The Nevada Division of Child and Family Services and Sierra Lutheran High School held a foster care information session Saturday for interested families in Carson City and Douglas County.
The free session offered an opportunity to ask various experts about the application process and preparing for accepting foster children.
Shelby Riley, rural foster care recruiter for DCFS, told the Appeal on Friday the recruitment plan is meant to “humanize” the foster care experience.
“We’ll have former foster care youth, foster parents, social workers and we’ll have a magistrate that is our acting judge for child welfare cases,” Riley said. “We’ll have every perspective in the room.”
It’s helpful to have every viewpoint represented she said.
“We love to promote that there’s no dumb or bad question if you were ever curious on how something works or what social workers do or what a foster parent does,” she said. “There’s absolutely no commitment; we’ll work with you.”
Saturday’s panel included Court Appointed Special Advocates of Carson City Executive Director Melanie McCormick, Juvenile Court Magistrate for the First Judicial District Kimberly Okezie, Carson City DCFS District office manager Meagan Soracco, foster parents Alex and Kelsie Hall and former foster youth Justin Bake.
Soracco discussed the reasons a child might enter foster care. Soracco said alternative homes, including a child’s relatives, such as aunts or uncles, are always sought as suitable replacements instead, but if not easily found, then they go into foster homes.
“When we receive a report of suspected abuse, we do an assessment to really identify or understand the safety threats posed to a child,” Soracco said.
Riley said each foster family is different.
“It’s important to be committed to the child you have in your home but making sure you’re meeting your needs,” Riley said. “But fostering can ebb and flow, and it’s really up to your timeline.”
The Halls, who have been foster parents for five years and have had nine children in their home, said they have been blessed to help families gradually reestablish their lives.
“We just have a passion for kids and seeing families reunify and be whole again and however we can encourage them, whether that’s by having the kids but hopefully also by being able to have a relationship with the parents, too,” Kelsie Hall said.
Bake, who recently aged out of the system and has four siblings, talked about being separated from his sister at one point and moving through four homes. He initially was removed from his home at the age of 14 and would move briefly between Fernley, Carson City and Fallon. His transitions included missing his finals at Fernley High School and spending a year at Oasis Academy, but he said his foster family greeted him warmly.
“You’re in a completely new area and I knew about Carson City or had only been to the community center, so it was a completely new area and I didn’t know the house,” Bake said. “And it was just a lot to take in for the week or so and get used to it.”
Riley added it’s beneficial to keep in mind the ultimate objective for the child.
“I would just say if you’re considering fostering, you’re opening not only your home but helping an entire family system,” she said.
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