Dec. 29, 2004 The Human Services Department has launched a new Web site to provide information for people in the territory interested in becoming foster parents.
The Web site, www.vifostercare.org, was launched Dec. 15 and provides applications, eligibility requirements, know-your-rights information and other facts. The site also provides answers to frequently asked questions and has letters from foster children as well as success stories from current foster parents.
Kim Gomez, Human Services Foster Care Unit administrator, stated in a release issued Tuesday that the Web site has been in the works for over a year.
"We hope that this Web site will answer questions for some and spark interest in others in becoming active in fostering our children," Gomez said. "Our children are special children who need special parenting techniques, and I know the Virgin Islands community is willing to do their part."
Monife Stout, public relations officer for the department, said Tuesday the main purpose of the site is to encourage individuals to become foster parents and to inform them of the requirements to do so.
"We're aggressively seeking to encourage individuals to consider being foster parents in the territory," Stout said.
Currently, there are 172 foster children in the territory 94 in the St. Thomas-St. John District and 78 in the St. Croix District.
This includes children residing at the Nana-Baby Children's Home on St. Thomas, the Queen Louise Home on St. Croix and children living with relatives other than their biological parents who receive assistance from the department, Gomez said.
Gomez said at times they have had difficulties in finding families willing to provide a home for the foster children.
"We believe that our Web site will be a fantastic way of reaching a new segment of the population," Gomez said.
Besides filling out an application, interested foster parents must receive an interview and a house inspection in order to be eligible, Gomez said.
Gomez said they have had a lot of "well-meaning" people apply who did not meet the other criteria necessary to become foster parents. However, the department has had some successes this year.
"The appointment of Nana-Baby's proprietor Louise Ali to the vice president position of the National Foster Care Association headed up a series of successes for the unit," the release said.
In January 2004 the department began providing therapeutic foster care training for foster parents of children with socio-psychological disorders. The St. Croix Rotary Mid-Isle also renovated the interview room for child victims of abuse in the St. Croix office.
Also, for the first time this year the St. Thomas office initiated a foster care gift-box to be done annually. (See the St. Thomas Source story "District's Foster Children Have a New Santa This Year").
On St. Croix, there's an annual fund-raising effort of $4,000 from the island's businesses and the community, and gifts were handed out to the foster children at a holiday party in Sunshine Mall as well.
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