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Foster parents needed: Chautauqua County hosting virtual open house Thursday

Parents' Day CNN 072819
Posted at 1:01 PM, Jan 11, 2022

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — It may not be in your plans to bring more children into your home, but right now Chautauqua County is asking you to consider it.

"Every day we have kids who are in need of some support. We are always in need of foster parents, continuously, we’ve lost a few over the years," said Leanna Luka-Conley, Deputy Commissioner of Adult, Child and Family Services, Chautauqua County.

Many of the foster parents they used to rely on have now retired, according to Luka-Conely, but the need persists.

"We have about 100 children in foster care. From all ages, we struggle at this point with older children,” said Luka-Conley.

So the county is hosting an open house via zoom on Thursday, January 13. It's an opportunity to ask questions about the process and talk to current foster parents.

"We’re a pretty small community and there are so many children that just need a chance," said Nellie, who's a foster parent in Frewsburg. "When you have three children who need a home, you would never say no that, ever."

Nellie is still in the foster parent process and for privacy reasons—she asked 7 News not to use her full name. She says it’s not an easy thing to take on, but certain moments make it well worth it.

"We have a 9-year-old who said, this is the best day of my life so far. Their needs are simple. It is consistency and love, those are the only things these children really ask for," said Nellie.

So what's the process? For people like Nellie who are caring for children in an emergency situation, you can get certified almost immediately.

Typically, it's a 7 step process:

  • Register via email for a virtual orientation session (johnsons@chqgov.com)
    • If they are unable to attend one of those sessions, they should call Kellie Johnson, at 716-661-8212. Kellie will complete a brief inquiry form over the phone and the family will be added to our mailing list to receive information about upcoming foster parent pre-service classes.
  • Register for the pre-service classes
  • Complete the classes (one class a week for 10 weeks, each class is three hours, currently being done via zoom)
  • Complete all background checks satisfactorily
  • Participate in the home study process
    • Meeting with the home finding caseworker and providing personal information and allowing the worker to assess the home to see if it meets standards set by the state
  • Provide personal and employment references and a satisfactory medical report
  • Assess your family’s readiness and ability to accept placements of children in foster care and to help reunify those children with their birth families

"A lot of times it’s just a temporary situation, a child just needs a place to go. We need everyone in the community to help build a stable foundation for kids around us," said Luka-Conley.

Luka-Conley says it's even better if you already have a relationship with that child. The county helps you financially in caring for the child and is available to answer questions along the way.

If this is an option you’re considering, the foster parent open house is happening on zoom Thursday, January 13 from 4-5 pm, with a second session from 6 to 7 pm. To register, email johnsons@chqgov.com. For more info, click here. This is for Chautauqua County residents only.

Niagara and Erie counties also stress that they’re always looking for foster parents. For information on how to become one in Erie County click here, in Niagara County, click here.