Mahoning Children Services hosts first open house for future foster parents
By Bruce Walton
Tanika Deshana Wainwright, 20, first entered foster care at age 13, switching from one foster home to another, but each one never worked out.
She was emancipated at 18 from foster care without an adopted guardian. Wainwright said it was a complicated life, trying to be accepted and moving to different homes.
She told potential foster caregivers Thursday an important lesson if they decided to adopt: Show genuine interest in the child.
“Try to have a conversation with [us] and not just talk to get answers like, ‘Are you on medicine?’ And just try to get to know [us],” she said.
Wainwright wanted to help Mahoning County Children Services, which gave so much to her, by using her experience to explain what foster children need in a caregiver.
Children Services hosted its first foster-care awareness open house at the Newport Library on Market Street. Jennifer Kollar, public information officer, said the open house was to make the concept of adoption much less intimidating.
It gave information on the adoption process and a chance to speak with foster parents and former clients such as Deshana who reached adulthood from the agency.
“We want to build and nurture a relationship with people and hopefully get them through the process,” Kollar said.
The idea came because the agency had a recent shortage in the ratio of 44 foster caregivers to the 160 children in foster care. The agency said they’re way off their goal of having 75 to 80 caregivers.
“We’re looking for individuals who have a heart for helping not just the children but to be the best parents and help them and mentor them and to become a support [for them],” said Theresa Pancoe, the agency’s adoption supervisor. She added they are also looking for “continuity of care” for caregivers so children don’t have to move from home to home.
The open house had an afternoon event from 1 to 3 p.m. and an evening session from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with 50 RSVPs and several walk-ins as well. From the turnout of visitors, Kollar said they plan to schedule another open house soon and perhaps make it a quarterly event.
Amanda and Joe Rettig, from New Springfield, already have three biological children who are 2, 3 and 5 years old, but they also want to consider adopting.
Amanda said she’s wanted to adopt since high school and wanted to know if she and her family were ready to take that step.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we want to take the first steps to start the process,” the couple said, finishing each other’s sentences.
Kollar said the open house isn’t the only opportunity for people to learn more about becoming a foster parent. For information, she invites people to visit Children Services, 222 W. Federal St., downtown, on the fourth floor; call 330-941-8888; or visit www.mahoningkids.com.