Approximately 15,000 children in Pennsylvania’s child welfare system are unable to live with their biological families due to abuse, neglect, or behavioral problems. The goal of foster care is to assist biological families in resolving the issues that led to the child’s placement in foster care so that families can be reunited as quickly and safely as possible. Foster care is intended to be temporary for children. If families cannot be reunified within 15 months another permanent option, such as adoption, is pursued.
COBYS Family Services trains and approves families to care for children. COBYS receives referrals for children in foster care from county child welfare agencies. When a COBYS resource family is determined to be the best resource for a child, COBYS assumes responsibility for meeting the child’s physical, emotional, educational, cultural, and spiritual needs. Caring for foster children presents many challenges to families. Our Christian focus and manageable case loads enable us to provide resource families with the help they need to succeed in their ministry. COBYS supports the foster child and their resource family through regular visits, advice, encouragement, and 24-hour emergency access to a caseworker. We provide financial assistance to the resource families, which helps to cover the child’s living and travel expenses. Every child in foster care receives medical, dental, prescription, and mental health coverage, and COBYS caseworkers assist the resource family in accessing these services. COBYS provides occasional respite services to allow the resource family time for self-care.
Children are placed into foster care because they cannot safely stay with their biological family. They are between the ages of 0 to 18 when they are placed into foster care, but can decide to stay in foster care up to age 21. There are children of all racial and ethnic groups and of various religions. Some are placed individually, but many are part of a sibling group. Some children have mental or behavioral health needs, or special medical needs. All children must cope with grief and loss due to the separation from their biological family and with the impact of their parents’ issues that contributed to their placement. Parental addiction, homelessness, untreated mental health issues, lack of parenting skills or supervision, and truancy can be contributing factors to the abuse and neglect that children experience.
COBYS resource families are married or single persons, families with or without biological children, and families with or without a stay-at-home caregiver. They have in common a desire to share God’s love with children in foster care. Resource families are open to one or more of the following ways to care for children: foster care, foster to adoption, adoption, and short-term emergency and respite care. Resource families provide love, guidance, nurture, and structure that children need to heal from past experiences.
When I started this class I thought I knew everything a “Good Parent” should know. But I came to realize I had a lot to learn! I’m very thankful to be in this class. –Family Nurturing participant