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25 kids need parents here in Becker Co.

Jenny Anderson and Joni Wohlwend are hoping to find permanent families for 25 children in Becker County that have been removed from their families by the child protection system. Brian Basham/DL NEWSPAPERS

Every child deserves a family, a family and love. Quite a few children in Becker County are missing out on these rights though — through no fault of their own.

There are 76 kids in child protection in Becker County, and 25 of those kids are up for adoption. That is a high number for a small county, social workers Joni Wohlwend and Jenny Anderson said.

The number of families in Becker County who can foster these children and families to adopt them isn’t nearly enough to cover the 76 in need of homes.

Most of the children in foster care go back to their families or to a relative, but many need new adoptive families to care for them.

The county tries to work with the parents to get their lives on track so they don’t lose their children. Parents get one to two years to achieve whatever guidelines are set to get their children back.

For parents who give up their parental rights, the good news is that in 2012, 40 kids in Becker County were placed in permanent homes.

“It’s hard not to take them all home,” Anderson said.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and Becker County Human Services is looking for more area families to open their homes and lives to a child in need of a family.

Ending up in foster care

“Drugs play a big part in our placement,” Anderson said.

Drug use, when kids are exposed to it, is one of the leading reasons kids are taken from their homes. Other reasons include physical abuse, sexual abuse and chronic neglect.

Parents may be struggling because there are multiple children and they can’t care for their children. There may be children with special needs, which puts them at higher risk for abuse and neglect.

Human services tries as much as possible to keep sibling groups together, and they try to keep children in the same school district so they don’t have to change schools and make new friends as well.

Right now, the county has two sibling groups of four kids who need homes.

“You need to meet kids where they are,” Wohlwend said. “They may be 12, but they don’t always act 12.”

Being licensed

“It can be a lot to digest,” Wohlwend said of becoming a foster parent.

But the county is there to help not only the children, but the families fostering and adopting them as well. Options include in-home therapy, counseling, mental health services for kids and families and services on how to help kids who have suffered trauma and how to process that loss or neglect.

One of the biggest hurdles can be kids who don’t grieve the loss of what was once their family – even if it wasn’t a healthy situation – and foster families need to be able to help with that process as well.

But first comes the licensing procedure, which is what Wohlwend does with the county.

Foster parents must have fingerprints taken and background checks done. They must have personal references, and home studies must be completed. Their house must also be inspected to make sure it’s up to fire code regulations.

“We always need homes,” Wohlwend said.

She and Anderson said that more and more families are adopting the children that they fostered, which is both good and bad. It’s great for the children to have that stability, but it’s bad for the county and other children needing to be placed in foster care because that family may no longer have room in their homes for more children.

Families need to commit to fostering a child for at least one year.

“That’s another goal – we don’t want to make kids move around,” Anderson said.

“That’s a huge thing,” Wohlwend added.

The county is especially in need of homes in the Lake Park-Audubon area, and for homes in all districts that will take teenagers. 

Besides the services the county provides for kids and families, families are also financially compensated for fostering children. The county can help with childcare costs for families that work full-time, and they can also help with respite care for when foster parents need a short break.

“We do what we can to preserve that placement,” Wohlwend said.

“We’re there for our families,” Anderson added.

If Becker County can’t find local homes to foster the children, the kids are sent to live at open foster homes throughout the state. Anderson said she has to travel once a month to see each of the kids placed outside of Becker County.

She also keeps in contact with a few out-of-state families where kids have been placed with relatives that live out of the area. The local counties do the home visits, but Anderson still is a part of the placement.

Foster families need a strong support system, the two women said.

“They need confidence in themselves as parents,” Wohlwend said.

And they can’t take things personally if something goes wrong, Anderson added.

They need to be flexible because of a lot of appointments that will be taking place, and they “have to keep your sense of humor,” Anderson said.

Wohlwend said any aged family can qualify to serve as foster parents. And single people or married couples can be foster parents.

There are about 46 licensed foster care homes in Becker County, but 36 of them are full. And there are no adoptive families available in Becker County right now.

“The bottom line is these kids deserve permanency. It’s not their fault they’re in foster care,” Wohlwend said.

Contact Joni Wohlwend, Becker County Children and Family Services, at 218-847-5628 or to get the process started.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.