Children deserve to live in stable, loving homes; yet they often enter into the child welfare system through no fault of their own. While every effort is made to keep foster children in their community, to keep siblings together, and to create good matches between kids and families, Marin needs a larger, more diverse pool of homes to do that.
Because of this, many foster children are having to leave the county to find a home. The latest data from Marin County Children and Family Services shows that this is happening to over 40% of Marin County foster children. “It has really had a massive impact on the children,” says Bree Marchman, division director of Marin County Children and Family Services, emphasizing the difficulties of a dramatic change in location on kids already recovering from trauma and neglect. The good news, however, is there are a lot of ways to help.
When Ashley and Riley Hurd first began to think about having a family, they made a plan to try to have one biological child, then adopt another, in order to open their home to a child in need. But after their son, Riley IV, was born and they started exploring adoption, they discovered a much bigger need: many children were entering the foster care system, but there were not enough foster homes. This inspired them to become resource parents, and they have since opened their home to six foster children. Now, as board president of the Marin Foster Care Association — which provides a network of services to foster children and their caregivers — Ashley helps raise awareness on foster care issues, such as the lack of foster homes.
With over 100 Marin kids needing care at a given time, the most pressing need is for resource families able to take foster youth into their homes. And before you count yourself out of consideration, know that the foster program is interested in all kinds of people, including those who are single, married, straight, queer, first-time parents, parents with kids, homeowners and renters. “We have resource families of every type and shape and size,” Marchman explains.
The positive impact resource families can have on foster youth, and on society at large, is immeasurable. “I can’t think of a way you could better impact the world than to try to shape someone and help them heal from having such a difficult early experience in life,” Marchman says.
While not everyone is able to foster a child, any adult can volunteer through the Friends of the Family Program to provide support to resource families. Interested applicants will work with Children & Family Services and the Marin County Volunteers Program to become approved as a Friend of the Family. The assessment process varies depending on the level of involvement a prospective participant will have and may include a background check and an interview with a social worker.
Visit FosterOurFutureMarin.org or call Leslie Fields at (415) 473-6418 for details on upcoming orientation dates, or to learn more about becoming a resource family and other opportunities to help foster youth.