WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- November is National Adoption Month, and there are currently 73 children looking for a loving forever home in Westchester.
Foster parents provide a critical first step, and the need for new foster parents is always great.
Each year, Westchester County must find 40 new foster homes to care for local youth, especially teens, the medically fragile and sibling groups.
United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline, along with Family Ties of Westchester and the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS), have joined forces to make finding good homes a top priority. And it all begins with a call to 2-1-1 to determine basic eligibility.
“The need for good homes never goes away, and as any parent can attest, the rewards far outweigh the challenges,” said County Executive Rob Astorino. “I urge anyone interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent to call 2-1-1 today.”
After an initial screening, prospective foster and adoptive parents attend an orientation program facilitated by Family Ties of Westchester, a nonprofit that offers support services, education, and advocacy to families and children throughout the county. Family Ties, working with Westchester County DSS, helps to recruit, train, recommend for certification and support people interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents – like Gale and Joseph Thoma.
The Thoma family is now in the process of adopting Matthew, a 3-year-old born addicted to drugs and diagnosed with Down syndrome. “I couldn’t say no,” Gale said, after DSS asked if they could foster Matthew.
“I promised I would do the best I could. We lived in the hospital at first. But he has made great strides.”
Those strides include literal ones. Once too weak and uncoordinated to stand, Matthew is now taking steps with the assistance of supportive leg braces. He still requires extensive therapies, and likely always will, but the Thoma’s don’t think twice about how hard of a road it’s been.
There currently are more than 200 children living in Westchester County foster homes.
To become a foster parent or learn more about the process call United Way’s 2-1-1 by dialing 211. This free, confidential, multilingual helpline is available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
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