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Church hopes to match kids with foster families

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church outreach

WAYNESBORO — Sonya Payne remembers her best birthday ever.

It was in 2010, the day she legally adopted her foster daughter Ariel Simone Payne, 16.

Ariel wasn’t the first child that Payne has fostered. In fact, Payne estimates that she’s legally fostered 40 children since 1993, and taken in over 70, even if only temporarily.

“That’s why we call her superwoman,” said Ariel’s adoptive sister Taimonique Payne, 15 and a half years old.

Payne decided to become a foster parent while working with battered women, and seeing the effect it had on both the women and children.

“It was too much,” Payne said. “I told my husband, we have to do something to help these kids.”

She read about her first foster child in the newspaper in 1993 and the rest is history.

Even with families like the Paynes, there are still local children in the foster care system that do not currently have homes and are at risk of aging out of the system, which severely affects their chances of success once they become adults, said Jennifer Eccles, foster parent and member of the mission team at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro. There are 163 kids in foster homes locally, but 14 that don’t have somewhere to call home.

That’s why the church decided to hold a summit about foster care, with a panel of foster care workers, parents and adopted teenagers, to inform the community about the need for more participation in the foster care system.

The summit was Sunday afternoon and about 25 people attended, Eccles said.

“The church feels very strongly that we have a calling to help these kids in our community,” said the mom of six. “They need families.”

One of the main focuses of the summit was on the need for care for older children and children with siblings, specifically, Eccles said. Removing the stigma that older children come with more problems is key.

“This is not about bad behavior,” Eccles said of why children end up in the foster care system. “It’s because of abuse or neglect.”

Both Ariel and Taimonique spoke about being adopted and what they would tell other foster parents if they could.

“Never give up on your adopted kids,” Taimonique said. They may have difficult behavior and difficulty adjusting, but never to give up.

For more information about foster parenting call Jennifer Edson or Heather Hudnall at Shenandoah Valley Social Services at 540-245-5800.

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Hand for Hope National Adoption Awareness Month

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This month is National Adoptions Awareness Month. This year’s National Adoption Month initiative emphasizes the importance of sibling connections for the 102,000 children and youth in foster care waiting for adoptive families. Please support the movement and cause together we can make a change.
Good morning Foster Care Kids Need Love Too Family! Foster Care Kids Need love Too® provides community education, public policy/advocacy and direct services for children and youth who have been removed from the care of their parents to the supervision of the state. The organization recruits and sustains volunteers who serve in public and private agencies or work on projects designed to enhance the lives of foster, homeless, transitional and incarcerated children and youth.

Think back to that one person that made a huge impact in your life. Now don’t you want to be that person in someone else’s life? Together we can make a change.

Year-Round we are in need of backpacks, diaper bags, school supplies, hygiene items, stuffed animals, books for all ages, toys, address books, journals, coloring books, strollers, pack and plays, baby clothes, games, socks, shoes & clothes. Also donations will go to special projects directly to the child to enhance the life of their future send your monetary donations http://www.gofundme.com/fepxos . “Drawing Success”

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The vision

MANY UNACCOMPANIED FOREIGN CHILDREN RECEIVING BETTER CARE THAN US FOSTER KIDS

On June 13, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told reporters in a press conference that the federal government would do what was in the “best interest” of thousands of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) crossing the border into south Texas every week. He also denied that the taxpayer-funded care being provided to them was serving as an incentive to Central American families to send more of their children. But a closer look at the services UACs are receiving while they go through removal proceedings tells a different story.

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Over the last several weeks, US Border Patrol stations in south Texas have been overrun with illegal immigrants from mostly Central America. Johnson said that since October 2013, agents have apprehended over 47,000 UACs, roughly double the 24,000 UACs who were apprehended the previous fiscal year. Prior to 2012, the average number of UACs under US government supervision averaged around 7,500 kids. According to procedures outlined in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, he stated the goal was to transport these children in “a safe and human manner” to the US Department of Health and Human Services, where they would be cared for by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

The primary goal of the ORR is to reunited UACs with family members or other legal guardians in the United States while they go through removal proceedings. However, if those family members or guardians are in the country illegally, there was no indication by DHS officials that those individuals would also be placed into removal proceedings despite the fact they have to provide a considerable amount of identification in order to claim a UAC.

Procedures for transporting and caring for UACs depend on the children’s ages. According to the ORR’s Division for Unaccompanied Children’s Services (DUCS), most UACs over the age of 13 are placed in shelters or group homes. However, for UACs ages 13 and younger who don’t have a relative or guardian who can care for them, “short and long-term foster care is available through ORR’s foster care program network.”

The services these 58 licensed ORR facilities provide are extensive: “The facilities, which operate under cooperative agreements and contracts, provide children with classroom education, health care, socialization/recreation, vocational training, mental health services, family reunification, access to legal services, and case management.” But perhaps the most interesting claim by DUCS is “Ensuring that the interests of the UAC are considered in decisions related to their care and custody.” The “best interest” of UACs coming from gang war-torn countries like Honduras is almost always a permanent stay here in the United States.

Johnson defended the services being provided to UACs while going through removal proceedings. “We provide a number of things [for UACs] because our laws require it and our values require it,” he said. He also said that those apprehended at our borders are priorities for removal regardless of age—a sentiment echoed by ICE Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations Tom Homan, who said, “Every [unaccompanied] child is placed into removal proceedings.”

But the circumstances for those children in removal proceedings are plush in some cases compared to US citizen children placed in foster care. According to Children’s Rights, a national advocacy group working to reform failing child welfare systems, “many child welfare systems are underfunded, understaffed, beset by serious system-wide problems, and lacking the leadership necessary to fix them.” Some of the claims the group makes are that US child welfare systems fail to protect children in foster care from further abuse and neglect, don’t provide adequate medical and mental health services, and warehouse children in institutions, group homes, emergency shelters.

This means one of two things. Either UACs apprehended at the border are being placed into the same system as US citizen children and not receiving nearly the adequate level of care the ORR says it is providing, or UACs are placed into a different federal foster network that provides a superior level of care to that being provided to US citizen children.

The legal support US citizen children in foster care and UACs receive can also vary wildly. During court proceedings, American kids in foster care are assigned a lawyer by the judge in their family court to oversee their cases, according to The Legal Aid Society. For UACs, the DUCS engages in “coordination of a pro-bono attorney outreach project to pilot pro-bono capacity building models in major immigration apprehension areas so that more UAC can have access to legal representation.”

While the US government does not pay for legal representation for UACs, many of the children receive assistance from top-notch immigration attorneys who take part in programs like The Safe Passage Project. In May 2014, Director Lenni Benson wrote a letter to The New York Times in which she said, “Our organization, Safe Passage Project, finds that nearly 90 percent of the unaccompanied minors we meet who are facing deportation qualify for immigration relief, allowing them to remain in the United States legally.” Benson also added, “While emergency shelters provide a temporary solution for unaccompanied minors entering the United States, appointed legal counsel to enable these vulnerable young people to receive the immigration remedies for which they might be eligible would provide permanency and would truly be in their best interests.”

To say that all these benefits being provided to UACs are not acting as an incentive for families in Central America to send even more children is misleading, irresponsible, and is further eroding the efforts of our law enforcement agencies to control our southwest border.

Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about the evolution of cross-border migration in her new book,Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.

 

Foster Care Kids Out of Placement Because of Abuse and Neglect…

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too

There are about 150 children in Garfield County in and out of foster home placement because of abuse or neglect, but there are only 27 non-relative foster homes in the county.

A shortage of foster homes exists throughout northwest Oklahoma, and

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Normalcyvolunteers are needed to become foster parents.

Jason Cecil, director of regional recruitment services for TFI Family Connections, is looking for those willing to open their homes and help children.

“What we’re trying to do is a foster parent drive to recruit and retain foster parents, especially in Garfield County, but throughout various parts of northwest Oklahoma” Cecil said.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services privatized foster care services last year and has contracted with TFI Family Connections to find more foster parents.

Cecil said most communities without enough foster parents are seeing children in need of foster care going to foster homes several hours away from their biological parents, or being placed in shelters across the state.

He said those interested in becoming foster parents first need to contact TFI Family Connections through its website, http://www.tfifamilyservices.org/Oklahoma, or by calling (866) 543-9810.

“Once they do that, they will need to fill out an application and there will be a 27-hour foster parent training class that can be done with various schedules,” Cecil said. “We do criminal background checks, home assessments and home studies.”

Cecil said foster parents need to be a minimum of 21 years old and there is no upper-age limit.

“And they can be single,” he said, noting that marriage is not a requirement to provide foster care.

Foster parents receive a reimbursement from DHS of $400 to $550 a month. Foster children have health care provided via Sooner Care and daycare expenses are paid for by the state. Foster parents also received a yearly clothing allowance.

Foster children who are in need of mental health services will be allowed to get those services from various agencies, such as ATS Counseling-Focus Institute.

Cecil said there likely would be a foster class as early as the first of March.

“If people are interested, and feel this is something they want to do, they need to get a hold of us,” he said. “We would like to get eight to 10 families, but we’ll do a class with less.”

Becky Kroeker, director and licensed counselor with ATS Counseling-Focus Institute, said being able to have foster children closer to their homes and biological parents can prevent further trauma to the children.

“ATS offers a lot of programs which support DHS foster homes and foster children,” she said. “I think it’s important to have a partnership with Jason’s organization because of the large need to have loving foster homes in our community to help parent these children.”

Cecil said DHS is learning more toward a bridge foster family model, where the foster parent will mentor with a child’s biological family. The goal is to keep the children as close to home as possible.

“When you place these kids in southern Oklahoma, that relationship is broken,” Kroeker said. “There can be attachment problems with biological parents when there is not regular contact.”

She said further problems can be caused when caseworkers continue to move children from foster homes that are closer to their home.

“Disruptions can also be caused by children not being near their parents,” Kroeker said. “It’s in the child’s overall best interest for that child to be in their own community.”

Cecil added, “They need to be with a family and not with a shelter.”

“When we can work with the biological parents and a child in placement,” Kroeker said, “we have a better success rate when we’re able to work with everyone.”

“It’s not uncommon to see a kid with three or four placement moves before they are stable,” Cecil said.

He said many counties in northwest Oklahoma are in need of more non-relative foster homes. Cecil said foster parent classes will be hosted where there are interested families, and not just in the Enid area.

“We’ll go where the families are,” he said.

Classes can be conducted to meet the time needs of potential foster families.

“We can either do three days in a row or nine weekly three-hour sessions,” he said. “Whatever works best for the family.”

The classes cover lessons on topics such as appropriate ways to deal with behavior, self-care as a foster parent and how to work in a team-work approach.

Cecil said he is available to speak to church or civic groups that would like to hear a presentation about the process of becoming a foster parent and the need within their community.

Cecil can be reached by calling TFI Family Connections at (866) 543-9810, extension 3043.

Volunteers needed to represent foster children in court

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There are almost 1,000 children living in foster care in Atlantic and Cape May Counties. CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, currently has about 200 volunteers to represent 350 of them, making sure they get the services and help they need during foster care, and as a permanent placement.

“Because of the shortage of volunteers, we usually get only the most complex cases right now,” said Karen DeRosa, director of comm-unity development for CASA for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties. “But we would like every child to have an advocate.”

The CASAs are appointed by a judge and help supplement the work of case workers. The volunteers can visit the foster home, the biological parents or even the child’s school.

“I worked with a school system for a child who was having problems,” said Carole Phillips, of Egg Harbor Township, who has been a volunteer for about three years. She originally thought about becoming a foster parent, but decided that might be more than she could handle.

“I always had a heart for helping children,” she said. “This is something I can do.”

Court Appointed Special Advocates Carole Phillips, of Egg Harbor Township, left, Lisa Weiss, of Somers Point, Daryl Shall, of Ventnor and Lauren Uher, of Ventnor, attended a recent meeting of CASA for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties.
Court Appointed Special Advocates Carole Phillips, of Egg Harbor Township, left, Lisa Weiss, of Somers Point, Daryl Shall, of Ventnor and Lauren Uher, of Ventnor, attended a recent meeting of CASA for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties.

Husband and wife, Lauren Uher and Daryl Shall, of Ventnor, became volunteers after retirement. They typically work together with families that have multiple children in foster care and are often placed with different foster families.

“We had been looking to do something that really had meaning,” said Shall. “There is so much enthusiasm and commitment for the mission.”

Uher said volunteers should love children, be good at asking questions and communicating to the court. Some cases take more time than others, and volunteers do make an emotional investment in the child’s well-being.

She said because they are impartial, and are assigned to do what is best for the child they represent, judges respect their recommendations.

“Our mission is the child,” Shall said. “You read their files and there are so many horrible things, families that just can’t function. Then you go meet the kids and they are so sweet and you just have to help them.”

While many volunteers are retired, Lisa Weiss, of Somers Point, said she works and still finds time to serve. She said case workers juggle so many cases that they are happy to have the CASA volunteers help out. She typically spends about 12 to 15 hours per month on her case.

“We are just one more resource to make sure the children get safe homes,” Uher said.

Contact Diane D’Amico:

609-272-7241

DDamico@pressofac.com

Become a

CASA volunteer

To learn about CASA for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, call 609-601-7800. Information is also online at atlanticapecasa.org also send donations at https://www.wepay.com/donations/fostercarekidsneedlovetoo

CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties can be reached at 856-521-0734, or email

susanna.casaofcgs@gmail.org

CASA of Ocean County can be reached at 732-797-0590.