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County looks to raise awareness as its deals with foster parent shortage

By Heather Graves

BROWN COUNTY – Approximately 270 children are in foster care in Brown County, and more enter each week.

May is National Foster Care Month and Brown County leaders took time Tuesday, May 16, to highlight some of its families and staff as County Executive Troy Streckenbach presented a proclamation to highlight the month of awareness.

“We have a great need for more as most (of our foster parents) have current placements and no ability to accept additional children into their homes,” Shauna Escoto, foster care supervisor with the Brown County Health and Human Services, said.

Escoto said foster care is a temporary alternative to a child’s biological home when that home becomes socially, emotionally or physically inadequate for the child’s needs.

She said foster children range in age from infancy to 21.

“We especially have a need for school-aged children – meaning children ages six and up,” Escoto said. “We also have a great need for homes who are willing to take placement of siblings.”

She credits some of the shortages to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think COVID has played a role (in the shortage), specifically related to our daycare shortage, which impacts our working foster families and their ability to accept placement of a child/children needing daycare,” Escoto said. “Also, unfortunately, the number of children in out-of-home care has increased over time and as a result, many of our newly-licensed homes are receiving a placement shortly after becoming licensed, which limits their availability for future placements.”

Cheri Salmon
Pictured are Cheri Salmon’s daughter, a friend and her first foster care placement, left, on the first day she arrived. Salmon said she was two years old at the time. She said she still remains in contact with her and her family 10 years later. Submitted Photos

Cheri Salmon is a licensed foster parent with Brown County HHS, who has helped children of all ages for the past 10 years.

She said all foster children have unique backgrounds, experiences, personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

“Providing a safe and loving home can influence a positive outlook on a child’s life,” Salmon said. “The feeling of being a part of a family is comforting to a child and can have a long-lasting impact. I hope that the kids that have stayed with our family will always remember the care we showed to them. Allowing and teaching children what it means to be a kid, where they can learn to laugh, act their age and just be silly.”

She said a foster parent doesn’t need to be a perfect person with a perfect home.

“Providing a safe and comforting environment for them to live and grow can be life-changing to a child in our own community,” Salmon said. “Our entire family has been enriched from our foster care journey.”

Escoto said the first step to becoming a licensed foster parent is attending a Brown County Foster Parent Information Session – specifics on these sessions can be found on the county’s website.

Next would include pre-placement training.

Escoto said every day foster parents help save the lives of children who might not otherwise have a chance to learn and grow in a loving home environment.

“To those individuals who are considering foster care, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, we would be more than happy to talk with you,” she said.

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