Carson City currently has 11 active foster care homes and only three have room available for children.
“Carson City is in a crisis for foster care homes,” said Lori Nichols, foster care recruitment, State of Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).
Nichols recruits foster care providers in the state’s 15 rural counties, including Carson City, which she says is the most populated and most difficult to find homes.
“If three kids came in tonight we’d have to transport them to outlying areas,” she said. “We need the community to step up and be cognizant of the fact that we don’t have enough foster homes.”
Ideally, kids taken from their home, usually due to neglect caused by their parent’s substance abuse, should stay in the community, attend the same school and, if siblings, stay together as a group.
But it’s not uncommon, Nichols said, for siblings to be split up and for children from Carson City to go to foster homes in Fallon or Douglas County.
“It makes it more difficult for reunification,” with their parents, which is always the goal, if possible, Nichols said.
It also provides structure and keeps them in contact with adults who care about them, such as their teachers.
“It’s traumatic when kids come into foster care. They love their families, even if there is abuse or neglect, they love their families,” Nichols said.
At the end of January, roughly 384 children were in foster care throughout rural Nevada. Of those, Nichols said 40 percent are aged under one year to 4 years old and 22 percent are 5-9 years old.
For anyone interested in becoming a foster parent, the first step is to call Nichols, who will answer any and all questions and start the interview process.
“I encourage people to call me if they have any questions. There are no dumb questions,” she said. “And there is no pressure.”
To become licensed, individuals or couples have to be fingerprinted and go through a background check, paid for by the state.
The licensing office conducts what Nichols calls a central registry screening in which applicants are screened for any history of child abuse or neglect.
Applicants have to attend 27 hours of Parental Resources Information Development and Education training, which is conducted about every three months at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.
Once the training is finished, a 5-page application must be completed, which requires other documents and five references, said Nichols.
Once that is done, the adults in the home go through an intensive 6-8 hour home study interview process with a licensing worker.
Applicants must also demonstrate they have income to support themselves and their own family.
Once a child is placed, the foster care providers receive a reimbursement of $682.94 a month for children aged 12 and under and $773.17 kids aged 13-18 to pay for their care.
In 2013, the state launched a program called advanced foster care for children with severe emotional needs.
“These kids go from place to place and our program is designed to stop that,” said Kevin Quint, clinical program manager, DCFS.
The requirements are the same to become a foster care parent, but parents in the advanced program receive a weekly visit from a coach who helps them with skills and coping mechanisms.
They also receive a higher reimbursement rate per child in the program.
Nichols said there are misconceptions about foster care and the kids. Single adults, for example, can be foster care parents, she said, as can unmarried couples.
And there are stereotypes about the children.
“These kids are just like yours or mine,” said Nichols. “They deserve the same structure, security, safety and nurturing.”
Nichols can be reached at 684-1967 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The office also has a toll-free hotline at 888-423-2659 and the division web site is at dcfs.nv.gov.