BERLIN – Alison Tinker and her husband never intended to adopt. They wanted to provide a child in need with a safe foster home.
“I was a stay-at-home mom with two girls,” she said. “We thought we could help with one more.”
That was 30 years ago. Since then, the Tinkers have adopted five children and acted as foster parents for dozens of others.
“Kids grow better in families,” Tinker replied simply when asked why they’d done it.
Local children need more people like the Tinkers. As May marks National Foster Care Month, the Worcester County Department of Social Services entertained families interested in opening their homes to children in need with an information session at the Main Street Enchanted Tea Room in Berlin. Four families interested in providing foster care and several families who already do so were in attendance.
“We were here to talk about the process and what’s entailed,” social worker Jami Truitt said.
While the Worcester County Department of Social Services hosts monthly information sessions for those interested in providing foster care, Truitt and her coworkers wanted to bring even more people together this month.
“May is Foster Care Month,” she said. “We wanted to step up our game a little.”
Prospective foster parents used the opportunity to ask Tinker and other families already providing foster care questions they had about the process and about what it was like welcoming new children into their homes. Participants also discussed the challenges associated with foster care. Truitt said the fact that her department was federally mandated to work toward reunification — returning foster children to their birth homes — proved difficult for some foster families to accept at first. She said it was important for them to understand that generally parents whose children are placed in foster care aren’t bad people.
“They are not mean individuals,” she said. “They are individuals that did not have good resources. Some of them don’t know how to be a parent.”
She said that while it was hard on foster families when their children left to return to their biological parents, those families knew they’d done a good thing. They are also provided with support from Truitt’s department through the process.
“It rips your heart out when they leave,” she said. “Every time. You will grieve. We do everything we can to support you.”
She says providing foster care can be trying but that it’s also rewarding.
“It can be challenging but it’s work worth doing,” she said.
She’s hoping more families will show interest in it, as Worcester County currently has just 23 licensed foster care homes while it has 32 children in foster care. Children who can’t be accommodated in Worcester County are placed in homes elsewhere, which can make the process even more difficult for them.
Truitt encourages anyone interested in opening their home to a child in need to contact her office at 410-677-6800 or by emailing [email protected].