Foster Care Services

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Foster Care Services
March 12, 2009
By Beth Gabor, Yolo County Public Information Officer & Kimberly Bellows, U.C. Davis Intern

Last month, we provided an overview of Yolo County Child Welfare Services (CWS) – a division of the Department of Employment & Social Services (DESS). One component of this division is foster care services, which administers the provision of care, by members of the community, to children who regrettably must be removed from the care of their parents for their safety.

When it becomes necessary for CWS to remove children from their home, they are temporarily placed in foster care, either in a licensed home or in the home of a relative, with the intent to ultimately return the child to their home once it has been determined that they can be safely cared for by their parents. Some foster children remain in foster care on a more permanent basis. In these situations, the foster parent or relative may adopt the child or take legal guardianship.

It can be a challenging task for those generous community members who choose to become foster parents as many foster children have emotional or physical issues. As a result, Yolo County suffers from a shortage of foster homes and often must send children in need of an out-of-home placement out of the county – a less than optimal situation for foster children already established in the community. It is also a less than optimal situation for CWS social workers. Social workers are required to visit each child on a monthly basis, regardless of where the child is placed. To minimize further disruption to the lives of children in the foster care system, CWS continually works to recruit additional foster parents, emphasizing that the main criteria for being a foster parent is the ability to provide a stable home environment.

“Foster parents can be single or married, living in a house or an apartment,” said DESS Chief Deputy Diana Williams. “We simply need foster parents who can provide a good home.”

Once a child within the foster care system reaches the age of 18, they must leave the system and live on their own – a difficult transition for any 18-year-old. Many CWS programs across the nation have implemented Independent Living Programs, which provide foster youth the tools to make such a transition. Yolo County has instituted such a program, run through DESS, which provides youth access to training, support, community services and resources. Foster youth can participate in the program as early as age 15 to begin to develop life skills such as budgeting, finding and keeping a job, and doing laundry. DESS offers incentives to encourage these teenagers to participate in the program. Youth continue to be eligible for services after emancipation until they are 21 years of age, as long as they were in out-of-home care on, or after, their 16th birthday. These services provide youth between the ages of 18 and 20 the assistance necessary to obtain resources such as transportation, tuition for college or vocational education, clothing for job interviewa, furniture and other household supplies, or in making a security deposit toward a living arrangement.

“Studies show that on average, the young are not truly on their own until age 28,” said Diana Williams. “Foster children don’t generally have the support system they need to bridge them from childhood to adulthood. We do what we can to provide it for them.”

For more information on Yolo County’s foster care program, call (530) 666-8488 or visit: www.yolocounty.org (go to: I Want To > Become > Become a Foster Parent).