services also helped prepare her for her new role as a foster parent.
“The process went very quickly, and before I knew it I had the two girls in my home,” said Kline, who is a single parent to the girls. That evening she encouraged other singles that they too can become foster parents.
“The end result is that they have been in my home for the last two years and I have petitioned to adopt them, which the judge granted me, and now we are a permanent family,” said Kline.
“Once again, I thank Social Services for allowing me to have my permanent family, and I hope that you and your family members would consider becoming foster parents or adoptive parents to the children of our Community. They made as much as a difference in my life as I did in theirs.”
Taking Care of Our Own
Audrey Moreno, the next guest speaker, has been a foster parent for many years. She is a Navajo and her husband is from the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. “We have been foster parents for about six years,” said Moreno.
The couple are licensed through another agency outside the Community that contracts with Social Services. Moreno worked in the social services field for 12 years prior to becoming a parent, and it was always the goal of her and her husband to have a Native child in their home.
“We have three children in our home, ages 2 to 17, and we have seen the ups and downs of being foster parents with the three ages,” said Moreno. “And I think our own biological children have learned a lot from the process as well.”
Over the years the Morenos have had several children in their home, and each time Moreno has gone through the parenting training, even though she has worked in social services for many years.
“For new foster parents, I would advise you to be sure and find a good support network out there that will be there for you when you need,” said Moreno.
Moreno explained the foster program is “really good; the staff comes out and does home visits and checks to see how everything is going with the family and kids.
“Overall it’s been really good for my family. And it’s funny too, because my foster child actually got better grades than my [biological] children, so I know we are doing something right,” Moreno added with a laugh. “There are a lot of good things that you get to see, and it’s rewarding to hear that the child is doing well from the time they were placed with you.”
Moreno encouraged people to take that leap of faith and do this for their Community. She said there are a lot of non-Native foster parents taking care of the children; she has seen a lot of Anglo families with Native children.
“I think it is time for our communities to step up and start taking care of our own kids,” said Moreno.
John thought the event was “awesome,” and she thought they got the message out that there is a great need for foster parents in the Community.
May was also Foster Care Month, and they wanted to pay tribute to the current foster families of the Community children “because they are our unsung leaders of the Community.” She thanked them for doing an amazing job. During the event, each foster parent come up to be recognized.
After the presentation, comic duo James and Ernie performed and closed the event.
The Process for Becoming a Foster Parent
John explained that the process is rather simple. “It’s about a three-month process, but that can vary among individuals. I think the longest we had was a year,” said John.
Social Services requires basic paperwork and asks all individuals in the current household who are 18 and older to complete an application for a background check.
Once the background checks are cleared, Social Services will meet the family and conduct a home study, which is a tour of the home to see where the child will stay. During this time the workers also will talk to the family to see what they are looking for, such as the child’s age and gender.
“We don’t ever try to push them into something that they are not prepared for,” said John. “If they are looking forward to a school-age child, then we do our best to match them up with one.”
Once the home study is completed, the prospective foster parents go through a 10-session training program provided by Social Services.
“I do the training here at Social Services, and I can adjust my schedule to fit theirs,” said John.
Foster parents are paid monthly, based on rates that the state pays to foster parents. They submit an invoice at the end of each month that they have the children.
For medical care, all children that are out of home placement are covered by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) as long as they are dependent wards. Usually all foster children are considered dependent wards.
Social Services will provide a clothing allowance; if the children participate in sports or extracurricular activities, the department will try to cover some of those expenses too. But the foster parent will need to help out.
Once you have become a licensed foster home, there will be two visits a month from the case worker and foster care worker, just to see how everything is going for the families. This is the time to address any questions families have, or just to provide support.
“We really advocate for the children to be in the Community; and if not in the Community, then [for them to] be fostered by a Community member or other Native American,” said John.
For more information about the Foster Care Program, call Avarae John at (480) 362-5645.