Each pinwheel on the Cullman County Department of Human Resources lawn represents a Cullman County child in foster care. (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)
CULLMAN – About 200 colorful pinwheels line the walkways and curbs across the front of the Cullman County Department of Human Resources (DHR) office. The bright and cheery pinwheels were placed on Thursday afternoon, and the breeze had them doing the things pinwheels do, but pretty isn’t the point. Each one represents a Cullman County child who’s currently in foster care.
DHR’s Amanda Buchanan explained, “Today we’re just trying to bring awareness to Foster Care Awareness Month, and the fact that we need more foster homes for our children in Cullman County.
Anywhere from five to 20 new kids will enter the local foster system each month, balanced by typically comparable numbers leaving. The most common reason kids enter the system is drug use by their parents. According to Buchanan, Cullman County currently has 194 children in foster care, but only 47 homes to take them in. At this time, 67 of those kids are housed in other counties. DHR hopes to see that change.
Said Buchanan, “Whenever kids have to come into care, we’d rather them be in a home that’s close to where they were already living, ideally continuing to go to their same school, you know, change their environment as little as possible. But if the resource is not available, sometimes it’s not possible.”
Once kids enter the system, 70 to 80 percent will eventually return to a parent or other family member, according to DHR.
“Reunification is the number one goal, usually,” said Buchanan, “and so that’s another reason why it’s so important to have kids being able to be placed in their same community or close to their community, because it helps in the reunification process. They’re able to visit more often. A lot of times our foster parents will even befriend and support the parents and help in that reunification and be there as a support for them.
“I feel we do have some of the best foster parents in the state, regarding how hard they work for our kids and advocate for them, and also with the families, and partnering, truly partnering with us and the families.”
DHR needs more local families to open their homes to foster children. This August, the local office will host an expo in Cullman to increase awareness and introduce the program, and to connect prospective parents with those already serving the community’s foster kids.
Buchanan said, “We’re hoping this is going to be a discussion for the community to understand and see how many children we actually have, the amount we have, and why the need is there.”
For more information, to get involved, or to keep up with upcoming events, visit www.facebook.com/cullmandhr/ or call 256-737-5300.
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