Most children are ages 6 and younger
By Holly Crocco
Although Putnam County typically only has a few dozen children who need foster care, there is still a need for qualified adults who can provide temporary homes, the county’s director of children and family services told legislators on April 25.
Frank Marocco, who oversees the child welfare and foster care units within the Department of Social Services, spoke to the legislature’s Health Committee.
“It can be a difficult thing to be a foster parent, but it can be extremely rewarding,” he said.
There are currently 23 children in foster care in Putnam, about five less than last year, when there were about 28. However, that number nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018, he said, and 30 years ago there were about 60 children.
Most foster children are ages 6 and younger, although there are sometimes teenagers, he said.
The county has 15 to 20 foster families, Marocco said, and also houses children at a group home in Poughkeepsie, residential treatment centers and other facilities.
Most children end up in foster care after abuse and neglect proceedings, he said. Last year, there were 691 investigations by Child Protective Services of allegedly “unfit homes,” he said. Most involve domestic violence or parents who are struggling with substance abuse and/or mental illness. In many cases, children are voluntarily placed in foster care by their parents or guardians.
Marocco said that if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the previous 22 months, the county is required by law to file a termination of parental rights so the child can be adopted. In addition, if a parent abandons a child for at least six months, the county can file for termination.
“We had seven children adopted last year,” typically by the foster parents, Marocco said.
Marocco noted that his department also provides services to families that it hopes can keep children out of foster care. “I think it’s because of their efforts that we have one of the lowest [per-capita] rates of foster care in the state,” he said.
The county holds training sessions twice a year for adults interested in becoming foster parents. Applicants must complete a certification process that includes background checks on everyone in the home over the age of 18, and a home safety inspection. (Call 845-808-1500 for information.)
Foster families receive reimbursement for most expenses from the county, which is in turn reimbursed by the state and federal governments. Starting in 2020, the fostering of children classified as “persons in need of supervision” will be 100 percent covered by county dollars with no reimbursement from the state or federal government.
“The state and federal government are pushing to get children out of care” because of the expense, he said. “They are encouraging us and pushing us to place children with family members, which is a great thing if they are out there — but they’re not. So the funding is starting to decrease.”