Help wanted: Foster parents sought

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County is faced with a shortage of people willing to become foster parents, and that may impact where children are placed in the future.

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County is faced with a shortage of people willing to become foster parents, and that may impact where children are placed in the future.

Nobles County Family Service Agency social worker Elizabeth Hoekstra said seven children were placed into foster care within the last two weeks. They joined 11 other children already placed in foster homes in Nobles County.

"Our foster families are now being strained," said Hoekstra of the county's seven licensed foster homes. While the agency has not yet turned to neighboring counties for foster care, it has in the past and may need to again in the near future.

Children are placed into foster care for a couple of different reasons. There is a voluntary placement, in which a parent or other adult presents a child without initial court involvement, and emergency care -- meaning there is immediate harm and a child must be placed into foster care on a police hold.

"I don't know if people are more aware and are reporting (issues) more often," said Hoekstra of the recent increase in children placed into foster care. "I've been doing this for two years and this is the most challenging (time to place children) that I've seen."


The agency places children from infant to age 18 in foster homes.

"A lot of the children recently have been real young, so it is more work (for foster parents)," she said. The agency recently placed one of the youngest children, a baby that was taken directly from the hospital after it was born.

A larger number of the children requiring placement come from the Worthington area, and Hoekstra said that is where the greatest need is for foster parents.

"We want families all around the county, but we have a really big need right here in Worthington," she added.

The process of becoming a licensed foster home can take up to 120 days and includes a thorough background check, including finger printing, a home visit and fire safety inspection, a water test for homes that use well water, and completion of a self-help assessment. The licensing process also requires the applicant to provide three references.

Once a home is licensed for foster care, Hoekstra said it is allowed a maximum ratio of four children per adult -- and that includes the family's own children.

Foster parents can be singles or couples over the age of 21, and can live in a home, apartment, condo or mobile home. Hoekstra said there is a need for Spanish-speaking foster parents, although that is not a requirement.

If the foster parents work outside the home, Family Services will pay for daycare for the foster child. Foster parents also receive non-taxable income from the county for taking in foster children.


"As a county ... we will do what we can to help educate you," said Hoekstra.

While foster homes help fill an immediate need for children, sometimes a child can be placed in a home for weeks or months at a time.

"We have some children court-ordered to long-term foster care until age 18," Hoekstra said. "Our No. 1 goal (in most cases) is to reunify the family."

One of the foster families in Nobles County is now going through the process of adopting one of its foster children, she added.

Hoekstra said while foster parents in the county are strained, they are providing a needed service.

"Foster parents are doing a lot right now, but they love doing it too," she added.

Although Nobles County is seeing a great need for more foster parents, that isn't necessarily the case in neighboring counties.

In Rock County, licensed social worker and foster care licensor Vicky Henderson said they only have two children in foster care at this time, with nine homes licensed to provide care. At least two of the homes have been licensed foster care providers for more than a decade.


"We've been very, very fortunate," Henderson said. "Our situation is we have more children in group or residential care than we do in foster care right now."

In the past, Rock County foster families have taken in children from both Nobles and Pipestone counties.

"Geographically, we have the benefit of having foster families in all parts of the county," Henderson said.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, contact your local Family Service or Human Service office. In Nobles County, Hoekstra can be reached at 295-5234.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
What To Read Next
Get Local