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Who's Helping California's Foster and High-Needs Children?

Aug 31, 2011

Although almost every child faces difficulties in school, few deal with the unique problems encountered by foster children. That's why California's Family Care Network, Inc. exists. They provide countless services designed to help foster and other high-needs youth make it through the formative years of their lives and into prosperity.

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By Eric Garneau

FCNI Tutor

Since 1987, Family Care Network, Inc. (FCNI) has helped high-needs Central Coast children face challenges too difficult to take on alone. To do so, they offer support to the children themselves, but also to their families and schools. This multifaceted approach allows FCNI to provide the stability so necessary to developing children. The Education Insider News Blog recently spoke with the organization to learn more about their methods, goals and how concerned readers can lend a hand.

Study.com: Your core work involves helping foster and high-needs children on the Central Coast of California. Tell us a little about that. What are the primary goals behind the services you provide?

Family Care Network, Inc.: Our mission statement is: 'To enhance the wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our community.' We primarily focus on providing high quality, therapeutic, family-based alternatives for high-needs children and youth needing out-of-home-care. We also work to strengthen and empower families, stabilize children, youth and families, keep children/youth at home and in their community and assist families in developing a community-based support system to become self-reliant.

Study.com What age groups do you serve, and what services do you provide for the children you help?

FCNI: We serve children ages 0-24 years old, along with their biological or foster families. Our services are based on best practices, wraparound principles and evidence-based or promising practices. We're accredited by the California Alliance of Child and Family Services. Our programs include Emergency Shelter Care, Therapeutic and Intensive Therapeutic Foster Care, Wraparound Foster Care, Crisis-Stabilization Foster Care, Wraparound services, Therapeutic Behavioral Services, school-based mental health services for students and other mental health services. We provide transitional (16-24 years of age) current and former foster youth with affordable housing and services to assist this vulnerable population in developing the life skills necessary to become independent adults with community-based support systems. We also provide free tutoring support to our clients as needed, as well as reading instruction and all manner of academic advocacy. We have a great mentoring program that matches kids with older positive role models. These are just some of the many services that we offer.

Study.com A lot of the work you do involves helping families, whether biological or foster, assist children through troubled times. What kind of support can families provide children to help them be successful, academically or otherwise?

FCNI: The main thing any family can do to help their children thrive is to provide them with stability. The more stability on the relational, emotional, financial, academic and spiritual levels the better. If parents are 'present' and give their kids the attention, unconditional love and support that they need, children will usually thrive.

Study.com When people think about foster homes, they probably imagine younger children, although FCNI also does a lot to help 16-24 year olds. How do you identify high-risk youth of that age, and what strategies and goals do you adopt with them that differ from younger children?

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FCNI: All of the children that we serve are referred to us though either the Department of Social Services or the Probation Department. For the older kids, the main focus is helping them towards independent living. Through life skills training and by providing them with a stable and affordable place to call home, we work with these youth individually in their quest to become independent adults. One of the things we do in our Transitional Housing Placement Program (THPP) is to charge the clients rent, but then give them the money back when they exit the program. That way they learn how to budget and make house payments, but they also build up a nest egg to take with them when they graduate from the program.

Study.com Besides home care, FCNI also works with local schools. What does your organization offer in that setting and what are some key ways that faculty - teachers, counselors, etc. - can identify and help high-risk youth there?

FCNI: We have a full-time Education Coordinator who works as a liaison between clients, school districts, social workers and foster and biological parents to support, advocate, educate, monitor and assist our clients in any way they need. We also provide mental health workers in some classrooms in our county to support high-needs kids. One important thing that school staff (administrators, teachers and counselors) could do to help kids would be to educate themselves on the laws that pertain to foster youth. There are specific regulations that provide support and services for foster and homeless children. Our Education Coordinator does this as often as possible, but it's an ongoing need. School staff can also learn what high-needs and foster kids are going through, why they need the extra support, why they're not as motivated as they could be, etc. This is a lot to ask of the staff, but the more one understands what foster children deal with, the more compassion and tolerance one can have for them.

Study.com How can interested readers volunteer their time or donate to your program? Or, if they're not local to you, what can they do in their own areas to help?

FCNI: They can visit our website and see volunteering and donating opportunities. If they aren't local to us and want to help in their area, they can call their local Department of Social Services and ask for agencies that provide services for kids like Family Care Network does. Schools might not know who their foster children are, as this remains confidential unless the student makes it publically known.

Study.com Is there anything further you'd like to say about the work done by FCNI, or about helping high-risk and foster children in general?

FCNI: In general, foster and high-needs children are significantly behind in their academic endeavors. One caring adult can make all the difference in the life of a child dealing with issues far beyond their years. If someone gets involved with one of these kids, it could break the cycle of dysfunction for the child and their posterity will follow!

Read about Ethos Music Center, a Portland institution helping young people better their lives through music.

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