A Condition of the Heart

A Condition of the Heart May be Cure for Foster Parenting Myths

Leader in local foster care community calls for action to address acute shortage of caregivers

(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) — July 26, 2016 — “Santa Barbara suffers from a serious shortage of resource families to care for the county’s 425 children in need of a loving home, and a number of untrue but persistent myths about foster care may be responsible for the shortage,” says local resident and President of the Santa Barbara County Resource Parent Association Jenna Hayden.

“There are so many foster youth that need families to come alongside of them,” says Hayden. “And I know in Santa Barbara County there are amazing resource families that are right on the periphery and willing to do it. But there are a number of challenges that have prevented qualified people and families from volunteering and helping the community become stronger.”

Among those challenges are common myths about foster care. These myths include:

· A person must be of a certain economic background, marital status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, education level or gender to foster a child.
· A resource parent must be female, and that there are age limitations to being a resource parent.
· Most children in foster care have had dozens of placements, that opening a home to them can be dangerous, and that letting go is too hard.

But Hayden believes the only true requirement is a condition of the heart.

“One of the most beautiful and enlightening things I’ve learned,” says Hayden, “is that the best resource parents aren’t always who you’d think they might be. I’ve met an incredible resource mom who was 24 years old. Some of the best I know are over 60, and some are men. If the adult is trustworthy, committed, and can love, there is a good chance they’ll be a great resource parent.”

Hayden and her husband have been involved in the resource family community since 2008 when they became licensed foster care providers. Over the last eight years the Haydens have fostered three children and Jenna has lent support to over 50 resource families, each of them unique and valuable in their contribution to the community.

According to Our County, Our Kids, a program of the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services, the average number of placements for a child is three, and while many children enter the foster care system as a result of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, the County provides supportive services necessary for resource families and foster youth to feel safe and to thrive.

Hayden believes that while fostering can present challenges, “it’s such a blessing when a child moves beyond his or her fears and becomes part of the family. It has been rewarding to become a forever family through adoption, and equally as rewarding to reunify a foster child with their biological family.” When it comes to saying goodbye, Hayden recognizes that sometimes loving means letting go, and she remembers her former foster youth with a special garden at her home.

In Santa Barbara County, there are over 425 foster children and youth in and out of home care, and there is a continuing need for loving, supportive homes to help them thrive while they are separated from their biological parents or families of origin. Hayden is calling upon the public to step up and help this vulnerable population. “If families, individuals, businesses, and organizations in our city can get involved in some way, our children will be healthier, and so will our neighborhoods and our community as a whole, “says Hayden. “The costs of letting these children go without mentoring, guidance, and support are much greater than stepping up to help now.”

For more information on how you can get involved and help support Santa Barbara County foster children and youth, please contact Gustavo Prado at 805-346-7559.

About Our County. Our Kids

Our County. Our Kids is a program of the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services (SBC DSS). It is the SBC DSS resource family recruitment, retention, and support program. Visit for more information.

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