Date: May 26, 2015
Contact: Dora Briley, HHSA Communications
Phone: (707) 463-7885

By Melissa Phillips, HHSA Social Worker Supervisor

We desperately need YOUR help! Right now, there are approximately 250 Mendocino County children in out-of-home placements.  When a child or children are removed from their parents or guardians because they cannot be safely maintained in their home, the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) / Family and Children’s Services (FCS) makes every effort to locate relatives, friends or other people connected with the family. These are people who have a relationship with the family or children. HHSA/FCS determines whether they are able and willing to provide care for the children and meet federal and state regulations to provide the care. Currently, over 70 of the 250 children in out-of-home care are placed with relatives or family friends.

Sadly, there is not always family or friends available or able to care for the children. When that happens, Family and Children’s Services must find foster care placements for these children until they can hopefully be reunified with their parents. The Agency’s Placement Unit specializes in finding homes for these children. As required by law and monitored by the Juvenile Dependency Court, Family and Children’s Services makes every effort to locate a home that is able to keep the children in their same school and with their siblings and that is culturally matched to the children. The Placement Unit works with state licensed foster homes as well as foster homes licensed through Redwood Community Services, Tapestry Family Services, True to Life Children’s Services, Environmental Alternatives and Three Angels foster family agencies to locate placements for children within Mendocino County.

Foster parents are one of the most important members of the community team that helps keep children safe!
Unfortunately, there is currently a critical shortage of local foster homes within the county for the number of children requiring out of home placements. Because of this, some children have had to be placed out of county. This is extremely hard on children and their families. When children have to be placed out of the county, they lose their familiar surroundings and sense of belonging, their school, their teachers, friends and classmates and have to start over in unfamiliar surroundings. Out of county placements also make it difficult for children, their siblings, their parents and extended family members to have regular and frequent visitation with each other, which is a critical component to successful reunification of the family.

YOU can help by becoming a foster parent!
There are a number of myths about who can be a foster parent and what it takes to become a foster parent.  Single people can be foster parents. Same sex couples can be foster parents. People who rent their home or apartment can be foster parents. People who work outside the home can be foster parents. There are all kinds of foster children and there is a need for all kinds of foster parents, particularly Native American and Latino families, families who can accept sibling groups and families who can care for children with special needs. There are some requirements that must be met including completing a background check and having a suitable apartment or house. Foster parents must also complete certain training requirements. Foster parents can choose to be a home just for emergency stays, or be a potential permanent forever home for children unable to return to their birth families. They can request only children of one gender, or specific ages, or special needs, or can help out other foster parents by being certified as a respite provider.

The most important ingredient is to want to make a difference in the life of a child. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”  Become a foster parent and make a difference in our world, one child at a time. If you are interested, or you know someone who might be, please contact Family and Children’s Services Placement Unit Supervisor Melissa Phillips at (707) 456-3731.   She can provide information on the requirements for becoming a foster parent and put you in touch with agencies who can provide various services and options to support you in becoming a foster parent.  She is also available to speak to groups and organizations interested in hearing more about becoming a foster parent.