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The Foster-Parent Squad
Police officers give kids in need a new safety net

Police officers in Bellingham, Washington, bring their work home--and it's not just police reports. These cops care for kids whose parents are in jail.

Sergeant Tim Lintz of the Bellingham Police Department is helping to develop a new foster-cop program. "We are determined that it's going to work," Lintz says. This is the first program of its kind anywhere in the United States.

The idea started last year, when a police officer spent several frustrating hours trying to find a foster home for three kids whose parents had been arrested. Finally, the officer gave up and took the kids back to his house.

Across the country, there are more than 542,000 kids in foster homes. Children enter the foster-care system when their parents are unable to look after them. Many kids stay in foster homes until they turn 18. There aren't enough foster families for all of the kids who need homes.

This summer, five Bellingham officers took part in a training program to become temporary foster parents. They are now able to take care of kids until foster homes can be found. The cops will begin welcoming kids into their homes next month.

Chris Lease is a school resource officer for the Bellingham force. He visits schools and teaches kids how to resolve conflicts. He and his wife, Tracy, have four children, including an adopted son from the Philippines. They are excited to be a part of the foster-cop program."I've always had a heart for kids," Lease says. "This is another opportunity to show the love that we have for them."

Karen Jorgenson, the head of the National Foster Parent Association, applauds the Bellingham police department's efforts. "If more groups would do the same," Jorgenson says, "we wouldn't have a shortage of foster homes."

--By Tiffany Sommers October 10, 2003 Vol. 9 No. 5
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