Foster families are needed in Northeastern Oregon, and an event is scheduled in March for those who would like to learn more about foster care.
And it will be virtual, so people can join from anywhere.
The session will be Wednesday, March 16, from 6-7:30 p.m.
To register, go to https://everychildneoregon.org/. Click on “Upcoming Events” and search by county to find the event.
The official title is “Virtual Explore Fostering — Every Child NE Oregon.”
During the discussion, a panel of experienced families will share their stories about providing foster care.
“To share their experiences, and why they got started,” said Tammie Blessing, resource family retention and recruitment champion for Districts 13 and 14, which includes Baker, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Harney and Malheur counties. “Having families talk about it is our best recruitment tool.”
This “Learn About Foster Care” event is sponsored by Every Child, Oregon Department of Human Services and GOBHI (Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc.).
Those three organizations, Blessing said, represent different parts of the foster system.
GOBHI focuses on “treatment foster care,” while Every Child provides volunteer opportunities to support children in the foster system and families that provide care.
“We’re trying to offer the whole spectrum of what’s available to people interested in fostering,” Blessing said.
She hopes to spur interest from Eastern Oregon counties, where foster families are urgently needed.
“Statewide there’s a need, but we continue in those six eastern counties to need homes,” she said.
Blessing said District 13 (Baker, Union and Wallowa counties) had a total of 54 children in foster care and 36 resource homes at the end of January.
As of Jan. 1, 2022, there were 5,393 children in foster care in Oregon — the fewest in 16 years, according to the Oregon Child Welfare Division.
The reason for the low number, Blessing said, is “family first” legislation, which has the focus on keeping children with families and providing support.
If foster care is necessary, Blessing said the first step is to look for relatives or close friends who can foster the child.
“We’re trying to maintain relational connections with kids — trying to keep kids connected to people they already know,” she said.
In the case that a relative can’t be found, the child is cared for by a general applicant foster family — but Blessing said work continues to find a relative.
The current recruitment efforts across the state are for general applicant families.
“So we have enough families, and they’re diverse enough, that we can match children to a family,” she said.
Those who aren’t ready to provide full-time care can learn more about foster care by volunteering with Every Child NE Oregon, which works to expand the support system around foster care.
“There are ways to support fostering without taking a child into your home,” Blessing said. “It’s a way to dip your toe in and learn what it’s about.”
She said that a general application family, on average, thinks about becoming a foster family for two to three years.
To learn more about Every Child, visit everychildneoregon.org/ or follow the page on Facebook.
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