Community event raises awareness for county’s foster care needs

About seven children enter the Ellis County foster care system every day, and more community involvement is needed to help these children grow up and reach positive futures, said representatives from Ellis County foster care service providers.

Saturday, SWAGG hosted an event in Getzendaner Memorial Park to help local foster care organizations connect with each other and share information with the community about the needs and opportunities to help those in foster care. SWAGG assists foster and homeless children to create a standard of excellence that promotes Serenity, Wisdom, Agility, Grace and Guidance developed through comprehensive programs, according to the nonprofit’s website.

“It is very important we are informed that foster children are here in our community and that we are ready to serve them. They are in our schools, our churches,” said Nikki Ranson, the founder of SWAGG. “Everyone can’t foster or adopt, but everyone can do something.”

Children needing a foster or adoptive home are coming from abusive or neglectful homes, said Tara Moore, clinical supervisor of foster and adoption for Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services.

“The really hard part is children are being abused by people they should be able to trust,” Moore said. “We need families that are specially trained to meet those trauma needs.”

Foster care is about more than providing babysitting, she said. It is about teaching the children to trust again and to find hope and healing. Many studies like those done by the TCU Institute of Child Development show the positive, long-term impacts a good foster family can have on a child, she said.

“Studies show that if a child has at least one safe, healthy, relationship with an adult, they are less likely to end up in prison, are more likely to get higher education and more likely have healthy relationships,” Moore said.

That one positive relationship can be built during a foster child’s six-month to year-and-a-half stay at a foster home, she said.

There are also ways to help the teens who are aging out of the foster care system, said Carla Latcher with U-nique Purpose, Inc., an organization that helps teenagers find a sense of their own identity and a direction they want to pursue when they are on their own.

“If you look at a teen in foster care, they have often moved a minimum of five times. They don’t know who they are or how resilient they are,” Latcher said. “Every foster parent is different and if that child can adapt and stay in that home, they have more skills than I do.”

She helps the teens celebrate their birthdays, earn college credit through in-service learning and find a dream and a plan they want to move towards, she said.

Studies show a percentage of foster children end up in prison, she said.

She believes it is because those that age out of care don’t leave with an understanding of how to reach their goals or have a support network to fall back on when they hit a hard stop, she said. Their “stranger danger” skills are also less developed because they have spent so much time living with people they didn’t know, she said. Latcher said she hopes the teens U-nique works with will gain that network of support and some skills to navigate toward a better future, she said.

“The biggest help from the community is resources; being able to network and connect to those resources,” said Samantha Williams, with Circle of Living. “Let’s have the community come together and surround these children to give them the resources and knowledge they need.”

Circle of Living is a foster care and adoption agency.

Even if a person or family is not able to foster a child, there are other ways to help. Respite families care for children for a evening or overnight while their foster parents go on a date or have time to take care of things they can’t do while caring for the foster children, Moore said. Volunteers are also needed for the times foster parents are in Saturday continuing education classes to keep their certification.

For those considering becoming a foster parent or family, the first step is to contact a foster care placement agency and become informed. Presbyterian homes hold monthly informational meetings, and has people willing to discuss foster care one-on-one. The agencies can also help people navigate the application process and provide the proper training, she said.

“There is no typical foster family,” Moore said. “Anyone at any stage can get involved.”

Some families are retirees or empty nesters who discover they have energy and experience to share, others are families with their own children, single parents or many other situations, she said.

There is also a need for foster homes able to take in sibling groups or teens, said Mayra Vargas, a foster care and adoption recruiter with Buckner. “Teenagers are a bit intimidating. Some families eventually do it and they say it’s not that bad, they actually listen to you more than the younger kids. So we need more of those brave families.”

Those wanting to find a way to donate or volunteer can contact a foster care agency or call her at 214-463-3971, Ranson said.

 

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.