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Local foster families needed

New reform spurs desperate search for resource families

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Katy and Ron Cisco exemplify caring and committed foster parents, the type the state is looking to recruit.

“Many say that fostering changes the life of a child,” said Katy Cisco who, with her husband, united and adopted two siblings. “But we can definitely say it has changed our lives too.” This holiday season the Ciscos will be celebrating their first year as an adoptive family.

Meanwhile, hundreds of other foster children in Contra Costa County and around the state are hoping for a dedicated resource family (like the Ciscos) as California prepares to implement sweeping foster care reform.

On Jan. 1, 2017, California will begin phasing out traditional group homes in favor of committed, nurturing family homes. This effort, known as the Continuum of Care (CCR), is rooted in the understanding that children who must live apart from their biological families do best when they are cared for in a family home environment.

“I was bullied a lot in group homes,” said Justice Woods, a former group home foster child. “It was hard to concentrate on my homework and get the attention I needed.”

With more than 1,100 children currently living in out-of-home care in Contra Costa County, the need for foster families, or “resource families” as CCR refers to them, is greater than ever. When Contra Costa County children can no longer live safely in their own homes, loving and committed resource families provide the stability they need as they transition to permanent living situations.

To that end, the Employment & Human Services Department (EHSD) is launching Children & Family Services’ (CFS) new foster parent recruitment campaign: Change the Life of a Child, Including Your Own. The campaign’s purpose is to create awareness and encourage Contra Costa residents to consider how a little extra space and a lot of heart can make a profound difference for children in need of a secure place to call home – as well as positively impact the lives of the foster parents themselves.

An expanded team of recruiters who provide community outreach at local events, as well as to businesses, service organizations and faith-based groups is bolstering Contra Costa County’s recruitment efforts. Recruiters also conduct orientation programs designed to educate interested parents about the process and requirements of becoming a Resource Family. Participants must live in Contra Costa County, meet state licensing requirements for housing, safety and income, pass a background check, and possess the skills, stamina and patience to deal effectively with children who may have emotional or physical challenges. These orientations are held regularly throughout the County, and CFS is seeing an uptick in attendance and applications from families who want to help build a bridge to a better future for these children.

Providing the most vulnerable children with security and support during the transition back to their birth families or to a permanent adoptive home is not just challenging for the children involved. Becoming a caregiver demands a level of commitment that often requires a support system of its own. Therefore, the campaign’s purpose also includes generating awareness among Contra Costa residents, businesses and civic leaders who can provide additional help in supporting County resources that enable many of these families to step forward.

The next local series of informal orientation seminars will be held from 5-7 p.m. Jan. 12 and Jan. 24 at the Contra Costa County Employment & Human Services Department Office, 500 Ellinwood Way, Pleasant Hill. For more information, call (925) 602-6910 or toll free, 1-866-313-7788. No registration is necessary to attend.

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