WASILLA — While no kid really chooses to be in the foster care system, becoming a foster parent is certainly a choice. Those who choose to make their house a foster home for local youth in need should be ready for the challenge and they should be ready for the rewards that follow a job well done, according to Scott Somers of Denali Family Services.
Somers is a foster care supervisor. Somers said when a household decides to become a foster home, the foster family has the chance to make a difference in a child’s life. If done right, he said, there should be plenty of fond memories to look back on.
Even though it can sometimes be a daunting task, Somers said Denali Family Services always puts the child first and part of that is helping foster families cover as many bases as they can to make the most positive impact.
Below is a question and answer session with Somers, discussing the pressing need for serious, quality foster homes in the Mat-Su Valley and how DFS works day in and day out to provide the best possible foster experience for local children in the system.
Q: What’s something that people should know about foster care, particularly here in the Valley
A: I’ve been here DFS for a year before I started here, I had no idea the DFS existed. As far as I was concerned, the only way to become a foster parent in the state of Alaska was through OCS licensing, which I think is what most people think… We offer a unique experience that you’re not going to get with OCS.
Q: Could you explain?
A: With over 3,000 kids in the foster care system in Alaska right now… DFS has a very specialty niche… So we have about 200 clients throughout the state and what we offer is ‘complete wrap around services’ as opposed to just foster care. So, with OCS, they’ll license you and they’ll offer some support but for the most part, you’re on your own.
Q: It’s more hands on?
A: It is. So, every client has to qualify for services. We provide mental health services for all of our clients. We have a team of clinicians. We also have a team of case managers so every client has a clinician and a case manager to help kind of direct their schedule. And then foster care, we oversee the homes. So really, what we’re looking to do is help people understand that we exist and there’s a way to become a foster home other than going through OCS....
We handle all the licensing.
Q: What kind of training do you provide?
A: We offer all the training that you’ll never get through OCS. We offer monthly training. In fact, we have a higher training requirement for our foster parents. So, OCS requires pretty minimal in terms of ongoing training. We require for a primary caregiver a minimum of 30 hours training a year and the secondary caregiver, we require 20 hours. But, we provide all of that free of charge.
DFS is currently seeking dedicated households from all walks of life, be it younger, older or somewhere in between. They are looking for primary foster parents in addition to secondary households. For more information about becoming a foster home, call 907-222-2321 or visit denalifs.org.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org.