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JANUARY 2014 NEWSLETTER - ISSUE 119
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Welcome to the MFPA's online newsletter.  Thank you for supporting our efforts to be paperless! MFPA members may request a paper copy of this newsletter by emailing, calling or sending us a note via USPS mail. Our contact info is located at the bottom of the newsletter.
In This Issue
 

Attachments

Board of Supervisors Resolution
Children and Family Services Contact List
Children and Family Services Organizational Chart
S
eneca Support Groups, Winter Schedule

Presiden't Piece 
by Jason Burdge
 

The word community has become a buzz word for charitable organizations and causes. I often wonder if it is overused or if it has become too generic and commonplace. However, I have yet to find an adequate replacement. By definition the word means:

  • A unified body of individuals; people with common interest living in a particular area; an interaction of individuals within a given location; a group linked by a common policy; a body of persons of common and specialized interests scattered through a larger society.

I am honored to be MFPA’s President for the 2014 – 2015 term and look forward to building on the progress made in 2013 by Linda and the rest of the board. The transition of the executive officers has been seamless and we look forward to welcoming new leaders on to our association’s Board of Directors

We are starting the year off with our annual planning meeting on Saturday, January 11, 9 AM to 3 PM, at the Huckleberry Youth Program office, 361 Third Street, Suite G, San Rafael. The main topic of the meeting will be discussing and planning for MFPA to become an independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that is separate from the California State Foster Parent Association (CSFPA). Currently our tax-exempt status and mission are guided and limited by the CSFPA.

While our association’s goals align with the CSFPA’s, we can better serve Marin foster caregivers and youth by focusing our organization’s goals and outcomes on our local community. We can continue to support the efforts of the CSFPA by making financial contributions to any aligning programs.

As a member of our community you are welcome to be a part of this exciting meeting and join other members of our community including Marin CFS, TLC Child and Family Services, and other supporting agencies. If you are unable to attend and would like to share your thoughts, questions or suggestions please feel free to contact me directly at president@mfpa.net.

When I look back at what we have accomplished in 2013 and at our goals for 2014, the word community fits us perfectly. I look forward to sharing our future success with you and hope to see you at an upcoming event.

Meet Our New Intern

We’d like to welcome Mia Moore as our new intern! Mia is a Marin native and will be starting an Education Degree Program at Dominican University later this month. Mia’s smiling face and bright personality can be found at the Distribution Center during our open hours. She also works on various MFPA administrative tasks. Please introduce yourself to Mia when you see her!  

The Board of Supervisors â€¦..

love what we do!  On December 3rd, 2013, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution which stated, in part, that they "honor our dedicated foster parents and thanks them for their passion and commitment."  The full resolution is in our Attachments Section!

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Calendar

Jan. 11: Annual MFPA Planning Meeting, 9 AM-3 PM, 361 Third St., Suite G, San Rafael, RSVP here
Jan. 14: Kinship Support Group, 5:30-7:30 PM, Seneca Center, 3100 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael, dinner/childcare provided with RSVP (required) to 264-0939 or email Seneca (see flyer in Attachments for details)

Jan. 21: Post Adoption Parenting Group, 5:30-7:30 PM, Seneca Center, 3100 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael, dinner/childcare provided with RSVP (required) to 264-0939 or email Seneca (see flyer in Attachments for details)
Jan. 22: Presentation by Golden Gate Regional Center - Early Start Program, 12-1:30 PM, 30 North San Pedro Rd, San Rafael, First Floor Conference Room

Jan. 28: Pre/Newly Adopted Support Group, 5:30-7:30 PM, Seneca Center, 3100 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael, dinner/childcare provided with RSVP (required) to 264-0939 or email Seneca (see flyer in Attachments for details)
Jan. 29:  Foster Parent Orientation Night, 7-8:30 PM, 3240 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael
Feb. 4: 
Post Adoptive Support Group, 5:30-7:30 PM, Seneca Center, 3100 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael, dinner/childcare provided with RSVP (required) to 264-0939 or email Seneca (see flyer in Attachments for details)
March 5: "How to Keep Children Safe in a Wounding World" by Gordon Neufeld, 7-9 PM, Santa Rosa (location TBA), registration link coming soon.
March 6: "Heart Matters: What to do With a Child's Feelings" by Gordon Neufeld, 7-9 PM, Unity of Marin, Novato, registration link coming soon.
March 7 & 9: "Making Sense of Aggression & Defiance Issues in Children" by Gordon Neufeld, 9 AM - 4 PM, Unity of Marin, Novato, registration link coming soon.

Goodbye from Denise Miney of TLC

TLC Child & Family Services has had a wonderful collaboration with Marin County Health & Human Services, Children & Family Services Unit since March 2011, almost three years!   All Marin families who wish to adopt a foster child are referred to TLC and we help them complete their adoption home study and also match them with a child.  Our main office is in Sonoma County in Sebastopol and we also have a regional office in Mendocino County in Ukiah.  We're hoping that we could, at some point, have a small regional office in Marin County.

 

I am sad to tell you that, as much as I love this work,  I will be leaving my position as Director of the Foster Care & Adoption Programs at TLC as of Jan. 3, 2014.   I have been working here for over 12 years and prior to that I worked for Marin County.  I have overseen 300+ adoptions and the Foster Care and Adoption Programs, my wonderful staff, and you amazing families have been very dear to my heart.  It has been such an honor and a privilege to work with you to help provide much needed homes to foster children and to build your families through adoption.  

 

I am happy to report that the new Program Director will be Susan Fette, MFT.  Susan previously worked as my Regional Director of the Foster Care and Adoption Programs for five years and comes to TLC with a wealth of experience.  You will be in very good hands.   Susan will have my phone number (707.823-7300 234) and her email will be sfette@tlc4kids.org.  Alexandra Jacobs (alexandra@tlc4kids.org - 707.823-7300 x220) 

is happily staying in her position as Assistant Director and together they will make a dynamite team.  

 

I might still be around at TLC occasionally in the future – I will be doing some adoption home studies and perhaps some other projects, until I figure out my next position.  My husband and I had hoped to retire and move to Panama in January (and, thus, I gave notice), but, unfortunately, he had a massive heart attack and some other serious health complications in November, and we can no longer move.   He’s doing alright, but we’re here to stay in Sonoma County.  Clearly, something else awaits me, although I don’t yet know what it is.

 

Once again, let me say what a gift it has been to be able to work with all of you in this amazing endeavor.  I truly appreciate all that you do and thank you for letting me be a part of it.   

Licensing Corner - What is Concurrent Planning?

by Julie Lenhardt

 

Concurrent planning is the practice of simultaneously pursuing more than one option for permanency for children placed by child welfare in out-of-home care.  It is a child-centered strategy designed to reduce the time to permanency for children in foster care. It is also a type of permanency case planning in which reunification services are provided to the family at the same time that an alternative permanency plan is made for the child, in case reunification efforts fail (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2007). Typically, plan A is reunification with a parent or guardian and plan B is either adoption or guardianship (in rare cases there are other options).  

 

This two-pronged approach to finding a safe and stable family for children reduces multiple placements and long delays for children in foster care, and it promotes children building strong connections and trust with permanent families. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 addressed the importance of timely permanency for children in foster care and established federally mandated timelines to achieve this permanency. ASFA also suggested concurrent planning as an appropriate strategy for shortening a child’s time in foster care. As a result of ASFA, many states wrote policies on concurrent planning with some states, including California, requiring it for every child in out-of homecare, with a few exceptions. In California, concurrent planning has been required for over ten years. 

 

What does this mean for me as a caregiver and what do I need to do to support concurrent planning for the child in my home?

We love what you’re already doing by providing a warm, safe and loving home for the child or children in your care.  In addition, children and families need your support during the reunification process.  Children will need to visit with their parents regularly and they need you, as the caregiver, to support those reunification efforts.  If the courts decide that the birth parents have shown they can parent their child or children safely, the children will be returned to their care.  You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have given these children the best possible care during a very difficult and traumatic time in their lives.  
 

From the beginning of the child’s case, the social worker will attempt to identify those permanent “plan B” options for the child in the event that reunification with a parent is not safe.  Whenever possible, and in order to limit the number of times a child is moved from home to home, that permanent “plan B” option will be the first and only placement for the child.  Unfortunately, uncovering that option sometimes takes time and the child is often placed in a foster home while this permanent placement option is identified.  In an ideal world, the first home in which the child is placed will be able to offer support for reunification but, should that not be possible, will either be willing to provide a loving permanent home for the child or facilitate the transition into another permanent home.
 

For many foster parents who are also interested in adopting through the foster care system, the idea that they may be asked to love and care for a child who may ultimately return to a parent can be scary and potentially heartbreaking.  This situation is often discussed in the licensing or certification process and is referred to as “risk”.  Typically, we consider the situation “high risk” for a potential permanent caregiver if a child is still in legal reunification with his/her parent(s) and the prognosis for reunification is good based on the parent’s progress at the time.  Conversely, a situation is considered “low risk” when the child is no longer legally in reunification with a parent and/or the parents’ legal rights have been terminated by the court.  While many fost/adopt families are legitimately concerned that their experience of fostering a child who is “high risk” for reunification may be disruptive or painful for them, we strongly encourage these homes to consider the incredible potential benefits to taking on a higher level of this risk. These benefits include:

  •  Promoting strong, healthy attachments to the permanent caregivers and starting that process early.  
  • It allows adoptive parents to have the opportunity to get to know their child’s birth parents and begin to understand their background and struggles, which will be helpful for them and their adopted child in the future
  • It allows children to witness their adoptive parents’ support of their birth family from the beginning, which diminishes the idea that birth parents are “bad” or “evil” and paints a more realistic picture that they are worthy of support, even if reunification isn’t possible.  This has long term benefits to the child over time as he/she develops a sense of identity.
  • By taking on the “risk” of fostering a child who is still in reunification, fost/adopt parents take the chance that the child may not legally become a permanent member of the family.  However, by doing so, fost/adopt parents significantly minimize the risk to the child that he or she may experience the additional trauma and loss of multiple placements.  
  • Reducing time to adoption finalization

Concurrent planning is an often-challenging, but necessary, part of the child welfare system.  While there are many benefits to this approach, it can be confusing for parents, children, social workers and caretakers.  If you have any questions about concurrent planning or if you’re a fost/adopt parent who would like to discuss the process, please contact your licensing or certification social worker.  

Quarterly Meeting Notes

 

The quarterly meeting between MFPA and CFS staff was held on December 10, 2013.  Questions were posed by MFPA members at our September Meet and Eat and are answered below.

Concurrent planning—see article 

 

Foster care vs. Fost-adopt placement—Why don’t fost-adopt placements happen sooner?

 

See article on concurrent planning.

 

CFS, TLC, foster parent trainers, and MFPA are planning to meet to clarify guidelines, reassess “risk” statements, update the foster-parent training program, and improve communication between organizations. An MFPA goal is to improve outreach to fost-adopt parents. 

 

Of course, everyone’s goal is to minimize the emotional trauma to the children. Stay tuned for more details.

 

SENECA Emergency Care Home—Some foster parents are concerned that this temporary shelter exposes children to more moves. 

 

While there is a small chance that a child placed in the emergency home may end up having an additional placement, we believe that the benefits of such a home outweigh the risks.  In most other counties, children first come to a receiving home or temporary shelter until a home can be found that is a good match for the child.  In Marin, our emergency home is no different except that our home is only used for emergency placements outside of normal business hours.  

 

During the weekday, our procedures haven’t changed.  We still strive to find relatives, family friends or foster homes that are the best match for the children. Because this isn’t always possible after hours, the emergency home provides a safe and loving home for children while we do whatever’s necessary to approve relatives, family friends, or to find a foster home that matches well with the child’s needs and personalities. At the SENECA home, up to a 60-day stay is allowed, which will give workers more time to assess the family’s and child’s needs. Because of it’s larger capacity and ability to place children ages 0-18, the emergency home also helps us keep sibling groups together.  

 

Licensing—Can we license foster parents faster? Why did we do away with specialized licensing care (higher base stipend)? How do we make foster parenting more appealing to the public?

 

The state law requires that CFS either approve or deny foster parent applications within a 90-day period. 

 

Specialized licensing care was unique to Marin County. Marin is now identical to most other counties in California—special care increments (additional stipends meant to offset the costs associated with children who may have special needs) follow the child, they are not assigned to the foster parent.

 

It is a priority of CFS and MFPA to make foster parenting more appealing to the public. CFS is working on programs to introduce new education monitoring guidelines for foster children and new mental health screening and services requirements. Both programs are meant to provide needed support to foster children and so, will increase the resources available to foster parents.

 

MFPA is working on new outreach programs for foster parents and is dedicated to publicizing positive fostering experiences. Also MFPA sponsored the first Marin County Community Resource Fair for foster and fost-adopt families. A second, larger fair is already in the works. Finally, MFPA is working to increase its advocacy efforts. By working to improve education for foster parents and mitigate trauma to children in the dependency system—all MFPA members can help to erase negative stereotypes of fostering. 

Opportunities
 

Distribution Center - We still have plenty of games, sports equipment and toys in stock, thanks to a very generous Sleep Train Toy Drive.  Birthdays, Valentine's Day, Easter - come see what we have to bring a smile to your foster child's face!

Enrichment Funds Available - After School Enrichment Funds specifically for current foster youth are available for extracurricular activities, thanks to donations from Sleep Train.  If your foster youth would like to attend an after-school or weekend activity that promotes health, physical activity or learning, please fill out our on-line After School Enrichment Funding Application located on our website’s program page, in the tutoring section.

MAILING ADDRESS
4280 REDWOOD HIGHWAY, SUITE 8
SAN RAFAEL, CA 94903
415-507-0557

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