Foster parent and Vale resident Janeille Bennett reads to a child in foster care. A public session at Four Rivers Cultural Center April 12 will offer information for those interested in becoming a local foster parent. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz).

ONTARIO – With foster children being housed in motels due to a lack of foster parents, the state Department of Human Services and Lifeways Behavioral Health have taken the unusual step of holding an open house to introduce interested persons to the world of foster parenting.

The informational session will be held Thursday, April 12, at the Four Rivers Cultural Center, starting at 5:30 p.m. and lasting two hours.

Current foster parents will be on hand to speak of their experiences and answer questions in this first-ever event.

“The need for foster parents has increased greatly and we just need more foster parents,” said Sonia Cervantes, bilingual coordinator for DHS. “We will be presenting information on the steps to take to become a foster parent, but more importantly, people will get to hear from current foster parents and ask them questions.”

Malheur County has seen a surge in children being put into foster care. State officials have been struggling to find local homes for them.

In addition to the foster system, those attending will also hear about fostering children with special needs by Greater Oregon Health, known as GOBHI.

Marta Hanna of Lifeways said GOBHI’s program “involves children, ages 4 to 17, with challenging behaviors related to a past trauma. People related to the GOBHI program will be on hand to answer questions and tell about their experiences with those with special needs in the foster care system.”

For those interested in becoming foster parents, staff will be on hand to start the process.

Prospective foster parents need to fill out an application, undergo a background check and complete training.

In addition to current foster parents, former foster youth, Malheur County Circuit Judge Lung Hung and state Child Welfare program manager Christine Phillips will speak.

The session will be moderated by Les Zaitz, editor of the Malheur Enterprise.

Reporter John L. Braese: [email protected] or 541-473-3133.