By Ellen Spitaleri
The pandemic is not the only crisis in Oregon right now. Unfortunately there are nearly 8,000 children in foster care and the spread of COVID-19 has made some families more hesitant to take in children.
Fortunately, there is an organization working to ensure the safety of families and children when making placements during this time, said Ellie Randall, outreach coordinator for Boys & Girls Aid, a 135-year-old nonprofit dedicated to making sure that every child has a safe and caring place to call home.
Randall encourages anyone interested in learning more about the organization to attend Fostering Futures, a virtual fundraising event, Thursday, April 8, 6-6:30 pm.
“The purpose of the event is to raise funds for local foster youth in the Portland area, and to demonstrate the impact of positive foster care experiences for youth and families,” she said. “There will be speakers at the event, including a special surprise celebrity guest.”
For more about the event, register at fosteringfutures.rallybound.org.
Boys & Girls Aid was founded in 1885, in response to a crisis: children were being abandoned on the streets of Portland with nowhere to go. The agency found homes for these children and is still seeking foster families for children today in Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties.
“Children need homes of refuge just as much now as they ever have and we can’t afford to turn them away during this critical time,” Randall said.
She noted that Boys & Girls Aid receives referrals from the Oregon Department of Human Services and the juvenile justice system.
“Children who are in foster care and need additional support and services are referred to us. We provide specialized training for our parents and regular staff support for children throughout the week,” she added.
Boys & Girls Aid provides substantial tax-free monthly stipends that relieve parents of the financial commitment of fostering. Additionally, there are a variety of foster care programs allowing people to foster even when they work full-time or don’t have a partner to foster with.
“Our staff and programs also work with families on an individual basis to arrange a schedule that will best support their family and the child that is in their care,” Randall said.
“Parents may worry that they are unable to take care of children who display difficult behaviors because of the trauma they’ve experienced. However, we provide comprehensive training to make sure parents are well equipped to support children from all backgrounds,” she said.
In the event that a challenging situation arises, the organization has a 24/7 support hotline that allows parents to access assistance from staff on the phone or in-person.
In the interest of safety, Randall said each adult who wants to foster a child undergoes local, state and federal background checks.
“Therapeutic foster care comes with its challenges, but it is truly one of the most worthwhile and rewarding experiences to be a part of,” Randall said.
For an example, she described the journey Natalie and David Shin embarked upon when they decided to foster a teen who was faced with the possibility of aging out of care.
The couple went through the required training, and while waiting for a placement, they provided relief care for a 17-year-old named Tyler.
“When his circumstances changed, and he needed a new home, the Shins jumped at the chance to support him,” Randall continued.
“It wasn’t easy, Tyler had been through so much in his life and was navigating the complex systems of foster care and juvenile justice. It took a lot of patience, grace, empathy and love, but the Shins were able to help Tyler get accepted into a transitional program where he would be offered housing support and job coaching,” Randall said.
“This was exactly what Tyler needed to ensure he didn’t fall through the cracks in the state system and end up on the streets. Tyler wouldn’t be where he is today without the encouragement and support from David and Natalie,” she said.
“Children in Oregon’s foster care system are longing to find safe homes and supportive adult mentors,” she added. “Anyone over the age of 21 with room in their heart and home should consider whether foster parenting could fit into their life.”
Interested in becoming a foster parent? Visit boysandgirlsaid.org/fostercare, contact Katie Matten at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503.222.9661.