50 families to undergo intense weekend foster, adoption licensing training

Norwich — Spending a weekend at the Spa at Norwich Inn sounds like a relaxing getaway, but for 50 families this weekend, it will be more like a three-day cramming session for college exams, with much more than grades at stake.

The state Department of Children and Families will hold its first of five planned “Weekend for a Lifetime” intense training sessions, this one for 81 people in 50 families from throughout eastern Connecticut interested in becoming licensed foster or adoptive families for children placed in DCF custody.

Normally, families go through 10 weeks of training as part of the licensing process, in addition to home visits, background checks, and training required of children in candidate families. But Pamela Kelley, program supervisor for the DCF Foster Care and Adoption Services Unit, said many interested families cannot attend classes for 10 weeks because of work schedules, child care and other obstacles.

So the weekend intensive training sessions are being held in each DCF region, with the region serving New London, Windham and Middlesex counties leading off this weekend at the Spa at Norwich Inn on Route 32 in Norwich.

Families — adults only — will gather for an opening 3½-hour session Friday night, will stay overnight for training sessions beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, after breakfast, and running past dinner, with a keynote speaker planned at lunch and a panel discussion after dinner. Sunday’s sessions will be on child development, partnering with children’s biological families, healthy behaviors, wellness, secondary trauma and the impact of fostering and adoption on families’ children.

Kelley said the spa gave a discount rate on rooms and meals and agreed to open spa facilities to the families starting at 9 p.m., after public hours, at no charge.

“There’s not a lot of free time,” she said of the schedule. “It’s a great venue, but there’s not a lot of free time to enjoy it."

DCF will have 23 staff members assigned to the program. Staff either will stay at the Microtel Hotel in Montville nearby, or will commute from home for the weekend, Kelley said. Staff from DCF partner the Waterford Country School also will participate in the training session.

The registered families are evenly split between those interested in providing foster care and those wishing to adopt children, Kelley said. A majority have children of their own, either still at home or grown adults.

The need for more foster and adoption families is clear in the eastern Connecticut region, Kelley said. New London County has 480 children in DCF care and only 73 foster and 30 adoptive homes. Windham County has about 275 children in state care, and only 57 foster and 21 adoptive homes. Middlesex County has 128 children in state care and 22 foster and nine adoptive homes.

DCF plans to host weekend training sessions in each of the five regions, and if this weekend’s session goes well, a second round might be scheduled in September for the eastern region.

The weekend sessions do not include programs for children but Kelley said children of prospective foster and adoptive families will play major roles in their families’ decision.

“Their kids have their own work to do,” Kelley said. “They will do that part of the licensing process in April and May. The families have done a lot of pre-work on that. It’s not just adults who need to be ready. The kids need to share their space, share their toys, share their school, share their families.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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