Hemelt: Foster & adoptive parents needed in River Parishes

Published 12:02 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

The need exists.

There are too many local children in foster care that are placed in group homes because there aren’t enough foster families to serve as homes, according to Teri Hebert.

“It’s a sad thing when a child has to be raised in a group facility instead of a family environment,” Hebert said. “All children deserve families. It can be grueling to watch and see children that are innocent grow up in a group-like setting when they could have a family that would love them.”

Hebert sees it firsthand every day. The 10-year veteran is a child welfare specialist in the Home Development Unit of the Department of Children and Family Services.

She is based in Thibodaux and serves seven parishes, including St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles.

She was recently named Region IV Worker of the Year for her contributions recruiting and certifying foster and adoptive parents. She also locates home placements for children needing a loving and safe environment.

Hebert is currently working with 81 families.

Her accomplishments are coming to light because last month was National Foster Care Awareness Month.

When we talked this week, Hebert shared she always wanted to work with children and plans to make a career out of the calling because, “I love what I do.”

Her objective and main goal each week is to certify as many homes as possible to fit the needs for “our children.”

“We have a tremendous need,” she said. “We do it all with a small budget. At one point, we had over 400 children in care with a little over 100 foster homes.”

Hebert said Region IV has little money to spend on recruitment and mostly draws upon the results from statewide recruiting efforts targeted at specific media.

Local recruiting efforts are centered on touching base with stakeholders, passing out pamphlets and getting the effort known to as much of the public as possible.

Still, Hebert said a lot of people don’t even know the Home Development Unit of the Department of Children and Family Services exists.

“In my unit, alone, we have over 30 years experience with the agency,” she said. “It’s myself, my supervisor and two other coworkers that make up the Home Development Unit. We help each other out as much as possible. We know what the policies are and are able to run with it. We have a great supervisor, Tina Vial, that always has our backs.”

The first step for anyone interested in learning more about the foster or adoptive process is to call 985-447-0945 and ask to speak with a Home Development Intake worker.

The work remains a challenge, but Hebert said she and her coworkers are equal to the task because they wake up everyday remembering they are doing this for a cause greater than self.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to know that you helped a child find a family and a family find a child,” she said. “A lot of our families come to us because they can’t have children, so it’s an incredible feeling when you know you made the right connection.”

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.