PIKETON — Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) has begun offering services to foster families.
COAD is a community-based nonprofit and is a coalition of 17 Community Action Agencies serving Appalachian Ohio providing Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) services.
“We have provided training and technical assistance to all types of childcare and early education providers including family childcare, licensed childcare centers, Head Start, public school early learning programs and foster parents,” said Alisha Adkins, Regional Coordinator for Provider Services.
COAD primarily provides services for low-income families, children and the elderly.
“Many of our services are targeted toward assisting low-income Ohioans, our Early Care & Education services are available to all individuals regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, gender, age, religious background and educational and socioeconomic status,” said Adkins.
COAD covers Adams, Brown, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Scioto and Vinton County.
Special Project Coordinator, Julie Burchett, said all of their services are free.
“Any program that is funded by Jobs and Family Services (JFS) has to maintain the step up to quality rating and it’s basically a five-star system of having an activity plan, so many trainings for the staff, and having a curriculum, it’s kind of difficult,” said Burchett. “Let’s say we have a program that’s not understanding some of the paperwork that has to be done, we are able to go in and spend a whole day if they need it to complete those documents.”
Burchett said they are not a licensing agency.
“We are not a licensing agency but we may have connections to the licensing agency so we can call them and say ‘Hey this program is having a little bit of trouble understanding this situation, can you help them understand it?’,” said Burchett. “We’re kind of the hand-holders sometimes for programs to help them with their program in any way they need.”
COAD has a database to help with childcare.
“If someone is in need of childcare they can call and say they have a 2 -year-old and if they prefer a sitter or a childcare program and we have a system where we can actually give those people who they can contact where they can find that service from,” said Burchett.
Burchett said their office is able to train others.
“We are able to turn around and train staff themselves, which is basic licensing, administrators, teachers, aids, they all have to take so many hours of professional development per year and we go and get trained to turn around and train the staff so they can get those hours,” said Burchett.
COAD newest program is The Children’s Services Hub.
“We don’t have an official name yet but that is what we have been going by,” said Mckenzie England, Special Project Coordinator. “Every CCR&R in the state of Ohio has hired two project coordinators for this new program so for this area it is me and Jennifer Hurley.”
The program started in November 2021.
“We’re hosting recruitment events, we’re basically trying to flood our county with information on becoming a foster parent and resources to help those who are interested in becoming a foster parent because you have to get background checks, do home studies, and things like that so we are going to help people,” said England.
England said COAD will help cover the cost of becoming a foster parent if the agency will not and help prepare for training.
“We aren’t actually licensing foster families, we’re just recruiting them to other agencies that will license them,” said England. “If anyone is interested in being a foster parent please reach out.”
England said she hopes they are able to make the fostering process easier.
“I feel like there are a lot of unknowns when becoming a foster parent so it makes me feel excited to be able to put someone’s mind at ease and in turn provide a family for these foster children because I feel like one of the biggest issues is families are interested in becoming foster parents but don’t know where to go or what to do and that’s what we are here for,” said England.
England said fostering is very needed in the area.
“All of the counties around here are struggling to find places to put these kids,” said England. “We were talking to one JFS who was telling us they have to send kids to Columbus and going from rural southern Ohio to inner-city schools has to be a huge trauma for these kids.”
England said they would like to keep children close to their homes.
“The goal of foster care is to reunify kids with their biological parents so I think if we keep them closer to home, to begin with, it will be easier,” said England. “Obviously biological parents are struggling too, that’s why their kids were taken in the first place so if you tell someone their kids are now two hours away it’s not always going to be possible to make it to their appointments.”
Reach Darian Gillette at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931, or by email at [email protected]
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