As is often the case, when something new comes along, something else typically gets displaced or overshadowed. The positive transition to emphasizing trauma-informed care and trauma-informed practices with children in foster care has had the unfortunate result of reducing the conversation on resiliency. While trauma-informed care has been a valuable shift in this field, it cannot and was not meant to standalone.
Igniting the Flame of Resiliency
A Resource Parent Looks Back
It’s hard to believe that Family Care Network is celebrating 30 years of enhancing the “wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our Community.” I became a certified foster parent with Family Care Network 27 years ago when the agency was only three years old. I knew I had found the perfect agency to support me in being a Resource Parent when I learned that the very first training was all about communication and creating effective, genuine relationships.
As I think about the many years I have been a Resource Parent with FCNI, I am lead to express my thanks.
“Heroes didn't leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn't wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else's. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.” - Jodi Picoult, Second Glance
Tara Brown started fostering as a young single mom because she had a dream about helping children in the foster care system. Her story is beautiful, wonderful and nothing short of miraculous. At first glance, Tara might seem to some as an ordinary woman, but you’ll quickly find that she is far from ordinary, and has made a world of difference to one child, her newly adopted son. When you learn more about Tara’s story your first question might be, “Why would she foster and then adopt when her life presents so many obstacles that seem impossible to overcome?” Her answer to this is simple yet profound: “Faith, hope and love.”
In the U.S., 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. Of these children, 101,666 are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32% of them will wait over three years in care before being adopted. So, come on folks--there are kids who need you! But not so quick—this is a decision which needs thorough research, careful deliberation and thoughtful decision making.
RFA Hopes and Challenges
It goes without saying, there is a very pronounced distrust of--and for some, a profound distaste for--government bureaucracy. I totally understand these feelings, even though I do think it is grossly exaggerated by those who live on the fringe who hate government period. The reality is, every large organization, be it private-sector or governmental, is supported by an unwieldy bureaucratic structure; it’s the nature of the beast. Initiating change within a monstrous bureaucracy of any type is epic, however, I think government tops the charts for slowness, inflexibility and a lack of innovation.
An FCNI Youth's Journey to Rebuild
This Sunday, FCNI will host our Benefit for Kids, an annual showcasing of the best food and beverages on the Central Coast combined with a silent and live auction. Proceeds earned through the event support the over 1800 children, youth and families we serve annually. This event has become one of our favorites, mostly because we get to partner with so many amazing community members. Outstanding restaurants, wineries, breweries, and an amazing group of donors and esteem guests, all come together to collectively support those we serve in their efforts to overcome trauma and live healthier, more successful lives. It’s a sight to see so many talented and compassionate people spend an afternoon not only celebrating the many benefits of living on the Central Coast, but also working to support a shared purpose of ensuring that everyone in our community has the resources and opportunities necessary to thrive!
Below is a success story written about Carmen*, a foster youth who was placed in our Intensive Therapeutic Foster Care program when she was 15. Her struggles to overcome various obstacles and traumas, exemplify how critical our community’s support is; we serve 1800+ other “Carmens,” and without community-connection, investment and resources, we couldn’t help them reach their goals and flourish.
Over the past four years, California has undertaken a colossal effort to “reform” the state’s foster care system. Much has been written about this initiative, so I won’t dive into the details. In essence, the Continuum of Care Reform (or CCR as it is referred to) will, theoretically at least, move thousands of youth from group homes/congregate care to family-based services; it will recast group homes as short-term residential treatment programs (STRTP) to prevent kids from being raised in group homes; it will make it easier for youth placed with relatives to receive appropriate services; and it will introduce new levels of provider accountability, all to ensure a faster, more efficient way to achieve permanency for foster children and youth. It sounds great, actually. And as a concept, it is great, but…
Who Carries it in Foster Care?
Over the course of the past month, I have given extra thought to the concepts and reality of “foster care”, primarily because May is National Foster Care month. As I thought about “what” foster care really is and includes, I quickly became overwhelmed. Broken down into small parts such as foster children, foster parents, Foster Family Agency, social worker, therapist, Community Care Licensing, etc. and “foster care” can be understood and managed in my small mind. However, “foster care” in its entirety is a complex and complicated system. As I struggled with the question of “What is foster care, really?” my simple mind would soon turn to thoughts of Disneyland. Now, those of you who have been or are currently in foster care or may have a daily connection to “foster care”, are probably thinking: “This guy has lost all connection to reality,” because foster care and Disneyland may seem like complete opposites.
The Diversity of Resource Parents
Over the past 26 years that I have been a part of the Family Care Network’s Circle of Serving as a Resource Parent, I have gotten to know many, many other Resource Parents. Before I learned about the diversity of kids needing foster care I had a picture in my mind of what a foster child looks like and what a foster family looked like. My picture included infants or toddlers needing families composed of young couples with or without their own kids. Back when I started foster parenting in 1990, I was surprised to learn that there were teens in need of homes and that Resource Parents came in all ages, and were both couples or singles. After all these years, I can truly say that there is no standard demographic for a Resource Parent.
Words of Gratitude from Jim Roberts, our CEO
For the better part of five decades, I have worked with Foster Parents (now re-branded as Resource Parents). This group of extraordinary, unique individuals have certainly left an indelible, positive imprint on my life. I am not sure I have the skills to craft an appropriate expression of gratitude I have for those who have turned their homes and lives into sanctuaries, hospitals, safe havens, classrooms and sometimes even battlefields for our children and youth (and not without costs)... but here I go.