Help us help our “other children”

Creating a better, more hopeful future for our children so that they can work, live, and recreate here was a major goal in my campaign. It still is. Our daughter is nearing the age of adulthood at warp speed and too often folks tell me about their children and grandchildren who moved away to make a living. I’m still working hard to change that. It’s not happening fast enough.

Besides our kids though, there are others here that need a future and a hope. They are our foster children, most of them removed from their parents and their homes through no fault of their own. Without our help, a large number gravitate to drugs, alcohol, and crime to assuage deep loss.

For many, despite the incredible people at Tuolumne County’s Child Welfare Services (CWS) and loving and dedicated foster families, the wounds they have sustained and living in the system contribute to life-long anger, sadness, and dysfunction.

For various reasons, some children must be removed from their homes and placed for the short and long term in foster care homes and agencies. Many of them are later reunited with their families, but others are not.

California currently has a huge number of foster kids – over 80,000 kids in the system. Tuolumne County has 106 right now (40 of whom we have to place outside the county because we don’t have the foster parents or the types of programs they need).

A recent article in the Health Matters newsletter said it well:

Local Foster Care Homes Urgently Needed

The number of licensed foster care homes is at an all-time low in Tuolumne County and there is an “absolute need for more homes,” according to Erin Gandolfo, Social Worker II with Child Welfare Services (CWS). “Currently there are only thirty local foster care homes and there is an ongoing need for many more.”

Being a foster parent is a commitment, but there are also big rewards in helping children do well. If the commitment seems daunting, Erin suggests, “Just take one child at a time.” CWS is willing to work with what families are able to provide.

Jan Bacon, a foster care parent for many years, gives this insight. “Foster parenting provides the opportunity to demonstrate love in such a way that children will draw from it for many years after they leave your care. One little girl, who I cared for from age 3 to 6, contacted me when she was an adult and the mother of three children. She wanted me to know that she reflected on her time with me as an instruction in raising her own children. It was amazing all she remembered from when she was so young. That is a great reward!”

If additional homes do not become available, children will have to be sent out of the area to foster care agency homes or group homes. This change is especially difficult for children who will then face a change in schools and a move away from their familiar environment. There is currently a need for foster care homes for all ages 0-18.

If you are willing or know of someone who would be interested in becoming a licensed foster care home, contact Erin Gandolfo at 533-5773. Foster care licensing orientation occurs on the third Weds. of each month.

I was a foster child for the first six months of my life before I was adopted. Having a safe, secure home is so very important to all children. Secure children eventually take their place in society as confident, productive adults.

Will you help us help them? Not everyone can be a foster parent – how about donating for scholarships, clothing, or music lessons instead?

There are many ways you can help. Just ask.

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I like going places: out West, west of the West, and all the way around the back of the globe to the East. I like to go by train, plane, automobile, horseback. Whatever. And I like writing about what I see, feel, hear, smell, and touch all along the way and once I get there.

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