Southington couple among first to enroll in weekend training program for foster parents

Southington couple among first to enroll in weekend training program for foster parents

SOUTHINGTON — A local family hoping to open their home to foster children will be among the first in the state to take a new state licensing program designed around the schedules of busy adults.

Michael and Jill Turner have wanted to foster children for years. Now that two of their six children have reached adulthood, they’re able to bring more children into their home per state Department of Children and Families regulations.Foster

State licensing classes were also a
hurdle. The required training included three-hour classes once per week for more than two months. The Turners said that was almost impossible between work, watching children and taking kids to basketball.

This year, DCF consolidated most of the training into a weekend-long program. The remainder is completed at home through webinars or readings. Jill Turner has already done some of the work and the couple is scheduled to attend the training this weekend at a Farmington hotel.

“It’s more appealing to a family,” Michael Turner said.

The couple said they and their six children are excited about fostering children. The family’s 4-year old has already started making cards welcoming the babies that they hope to host.

The Turners are already familiar with some of the training and checks needed for foster parents. They’ve adopted three of their children, one from India and twins from Ethiopia.

“We’re such a diverse family. We’ve adopted kids, we’ve had kids, not all our kids are white,” Michael Turner said.

Jill Turner, an early childhood educator, said even before children, she and her husband volunteered as youth workers. Before they’d decided to foster, the couple held a family meeting and were happy that their children were so enthusiastic.

“The kids all have a heart for this, it’s not just us,” Jill Turner said.

The family has elected to foster babies for now due to rooming situations at their house.

Sarah Gibson, DCF director of the office of children and youth placement, called the weekend training “compressed learning” but it’s been well received so far.

“It’s a lot, but having done one now — we have one region that’s already completed it — it was more successful than we even hoped to be,” she said. “The families were really excited and engaged and motivated and got a lot out of the weekend.”

In the region that includes Meriden and New Britain, there are 240 foster children who aren’t staying with relatives. There are 120 foster homes in the region. Gibson said a larger pool of foster families will help create better matches for placement.

The training is funded by federal funds.

“The more choices that we have for families, the better it is for kids,” said Gary Kleeblatt, DCF spokesman.

Despite a new schedule, the department is still requiring the same training as before.

“We still have our high standards for foster and adoptive parents. That’s not changing,” Kleeblatt said.

Those interested in foster care can call 888-KID-HERO or visit for information on the process and the next training sessions.

Training for the Turners and other families from the area will run from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

“We have no idea what to expect but it’s exciting,” Michael Turner said.
Twitter: @JBuchananRJ