water polo women Foster parent support center opens in downtown Eureka
The Forgotten Initiative has turned a retail space across from the downtown Eureka post office into a bright, colorful space full of items for foster children, foster parents and social workers.
While the faith based nonprofit has long operated a clothing closet at the Eureka First Church of the Nazarene to help foster parents, the opening of the downtown Eureka center will allow The Forgotten Initiative to broaden that offering, organizer Janelle Harris said.
That includes twice a month babysitting sessions with volunteers from the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center and Christ Episcopal Church providing activities for foster children.
an important ministry of our church to support The Forgotten Initiative, said Rev. Nancy Streufert, an associate priest at Christ Episcopal Church and the clergy liaison to the program.
The new Eureka center will also provide services to biological parents who have been able to regain custody of their children and assistance to social workers who have the job of removing children from their home. For example, the Foster Care Resource Center provides bags duffel bags filled with several items that can offer some comfort, such as a blanket, toothbrush, toothpaste and a stuffed toy or doll.
Harris has served as a foster parent to more than 30 children throughout the years some for a few days, some a few months and some much longer. She recalled times when the children arrived without shoes and just the clothes they were wearing.
Oftentimes, Harris said, she would go out and immediately purchase what the child needed. And, many times, those expenses aren covered by the state approved allotment for foster parents.
spend more than we get, she said.
The expanded closet also includes toys and stuffed animals and books and toiletries and other items to make the children feel at home. Everything is free. A Christ Episcopal Church quilting group makes brightly colored blankets for the center.
Future plans include support groups for foster parents and others.
Foster care in Humboldt County
In February of this year, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Social Services Branch put out a call for foster homes. At the time, DHHS Deputy Director of Children and Family Services Stephanie Weldon said the county was experiencing both a spike in the number of children needing foster homes and a fluctuation in the number of available foster homes.
Weldon, who is now the director of the DHHS Social Services Branch, said the county has been able to increase the number of foster care homes since earlier this year, but the need for more continues.
definitely have a need to recruit and have more foster care providers, she said.
At present, there are 346 foster children and 87 licensed foster homes the latter a marked increase since February.
Typically, Weldon said, a child is placed in foster care because of neglect often due to substance abuse or mental health disorders or both.
In recent years, the county has also sought foster homes for 18 to 21 year olds, known as non minor dependents, who have opted to remain as dependents. In most cases, they remain in foster homes. They can live independently and be assigned to a foster parent who will provide guidance in life skills, said Michele Stephens, deputy director of Children Family Services for DHHS.
To be a non minor dependent, enrollees must have already been in the foster care system and must be going to school or working. The program has been in effect since 2012 and is linked to the passage of state Assembly Bill 12, known as the California Fostering Connections to Success Act.
Slightly older foster children, 10 years and up, also can be a little more difficult to place, said Keri Schrock, a program manager for the DHHS Social Services Branch.
Schrock said the Social Services Branch does have a part time staff member charged with reaching out to those possibly interested in becoming foster parents. The employee staffs informational booths at various community events, sharing facts about what involved. Sometimes current licensed foster parents assist in the recruitment process by answering questions and sharing experiences with potential foster parents.
One of the first steps is calling the county Foster Care Hotline at 499 3410.
The county preference is to place a child with a member of his or her family. If that not possible, other foster parents are contacted. Each foster parent can establish parameters for the types of placement they accept. Sometimes that determined by age, length of stay, gender or other factors. There is no income requirement and foster parents do not have to own their own homes, Stephens said. They can be single, in a relationship or simply roommates.
One of the ongoing needs is for those willing to offer short term, emergency crisis foster parenting opening the doors to a child taken from their parents, sometimes in the middle of the night. In many such situations, the foster care parents provide a home from between one day to several weeks often while the county works out arrangements for the child or children to stay with a relative.
There also a need for tribally specified foster homes, with the goal of keeping Native American children with Native American foster parents. The preference is for foster parents of the same tribe as the foster child but, at the minimum, with Native American foster parents of a differing tribal identity. The goal is to support the child cultural identity.
More than income or age or demographics it the character of a person that determines his or her ability to become a good foster parent. Commitment, patience, an open heart, flexibility and even a thick skin all help.