Those children are referred by the Department of Human Resources to the United Methodist Children’s Home.
“Not only have they usually been abused and neglected, but they just simply haven’t been instructed in ways that other kids are. So it takes a lot of time to go back and teach them what they have been missing for years,” said Janice Hawkins, regional director for UMCH programs in north and central Alabama.
UMCH has more than a dozen facilities throughout the state, including a therapeutic foster care and family services office in Jasper.
The local staff serves Walker and seven surrounding counties. Their responsiblities include recruiting and training foster parents as well as case management.
Hawkins said staff members provide around-the-clock support to children and their foster families.
She added that they are able to offer more specialized care than DHR employees because their case load is lighter. On average, each worker in the Jasper office has no more than eight children assigned to them and makes home visits at least once a week.
Hawkins said UMCH staff help their foster children learn everything from their multiplication tables to table manners.
They also patiently teach the children how to let go of the survival skills they have developed, such as eating out of the garbage and sleeping beside the bed rather than on top of it.
Hawkins said UMCH is currently hosting a recruiting drive because of a shortage of foster parents.
“We have over 6,000 children in the state of Alabama who are in care but only about 2,500 foster parents,” she said.
One of the most common reasons given for not fostering is a concern about extra expenses.
Hawkins said foster parents receive a board payment and travel reimbursement and the children have Medicaid to meet their medical needs.
For more information about UMCH or fostering, call 384-6383.