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This Week’s LION: Resource (Foster) Parents

One of the difficulties in growing older is not just the decline in physical vibrancy and mental alertness but also adjusting to the new meanings of words. In my lifetime, “liking” someone meant more than checking a box on a screen, a “tweet” was a sound from a small bird, and a “meltdown” was reserved for nuclear reactor disasters.

So it was when my wife and I decided we wanted to become foster parents to help those vulnerable children, we had to go to “Resource Parent” training. The name change was not the ‘language police’ in action, but rather to do away with the differentiation between those who are wishing to foster a child and those wishing to adopt. The term ‘resource parent’ can fulfill both roles should the need or desire arise.

Well, the need is certainly there, whatever term we want to use for them. There are children whose parents are homeless, or who have made the children suffer through some sort of abuse or neglect in some way. Other times it may be drug use that makes the child unsafe in the home environment. When these children are legally removed from their parents, they become the responsibility of Lycoming County Children and Youth Services.

The point person is Heather Wood, a resource family caseworker for Lycoming County Child and Youth Services whose responsibility is to recruit new resource parents, and then work them through the training and licensing process. Heather notes that just last week, they placed 11 children, which now accounts for 42 presently in care. Other agencies supply this service, but Heather emphasizes that Lycoming County Children and Youth places local kids in local homes. This provides the least amount of disruption in their lives, as they are still in an environment that they are familiar with.

The county’s website,, is a great place to learn what being a resource parent is all about. The videos under “Our Stories” provide personal glimpses of Lycoming County folks who are sharing their lives with these children and the joys and benefits from doing so. Probably the most insightful statements from the videos came from Heidi Mnkhandhla, who, along with her husband, initially fostered two children who they later were able to adopt. “It is the most long-term difference you can make in your community because if you are taking in a child now, that could save what ‘could have happened’ eighteen years from now.”

Those who choose to be foster — excuse me — resource parents, begin with an extensive application and clearance process that can possibly take a month or more to complete. Those who are cleared go through three evening training sessions that cover legal and procedural matters but also includes lots of practical information and testimony from other resource parents.

Heather Wood notes that even children who have been treated very poorly by the parents still have a strong attachment and even love for their parents. And since the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted in 1997, the focus is toward unification with parents. Everything is done to try to reunite children with their parents, but if the children have been in care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, the state can file to terminate parental rights. Resource parents need to remember that they are a supplement to and not a substitute for the natural family.

The county is in great need of more resource parents, especially those who would be willing to take in teenagers. The county provides a tremendous support system that works with these young people — the resource parent is there to provide a stable home environment that they did not have before. For those who wish to learn more, give Heather Wood a call at 570-326-7895 or visit the website:

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