By Michael Hartwell

MediaNews

LANCASTER -- The Doctor Franklin Perkins School received state approval to become an intensive foster-care service provider earlier this summer and Tim Hammond, assistant executive director of programs, said they are now looking for households in the area that are eager to take in a child.

In June the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families gave the Perkins School its license and approval to connect families with children who need intensive foster care. Hammond said intensive foster care is for children with mental-health issues, including trauma history and social and emotional challenges.

"Typically there will be kids who were placed in traditional foster homes and it was learned that those homes were insufficient for their needs," said Hammond. He said sometimes intensive foster care is used as a transition for children moving from a group home to traditional foster care.

Hammond said in Massachusetts alone there are 5,000 kids in traditional foster care and about 1,700 in intensive foster care. He said while traditional foster families receive about $50 a day and can have up to four kids in one home, the intensive foster care families receive more and can only have one child.

Hammond is acting as the director of the program until the Perkins School can hire someone for the task full-time.

"Our main job is to find the homes and make sure that the adults in those homes are qualified to meet the needs of those kids," said Hammond. He said they are looking to recruit 10 to 15 homes in the area and are prescreening candidates.

Applicants must be 25 or older, have a driver's license and reliable transportation and must complete a rigorous screening process. The average commitment is nine months, but can vary greatly.

"The ideal candidate is someone who understands youth, can communicate well and has the time, energy and desire to help others," said Hammond.

To apply as an intensive foster parent, contact Hammond at thammond@perkinschool.org or 978-368-6545.

The Perkins School provides community-based mental-health education services to people of all ages, and other programs include residential treatment, a day school for students with social and emotional challenges, horseback-riding therapy and a behavioral-health center. Hammond said the intensive foster-care program will be a continuation of those services.

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