Foster parents get a day out on DSS

Published 7:46 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

Beaufort County Department of Social Services is treating its foster parents to lunch and a conference with an internationally renowned speaker.

On Sept. 16, Beaufort County DSS and Craven County DSS are hosting a foster parent conference designed to help those parents who are involved in the foster care system get refreshed and continue to foster, according to Laurel Miller, assistant director for social work services with Beaufort County DSS. The two agencies are using funds earned through the state’s adoption incentive program to bring in Dr. John DeGarmo, director of Foster Care Institute and a consultant with foster care agencies and legal agencies across the U.S. and abroad. DeGarmo has authored several books about fostering, and he and his wife, Dr. Kelly DeGarmo, were recipients of the Ultimate Hero Award from “Good Morning America” for their work.

One of the reasons why DeGarmo’s words are so uplifting for foster parents is because of his own background, Miller said.

“He and his wife have fostered many children, so he’s speaking from personal experience,” Miller said. “He talks about the reward that he and his wife get from fostering; experience from burn out; grief and loss for foster parents, because when children leave, there’s a grieving period for them.”

What he does is give those fostering children a boost in morale and encouragement to keep doing the challenging work they do, she said.

“In general, when foster parents are surveyed across the nation, one of the big things they feel is lack of support, not just from social services, but from the courts, from the community — just general lack of support,” Miller said. “That can be very frustrating because you feel like you’re alone.”

Miller said Beaufort County DSS wants to make sure its foster parents — 32 licensed homes in Beaufort County, not including those who take in relatives’ children — know they are appreciated and supported, in ways outside of support services provided by DSS.

“We want to do something for our foster parents to help them keep going,” Miller said. “I think that everybody, in whatever you are doing, you can benefit from somebody bringing you back to why you started. Any time you go to a training, it can help you get rejuvenated and able to continue doing what you do.”

Beaufort County currently has 100 children in foster care. While 62 percent of them reside in the county, Miller said DSS is need of more local foster parents. She said DSS is very fortunate in that, once placed, most of the foster children with the county system don’t bounce around from home to home — they tend to stay put, which she chalks up to DSS staff’s efforts to find the right people to take care of them.

“We do an outstanding job of finding relatives,” Miller said. “We search really hard for relatives, and we try to provide those relatives with lots of support so the child will stay with them.”

Circumstances determine when a child is placed outside the county — sometimes that’s with relatives or there’s availability for a teenager at a group home, but Miller said DSS wants to keep children in the communities where they live so they do not have to change schools, churches or find new friends.

DSS is actively seeking more foster parents within the county and prior to the Sept. 16 conference, will be hosting a new foster parent licensing class starting Sept. 9. The class consists of 10 sessions with each lasting approximately three hours. For more information about the class or becoming a foster parent, call Lisa Gibbs-Lee at 252-940-6030.

A follow-up article about becoming a foster parent will be featured in the coming week’s Daily News.