Earlier this year, an organization that gives children facing a crisis a temporary home issued a call for help from Johnson County families.
At the time, only seven families or residents were willing to temporarily take in a child in need — for as little as one night or up to three weeks.
The situation has gotten worse. As of this fall, Youth Connections can turn to just two households across the county to help kids. The need for more families to consider helping and giving it a try has become critical, said Dawn Laplante, the host home coordinator for Youth Connections, a local nonprofit organization that provides services such as custody evaluations, supervised visitations and counseling to families in transition.
Part of the agency’s work is to find a place for kids to go for a few nights if their family has faced an emergency, or if a situation arises that doesn’t merit a placement through Department of Child Services but the child still needs to be removed temporarily. Once, a runaway was located and needed a place to go. Other times, a dispute with parents may call for a cooling-off period.
Without a network of Johnson County residents to call on for help, Youth Connections has to turn to other organizations to take in the children. If they can’t, Child Protective Services may need to be called.
Children come to Youth Connections for a place to stay by asking for help at one of the Safe Place sites across the county or through referrals from a local school. A goal of the program is to intervene in the lives of children before the situation worsens and the Department of Child Services must get involved, Laplante said.
“These are the kids that families think of as the worst possible teenager that you can have,” Laplante said. “That’s not these kids. These are kids who just need a little love.”
Families are given guidance during the process from Youth Connections, and are asked to mentor, but not counsel, the child. The placement is not part of the foster parent program and is for one to 21 days.
“You can make a major impact on a child’s life by just listening and providing some guidance, some love, some structure,” Laplante said.
Residents open their homes for free, but get to help a child reset and continue achieving goals, she said. Households provide shelter and food, stability, structure and listen to the children they take in.
“The best reason is you are giving back to the community, and you are helping a child in need,” Laplante said. “These aren’t the kids who don’t want help. These are kids who need help, and they want help, and they ask for help.”
Host homes needed
Youth Connections is looking for volunteers to be host homes in Johnson and Morgan counties. Host homes are asked to open up their home to a youth in need for up to 21 days.
Participants must pass a background check which includes fingerprints, sexual offender registry and driving record. A home inspection is also required.
Information: contact Dawn Laplante at 317-738-3273 ext. 104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Families interested in becoming a host home can attend an informational session.
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 28
Where: Franklin branch of the Johnson County Public Library, 401 State St.