The Rim Country Child Protective Service’s office doesn’t have a single slot in a licensed, local home to provide shelter for a child in imminent danger.
“The child would have to be placed in a licensed home outside of the area,” said Cindy Paul, licensing specialist for Arizona’s Children Association.
Despite recruitment of licensed foster parents in the past 18 months, Paul says at the moment she doesn’t have a single bed free.
Still, Paul said she does what she can, including implementation of an an outreach plan to continue the search for foster parents.
Part of her plan included telling her story to the Roundup months ago. She said she received calls from several families. “One older couple asked to become foster grandparents after reading the article,” said Paul. “I told them we really don’t have grandparents, but they could certainly help.”
The couple is now going through the licensing process.
Paul has also attended the Business Showcase and Women’s Wellness Forum and has a table at the spring rodeo next month.
“I plant seeds and wait,” said Paul.
She said the average time it takes for a person to decide to become a foster parent is two years from the moment awareness dawns to actually picking up the phone and making the call to start the foster parent process.
“It’s not an easy choice,” said Paul.
When she decided she wanted to help, she had no idea what to do. She ultimately called the 800 number for the Arizona Children’s Association.
“I called to be a foster parent, but ended up taking this position instead,” she said.
What Paul and her organization look for is someone who loves and cares about children, whether a couple or a single person.
They must have emotional stability and offer a safe space.
They must prove they can financially keep food on the table, the water flowing, and electricity on.
The family must also have a bedroom with a door, a bed, and either a dresser or a closet.
“Children can share a room, but it does have to have a door,” she said.
Paul told the story of one foster parent who was licensed to house two children, but took in three siblings. “We helped her put in a bunk bed and added a door to a room that didn’t have one and got her licensed for three children,” said Paul.
A foster family must pass a background check qualifying for a level one fingerprint clearance.
These requirements represent the initial hurdle, and then the challenge gets more personal. “I had one couple drop out of my licensing class because the wife got an illness,” said Paul.
She knows that good families live in the Rim Country. She praises the community for how much it cares, but her job is never done.
“If we had extra beds there would be options,” said Paul.