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SPRINGFIELD, IL, MAY, 1999 -– The state’s child welfare agency is inviting Illinois families to make a difference in the lives of children by considering becoming foster parents during May, which has been proclaimed Foster Parent Appreciation Month by Governor George H. Ryan.
"Whereas, to foster means to nourish, cherish and encourage..., and whereas foster parents meet a very special need in our society..., and whereas thousands of caring adults in Illinois have opened their hearts as well as their homes to provide a loving and stable environment for more than 40,000 children…, Illinois foster parents deserve our gratitude and respect for the work they do every day," the Governor said in his proclamation.

Jess McDonald, Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, challenged Illinois families to make a difference in the lives of children.

"Foster parents are a critical part of a professional team that is frequently asked to make life-changing decisions for an abused or neglected child," McDonald said.

"Our Department is always in need of loving, stable homes for children whose natural parents are not safely caring for them," said McDonald. "Today, the need for more people willing to take on that vital role is greater than ever before. We are not just looking for numbers. We are looking for the right match. There is no better time to consider becoming a foster parent than during Foster Parent Appreciation Month, when we take time out to recognize those who dedicate themselves to this important work."

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is one of the largest and busiest state child welfare agencies in the nation, with approximately 42,000 children in substitute care statewide. Last year, DCFS was named State Agency of the Year by the National Foster Parent Association in recognition of its efforts to recruit and support foster parents.

While noting the decline in the number of children in substitute care from a peak of 51,591 in March 1997 to its present level -- ending two decades of growth that had seen substitute care numbers more than double, McDonald stressed that DCFS still needs to recruit more foster homes, especially those for sibling groups, children with special needs, teen mothers with children, older children, and minority children.

Foster parent candidates can be either married couples or single persons, renters as well as homeowners. Those interested must attend training and pass both criminal and child abuse background checks. Foster parents receive a monthly allowance that covers the expenses of caring for each child placed into their home.

"The real reward of foster parenting, however, is the chance to make a difference in a child’s life," McDonald said.

Those interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents can call the Foster Parent Hotline (800-624-KIDS) or the Adoption Information Center of Illinois (800-572-2390) for details. To report suspected child abuse or neglect, the public should call the DCFS Child Abuse Hotline (800-25-ABUSE).


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