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Local InterestDo you love children? If yes, then you have what it takes to be a foster parent.Nearly 13,000 children are currently in foster care in Michigan. Each day, about 300 are looking for a family to take them in. If they’re lucky, they’ll find the likes of Karla and Paul Evans of Battle Creek.Karla, 46, and, Paul, 52, are completing their first year as foster parents through Family & Children Services. Thus far, they’ve fostered two infants, a girl for about three months and a boy since he was born a year ago.Their foster son spent the first seven weeks of his life in the hospital. Karla and Paul visited him nearly every day. In addition to giving him a loving home this past year, they’ve also shown great affection to his biological mother.“She’s a sweet girl who’s between a rock and hard place and doesn’t know how to get out,” says Karla, a mother of three, ages 25, 22, and 14. “She has no family, no support network. I’ve tried to meet her where she is.”Throughout the past year, Karla has given the biological mother regular photos of her son, driven her to doctor appointments, and provided words of encouragement. At Christmas, she gave her an ornament bearing the photo of her son.“This may seem like a small gesture, but this meant a great deal to the mother,” says Krista Ploski, fostercare licensing supervisor for Family & Children Services, which has offices in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. “We are all here to motivate the biological parents and, whenever possible, reunite them with their children,” she says.“We wish we had more foster parents like Karla and Paul,” she says, “especially in Calhoun County.”Krista and her team field four to five requests daily from private agencies and county departments of health and human services throughout Michigan that are seeking to place children in foster homes. They recruit, license, and train foster parents, place childrenin their homes, and work with them to ensure a safe, nurturing experience for all.Meanwhile, other Family & Children Services specialists coach biological parents on their parenting skills and supervise meetings between biological parents and children at the agency’s family friendly centers in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.What makes a good foster parent? According to Krista, working adults and retirees make good foster parents, as do singles and married couples. A steady source of income is required, but you need not be wealthy. The State of Michigan provides a daily stipend and covers some other costs, such as child care for foster parents who work outside the home.“Patience, flexibility, and a heart for children are key,” Krista says. “You should be able to commit to challenges, have a strong desire to make a difference in children’s lives, and be dedicated to a child’s reunification with the biological parents.”Foster mother Karla Evans agrees.“It helps to have a lot of patience and very little judgment,” she says. “You have to be willing to work with people who may not be what you expect them to be all the time. We all have our stories. You just need to love children.”28 SCENE 4307 I ANNUAL REPORT CARD


































































































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