OSWEGO, NY – May is Foster Care Awareness Month and Family Court Referee Thom Benedetto wants Oswego County residents to have a greater awareness of how critically important foster parents are to making a wonderful difference in the lives of children and youth whom they support, as well as ways the system can be improved in the county.
According to the The Children’s Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “During National Foster Care Month, we renew our commitment to ensuring a bright future for the more than 430,000 children and youth in foster care, and we celebrate all those who make a meaningful difference in their lives. (www.childwelfare.gov).”
“National Foster Care Month is set aside to celebrate and acknowledge the network of people who make foster care work,” Benedetto said. “That means, in addition to foster parents, we’re recognizing the contributions of family members, volunteers, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and others who help children find permanent homes. I’ve seen the positive results first-hand, and it’s always heartwarming to see a loving placement and connection for foster care. I do believe, however, that our system in our county could be run more efficiently and that the roles of foster parents and caseworkers need a stronger voice and recognition in working toward positive outcomes.”
“As a former foster parent of 20 years, I have been involved with the family court system though working with foster children placed in my home by the Oswego County Department of Social Services,” said Rev. Brenda Weissenberg, treasurer of the Foster Adoptive Parent Association of Oswego County Inc. “In my first 10 years as a foster parent, I experienced an environment in which I felt the foster parents, biological parents, caseworkers, lawyers and judges all worked together to come to a positive and best interest resolution for the children involved. In my last 10 years as a foster parent, my experiences fell very short of being positive. Over the past 10 years, I felt as if the foster parents, and in many cases the caseworkers, were actually treated as incidental by the current standing judge to the entire system of care of the foster children. Rather than being treated as an integral part in regards to the care of and plan for the foster children placed in our home, I felt as if I was looked at as an unnecessary part of the system by the judge. It is my hope and desire to see a positive change to this system with the current opportunity to elect a new judge and bring that system back to a point where everyone is looked at and respected as a necessary part of the plan for these children in care.”
“New York State’s office of Children and Family Services reports that number of children in foster care in the state has decreased from 53,902 children in 1995 to 16,215 as of Dec. 31, 2016 (www.ocfs.ny.gov),” Benedetto said. “That’s real, positive change, but the need for foster care assistance is ever present, and vital to helping children in our county. That’s why I encourage families to seriously consider becoming part of our support network.”
For more information about foster care and adoption, NYSCFS can be reached toll-free at 1-800-345-KIDS.
For information on foster care services in Oswego County, call Family/Youth Services, (315) 963-5445 or visit http://www.oswegocounty.com/dss.shtml for a schedule of information meetings about foster and adoptive parenting.
“Foster care families serve as the primary source of love, self-esteem and support in our communities,” Benedetto said. “We’re always hoping that more people will step forward to create that meaningful connection and help with family healing and helping support children into a successful adulthood. This is an issue that is close to my heart, and one that I promote every chance I can.”