I interviewed a counselor at an emergency shelter for teenagers. It is a 6 bed group home for teens to stay temporarily while they wait to become a ward of the court. Over the years she had met hundreds of them and so I was eager to hear what she had to say. I began by asking if they all have one thing in common. She said yes. She said that they haven’t been nurtured.
The goal of the foster care system is to retrain the kids’ biological parents and then return their child to them as quickly as possible. With that said, they are dealing with parents who are so dysfunctional that they didn’t even nurture them which is easy and it’s free. In every case, lack of nurturing is just the tip of the iceberg. They didn’t lose their kids because they forgot to hug them and look in their backpack for math homework; they lost them because they hit them and made them walk home from school in the rain without a jacket. It raises questions about why Child Protective Services (“CPS”) would be in a hurry to reunify a child with such dysfunctional parents.
In my opinion it’s because they have nowhere else to send them. There is a severe shortage of foster homes and many of those that exist have very serious problems. For example, the county sends money to foster parents every month in order to pay for the child’s living expenses and many foster parents use it to pay for their own personal living expenses and they neglect the foster child. To prevent this from happening some placement agencies screen out unemployed applicants. Stay at home moms who lack the income to support their families fall into this category.
There are 1,359 foster children in San Francisco. Approximately 88% need a home for one year or less because they will be returned to their parents or a relative. Approximately 12% (about 163 kids) are up for adoption which means that a judge has already decided not to return them and to find new permanent parents.
If you or if someone you know has thought about adopting a child than this is your grand opportunity. Call a foster placement agency that does adoptions. I think adoption is free and their eligibility criteria is basic. I know for certain that a single adult who has a regular job and rents a two bedroom apartment can adopt a foster child. Agencies really need LGBT friendly homes, and also homes that will accept multiple siblings.
If adoption is too much of a commitment for you right now than you can be a traditional foster parent and have a kid for one year while their parents are retrained in court ordered classes, or while an agency searches for other relatives.
These are a few foster placement agencies that serve San Francisco:
- FamilyBuilders. Family Recruiter: Rahel Negusse. (888) 732-4453.
- Aspiranet’s Adoption Division: (925) 753-2156
- Alternative Family Services’ Foster Parent Division (for temporary placements): Thomas Whittington (510) 282-8354.
- EMQ FamiliesFirst (South San Francisco) (877) 488-5437.
If you can’t be a foster parent right now than you can still help by donating gifts for kids at Sleep Train, which is a chain of mattress stores. This is the company’s statement: “Our Foster Kids program engages the community to participate in helping foster children find normalcy in a life filled with transitions. Through our drives and fundraising Charity Golf Tournament, Sleep Train provides essential items such as school supplies, clothing, shoes, pajamas, and gifts during the holidays as well as cash to support continuing education opportunities.”
This is their donation drive schedule:
- On now through September 5: School Supply Drive (backpacks, calculators, paper, pencils, binders, etc.)
- September 26-October 30: Dollar Drive (cash donations)
November 1-December 11: Secret Santa Toy Drive (drop off new toys that are still in their original packages)
There are three Sleep Train stores in San Francisco where you can drop off your donations: 4801 Geary Blvd., 3100 Geary Blvd., and 1600 Van Ness Ave.