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Young Girls In State Care To Get Transitional Home

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Construction is slated to begin soon on the Caribbean’s first independent living complex for wards of the State, following Friday’s official groundbreaking ceremony at 24 Lady Musgrave Drive, New Kingston.

Upon completion, the facility will be equipped to house at lease 40 young women who have reached the age of 18, when, by law, they are required to leave their places of safety, irrespective of whether they have a job or place to live.

Under the Transitional Living Program for Children in State Care, these young women will spend up to two additional years in the care of the state.

Dr Luz Longsworth, principal of the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), used the groundbreaking ceremony to announce the gift of 30 one-year scholarships to the pioneer residents of the complex. Another 15 such scholarships will be provided to young men, also wards of the state, at the tertiary level as well.

Luis Moreno, United States ambassador to Jamaica, gave a commitment that his country would fund a similar facility for young men, to be built in Manning, St Elizabeth. The United States Agency for International Development is funding the Kingston facility at a cost of US$1.45 million under the Development Grants Program, in what Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna described as a game-changing partnership.

With the Jamaican Government donating prime land space in New Kingston’s ‘Golden Triangle’, the project will be implemented through the collaborative efforts of the Caribbean Child Development Centre, Child Development Agency, the Social Welfare Centre, and the UWI Project Management Office.

Meanwhile, Rosalee Gage-Grey, chief executive officer of the Child Development Agency, spoke to the importance of this intervention.

VERY SIGNIFICANT

“It is very significant because we have about 700 children that leave care each year. Some of them are in foster care, and the foster parents will continue to keep them; some can be reintegrated with their own families. We have some who come into Kingston for tertiary education and need a place, and so it will provide a space where they can move from university to work for the period of the two years, and so its very significant,” she told The Gleaner.

“And it’s semi-independent, meaning that they will take care of themselves, with some support. So they will be comfortable with individualized spaces, and we will continue to provide the support, the life skills for them to transition successfully.”

A clearly excited Hanna gave this response when asked to gauge the significance of the new facility.

On a scale of 1-10?

“Eleven!” she answered, noting that it will address an area of need that has been neglected for too long.

“It’s a long time in the making, and its something that I’m very pleased with; conceptualized it, UWI came on board, USAID came on board, and now they’ve said to us, we are going to be working on the contract for the one for the boys in St Elizabeth. We gave the land, UWI is giving the social work and the training, USAID is putting up the money, so there is a lot of equity going into this,” she added.

However, the youth minister would not commit to the completion timeline for the Kingston facility or the start-up for the one slated for St Elizabeth.

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Church hopes to match kids with foster families

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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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La. foster care system to undergo new initiative

Louisiana unveils new 'Faith in Families' initiati...

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Lasting connections for foster children is one of the new goals for Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, Secretary Suzy Sonnier said Thursday in Alexandria.

A new initiative the department is rolling out, called “Faith in Families,” looks to safely reduce the number of children in foster care, decrease the amount of time children spend in the system and ensure that each child has a permanent connection when they leave foster care, Sonnier said.

“Children deserve strong and loving families. This initiative will bring positive and life-changing impacts to children in our foster care system,” she said.

Last year more than 7,500 children were in the foster care program in Louisiana, according to DCFS statistics. About 3,710 were discharged from foster care during the year and about 3,180 children were placed in foster care in 2012. There are currently 4,031 children in foster care across the state.

Additionally, DCFS plans to work aggressively to improve permanent connections for youth on the verge of aging out of foster care.

DCFS, Sonnier said, “will work to identify family or other community members who can provide lasting relationships for young people ensuring that no children exit the foster care system without someone to call family.”

Research shows that children who age out of foster care without a permanent connection face significant challenges including homelessness, unemployment, mental health and substance abuse issues and involvement with the criminal justice system.

“Life-long connections are key to ensuring that these children have a place to live, stay in school and make positive decisions about their lives going forward,” Sonnier said.

The initiative sets the following goals to be met by 2015:

» Safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 1,000.

» 95 percent of all children returning home will not return to foster care.

» 85 percent of children will exit foster care within 24 months of entering — either through reunification with family or adoption.

» 50 percent of those in foster care will be adopted within 24 months, exceeding the national standard of 37 percent.

» 75.2 percent of children will be reunified with their family within 12 months, achieving the national standard.

» 85 percent of all children will exit foster care in a permanent placement — adoption, reunification, guardianship.

» All children exiting foster care will do so with permanent connections.

“DCFS’ over-arching focus is to keep children safe,” Sonnier said. “We will build partnerships with a variety of organizations that can assist us in accomplishing our mission, use existing best practices and tools and drive performance to continue to improve the way we provide services.”

The new initiative follows a record year for DCFS in adoptions. Last year, DCFS saw 652 children adopted by 468 families. Today, there are 638 children who are immediately eligible for adoption.

DCFS features profiles of foster children eligible for adoption on its website, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov.

Be Inspired with Raquel: Adoption is about love, not skin color

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Love is colorblind. This also is true for adoption.

While it is important for a child to know his history, that knowledge doesn’t translate into who he is or how he should govern his life. His history doesn’t define him; the love he receives does.

By choice, I don’t have children — but if I someday decide otherwise, I’m totally open to adopting a child outside of my race. I don’t believe there is anything such as “black love” or “white love” — there is just love. The same type of love God gives to us all regardless of skin color or ancestral past.

Over the past several years, I’ve seen more parents adopting babies and children of different races. I’ve seen it in everyday working folks as well as celebrities. The issue has prompted some discussion of whether it’s right or wrong for a white couple to adopt a black child; for an Asian child to be raised by a black family … or any combination of nationalities.

For me, it isn’t a question of right or wrong, but one that pertains to the well-being of that child. We don’t know the backstory of these children. We don’t know the alternatives they are confronted with in relation to orphanages, foster case or homelessness. What’s wrong with a family of a different nationality opening their home, arms and hearts to children that need love?

I am an American who happens to be of a certain ethnicity, but before any of that I am a human being, which bridges all gaps and connects us all to a common theme: God.

I don’t believe the question should be about whether a parent can successfully raise a child of a different race. Instead, the question should be about whether the parent can successfully love a child … period. Clearly, some of society is focused on a small piece to a very big puzzle.

Growing up in a family that shares some of your social and ethnic concerns is important. I understand the point made that a white mother can relate to the trials and tribulations facing a white child better than a mother of another nationality might. I can relate to the fact that a black child can better empathize with the black experience by way of parents who look like her and have a comparative story to share.

I understand these well-intended points. But, if you look at today’s teens and young adults, many of them are unaware of their heritage and historical backgrounds. Many of them are accepting of all nationalities and they see themselves as Americans — and this phenomenon is partly due to a big shift in our culture.

Actually, I think interracial adoptions could be a good thing for the children, because they are being reared from a different perspective, leaving behind some of the self-imposed limitations some races have passed from generation to generation.

If I were a child without parents, living with uncertainty and the odds stacked against me, I’d want someone to take me into their home and love me, feed me and grant me a somewhat normal childhood. I would want someone to give me an opportunity to attend school and become something great. It wouldn’t matter if that person was Chinese, Japanese, American or Sudanese.

As I previously mentioned, knowing our history and where we come from is important, but in order to even care about our background, we’ve got to be loved. Love helps us identify with groups, communities and the world, but that love must start within and most of us are able to get that process going by way of a loving parent, no matter her genetic makeup or skin color.

Many Homeless Adults Start their Journey in Foster Care

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Foster care placement is one of the childhood risk factors, which predicts adult homelessness. A mother with a childhood history of foster care is far more likely to become homeless than one who has never entered the foster care system.

Darlesha Joyner is one such mother who comprises more than 6,500 District residents without permanent homes.

“I’m tired and frustrated,” said Joyner, 22, who entered Maryland’s foster care system at 14 years old. Her 18-month-old son rested on her hip with his legs akimbo. “My issue is not only with living in the shelter but even before. I don’t want to be here.”

Since January, Joyner, a mother of two, has lived in the old D.C. General Hospital, which was repurposed as a family shelter in Southeast. Recent reports indicate it houses 284 families with nearly 600 children, more than half of them under the age of 12.

Joyner experienced a series of losses over a short time. At four years old, her mother died. Her father followed at seven. One grandmother died when she was 10 and another at 14. Since the age of seven, she was bounced around by family members, living from house to house, until she entered foster care, the native Washingtonian said.

“My family said I was hard headed,” said Joyner who has a learning disability. At 18, she emancipated herself by leaving the foster care system, got into domestic violence situations, lived in hallways and slept outdoors.

She joined several persons who testified at Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham’s public oversight hearing on D.C. General’s services and management onsite at the shelter on Feb. 28.

“These children are wards of the city and we have special responsibility for them,” said Graham, chair of the Committee on Human Services with oversight authority over D.C. General. “In the process, we become their parents, and we should anticipate their needs when they’re emancipated.”

One woman revealed she was a foster child from 2 to 21 years old, and now lives at D.C. General.

The D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), the city’s child welfare agency, reported in 2008 that more than one-third of the youth leaving the system at 21 did so with “few or none of the supports and resources … to ensure sustainable independent living.”

This vexing national problem of foster care becoming a breeding ground for future homeless adults isn’t new.

The 1994 Green Book from the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, reported that mid-1980s surveys indicated significant numbers of homeless shelter users were recently discharged from foster care. The book provides data under the committee’s jurisdiction.

Children “age out” of the system when they’re discharged from government care, between 18 and 21. As young adults, they’re forced into pseudo independence with little resources to assume adulthood.

Earlier this month, the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA), a coalition of youth-engaged organizations and residents found that 40 percent of D.C.’s homeless youth were in the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

“Young adults, under the best circumstances, don’t turn 18 or 21 years old and magically become rational, self-sufficient adults; and a history of trauma, abuse or neglect further impacts their social-emotional development,” said Maggie Riden, a DCAYA senior policy analyst at a council oversight hearing. “To achieve lasting stability, this population needs an array of supportive resources … not defined by age, but by scope of need.”

Young people in foster care leave placements due to conflicts, or they seek more familiar surroundings, Riden said.

But, to Ressurrection Graves, reasons for leaving are more ominous. She said national evidence-based studies maintained that 20 to 30 percent of children in foster care are sexually abused, which leads to early emancipation.

“Child sexual abuse has its own set of traumas, which are linked to adult homelessness,” said Graves, a child sexual abuse expert and survivor, and a homeless mother for three years. Due to her traumatic experiences Graves, who was raised in the D.C. area, will launch in August a nonprofit that offers alternative shelter solutions for those seeking transitional housing.

“The trauma of being removed from the home causes disruptions, and those build over time,” said Nicki Sanders, a Columbia, Md., social worker. “Children in foster care move on average about seven times. They have new schools, rules to follow, values, academic and social challenges. There’s instability in the life of a foster child on a consistent basis, in many cases.”

This cycle will probably continue for Joyner’s children. Her three-year-old daughter is in foster care.

“Our child and family welfare system continues to be a pipeline into homelessness and instability for hundreds of youth each year,” Riden added.

 

Troubling spike in foster children prompts budget shortfalls

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The number of children in foster care in Haywood County is on the rise, a depressing sign for Department of Social Services workers whose first goal is to keep a family together.

“Growing up in foster care or growing up in an institution is no way to grow up,” said Ira Dove, director of the county’s Department of Social Services. Dove presented his case to the Haywood County Board of Commissioners Monday, requesting additional money to pay for the increasing costs of running foster care.

 

The commissioners agreed to give DSS $342,113 to cover a budget shortfall between now and the end of the fiscal year in June brought on by increase in foster kids. The federal government will reimburse the county between 60 percent and 66 percent of that cost.

Despite efforts by the DSS to keep children in the same home as their parents, the number of children in foster care rose 53 percent during a 12 month period. There were 102 kids in foster care in October 2011, and by October last year, there were 156 kids in the program.

Part of the problem is children kept entering foster care last year quicker than they left.

“We didn’t move a lot of kids out of foster care last year,” Dove said.

The number has come back down, with 109 Haywood County children in foster care as of this week, but the spike caused DSS to burn through its budget allotment before the year was up.

Haywood County is not the only county in the state seeing such an increase. Jackson County’s foster care population doubled, and Swain saw similar increases to Haywood.

Dove said he could not name a single correlating cause of the statewide rise in foster children. It is usually a combination of factors, he said.

In most cases, the parents of foster care children have substance abuse and/or mental health problems. In more than 30 percent of cases, the child was physically and/or sexually abused. Nearly half of the time, there is a history of neglect and no stable housing.

Both Haywood County commissioners and Dove indicated that a rise in prescription drug abuse may have influenced the number of cases moving through DSS.

“It appears the foster care population grows and fades with the (popular drug of the day),” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick.

Some parents with drug addictions end up in prison, leaving children without a guardian. Chairman Mark Swanger postulated that the increase might be a result of concerted efforts by police to crack down on prescription drug abuse in Haywood County.

“It’s ironic the more effective law enforcement is the higher foster care costs we have,” Swanger said.

Dove assured the board that DSS tries every other option before separating a child from their family. The first strategy is having social workers visit the family regularly and work on rectifying issues affecting child safety.

If the child cannot remain with a parent, DSS searches for other family members willing to care for the child. But it can be difficult to track down relatives living outside North Carolina or, in some case, convincing them to take the child.

“Those kids have some pretty significant traumatic issues,” Dove said.

If the in home program is ineffective or willing relatives cannot be found, the child is placed in foster care.

“This is the last resort for us. It’s not where we go first,” Dove said.

Although the department goes through several steps before resorting to foster care, Dove told commissioners that he would not be happy until the program was not needed.

“As long as there is one child in foster care, we can do more. We can do better,” Dove said.

DSS is in need of volunteers willing to take in foster children. To start the process of becoming a foster family, call DSS at 828.452.6620.

Foster Care System Faces Problems

Foster care we need help

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More than half a million children are in foster care in the United States today — roughly double the number who were in foster care in the mid-1980s, according to the Child Welfare League of America.

“Having thousands of kids in foster care is a cause for concern because it’s at an enormous financial and human cost,” says Carrie Friedman, who runs the the CWLA’s national database of child welfare statistics. The number of children in foster care nationwide fluctuates between 550,000 and 600,000, according to Friedman.

In 1980, about 500,000 children were in foster care, but a series of successful reforms, starting with that year’s Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, dramatically decreased the number of children in foster care. But in the early 1990s, with the advent of crack cocaine and an economic recession — the numbers went back up, Friedman says. “Nationally, we saw a dip and then a rise, and now the numbers are staying flat.”

Advocates Urge Strengthening Communities

Child welfare advocates say the foster system is in need of changes so that children spend less time in foster homes, with foster families who are more competent. Young adults who have grown up in foster care also need more help in making the transition to independent living, the advocates say.

Another problem is that today more and more children are going into care as victims of violence or sexual abuse. “Kids are much more disturbed than they ever were,” says Max Donatelli, director of care management at Baker Victory Services, a nonprofit that provides services, including foster care, to children in the Buffalo, N.Y. area.

Some advocates also argue for greater efforts to strengthen the impoverished communities where foster children often come from. When communities break down, foster rolls grow and the cycle feeds itself, they say. Because of the connectedness between the health of communities and the safety of kids, many experts recommend child welfare agencies look to rebuild old-fashioned safety nets.

“The key today is to build a stronger neighborhood to protect kids,” says John Mattingly, senior program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Md., where he studies state and national trends in childcare services.

In places like Cleveland, where Mattingly worked for years, a history of poor foster care is part of a more complicated picture, he says. “Cleveland still has serious problems, made worse by drugs and unemployment.”

Cleveland was also where Antwone Fisher, the man whose life inspired Denzel Washington’s new movie, spent years in foster care. Mattingly, who has met Fisher as an adult, believes his difficult years in the foster care system might have been avoided if child welfare authorities had been more aware of his extended family in the city. “What’s so tragic about his story is that Antwone used to walk by his paternal grandfather’s house every day. The first thing child welfare workers need to do is to find these kids’ relatives. That’s why neighborhoods, particularly knowing who’s in the neighborhood, are both so important.”

Despite difficult circumstances, foster kids can be great achievers, advocates say. As well as Fisher, basketball star Alonzo Mourning and actor Victoria Rowell were both foster children. Mourning and Rowell now advocate for foster kids.

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too Need Your Donations!

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Good afternoon Foster Care Kids Need Love Too family please send your monetary donations by clicking the make a difference donate picture. 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. Every donate count so please help us today! “Drawing Success” for foster care youth of our nation. Have bless day.
 

United Friends of the Children is Changing the Face of Foster Care For Generations to Come

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Dedicated to the principle that foster youth deserve a successful adulthood, United Friends of the Children proves that given the right support and opportunities there is an alternative to the dismal outcomes for this underserved population.

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) February 11, 2013

United Friends of the Children has been awarded a $1 million grant by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to support the organization’s efforts to help Los Angeles-based foster youth graduate from high school, eligible to attend four-year colleges. This award recognizes the quality of the programs offered by United Friends of the Children and is testament to the outcomes delivered through its education and housing programs.

United Friends of the Children is leading the way in delivering education programs that defy national outcomes for this underserved population. With almost 50% of foster youth not graduating from high school and less than 4% earning their college degree, poor educational outcomes are a major factor in the lack of success foster youth experience when they transition out of care. By preparing more foster youth to graduate from high school and attend and graduate from four-year colleges, United Friends of the Children is dramatically increasing their chances for success. Currently, 100% of students enrolled in the College Readiness Program for four or more years are graduating from high school, and 70% of youth participating in the College Sponsorship program go on to earn their bachelor’s degree.

“The grant award from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation confirms United Friends of the Children as a leader in providing alternative outcomes for foster youth,” said Polly Williams, president of United Friends of the Children. “Our programs empower transition-aged foster youth to fulfill their educational dreams, including graduating from high school and four-year colleges, and provide them with the foundation to lead independent and successful adult lives.”

“By serving a critical mass of foster youth through its College Readiness program, United Friends of the Children will change the generational impact of foster care in Los Angeles, thus reducing the need for crisis intervention and government services in adulthood,” said Jeannine Balfour, Senior Program Officer for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “The odds are stacked against youth transitioning out of foster care, but with the right programmatic support and emotional encouragement from caring adults, it is proven that foster youth have the same chance to succeed as their peers.”

ABOUT UNITED FRIENDS OF THE CHILDREN
Over 30 years of experience has shown us that the best way to make a difference in the lives of foster youth is to provide a reliable relationship over time. Therefore, United Friends of the Children’s programs focus on commitment and consistency. College Readiness students can receive up to six years of support; College Sponsorship participants can count on five years of financial support; Pathways participants can spend 18–24 months in program housing but the relationship extends many years beyond that through our alumni program. UFC uses its knowledge and experience to influence policy decisions and is a frequent resource to others locally and across the country, sharing program models, information and expertise. For more information, please visit http://www.UnitedFriends.org.

ABOUT THE CONRAD N. HILTON FOUNDATION
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters. Following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $82 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2011. The Foundation’s current assets are approximately $2 billion.