Event honors foster parents

STEUBENVILLE – Parents who open their homes and hearts at a moment’s notice to care for children were recognized Thursday at a luncheon sponsored by the Jefferson County Job and Family Services Department.

May is Foster Parent Recognition Month.

Elizabeth Ferron, county Job and Family Services Department director, said there are 20 foster families that care for 33 foster children in the county.

“What a special group we have. I am so thankful for you. You receive calls all hours of the day and night and open your hearts and homes to children, offering them a safe, warm and loving environment,” Ferron said.

Melinda Sykes Haggerty, director of children’s initiatives at the Ohio Attorney General’s office, was the guest speaker.

Haggerty herself said she was a foster child at age 13 but was adopted.

Haggerty, who works on child welfare issues at the attorney general’s office, said she never thought she would be doing anything related to foster care as an adult. After graduating from law school and spending a brief amount of time in private practice, she was hired by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to work on children’s initiatives.

She focused on foster care, and, through a series of meetings statewide, discovered foster parents had the least amount of input on decisions concerning the future of foster children.

“You have valuable information,” she said.

Now the Ohio Supreme Court is training judges to give foster parents more of a voice in court proceedings concerning the future of foster children.

She said foster children also face issues that prevent them from participating in normal everyday activities. A proposed change in state law would make it clear that children services agencies are not liable for injuries to a foster child. Under the current status, foster children aren’t even allowed to go swimming because of liability concerns.

“Foster parents make a huge impact on a child,” she said.

Haggerty said foster parents play an important role in determining how successful that child will be once an adult.

“Foster children can be successful and there are success stories out there,” she said.