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This IS Our Problem: Fixing Foster Care in America, My Part (And Yours)

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Last night it was bitterly cold. The heat in our office building hadn’t been working so the staff and I worked most of the day with our coats and hats on. We thought the conditions were impossible, brutal, unbearable. We complained to management. We complained to each other. And then, just as I was about to head home to a delicious meal with my family, my cell phone rang and I was suddenly reminded that even the worst conditions I have ever faced are the best conditions some children can imagine.

It was a social service worker, a friend of mine, calling to ask if I could wait a bit longer for a group of caseworkers to come to our facility. They had just abruptly removed 4 children from deplorable conditions. Their mother was nowhere to be found. The kids needed pretty much everything; from clothing to shoes to comfort items. Of course, I agreed to wait.

In situations like these, it’s the waiting that is sometimes the hardest part. I wonder what I’m about to see. I wonder how bad it will be. I wonder if these children will be crying. I wonder if they will be scared. I wonder if I will be able to hold it together so I don’t make them feel even worse.

I opened the door twenty minutes later to three caseworkers. One was carrying a baby. One was carrying a toddler who was not wearing any shoes or socks. The other 2 children walked in on their own; 5 and 7 years old. Immediately, the 7 year old made eye contact with me and I could see she had been crying. She looked up at me and almost began to cry again.

I knelt down and took her hand and told her my name. Then I asked hers and she whispered it softly. Then I asked her if she would like to go look at some toys. Immediately, her face changed. She smiled a bit. “Yes!”

Over the next hour and half the caseworkers and I split our time between walking the children through our toy closet, helping them choose their favorites, and attempting to find enough clothing in the right sizes to get the children prepared for their first night away from home.

Beneath her dirty clothing, the baby was covered in feces. It took two workers to clean her up. One of the men came out and sat down, head in his hands, and said “How can people do this?” For me it’s always so hard to see that type of raw, vulnerable emotion, especially from a big, strong, tough-looking guy. I didn’t know what to say to him.

When the group was ready to leave, the 7 year-old girl turned back and gave me a hug. I held her as tightly as I could. I wanted to take her home.

It was then I started to think about my own kids; 7 and 8 years old. Their biggest worry of the day was doing homework. They were waiting at home for me with their amazing, attentive, super supportive dad. They were playing games in their playroom. I didn’t feel guilty for this joyful loving home I have. But I did feel like I wanted to get back to sharing it.

So I will. I am hopeful that in the coming months my home will be reopened to accept foster children like the four amazing kids I met last night. That is the part I want to play in this solution.

But that may not be your reaction and that is totally OK! There are dozens of ways that you can also do something super amazing to ensure these beautiful, innocent children get the love and support and hope they need. Because they need all of us in on this.

To be honest, I don’t even care why you decide to help. Just do something other than read this, feel bad and go on with your day. Do it to be a good example for your kids. Do it to better your community. Do it because you can…because you had a loving family, or you didn’t have a family at all, but you are here and healthy and able. Do it because if you don’t, who will?

Let’s just all come together and loudly and proudly make a commitment that we will be one part of the very big village we know it takes to raise a healthy, happy child.

Below are some of my favorite ways to get involved but I want to hear more. Join me in using #MyPartOurVillage and tag @OneSimpleWish on Twitter.

Here are 5 ways to get started in doing YOUR part:

1. Grant a wish!
It’s a simple, direct and beautiful way to share some joy with a child impacted by foster care and abuse and neglect.
2. Consider becoming a CASA.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are amazingly dedicated volunteers who act as a voice for a child in court and are a stable source of support for kids who need it.
3. Read Foster Focus Magazine
Learn more about what is going on with foster care in America and the inspiring kids and adults who are working hard to fix it.
4. Consider becoming a Foster Parent.
All you need to know is here. And you can email me too!
5. Tweet about other foster care or children’s rights organizations that you support. Tell us what you do and how to do it. Don’t forget to use #MyPartOurVillage and tag@OneSimpleWish so we can share your ideas!

Please remember that whatever you choose to do, one way or the other, it will matter.

Follow Foster Care Kids Need Love Too on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FosterLoveToo

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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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State of emergency: Shortage of foster homes leads to separated siblings, moving far from home

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GA Foster Care

Georgia is in a “state of emergency” when it comes to foster care, and Floyd County was ranked the fifth highest county per capita for children removed from their homes, according to DFCS officials and a report from Georgia Child Welfare Measures.

Some 244 children from Floyd County were sent into foster care from April 2014 through March 2015, according to the statistics.

That state rate over that time period was 31.2 children per 10,000. Floyd County’s rate was 104.5 per 10,000.

Why is the rate so high? There are several reasons, according to local officials.

“It comes down to the fact that we are looking more,” said Floyd County Juvenile Court Judge Greg Price. “We have two hospitals and many medical professionals who are required to report suspicious things. We have a high number of teachers and law enforcement as well.”

These individuals are trained to notice signs of trouble, he added.

“When you’re a mechanic trained to fix problems on VWs, when you drive down the road, you’re going to see the VWs first,” explained Price.

Another issue is cyclical abuse and neglect, according to Price and Lindsey Howerton, director of the Floyd County Division of Family and Children Services.

“We have many families who repeat the cycle of abuse and neglect,” she said. “They stay here. Their children have children, and it keeps going and no one breaks the pattern.”

The reasons for the removal of children from their homes covers a wide range, with 120 removed for neglect, 80 removed because their parents were abusing drugs or alcohol, 52 removed because parents were unable to cope, 88 removed for inadequate housing, 30 were abandoned and 32 were victims of physical abuse. Other reasons include sexual abuse, domestic violence or because parents are incarcerated.

Howerton said the specific reasons stated can be misleading.

“Many times, when we investigate further, we may find signs of physical or sexual abuse when the child was originally removed for neglect or drug abuse,” she said. “This is especially true for a younger child who is not in school. If that child is only going to the doctor once a year, it is much harder to catch.”

A major crisis situation arises after these children are removed, because Floyd County only has 16 DFCS foster homes.

“This often results in our children being placed out of county, which causes all kinds of problems,” she said. “The children have a harder time coming back for court dates and for visits with their families. Also, you have the added trauma for the child, which is just increased by them having to completely relocate and have nothing familiar around them.”

DFCS always tries to help the families, she added, and this is made more difficult when the child is miles away.

“Our main goal when a child is removed from a home is to work with the parents to help them change behaviors if possible and bring their child home,” Howerton said. “Having to place that child in a home in Macon just makes it that much harder on everyone.”

So, the first thing DFCS does is try to find a qualified family member or family friend who can take the child. This is the best option, but sometimes is impossible because they might not live in the area or may be unsuitable.

Issues also often arise because of siblings, she said.

“We have a lot of multiple-child families, and the ideal would be to have those siblings together or at least close to each other,” she said. “This becomes hard because many foster families can’t handle that many children at once.”

Floyd does have 23 homes that work with child placing agencies, such as Faith Bridge, Howerton added. However, these homes can have children who are not from Floyd County placed in them. Winshape Homes is its own entity and does work with DFCS as much as possible, she said.

“We have two large sibling groups placed with Winshape currently,” she said.

The Open Door Home is a group home and children are only placed there if they are 13 or older.

“We are always hoping that if people know there is a need, they will be willing to serve as foster families,” she said.

Potential foster families attend classes, she said. Families are taught about the process from start to finish about policies and how a child might behave.

“For instance, a child who has suffered neglect may hoard food,” she said. “I’ve had children who don’t understand or know about the bath routine and a child who had never seen a toothbrush.”

Those who want to foster are also given a home study session in which a DFCS agent comes into the home and observes the environment and the family’s interaction.

“Most understand the reasons behind this,” Howerton said. “It is all about the safety and well-being of the child. The home studies are usually completed within two or three sessions.”

Foster parents also have to undergo fingerprinting, background checks and financial checks.

“We have to make sure they can handle the extra expense,” Howerton said. “We do not so much pay as reimburse. A foster family has to be stable enough to handle extra costs like clothing, diapers and glasses, and then be reimbursed.”

Once approved, foster parents are often immediately needed.

“I’ve had families receive a child the day they were approved,” Howerton said.

About 75 percent of the 422 Floyd County children in foster care are placed outside of Floyd County, Howerton said. Of the 25 percent here, the majority are placed with family members.

These numbers frustrate Howerton, she said.

“I would love to put myself out of a job,” she said. “We are trying to build strong families in a strong community. When it comes to foster care in this county and this state, we are in a state of emergency.”

Helping Foster Kids Get Through College

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Many young people coming from foster care lack the support and guidance they need during the college years, resulting in very few going on to continue their education.

If colleges were to implement a structured support system to help foster youth, these students would have a far greater chance of success, according to new findings by researchers at the University of the Pacific.

The study is one of the few to focus on the experiences of foster youth in college. This population is difficult to identify because the students, fearing social stigma, rarely disclose their foster-care history on campus.

The college graduation rate for students coming from foster care is only 3 percent, among the lowest of any demographic group in the country. And this is unlikely to change unless community colleges set up formal programs to assist foster youth both financially and academically, according to the study.

“Informal programs are less likely to work since foster youth lack guidance and have learned to rely on structured institutional programs,” said study co-author Melinda Westland, a graduate student at University of the Pacific’s Gladys L. Benerd School of Education.

“Simply having a dedicated person whom foster youth can go to and ask questions — something many of these young people have never had — could really make a difference to their college success,” she added.

For the study, Westland and co-researcher Ronald Hallett, Ph.D., an associate professor of education at University of the Pacific, observed the experiences of seven foster youth over a 2-1/12 semester journey through a California community college.

Three factors stood out during the study: Since the participants’ foster families had not owned or provided access to computers, most of the youth had only basic or nonexistent computer skills when they entered college.

Money was also a problem. While many college students get at least some financial help from their families (studies show parents provide an average of $2,200 a year to children up to age 34), foster youth often have no outside financial help.

Finally, although the foster youth believed that earning a four-year degree was a pathway to future stability, they were confused about the process of transferring from a community college.

The researchers conclude that foster youth who enroll in community college need additional financial support, structured campus programming, and psychosocial support. For example, students in the study who became aware of campus resources, such as a tutoring center, took advantage of those resources and began to have more success.

“A structured support program could help foster youth find and use resources already available to students,” Hallett said. “That alone could make a significant difference.”

A student identified as Amanda summed up the views of most participants in the study: “I wish I had someone who cared about my future as much as I did, so they could help me along that path.”

The study findings will be presented during the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Chicago.

500 Children Adopted During Holiday Season!

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TALLAHASSEE, FL—More than 500 children from Pensacola to Miami were adopted during dozens of November celebrations of National Adoption Month. “Our goal for children in foster care is to find a forever family who will love them, accept them and give them the home that they deserve,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. “I am so proud of our agency and our partners who are always looking for a permanent home for our kids.” Florida’s Explore Adoption campaign takes place each November. A newly redesigned website at http://www.adoptflorida.org highlighted amazing children and sibling groups in foster care each day of the month with photos and videos. The children most in need of homes are teens, sibling groups and children with special needs whose biggest dream is to be part of a permanent, loving family. “I would like to thank all of our wonderful parents who adopted children this month, and throughout this year,” said Florida’s Chief Child Advocate Zack Gibson, Director of the Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection. “National Adoption Month may be over, but our work is not finished. There are still about 750 children waiting for a family to call their own.” More than 500 adoptions have been reported from our community-based care partners across the state. All of the adoptions have not yet been reported, so the number may still increase. Last year, 3,250 children were adopted from Florida’s foster care system. That was the fifth year in a row that more than 3,000 children were adopted from foster care, bringing the total to more than 17,000. Additionally, over the past two years, Florida has significantly reduced the number of children in foster care available for adoption without an identified family. Florida’s children come into foster care through no fault of their own but because they were abused, neglected or abandoned. They come from varied backgrounds, circumstances, races and ethnicities. While some have specific medical, physical or emotional issues that require special care, many do not. Their entire life histories are shared with prospective adoptive parents. While private adoption can cost more than $30,000, adopting one of Florida’s children in foster care costs little or nothing. The benefits include a monthly adoption subsidy for the family, health benefits for the child, and free college tuition at a Florida public university, community college or vocational school. For more information about the “30 Days of Amazing Children: Explore Adoption!” initiative or general questions about adoption of foster children in Florida, please visit www.adoptflorida.org, please visit to send your donations at http://www.gofundme.com/fepxos  call 1-800-962-3678 (1-800-96-ADOPT), or check out our Twitter feed at @ExploreAdoption.

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.

 

Teaching Foster Care Children On How To Be Strong & Resilient

Good Morning Foster Care Kids Need Love Too! #Drawingsuccess #unity #hope #love #adoption #fostercare Ms. Lynne Namka which is a supporter of our organization wanted to share materials about how foster children can be taught to be strong and resilient. “Drawing Success” Foster children can be taught to be strong and resilient. Lesson Plans from the Positive Psychology Research to position high-risk children for success. Free PDF book giveaway! To develop strong, resilient children, praise them for their effort and hard work instead of their talent or looks) while teaching them that mistakes are part of learning and to deal with the inevitable uncomfortable feelings they will experience, teach emotional intelligence, choose kind friends and being able to bounce back after adversity. Please share with your readers.

Strong and R

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too


• FREE PDF Lesson Plan Book – Teaching Resilience to Children!
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Also send your monetary donations at: http://tinyurl.com/a4prjwm

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.

New Law That Keeps Older Kids In Foster Care Creating Need For Parents

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too

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A new law that just took effect keeps foster children in the system longer to help them transition into adulthood, but it also creates a new problem.

Derik Moss-Clark, 18, said he had a rough childhood.

He had been left alone in hotel rooms, abandoned at his house and even sold drugs in eighth grade to pay the rent.

“I got woke up daily getting abused, beat, burned,” he said.

He has been in and out of the foster system since age nine.

He knows that many kids in similar situations aren’t ready to move out on their own at age 18.

“We want to leave the system, we want to live our own lives, but because of what we’ve been through and the trauma we’ve dealt with we are not necessarily ready,” he said.

That’s why he supports the new law that just took effect January 1. It allows foster children to stay in the system until they’re 21.

Before they’d be forced out at 18, left to deal with the problems of the world on their own. They would get some assistance from the state. This new law allows them to receive more benefits.

But now there’s an even greater need for foster parents.

Nicole Pulcinimason is a representative with Kids Central INC and works closely with foster children.

“The whole state is looking for foster parents to this group of children,” she said.

DCF leaders said taking on this responsibility is more like a mentor role – rather than a parental role.

“We need foster homes and foster parents who are dedicated to these kids, bring them into their home, and help guide them into their decision making,” Pulcinimason said.

Moss-Clark has found a family with his church and his girlfriend’s relatives.

He’s in his second year of college taking businesses administration classes.

“I want to tell everyone that you don’t have to be what your life has been, you can take every day as a challenge, you can be better than what your parents were, better than the people around you, the situations you walked through,” Moss-Clark said.

Derek is excited for the future, but he knows there are other teens just like him who need the same hope and help.

Right now DCF said there are 200 teens who will turn 18 this year. More than 500 are between the age 18 and 21.