Cynthia is a single mom who’s struggled in the past few years. Left alone with her child, she’d worked incredibly hard to provide what he needs to succeed but came up short. When I met Cynthia, she was living in a shelter. Her possessions consolidated to two garbage bags of clothes.
Cynthia was a perfect candidate for Fortify. As she prepared to move into a new apartment, she was worried about getting furniture for the unit.
“Where Daddy go?,” the toddler in our home incessantly asks.
After the third time in 60 seconds, I gently ask, “Where did I tell you he is?,” with a twinge of annoyance...and a calming deep breath.
“Daddy working in the garage.” “Daddy working.” “Daddy on a trip.” “Daddy running.” “Daddy do pull-ups.” “Daddy making pasta.” (Her favorite meal without a doubt.)
Earlier this week at a DHS Child Welfare branch there was unbelievable loving kindness poured out on a very deserving 16 year old youth. Sleeping at night in a hotel for 2 weeks due to lack of placement resources is unspeakably rough, but spending the days inside a DHS Child Welfare with not much to do? Rougher. Especially when it’s your birthday.
One of the most challenging, sad, and difficult days of a certifier is having to place siblings in different homes. With the current shortage of foster homes, unfortunately, this is a situation we run into far too often.
I entered foster care at the age of 16 with my 4 younger brothers that were 6 years old and younger. Our parents had serious drug problems and were very violent to each other and we didn't have a lot of money. We lived in cars, shelters, friends and family's houses. DHS said our house was “un-live-able," which it very much was. It was always dirty, and there was never any food. I became a parent to my brothers naturally, so I was forced to grow up quick.A
At our IceBreaker meeting, she nervously clutched her hands and looked down at her shoes, “This caught me off guard. I wasn’t planning to be here again.” She was a young mom struggling to find the words, to find her place. I looked at her and said the words I had practiced in the car all the way to the DHS Child Welfare office, “Do what you need to do. We will care for your girls until you are ready.”
And just like that, the ice was broken.
The role of a DHS Child Welfare placement desk coordinator is to find a home in which children in foster care are matched with foster families.
Question from Embrace Oregon to DHS placement desk coordinator :
"How would having more foster parents serve vulnerable children better?"
My husband and I were led to foster care after coming back from working at an orphanage overseas and asking the naively simple question, “Where are the most vulnerable children in this country?”
Thirteen years ago that question led us directly to the doors of the state’s child welfare system. We walked through those doors as we became certified foster parents and began our fostering journey before having biological children. Through many twists and turns in the last decade - welcoming biological children, cross country moves, welcoming children in foster care, adopting, doing emergency shelter care for seasons - our family has never looked back.
The statistics are REAL.
The way we talk about children in foster care matters.
While it may seem like it's the exact same, Embrace Oregon strives to say "CHILDREN in foster care" rather than "foster child".
The adjective "foster" is not seen as a positive one in the community. Those 6 little letters "f-o-s-t-e-r" often cause people to make assumptions about behaviors, capabilities and even physical appearance. We believe the emphasis should be first and foremost on the CHILD - an innocent child who through no fault of their own was taken into state custody because of a caregiver's unsafe and unhealthy choices.
I am grateful for the privilege of saying yes today.
I am grateful for unbuckling two wide-eyed kids out of their car seats from the back of a government vehicle and being able to whisper to them “I’m glad you’re here”.
I am grateful for the hours spent with a head on my shoulder.
I am grateful for bouncing on the trampoline and squeals of delight.
I am grateful that my daughter, who sat for an hour on the couch with a precious one, has awareness and compassion that can’t be taught by books alone.
Embrace Oregon is about a lot of things.
We're about hospitality, direct on-ramps to partnership with DHS Child Welfare, creating more awareness and action around the need for more foster parents in our community and telling stories that often aren't seen or heard when it comes to community partnership.
"I don't think they (people) understand how it feels not being able to say mom and dad - going through foster care, you don't get to say that, you know, that often. And if you do trust somebody enough to say that, who knows how long they'll stick around."
~ Former youth in foster care
We love it when the people we care about from both DHS and the faith community work side by side and form caring relationships.
DHS and a missional community from A Jesus Church both express what working on the Tigard DHS lobby together meant to each of them:
All we can say is that it's pretty amazing when a church writes "snacks for kids in foster care" into their church budget and faithful volunteers shop for and drop them off at a DHS office on a monthly basis.
This love and care gives caseworkers the ability to give children something to eat when they are waiting for a foster placement in the office or when children are visiting with a family member in the office and they need some nourishment.
Thank you, RiverWest Church, for the way you are standing in the gap and partnering with DHS Child Welfare for faithfully providing this support to vulnerable children.