Michelle Miller of SAFY
Michelle Miller of SAFY

VAN WERT – Representatives from four area agencies associated with foster and adoption care were present at the Van Wert YMCA on Saturday to provide information concerning steps to care for area children with need.

Organizations available included Van Wert County Children Services, Adriel, SAFY and Marsh Foundation Foster Care and Adoption Center.

The event was planned and presented by Nicole Benson, membership director of the YMCA of Van Wert County. Benson said that she gained a heart for children in need of a refuge home when she fostered for two years through SAFY.

“We had 20 kids come into our house over two years,” said Benson. “Thankfully, things were worked out and they had a chance to go back home.

“I had mostly good experiences,” said Benson. “Half of the time you think you bring these children in because they need to learn from you. Most times you learn from them through the situations they bring to your home. It really makes you care about them.

“There are so many kids right now that need placements and they aren’t getting them,” added Benson.

SAFY reaches into the local area through its regional office in Findlay, located Suite A, 1624 Tiffin Ave. The agency has a toll free number at 877-844-7239.

“Foster parents are part of our team, one of our most valuable resources and strongest allies,” commented representative Michelle Miller. “Both single and dual parent families make great foster parents.”

Miller said that SAFY’s foster parents make a difference in the lives of children, youth and families.

“They are committed and compassionate about supporting youth as they heal from grief, loss and trauma,” said Miller. “They enrich the lives of children and help SAFY complete its mission of preserving families and securing futures.”

The Marsh Foundation Foster Care and Adoption Center, like the other agencies, is a not-for-profit children’s services agency that provides services in a variety of settings. Services include group homes, family foster care (ages 0-17), an intensive treatment program, adoption and independent living.

Located in Van Wert, the organization’s group homes are licensed for up to 36 children, ages seven to 17 and offer on-campus school for grades two to 12. It provides a variety of clinical services to group home residents, foster care children and community members.

Adoption Center executive director Melissa Snyder noted that the licensing process takes three to six months.

“Couples and single individuals are eligible,” said Snyder. “Complete, extensive training is provided prior to child placement.

“There is supportive, 24-hour on-call consultation available,” continued Snyder. “Substantial reimbursement is available for those who qualify. We only place kids in your home that you accept. Potential parents must be 21 or older.”

For more information, contact Snyder at 419-238-1695, Ext. 307.

Current statistics indicate that 9,924 children in Ohio are in need of a caring foster family to nurture and guide them. Overall, more than 3.3 million children are victims of abuse each year.

Of those, one in five will become homeless after age 18, only half will be employed by age 24, less than three percent will earn a college degree, 71 percent of young women will be pregnant by age 21 and one in four will experience PTSD.

Adriel is one of the newest adoption and foster care agencies in the Van Wert area but its services are no stranger to northwest Ohio. The agency has a long and rich history of caring for children in need. Founded as the Mennonite Children’s Home in 1896, Adriel’s mission has always focused on serving those children who either have no family or whose family environment is not safe or health.

As the needs of children and families have changed, Adriel has adapted and expanded its services to meet those needs. Today, Adriel provides mental health services, foster care and adoption services, and family preservation services for children in need.

Last year Adriel served more than 450 children in need of a temporary home. The average length of care of an Adriel foster child is about nine months. The average age of a child in an Adriel home is about six years old. Foster parents can serve as respite providers to other foster families or biological families. Quality homes are needed for children of all ages _ especially sibling groups, high medical needs and teenagers.

Adriel can be contacted at 419-513-2600 at 521 S. Shannon St. in Van Wert.

Lesley Sowers is the deputy director of the Foster Care and Adoptive Homes in Van Wert County. She can be contacted by calling 419-513-2600 or 419-238-5430.

The office is located in the Van Wert County Annex at 114 E. Main St. and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,, Monday through Friday. Appointments can also be scheduled.

“Adoption helps children find a permanent family when circumstances prevent them from staying with their birth family,”said Sowers. “Foster care gives children a temporary living situation when circumstances prevent them from staying at home.

“There is no doubt that fostering and adopting children who are in foster care is hard work and very challenging,” said Sowers. “There is a lot you will have to do to get ready for this challenge and the many rewards that come with it. You may think of it as going on a life-changing journey.”