In September, The Next Door, Inc. (TNDI) received more than 50 youth referrals for children ages 6-18 in need of foster care.
However, the program is limited on the number of youth it can accept into its program because of the declining number of foster families available in the Gorge.
In order to help meet the need, TNDI is co-hosting a foster parent information session with Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc. (GOBHI, headquartered in The Dalles), on Monday, Nov. 19 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at its office, located at 965 Tucker Road, Hood River.
Amy Lindley, foster parent recruiter and certifier for The Next Door, said she would like to recruit as many people as possible, “but an additional nine families would be wonderful to help us support the current youth in our program as well as open up opportunities for additional youth who would benefit from our treatment program.”
TNDI is part of a statewide initiative called Foster Plus and collaborates with 12 other social service agencies in Oregon “all working to connect kids in need with the support and stability of committed, caring foster families,” Lindley said.
There is a free preservice training of 32 hours required to obtain certification from Next Door, as well as ongoing monthly training for active foster parents that results in 24 hours of training each year, said Lindley.
“We work to provide foster parents with the best training possible to help them be prepared to work with the youth,” she said. “The TNDI foster youth always have a highly trained team to wrap around them, but the TNDI foster parents do as well.
“With The Next Door, you’re an important part of a team with 24/7 access to a caring, trained support staff,” she added.
There is no such thing as a perfect foster parent, Lindley stressed, and anyone who is interested is welcome to attend the informational meeting.
“Every foster parent is different and can bring their own unique qualities to the program,” she said. “However, flexibility, stability and empathy are important.”
Sherri and Doug Ginnett, who have been foster parents for three years, have had 13 fulltime placements, and are currently fostering two.
“Patience is a virtue,” said Sherri Ginnett. “Sometimes you will feel like they aren’t listening to you, that it goes in one ear and out the other, and sometimes you get 2 a.m. calls because you were/are their security blanket and they need your support.
“Occasionally, when the youths are in our home, we feel like we aren’t making any progress, so it’s really refreshing when they turn to us,” she said.
“All of your hard work will show in time, when they are ready to blossom. Just be patient, don’t give up — they are listening,” Ginnett said.
For their family, the most challenging part of fostering is when a youth first comes into the house.
“Some of these kids have never been part of a family or have had unhealthy relationships around being in a family, and we start to show them what it is like to be a unit, and that not every family will walk out on them, gaining their trust and respect,” she explained.
The Ginnetts decide to become foster parents because they didn’t think they were able to have biological children “and we really wanted kids in the house,” she said. “The day before our very first training, we found out we were pregnant. We became parents to two foster kids and our biological son all within nine short months.”
The Ginnett’s son, now 2, gets along well with the youth that come into their home. “He gets so excited when his ‘brothers’ come home from school and want to play blocks and build ‘big, big houses.’”
Something she wished she knew before she became a foster parent?
“I wish I knew I would end up having 14 sons (counting my own) in my first three years of being a parent! Do you know how much food I have made?” she said. “I wish I understood how much of an impact we would make, how we would have a hand in 13 kids’ lives — 13 kids we helped shape into young adults.
“Consider opening your homes and your hearts and show these kids what it is like to have a home to come home to,” said Ginnett.
For more information on becoming a foster parent, contact Lindley at 541-308-2207.