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Clark County needs foster parents, especially of different cultures, backgrounds

Clark County
Clark County
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At any given time, there are thousands of kids in Southern Nevada who can’t go home. Maybe they have a parent who is ill, incarcerated or just in a bad spot.

These kids need adults to step in and give them a temporary home with caring parents. The end goal is to be that safe space until children can be reunited with their families.  

Here’s what’s happening in Clark County: There are foster parents, but the county needs foster parents of different cultures, colors and backgrounds.

Jennifer Erbes, the manager of Clark County Department of Family Services, said some kids come into their care and leave the next day based on their situation. Some kids stay in for years.

There are about 3,000 kids in the fostering system and 500 homes available, which can include hosts of more than one kid. There are situations where extended family can take on a foster role, as well.

If no homes are available, the child is placed at Child Haven until they can find or identify a relative, kin or foster home.

The change can be frightening for a child, but one recent law keeps them in one steady place – their school.

“That's where their connections are, their friends. They have teachers, support systems within their own schools and disrupting them from school, obviously, is another delay for them,” she said. “When you have to change schools, they have different curriculum, or you may be behind. So having the school of origin for these kids is essential for them to be successful, as well.”

During the pandemic, Erbes said they saw a decline in calls as children were out of the public eye once schools went online.

Currently, there’s a growing need for foster parents of different cultures and backgrounds. The reason is to keep the kids in the communities they’re being removed from. 

“We do a lot of direct media to those highest areas of removal to try to encourage the community to reach out and understand how they can support the kids in their community,” she said. 

Fosters in Clark County can be single, married or in an LGBTQ relationship. Potential fosters need to pass a background check, and there are some disqualifications laid out in the law. If you’re cleared, you’re placed into a nine-week class, once a week for three hours. From there, the foster parents will submit documentation, are assigned a licensing worker and do a home study. 

The best foster parents are ones that keep the goal of reunification, if possible, in mind. 

“Patience, honestly, is probably an essential characteristic of any of our foster parents, Erbes said. “These are traumatized kids, they don't have a lot of control in their life at the moment, they got pulled out of what they thought was, and they get touched by 17 strangers on their journey to a placement.“

She said their fosters aren’t in it for the money, as that’s a myth, but are people who want to help provide a kid a safe, stable home. 

For more information on how to become a foster parent, visit ClarkCountyFosterCare.com.

Jennifer Erbes, manager, Clark County Department of Family Services

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Kristen Kidman is the senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She oversees and writes State of Nevada’s online and social media content.