Just two foster families currently live in Teton County and are available to take in children. That’s a low and concerning number for Kelsi Rammell, foster care coordinator for Sublette, Lincoln and Teton counties at the Wyoming Department of Family Services. She said she can never really predict when she might need to place a child in a home should they come into protected custody, and only having a couple of options means she may have to start looking outside Jackson Hole at any moment.
“Even though I have two homes—that sounds like two possible options—not all of those homes are able to support infants. You know, not all of those homes are able to get child care overnight. Some need a school-aged kid to be able to make it work,” Rammell said. “So, I might have two homes, but they can’t support, like, any child that comes into placement.”
Rammell said Teton County is notorious for having very few foster families, in part because of issues like housing constraints and the propensity for folks to live here part-time.
“I have adults that have reached out that would love to be foster families that are only in a single bedroom home, you know, and they can’t afford anything else right now, and they can’t find anything else right now,” Rammell said. “And those people would be great as foster parents.”
Part of Rammell’s job is recruiting and training new families, which she’s hoping to have more of by the summer—a season that tends to be a busier time at the Department of Family Services. Lincoln and Sublette counties are also short on sign-ups, and there aren’t many places for children to go should they be taken into custody and no family members are available to house them.
“Those caseworkers do amazing work and, yes, they are always stressed to the max. But they’re great at what they do,” Rammell said.
Families that do sign up, after going through an application and background check process, can find serving children in need to be very rewarding, according to Rammell. Households also always have the final word on which kids they’re able to take, how many and when.
“I know that I had a call with a foster parent the other day that said, ‘We went down to the Snake River, and he said that he had never even put his feet in the Snake River. And he’s lived in Jackson his whole life.’ And so, little moments like that to create with those kids are a much bigger, much bigger deal than you would imagine,” Rammell said.