Perlee says, ‘When you open your home to a child in need, you open your heart’

— Photo from Jeff Perlee

Jeff Perlee, pictured with his family, encourages others to care for foster children.

ALBANY COUNTY — November is National Adoption Month, prompting Albany County Legislator Jeff Perlee, a Republican representing Altamont and part of the Hilltowns, to note the growing need for foster parents in Albany County, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The need for new foster parents has never been greater,” said Perlee in a release. “As of October, there were 238 children in foster care in Albany County. Of these children, nearly a quarter are still relegated to group-home settings as opposed to being placed with their own foster family. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, we have no choice but to redouble our parent recruitment efforts.”

Due to the coronavirus, many of the events held each year to spread awareness of local foster programs have been canceled, postponed, or moved online. The Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families is also doing a social media campaign for National Adoption Month that includes foster recruitment information.

In addition Perlee specifically suggests working with local advertising firms and broadcasters to develop recruitment messaging; organizing socially distant, informational programs on the benefits of fostering; and using current and former foster and adoptive parents to publicize the need for and rewards of fostering.

“We’re in uncharted territory, and now more than ever, these children deserve a safe, healthy, and stable place to call home. Even if you aren’t looking to foster yourself, you can do your part and help us spread our message on social media,” said Perlee.

Many people open to and interested in adoption, as Perlee was, are unfamiliar with foster-care programs.

“I knew I wanted to be a dad and had spent several years pursuing international adoption in western Europe and Asia before I was made aware that children right here in Albany County were in need of a forever home,” he said.

A co-worker suggested that Perlee contact the county. He did so, received free training, and has been a licensed foster parent since 2011. Since then, Perlee has fostered a total of six children. He has adopted three of the six and is in the process of adopting a fourth. Three of the four are biological siblings.

“Being a foster and an adoptive parent is easily the most significant and rewarding experience in my life,” he said. “It’s enabled me to help some families in temporary need and to create my own family. When you open your home to a child in need, you open your heart; and whether the relationship is short-term or forever, you transform their lives, and your own for the better.”

Orientation sessions are being held virtually on the second Tuesday of each month. Since the online foster parent training program has started, the county has already seen eight families graduate. For a complete list of requirements to register as a foster home, go online to https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/fostercare/requirements.asp.

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