Every child deserves to grow up in a home where they are cared for and loved. Unfortunately, not every child has that opportunity. As Ohio struggles with a growing opioid epidemic, more and more children are affected. Last year 15,858 children in Ohio were in foster care, and 913 aged out of foster care, meaning they reached adulthood without being adopted.
Finding a forever home
One organization determined to help children find a loving family is Ohio MENTOR Foster Care. This organization serves families in Lucas, Wood, Erie and Ottawa Counties. Ohio MENTOR actually focuses on therapeutic foster care, which means that many of the children served by this organization have emotional and behavioral challenges due to trauma experienced in their lives, which includes abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence. Foster parents for Ohio MENTOR are trained to help care for these children while also focusing on healing through nurturing family relationships.
Miranda Cherry, an Ohio MENTOR foster care recruiter for the Toledo area, has a personal connection with therapeutic foster care. “I was in foster care for five years before being adopted by a therapeutic foster family,” Cherry said. “If it wasn’t for my family’s decision to take my brothers and me into their home we wouldn’t be where we are today. I can honestly say they changed my life and allowed me to reach my fullest potential by showing me unconditional love and support. Two people were able to make a difference in the lives of three children by allowing them to become part of a loving family.”
Supporting those who support the children
Ohio MENTOR not only serves the children but also fully supports the mentors. Cherry explained, “we call [foster parents] Mentors because of the relationships and bonds they create with the individuals they welcome into their home.” Children are matched with Mentors from their own community, or neighboring community, that can support and help them through the problems that led to their placement in foster care.
However, as any parent or guardian can understand, Mentors need support as well. Fortunately, Ohio MENTOR provides many resources for them starting with the licensing process. Once a Mentor receives their license, Ohio MENTOR meets with the family to discuss child placements that would fit well with the family’s needs, interests and family structure.
Once a child is placed in a home, Mentors continue to receive support such as in-home therapy, crisis intervention, 24-hour emergency on-call services, and ongoing skill enhancement classes.
The ultimate goal of the organization, and the participating Mentors, is to help children reach their permanency goal. Ultimately it is the hope that a child in foster care will be reunited with their biological family; however, if that is not possible, then Ohio MENTOR works to help the child find a forever family through adoption. If a child reaches young adulthood while in foster care, the organization will help prepare them for independent living.
Some individuals who are interested in fostering a child worry that they might not be the right fit, but Cherry explained that foster parents come from all walks of life. These individuals might have been foster parents before, may be empty-nesters with room to spare or they could be individuals who want to expand their family or simply give back to the community. “Families of all structures are needed – married, single, divorced, widowed, same-sex- if you have room in your heart and home, you can make a difference for a child.”
If you are interested in becoming a Therapeutic Foster Parent with Ohio MENTOR, contact Miranda Cherry at 419-516-2244 or Miranda.Cherry@thementornetwork.com.
To learn more about Ohio MENTOR’s services, visit OhioMENTORfostercare.com.
Requirements for Therapeutic Foster Parents:
- 21 years or older
- Reliable transportation
- Satisfactory background check
- Financial stability
- Adequate space for a child
Steps to become a Therapeutic Foster Parent:
- Complete the ODJFS Foster Care Application.
- Collect and submit the required documentation to your Ohio MENTOR Recruiter.
- Attend the preservice classes with your Ohio MENTOR Recruiter.
- Complete home study interview and safety audit with your Ohio MENTOR Licensing Specialist.