After outsourcing foster care to outside agencies, Huntingdon County Children and Youth Services is now offering foster care opportunities to local families that are interested.

Shannon Walborn, CYS administrator, said the department officially got foster care services up and running in early November, after working since late last year to bring them back through the county.

She explained how it will work once again, after being contracted with outside agencies since 2013.

“The way we were doing it before, we would call an outside provider, and we may or may not know the foster parents the agency recommends,” she said. “We would know the child, of course.

“By licensing our own foster care, one of the biggest benefits is that we know exactly who the foster parents are and we know the children,” Walborn added. “We are able to make a suitable match based on those factors. When we contract with an outside agency, those agencies can license homes in Huntingdon, Blair, Centre or other counties. They don’t focus on one area. They focus on the region.”

With foster care services in the county once again, the agency can focus on finding families directly in Huntingdon County, while knowing that there may be relatives or others outside of the county best suited for a child.

“For example, if there’s a relative outside of the county where a child can go, we’ll obviously license them,” said Walborn.

Another way the county is able to ofter in-house foster care services was through the purchase of the former Mutual Benefit Building at 412-414 Penn St. for $625,000. They took out a 15-year mortgage bond with a 3.75% interest rate.

Before the purchase, the county was leasing the first floor from Mutual Benefit Group in November 2016 for about $4,000 a month, plus utilities.

With the space, the county can now license foster care in house with a much more efficient space, and they can also do supervised visitation in-house as opposed to contracting with outside agencies.

Walborn said having one space would allow her staff to look at other potential programs in the future to bring in-house that are currently contracted.

In July, commissioner Jeff Thomas explained that in 2013, the county approved outsourcing foster care services, and once these services are up and running, they will save 30%, or $600,000 to $1 million per year.

Walborn said in the CYS office there will be one caseworker that’s assigned to foster care services with a supervisor, as well as a social service aide to help in this process with transportation and supporting the foster family.

For those who wish to learn more about foster care services with CYS, a Zoom session will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30. at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81263712153.

Walborn hopes interested families can learn more about the foster care process with CYS.

“I hope they gain awareness for the need in the county to have foster homes,” she said. “The goal is to always keep children in our community. It’s important not just to reach Huntingdon Borough, but the entire county, including the rural areas, to build up the number of foster homes in those areas.”

Kylie can be reached at khawn@huntingdondailynews.com.

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