posted on Mon, 04/24/2017 – 11:48am by Jessica Caimi, Reporting for BenitoLink
Advocates hope to reverse a trend in which most local children in foster care are placed outside the county.
In December 2016, the Child Welfare Services of San Benito County put out a request for proposals from providers who could help the county recruit, train and approve families interested in adopting or fostering local children in need of new homes. Kinship Center, a member of Seneca Family of Agencies, responded to the county’s request, and a three-month contact went into effect March 1.
Kinship Center was founded in 1984 in Monterey County. Specializing in creating permanent adoptions, Kinship now also serves San Benito, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.
Kinship has worked informally with San Benito County for years.The Gabilan Chapter, a volunteer group based in San Benito County, holds its annual food and wine tasting event to support Kinship’s work in the area. In 2011, Kinship merged with the Seneca Center, a group that provides mental health services to children in schools, to form the Seneca Family of Agencies. The merger combines Seneca’s expertise with children battling severe mental health issues, with Kinship’s ability to place children in stable homes.
“It’s been a very good marriage,” says Carol Bishop, interim director at Kinship Center. “[Seneca is] learning more about permanent adoptions, and [Kinship] is learning how to expand their services to a more high-risk population.”
San Benito County hopes that the marriage will also work in its favor. This new contract will allow the county and Kinship to officially partner with the aim of helping children in San Benito County who need stable homes within the county.
“Too often,” Bishop says, “local children are placed with families outside the county. But now we want to bring the children home.”
Maria Corona, deputy director at the San Benito County Health & Human Services Agency, echoes Bishop’s concerns.
“We’ve routinely had most of our children placed in out-of-county foster homes, away from their familiar community, friends and schools —as high as 70 percent of youth in care.”
Local placements are seen as better for the children, who are familiar with the environment and culture, and may have other biological family and friends in the area that they can visit.
In order for these local placements to occur, Kinship will need to find more San Benito County families willing to be a resource for foster children and adoption. Unlike the county, Kinship has the manpower to make it happen.
“The county doesn’t have the staffing to show up, spread the word, accept inquiry calls, do outreach with service clubs, and more. We’re happy to do that,” says Bishop.
In addition to recruitment, Kinship will also provide all the training for families coming into the County’s system.
“We have the materials, and we are tailoring it for San Benito County so the families who participate know that it’s a program that has been personalized to their needs,” says Bishop.
If you would like to learn more about adopting or being a foster parent contact Barbara May at Kinship Center 831 455-4740.