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Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund grant helps spread word about need for foster families

By Diane Y. Welch

Contributor

Editor’s note:

This is the third article in a four-part series that spotlights four separate local organizations, each having received a financial gift from the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund.

The Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund (RSFWF) recently received word from the Angels Foster Family Network (Angels) — one of eight local organizations to benefit from this year’s funding awards — that its grant has already made a huge impact.

Angels, a recipient in the Health and Social Services category, used most of the $40,000 donation to pay for a wide-reaching public relations outreach and media campaign.

“We had the largest group ever at an orientation last week — 16 couples — and as a result we are now offering two informational sessions per month so that we can get everyone interested into an orientation and those who qualify, signed up for the October training series,” said Cathy Richman, the agency’s founder and director. “We are thrilled at the high volume this campaign has created and, most of all, we remain so very grateful to the RSF Women’s Fund group for making this all possible.”

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The media effort is to recruit qualified foster families, to increase community awareness of the critical need for foster families and to spotlight some of the problems faced by infants and toddlers, some of them abused and in desperate need of care.

There were five members of the RSFWF who were assigned to the site visit committee: Annabel Moore, Kathy Yash, Gail Kendall, Becky Horowitz and Diane Murphy, committee leader. Each were touched by what they learned about the organization.

“I volunteered for this site visit because I have a friend who actually has fostered for something like this and is deeply rewarded for the love and protection of a child,” said Horowitz. “The way the government works, you have so much slip through the cracks [but] the woman who runs the organization is strictly volunteering and has given time and unconditional love to make this work.”

During the site visit, at Richman’s office in San Diego, a foster mother was there with her baby whom she was planning to adopt. “Needless to say, I had a lump in my throat throughout the visit,” Horowitz recalled on meeting that foster mother.

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The encounter also touched Murphy. “We were informed of the circumstances of this baby being taken away from his parents and his physical and emotional state at that time. To see, months later, how happy and healthy-looking this little boy was and how attached he was to his foster mom showed how very important it is to have a foster family agency such as Angels be available to place babies with their wonderful families,” she said.

Unlike traditional foster care agencies, Angels focuses solely on newborns to 2-year olds. Families must pass stringent screening requirements and undergo orientation prior to fostering. They care for only one child or sibling group at a time and one stay-at-home parent is required to provide full-time love and care for all babies under 18 months. In addition, the families agree to keep the babies until their permanent home is decided by the court, said Murphy.

Foster parents train for eight weeks. Training is interactive and includes a pass/fail component. Angels social workers are on call 24 hours a day to Angels foster parents and, as such, no phone call or request is left unattended for more than five-six hours, said Richman.

Angels has been placing children in foster homes for 12 years. “We stay in close touch with many of our families over the years and we are able to monitor the progress of children now up to 12 years old,” Richman said.

Overall, children who came into placement as infants, drug exposed in-utero, with broken bones, severe bruising, or malnourished have developed at normal rates once stabilized with their Angels families. Approximately 50 percent of those children who have been in foster care for a period of 90 days-plus, are adopted by their Angels family because reunification efforts with their birth families proved unsuccessful, said Richman.

“How fortunate these babies are to live with one loving family for the duration of their foster care time, rather than go back into the foster care system and move from family to family,” said Murphy. “Hopefully, one day soon, Angels’ goal of substantially increasing their foster family base will be realized so that they will never have to turn a child away for lack of foster parents.”

To find out more about the Angels Foster Family Network, visit

www.angelsfoster.org

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