Foster Care, Adoption & Home Finding Unit
1062 State Route 38
PO Box 240
Owego, NY 13827
This website contains detailed information about Tioga County's foster care system and the needs of children in temporary out-of-home placement. Please check our FAQ’s, Important Links & Resources, and Become a Foster Parent pages for additional information on how to become a foster or adoptive parent.
Foster care is the temporary out-of-home placement of a child. Placements can last anywhere from one night to several years, depending on individual circumstances. Striving to achieve safety, permanency and well-being for our children are the primary goals of foster care. Foster care placements are often involuntary (court-ordered), but voluntary placements may occur too.
An involuntary placement occurs when a child has been abused or neglected (or may be at risk of abuse or neglect) by his or her parent or someone else in the household, or because a court has determined that the child is a “person in need of supervision” (PINS) or a juvenile delinquent (JD). In these situations, family court will order that the child be placed in foster care for a certain period of time.
A voluntary placement occurs when parents are temporarily unable to care for their child for reasons other than abuse or neglect. (For example, the family is experiencing a serious medical, emotional, and/or financial problem.) In these situations, the child’s birth parents sign a voluntary placement agreement (VPA) that lists the responsibilities of the birth parents and the Department during the child’s placement. This is different than a voluntary surrender for adoption, whereby the parents voluntarily and permanently give up all parental rights and transfer “custody and guardianship” to the local Department.
When a child is placed in foster care, the birth parents are still the child’s legal guardian, but the Commissioner of the Tioga County Department of Social Services becomes the legal custodian of the child until the child can be safely returned home or placed in another permanent living arrangement.
Children are placed in foster care for many reasons. Parents may have a chronic or acute physical or mental illness that prevents them from providing adequate care. In other cases, parents struggling with drug or alcohol addictions simply can’t provide a safe and nurturing home. When there’s abuse and/or neglect, the Department becomes involved. Teenagers sometimes have emotional and behavioral problems of their own. Persons in Need of Supervision, or PINS, and Juvenile Delinquents, or JDs, may be placed by the court into foster care as a result of their own behavior. Persons in Need of Supervision can be chronically truant from school and/or home, or beyond the control of their parents. Juvenile Delinquents have been convicted of a crime through the juvenile justice system. These young people may be court-ordered into foster care with the hope that they’ll be able to rehabilitate in a stable foster home.
Children in foster care range in age from newborn to twenty-one years old. Nationally, infants and toddlers comprise only about 25% of all children in foster care; more than 85% of children in foster care have siblings who are also in foster care, but, sadly, only 25% these siblings are placed in a home together; teenagers make up roughly 33% of the foster care population.
With consistency, structure, and unconditional love, foster children can make amazing strides in foster families. They have an opportunity to see how in-tact families operate, which in turn positively impacts their lives. They also have the chance to experience things they may not necessarily be able to with their birth families, such as extracurricular activities, community outings, and even family vacations.
Foster parenting is not for everyone, but it might be for you! It takes a special person to open his or her home to a child. Most foster parents will tell you that this experience will change your life for the better! You can make a difference in a child’s life, no matter how long or how short the stay, by helping the foster child navigate this transitional period in his or her life. For these children, the journey is often lonely and difficult.
The best foster parents are genuinely interested in providing a child with guidance, love, understanding, and a safe, nurturing home. They are structured, set reasonable limits, and have realistic expectations. They are flexible and patient, and value children as individuals. They communicate effectively, and help children develop positive self-esteem. They help children learn appropriate behaviors using positive reinforcement and discipline, and not physical punishment. But above all, they integrate the children into their families, even if only for a short time.
Foster parents play an essential role in providing temporary, safe, and nurturing homes to children when their parents are unable to care for them.
While foster parents for children of all ages are needed, Tioga County is in great need of foster parents who are able to care for teenagers, sibling groups, children with special needs or disabilities, and pregnant and parenting teens. According to federal data collected by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there are well over 400,000 children in foster care nationwide. And, there are many children right here in Tioga County who need safe, secure, and loving homes. If you become a foster parent, you will have an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of these children today and in the future. Although fostering can be challenging at times, it can also be very rewarding.
Becoming a foster parent has many rewards. You become a key player in making a positive difference in the life of a child. You also contribute to the healing and reunification of struggling families. Often, foster parents have life-long relationships with their foster children even if the children return to their birth families.
Tioga County supports their prospective foster parents by assigning them a caseworker, otherwise known as the Home Finder. The Home Finder will guide you through the necessary steps to become and remain certified. Pre-service and in-service trainings are offered free-of charge to foster parents in Tioga County. Lastly, foster parents are eligible to receive a daily board rate, periodic clothing allowances, and Medicaid coverage for children in their home. Under certain circumstances, foster parents may also be reimbursed for school supplies and travel to appointments, trainings, and other Department-mandated events associated with the children in your home.
When children can’t safely return to their birth families, they may be freed for adoption. When this happens, foster parents are often given the opportunity to adopt. And, unlike private adoptions, adopting a child through a public foster care program entails little or no costs (you may be responsible for personal legal fees, but subsidies are often available to foster parents). To be clear though, finalizing and adoption through a public foster care program often takes over a year, if not longer.