It should go without saying — regardless of political affiliation — it is far better for our communities to solve local needs rather than depend upon the government. Right now on the Central Coast there is a significant need which needs families and individuals to rally together to solve!
To put it bluntly, there are not enough individuals and families to care for and meet the needs of the children and youth in our local foster care system. This shortage represents a significant community need — these are our kids who, through no fault of their own, have been removed from their families. These children and youth need our help.
My organization, the Family Care Network, has partnered with our Central Coast counties for nearly 30 years to provide families who nurture, support, and provide treatment to foster children and youths. At one time, we had enough families to serve 150 or so foster youth. Now, we have about one third of that capacity. And all of our local foster care agencies are being similarly impacted.
In my 45-plus years of working with foster youth, I have never seen a time such as this, where it has become increasingly challenging to recruit foster families, now called “Resource Families” in California. And this scarcity is not without consequence — serious consequences — for our children.
Imagine what it must feel like for a child to be traumatized by abuse or neglect, traumatized again by being removed from their family for their safety, and then further traumatized when there isn’t a family available to care for them. It is not uncommon for a child taken into Child Protective Custody to be placed in a motel room with 24/7 supervision or trucked to an out-of-county institutional shelter, all due to the lack of local families. Unfortunately, children are being cared for this way more regularly.
The need for Resource Families here on the Central Coast is further compounded by recent changes in Public Policy. California has embarked upon the most sweeping overhaul of its foster care system ever. This overhaul involves seriously limiting the use of group homes and institutional care for foster youth and increasing the use of family-based care. This change in policy is wonderful news for foster children and youth, as it allows them to be cared for in a family-based setting while remaining in their own community and in their own school, close to their friends and family.
The downside of this reform process, however, is that there are not enough families to serve foster children and youth. Currently, there are close to 60 children and youth within San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties who need to be returned to our community to be placed in a family-based setting from their group homes, compounding the already present shortage of homes.
Let me dispel some of the “myths” about foster care:
(1) Foster youth are not “bad,” or “problem,” kids; these youth are victims.
(2) Foster parents care for youth until they become adults. Actually, the goal of foster care is to reunify children with their families or place them in a permanent home quickly — foster care is not the permanent solution.
(3) Foster parents are obligated to adopt their foster child. Adoption is a voluntary choice to provide a permanent home — it is not required or expected.
(4) Foster parents are left to fend for themselves. Hardly. The Family Care Network provides services and supports 24/7 and works very closely with our Resource Families to make sure their needs are met and they are successful.
(5) Only married couples can become foster parents. This myth is far from reality. Any individual or family who meets legal requirements can become a Resource Family. Anyone willing to serve, can help.
There are many foster care options for individuals or families to choose from. There is Emergency Shelter Care where the parent is available to receive children taken into protective custody. Or a family can choose to provide Respite Care, taking in foster children periodically or short-term to give another family a break. Many local families are interested in Foster-Adoption, receiving a foster child who is eligible for adoption. Providing Basic Care of children pending family reunification or permanency placement is the most common form of foster care. Many individuals and families are now choosing to provide Treatment Family Care (TFC), where they learn specialized skills to help foster children heal, participate in the treatment-team process, and receive intensive services and supports in order to promote their success.
Foster children’s medical, dental and mental health needs are completely paid for and the Resource Parents receive financial reimbursement to make sure they’re fully able to provide for the foster youth in their care. Under California’s new “reform,” Resource Parent reimbursement rates have been increased, and for those individuals and families providing Treatment Family Care, reimbursement rates are designed to allow one stay-at-home parent; plus, all foster care reimbursements are tax-free child support.
Right now, more than ever, there is an opportunity for you to be part of solving a serious need on our Central Coast. The Family Care Network would be ecstatic to approve an additional 25-30 new Resource Families in both of the counties we serve.
If you have a heart for children, are a family with or wanting kids, single, or an “empty nester,” there is a child or youth who needs you. Please call (805) 781-3535 or toll-free (866) 781-3535 and someone will personally answer all of your questions; you can also visit FCNI.org
or email us at ResourceFamily@fcni.org.
Please spread the word — there is a call to action! Let’s make sure our Central Coast children and youth are properly cared for.
Jim Roberts is CEO and founder of Family Care Network in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.