On Friday, May 25, staff of the local and regional Family and Youth Services offices and the Alaska Foster Parent Training Center hosted a luncheon for foster parents and families in the Juneau area.
The luncheon gave staff an opportunity to express their appreciation to Juneau foster parents for their daily work in caring for kids whose need for safety and stability is paramount. About 30 foster parents and families attended.
"We're so grateful for their efforts every day, and we want to keep them happy," said Candice Heppner, community licensing specialist with Family and Youth Services, who was instrumental in organizing the luncheon.
The Juneau event attracted longtime foster parents, as well as those new to the program. Some brought infants, who gazed at the colorful flowers and balloons decorating the Family and Youth Services conference room as their foster parents enjoyed lunch and talked about family life. Other foster parents brought older children, who played together in a kid-friendly play room full of toys.
May is Foster Parent Appreciation Month, so the Juneau luncheon was part of a larger statewide celebration. Events honoring foster parents are being held throughout the month in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Ketchikan.
As foster parents at the luncheon can attest, their work is both challenging and rewarding. Many foster parents gain a deep satisfaction from giving kids a temporary home that nurtures them when they need it most. But the challenge of foster parenting is not for everyone. Foster children who come from stressful situations sometimes act out their emotions in ways that are difficult for even the most patient foster parent to handle. Still, for people who choose to incorporate foster parenting into their lives, the benefits to kids, families, and the community outweigh the frustrations.
Family and Youth Services always seeks new foster parents to welcome into the program. A person interested in becoming a foster parent goes through a licensing process with the state. The process assures both the prospective foster parent and state child protection workers that the home is suitable for foster kids.
To qualify as a foster parent, a person must have a home that meets basic standards and provides enough room for a child to sleep and to keep his or her belongings. Foster parents can be married or single, and can work outside the home. Training and support are provided to new foster parents, and a stipend is provided to compensate for the costs of caring for foster kids.
To learn more about foster parenting, call Candice Heppner at Family and Youth Services, 465-3740.