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      Foster parents strive to help children thrive

      Taking in someone else's child and raising them to be upstanding citizens is no easy task.

      Many children to are put into the foster care system come with their own troubles, and need love and guidance from their foster parents.

      Approximately 13,000 children are in foster care in Michigan at any given time.

      Hundreds of foster parents gathered to talk about that topic today at a conference, held by The Upper Peninsula Children's Coalition at Northern Michigan University.

      "It's exciting to be a part of this conference, but especially part of UPCC because it is the grassroots effort. It's the people coming together in collaboration across the Upper Peninsula to advocate and have a voice for children who don't have a voice for themselves," said Barbie Dupras, Early Headstart Manager for AMCAB.

      The UPCC held a question and answer session for foster parents with a panel of three U.P. Judges.

      "You don't always have that opportunity to question a judge in a courtroom, so this was a great opportunity for them today," said Dupras.

      One of the subjects most asked about was drug testing biological parents.

      And what visiting guidelines are for parents who are using drugs.

      The judges said foster care and social workers are key in keeping children safe.

      "One of the difficult things is we don't have instant tests for every visit. So we can't be testing everyone. A lot of the tests that are done don't come back for a week so I rely very heavily on that foster care worker," said Judge Cheryl Hill, Marquette County.

      Participants also had the opportunity to break into individual sessions.

      The sessions ranged from medical marijuana laws, to parenting styles, to conscious discipline.

      Each session was geared towards keeping children happy, safe, and loved.

      "I guess if I had any recommendations for parents it would be, a little play everyday, so parents connecting with children can help children make connections in their brains, and that gets them ready for school," said Dupras.