By Steven Lalich for Marin Department of Health and Human Services
June 16, 2022
When Molly and her brother became wards of the court and were placed into a Marin County foster home at the age of 15, life, at last, began to look brighter. The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services Children and Family Services Foster Care Program was part of that new hope.
“Luckily, we had amazing people to support us through the transition and serve as our family while preparing for college and adulthood,” said the now 22-year-old. This year, she and her brother hope to create more awareness regarding the need for new qualified foster parents in Marin County. Of the 80 plus children in Marin’s foster care system, nearly 40% are placed outside the County. Being separated from extended family, peers, school settings, and faith community is not ideal.
Like the more than 407,000 children in foster care nationally, Marin’s foster youth experience a reality quite different from most of their peers. Their lives are characterized by the instability of the most basic support systems many take for granted. The safety net of a parent, a home, or a nutritious meal doesn’t exist for them. They are among the most vulnerable children in America.
“Children are placed into foster care because their family is in crisis,” said Bree Marchman, Marin County Children and Family Services director. “Every situation is unique and may require temporary out-of-home care because of parental neglect, abuse, or exploitation. The welfare and safety of a child should never be compromised.”
The primary goal for any child in foster care is to be reunited with their family of origin. However, certain safety conditions must be met before a child can return. A parallel goal might be for permanent placement with a relative, family friend, or foster or adoptive parent. Finding available Resource Families to fulfill this goal is vital.
Resource Families are foster parents, relatives, or non-related extended family members who take children into their homes when children cannot safely remain with their parents. With support, they provide a safe, nurturing environment until a child can be reunited with family. Children usually live with their Resource Families from three to 12 months. Adults of all ages and ethnic backgrounds and families of all compositions are needed. You may be single, part of a couple, male or female, and of any sexual orientation. You may rent or own your home. A small monthly stipend is provided to offset basic needs, including assistance for childcare. If reunification does not occur, Resource Families will sometimes offer a permanent home for children through adoption or guardianship.
Lesia Knudsen is one of those Resource Parents. She has fostered teens for the last seven years and worked with Marin’s Children and Family Services as a mentor and expert. Lesia said, “Fostering is a noble and selfless act that is challenging but fulfilling! Resource Parents need to be educated and given the information and advice to raise foster teens.” This is where collaborations with other organizations become essential.
In partnership with the Marin Foster Care Association, Children and Family Services helped launch Lunch and Learn, a monthly gathering to allow prospective foster parents to discuss the foster care system with current foster parents and learn how to help support youth in the community. Marchman added, “Without the support of organizations like the Marin Foster Care Association and others, our job of helping children in their time of need would not be possible.”
The need for more resource families ─ especially for teens ─ has never been greater. Leslie Fields, Children and Family Services recruitment and retention specialist, said, “Even before the onset of COVID-19, identifying Resource Families had been challenging. The pandemic made it just a little bit harder.” She added, “As things are starting to get back to normal, I’d urge anyone who has ever considered fostering to reach out to me.”
All interested persons are invited and welcome to attend these meetings. Social workers from the County Health and Human Services and a Resource Parent host the monthly online sessions to answer questions regarding the fostering process. For more information and registration for an orientation meeting, visit www.FosterOurFuture.org or call Leslie Fields at (415) 473-6418