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One person's journey to parenthood

Knowing that Holly Dunn is becoming a foster parent, friends gave her a shower to provide toys and other items needed to turn a single’s home into a home for children.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Adding a child in the home changes life, especially for a single person.

Holly Dunn recently completed licensing through FosterHope, a division of Meridian Health Services, to become a foster parent. Monday, she received a 3-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy.

While the children wanted to play, eat and have fun, she talked about choosing to become a foster parent and the process of gaining her license. 

Dunn’s a busy woman. She is a member of Fayette County Council, works for Communities that Care and leads programming at The Ha*ven. 

She is taking time off from her job until the girl now in her home can go to day care. The boy will join her later.

Dunn wanted to become a foster parent for many years. Because she is single, she didn’t move forward on it . She decided to become a foster parent last May. In August, she signed up for certification classes.

“Through the summer I wrestled with it and then I had to get the courage to tell people because I have a busy life,” she said. “I knew when I said I would be a foster parent, there would be some people who would say ‘Are you crazy?’ That wasn’t how people responded.”

Candra Ramsey of FosterHope said her agency teaches the rules of being a foster parent. Five sessions are held on Saturdays, each nearly a day long.

“The first week was the hardest. It’s definitely weeding people out who are really not into it,” Dunn said. “They tell you the terribles, all the stuff you need to be prepared to see. Then it gets easier.”

She took an additional class because she wants to adopt children. That’s different from foster care, in which the state’s stated goal is to send the children back to their families when the parents are able to provide a good home.

She is licensed as a therapeutic foster parent, meaning she can take children with some special needs into her home.

After the classes, there is a lot of paperwork to meet state requirements, Ramsey said.

“During that time, they know everything about you,” Dunn added. “There is no question they won’t ask and it goes way back. I did not realize how in-depth it was. The people who become foster parents, at least through FosterHope, after going through the process, I feel a lot better about knowing children are in foster care.”

The agency and state want to know personal history. If a child has had a trauma, the state does not want to place the child with a foster parent who has the same trauma, because it will bring that out, Ramsey explained.

Foster care parents who go through FosterHope meet quarterly for activities and support, Ramsey said. They get to know each other. That is how Dunn found her two children, who were transferred from another foster family.

Foster parents are paid a daily rate called a per diem. It’s meant to reimburse them for expenses, not to make money by being foster parents, Ramsey said. Foster parents must set up dental, doctor and eye appointments because often those have been neglected by the parents. Children may have been abused physically or sexually and sometimes their education has been neglected.

Being a foster parent means being able to give the child back to the parent at any time, Ramsey said. A judge may decide that the child had been removed without justification or that the parents are ready to care for the child. 

Foster parents love the children placed in their care, Dunn said. It’s not easy to give them back.

“True love means knowing that God wants families to remain whole,” she wrote in a letter to friends. “Pray that I love the family of whomever He places with me; they are also His children.

“In the end, I may or may not be given the opportunity to adopt. Still, my love will grow. After all, every child deserves to feel chosen and loved just as Christ has loved us. My child will be treated like my “real” child because they are a “real” child! It will be my joy to be given the opportunity to love whomever God sends my way. I will need support when or if they are reunified with biological family.”

For those considering being foster parents, FosterHope is hosting, in collaboration with the Heroin is Here Committee, a learning session from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at Reid Health’s Lingle Hall, 1200 Reid Parkway in Richmond. Information from service providers will be available. For more information, call Ramsey at 765-960-0988.

Foster parent requirements

In Indiana, foster parents must be licensed by the Department of Child Services. Requirements for licensure include:

• At least 21 years of age

• Passing a criminal history and background check

• Financial stability

• Own or renting your own home that meets physical safety standards

• Medical statements from a physician

• Pre-service training

• Completion of First Aid, CPR, and Universal Precautions training

• Positive personal reference statements

• Foster parents do not need to be married. They may be single or cohabitating and can have same-sex partners.

• Home visits from the Regional Licensing Specialist

• Completing all required forms within the licensing packet

-- Source: Indiana Dept. of Child Services, www.in.gov/dcs/2984.htm