Omni Visions, Inc., a multi-state foster care placement agency that focuses on difficult-to-place children, has just expanded their program to Grayson County.
State Director Bill Heaton said that the decision to come to Grayson County came about because one of the non-profit’s employees, Tricia Nash, is a local resident.
He noted that, “the need [for foster care placement] in Grayson County is less than it has been, but there’s still a need.”
He attributes the progress being made locally to hard work and focus on the part of the Department of Community Based Services (DCBS), and stressed that his group’s goal is to “be partners with DCBS” and work with them toward finding long-term homes for the children who still do not have them.
The organization accepts children referred to them by DCBS offices from across the state, and places them into homes with well-trained foster parents.
Heaton said that, “Omni Visions is big into permanency, whether that’s returning to a biological family or relative, adoption, or independent living for some kids 18 and over,” and that this is the ultimate goal for each of the children they work with.
All of the children that Omni Visions helps are “specialized,” Heaton explained, and often have histories of physical and/or sexual abuse. The group also focuses on older children, with the average age being about 14.
“Many times the kids blame themselves for what’s happened to them, not their parents,” Heaton explained. “That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. We want to help the kids to understand that it’s not their fault.”
Some of the children that Omni places are also medically fragile, and they work with sibling groups as well, trying to place all of the children from a family into a home together.
Heaton said that one sibling group of seven children was successfully placed into a foster home where they were later adopted.
“There’s still a need for foster homes for rough and tough kids,” he said, “and that’s what we specialize in.” He went on to add, “We’ve discovered that older kids need permanency and a safe place just like little kids do - and probably even more so.”
The number one thing that these children need, according to Heaton, is to feel safe. “They don’t feel safe because they’ve been hurt, they’ve been violated, they don’t trust. Our goal is to help that child become safe and feel safe, because after that, they can talk about their feelings and we can help them.”
“It’s a hard job. It’s very, very difficult,” he said of the foster parents’ work, though he stressed that Omni Visions trains their foster parents well and are available to offer help at any time and as often as is needed.
Training takes about ten weeks, and includes a variety of topics that will assist the foster parents in becoming better prepared to help the children.
All of the basic training will be held locally, though some specialized topics, such as care for medically fragile foster children, may be held in other locations around the state.
Omni Visions is happy to be preparing to start their first local training. One Grayson County family has signed up so far to become a foster home with the group, and other local families are encouraged to join them.
“The rewards are unbelievable,” Heaton said of the the fostering experience, explaining that the feeling of knowing you’ve helped a child is an enormous “reward of the heart.”
He said that some people fear the feeling of losing a foster child when they no longer need temporary care, but said, “You’re not losing the child, you’re giving that child the ability to be productive and safe and happy.”
“As long as there’s a need we want to work with the state to help fulfill that need,” he said. In order to accomplish that goal, the group needs men and women who want to take these children into their homes.
“We pay our families like everybody does,” Heaton said, “but the vast majority of people I run into who want to foster are people who feel led to do that. There’s something inside of them saying, ‘I need to foster.’”
Anyone interested in getting more information on becoming a foster parent or who would like to sign up for training can contact Omni Visions, Inc. at 1-888-635-4212.