It Takes a Village: Solving the Foster Care Crisis Together
“It takes a village,” said Julissa Castillo, executive director of McKinley Children's Center, during “Foster Care in L.A. County: Challenges and Opportunities,” a public forum co-hosted by Azusa Pacific and Citrus College. Douglas Hume, J.D., assistant professor of political science, and Dave Milbrandt, author and adjunct professor of political science at Citrus College, moderated the forum. The panel, comprised of concerned community members, school representatives, state agents, and foster care social workers, came together to tackle the growing foster care crisis in Los Angeles County and nationwide.
The Alliance for Children’s Rights reports that approximately 28,000 children are in the foster care system in L.A. County alone, yet the number of foster parents is decreasing dramatically. A high percentage of youth who age out of the system face inadequate housing, low educational and career attainment, early parenthood, substance abuse, physical and mental health problems, and immersion into the criminal justice system. “The state of foster care can be discouraging, but there are so many wonderful stories of hope and redemption, too,” said Bobbi Thomas M.S., MFT, program director and professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Graduate Psychology. “Foster children need to be loved and reassured that their situation is not their fault.”
The panelists discussed the lack of support and cooperation within the foster care community. Abigail (Aldrich ’00) and Jacob Gaines, foster and adoptive parents and co-pastors of Glendora Vineyard Church, shared their personal account of being left out of critical decision-making regarding their foster children. “We need to see one another as resources, and transform the foster care system through a cooperative, holistic approach,” said Emily Blackmer, MSW, assistant professor in the Department of Social Work. The panelists, including Kathryn Barger, chief of staff for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and candidate for the 5th District supervisor seat, Karen Dixon, facilitator and trainer with the Foster Kinship Education Program at Citrus College, and Veronica Norwood, supervising children’s social worker (SCSW) with the Department of Children and Family Services, agreed that the best hope for improving the foster care crisis is for communities to stop relying on dense government legislation to solve the foster care crisis. Instead, communities must join forces to support their disenfranchised children.
The panel urged forum attendees to get involved with the foster care system. “There are some issues that seem unsolvable,” said Jacob. “However, we should look at the foster care crisis as an opportunity to find a common purpose.” He added that faith communities are especially equipped to help foster children. “If every church were to find one family among its entire congregation willing to make the journey, we would already be on our way to solving this crisis,” he said. Abigail agreed. “We cannot say that personally investing in foster care is easy,” she said, “but we can say with certainty that it must be done.”
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Posted: November 7, 2016