Fostering a Good Relationship

By Sandra Zunino

No family is immune from tragedy, but when a child’s welfare is affected, steps must be taken to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Foster parents Kindel and Richard Kimball of Easton have been recognized for doing just that.

Providing foster and respite care for three years, the Kimballs were recently named Foster Care Parents of the Year by the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Foster care provides children of families in crisis with caring, safe and stable places to live.

Deciding to provide foster care was an obvious conclusion for the Kimballs. A middle school counselor, Kindel pursued a career in education because she enjoys children. As Richard had a positive experience as an adopted child himself, the couple made a conscious decision to become adoptive parents.

After contacting several private adoption agencies, the Kimballs participated in a 27-hour extensive state mandated training program. Once the training was complete, the Department of Social Services conducted a home study to ensure their environment was safe and nurturing. Upon meeting all the requirements, the Kimballs were officially licensed through Talbot County Dept. of Social Services not only to adopt a child but provide foster care.

“The training prepares someone to be licensed as either a foster or adoptive parent,” Kindel explains. The first child the Kimballs took into their home was a little boy needing respite care.

Respite services provide short-term childcare for families in crisis. “You are mentors and do fun things,” explains Kindel. “We took him to the beach and Chucky Cheese and ball games.”

The Kimballs also take care of another little boy for occasional weekends when the family needs assistance. For the past nine months a little girl has been placed in the home and the Kimballs couldn’t be happier.

“She’s amazing,” says Kindel. “She’s growing and she’s developmentally on track.” Kindel says providing a structured, nurturing environment has helped the child remain happy and well adjusted.

The Kimballs work closely with a caseworker who ensures the needs of the child are being met including visitation with the biological parents and siblings. In fact, the goal is always for the children to be reunited with their biological families.

Part of the Kimball’s training prepared them to work as a team with biological parents and caseworkers as well as provided coping skills for when children must move on. Kindel says she knows that at the end of the day reunification is the plan.

The Kimballs receive a monthly stipend to help with childcare costs, although they add their own financial contributions for extras, and say the Department of Social Services has been very supportive.

The Kimballs say they still plan to provide foster care even after their adoption takes place.

Currently, each county is trying to create 1,000 foster care homes by 2010, a statewide plan adopted by the Department of Human Resources. Up to now, children have had to move across county lines to relocate to foster care. The goal is to have enough foster homes in every county so children can remain close to familiar surroundings.

Foster children range from infants to 18-year-olds. Currently, there is a real need for foster parents willing to take in teens. For more information about the foster care program, contact Talbot County Department of Social Services, 301 Bay Street, Unit #5, PO Box 1479, Easton, MD 21601, 410-770-4848.