by Amy Pressman
Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven
Foster Parents Can Help Youth Blossom, Thanks to JFS Program By Amy Pressman Director of Marketing Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven The Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven’s foster care program serves youth (mostly teens) who have had challenges in life; often times, abuse and/or neglect from birth. Due to these early challenges, the youth now need a higher level of foster care (TFC) with families who receive intense training to meeting the needs of youth with intense behavioral challenges. They need loving families who are willing to see them through into adulthood - through thick and thin. JFS’s foster care team helps match foster children with foster parents and counsels both through the duration of the placement to make sure the situation is beneficial for both parties.
Being a foster parent can be extremely rewarding, but also emotionally trying. Sharon, a JFS foster parent, has fostered several children over the years. Many of the children she fostered have moved out of her house and now enjoy positive, fulfilling lives of their own. Patrice Brown, who has worked at JFS for eight years, said one of the most rewarding things is seeing the growth in the children. “They blossom into these individuals with goals who gain confidence and want to do well.”
The JFS foster care team works closely with the CT Department of Children and Families (DCF). Because many residential and group home settings have closed, the youth who were once placed there are now being placed with families.
The JFS team is looking for families who are open to the challenge. They offer families on-going support at all hours of the day. People and families from all different types of compositions are welcome as foster parents. Some basic eligibility requirements are: you must be at least 21, able to provide a youth with a private bedroom, you must make enough income to sustain yourself and your dependents (there is a government stipend that accompanies the youth, but it must be used only for the needs of the youth) and you must have a clean police, DMV and DCF record.
Elaine Benevides, who has worked at JFS for more than 20 years, said the most important attributes of a foster parent are empathy, understanding and a sense of humor. JFS is also able to place foster children in the Medically Complex Foster Care program, which provides foster care for children with intense health conditions. To foster a child in this program, an adult must be a stay-athome parent with another adult living with them or close by who is also willing to be trained to help when needed.
May is National Foster Care Month. Check the JFS Facebook page and website for foster care events in May. For more information, contact Elaine Benevides at (203) 389-5599 x115.