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West Michigan agency says more volunteers needed to offer foster care beds to teens

 U of M says it has enough housing for students needing to quarantine or isolate with COVID 19
D.A. Blodgett - St. Johns says there's a severe shortage of beds available for emergency foster care. So now it's offering more incentives to attract volunteers.

There is a critical need for foster care parents of teenagers in West Michigan, and that’s causing one agency to offer more incentives.

“One important area that we really are focusing in on is the need for emergency shelter care,” said Kellie Oom, director of child welfare services at D.A. Blodgett - St. Johns in Grand Rapids. “And emergency shelter care is having a bed at any time open.

D.A. Blodgett - St. Johns is now offering a monthly stipend of $245 per month to anyone who can offer to keep a bed open for emergency shelter for children in the foster care system. Volunteers will also receive $100 per day for every day that a child is in the home.

Oom said agencies are always looking for more volunteers, but there’s been an extra shortage of emergency shelter beds since 16-year-old Cornelius Fredrick was killed at a foster care group home in Kalamazoo in 2020. After his death, the state closed the group home and instituted policies to try to keep children out of homes like it.

Since then, agencies have been scrambling to find places for children brought into foster care, especially in emergency situations, Oom says. She said one recent Friday, D.A. Blodgett - St. Johns needed to find a placement for a child at midnight.

“And we were scrambling to find a home for this child,” Oom says. “What happens is we end up having kids on cots. And we don’t want to have to do that.”

DA Blodgett - St. Johns is hosting two upcoming meetings in Grand Rapids to encourage more people to volunteer as foster parents:

  • “Stand for Teens,” a workshop focused on fostering teens, will be on Sunday, May 22, from 4-6 p.m. at Wyoming High School.
  • “The Realities of Foster Care,” a more general foster care workshop, will be held Wednesday, May 25, from 12-1 p.m., online.

More information on both events is available at https://www.fosterkentkids.care.

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