J. T. and Annie Wojtowicz, of Manchester, came out to R/C Westminster Movies 9 at TownMall of Westminster Friday night to see “Instant Family,” a new family comedy featuring Mark Wahlberg and a plot that sees a couple exploring foster care and adoptions.
There was the pure entertainment value to be had, certainly, but Annie said it was a subject the couple had seriously considered as well.
“We’ve thought about fostering and/or adopting,” she said. “We have two kids, but we’re also thinking about the future.”
It’s families just like the Wojtowiczs that Carrie Vincent, administrator of foster care and adoptions for the Carroll County Department of Social Services, and Susan Beard, who licenses foster homes for the agency, were hoping to talk to Friday evening. On a table marked with balloons, the pair were offering information on foster children and foster parents in Carroll County, including signage declaring, “Parenthood requires love, not DNA,” and “We need you!”
“What’s so great about ‘Instant Family’ is it’s bringing up this idea to the general public, of foster parenting. What’s expected, what does it look like, why is it important,” Vincent said. “We want to be here if the movie does in fact excite people and they have questions and want to know what’s required, what’s the next step, answer those questions.”
The fact is, Social Services Director Vicky Keller said, Carroll County has an urgent need for more foster parents.
“Over the last several years we have had foster parents who have adopted, so they have stopped taking other children,” she said. “That’s a good, thing, that’s a positive, but in that positive we now have a shortage of foster parents in Carroll County.”
In 2017, for instance, of the 73 Carroll County children in foster care, 50 of them had to be placed with foster families outside the county because there were no foster homes available in the community, according to Keller. That’s something she said can be even more disruptive for children going through what is often already a very stressful time in their lives.
“When they leave our county they are losing their families, they are losing schools, they are losing their communities, their friends, regular doctors, churches,” Keller said. “All of those things that help support a child, we’re losing because we don’t have enough foster families.”
The release of “Instant Family” then seemed to Keller and others at Social Services as an opportunity to spread the word that the agency needs more parents and families willing to help.
“We are hoping that through this movie, that we will be able to find families who have room in their hearts, room in their homes, to take some children and be a safe place for them,” she said. “We just hope it sparks conversation, gets people thinking.”
Vincent and Beard were also planning to be at the theater with information Saturday and Sunday for anyone who would like more information on becoming foster parents in Carroll County.
If they feel moved to take the next step, Keller said, they can call 410-386-3333 to register for one of two upcoming information and orientation sessions, one on Nov. 28 and the next on Dec. 4, to be held at the Social Services offices at 1232 Tech Court, Westminster.
“If the family and we move forward, then there is a foster parent training that starts Dec. 6,” Keller said. “That’s eight weeks long.”
But while the ultimate goal is to register more foster families, that all starts with sharing information, Vincent said.
“Make no mistake, we need foster parents and that’s our number one, but even if folks could like our Facebook page and read more about us, that would go a long way in helping us spread awareness,” she said. “Speaking with people here tonight, there have been folks who have expressed not knowing that there are foster children in Carroll County.”
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For more information, go to www.facebook.com/MDHumanServices or dhs.maryland.gov.