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By Mary Huber

foster_care_initiativeSAN BERNARDINO—In the year 2020, the Diocesan Department of Life, Dignity and Justice will launch a Foster Care Initiative to promote fostering in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It will be working with local Christian organizations that act as a bridge between interested families and social service agencies.

Participating parishes will have the opportunity to be a platform that provides awareness about Foster Care and inspires prospective foster care parents. By choosing to become a foster family, we participate in the sacredness of human life.
 In the state of California over 60,000 children are in the foster care system, the majority under the age of ten years old. In the Diocese of San Bernardino, we have a great need for loving foster care families, especially Spanish speaking families. Finding qualified homes can provide the healing power and safety these young lives need and deserve.
 Foster care is a system where a minor is placed into a ward, group home, or private home of a state- certified caregiver. Qualified foster care parents generally have a temporary agreement in which they provide care of a child or children whose birth parents are unable to care for them. These children are removed from their homes because of parental neglect, abuse and/or exploitation. Foster care families have an opportunity to embrace these children in need of love and nurturing and bring hope into their lives. They offer a stable family while working with social services to reunite the child with their birth parents. In return, they receive a monthly stipend for the care of their foster children.
 St. John Paul II said in the Gospel of Life: “True parental love is ready to go beyond the bounds of flesh and blood in order to accept children from other families, offering them whatever is necessary for their well-being and full development.” Foster families have a wonderful opportunity to be the difference in the child’s life in the hopes of future reunification with a birth parent. This is critical as the statistics for foster youth are staggering. One in three foster youth become homeless after aging out of foster care. One in four become incarcerated after aging out. Four in 10 foster youth will not graduate from high school and 70% of trafficked youth come from the foster care system.
 Marty Swanson is a retired attorney and judge from the Juvenile Court, which works extensively with foster care. He affirms the need for healthy, loving foster families:
 “After 30 years of working in Juvenile Court, both as an attorney/advocate and on the Bench, I’ve seen unequivocally the crucial role Foster Families play in the survival of children in the system,” says Swanson, who is active in several diocesan ministries and at his parish, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside. “A caring and supportive Foster Family provides a broken family a true opportunity to learn and heal, leading them to be together again with a healthy reunification.
 “When that is not possible, the Foster Family provides the crucial stability and loving foundation for children to survive probably the most traumatic experience of their lives. It is through these families that children can grow into happy, productive adults. God bless each of them.”
 As a church community, we can also make a difference. Of the families who show initial interest in foster care, approximately one-third will go through training and one-sixth will become foster families. But there are plenty of other opportunities for other families to support these children, such as providing meals and material needs to families who foster, helping bring potential foster homes up to code so that they will qualify or becoming a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for a child. We all can leave a positive impact in a child’s life, particularly for those children that have been neglected or abused, whose lives are hanging in the balance. These loving families are bringing hope into their lives.
 To find out more about the Diocesan Foster Care Initiative in 2020 email mhuber@sbdiocese.org.

 Mary Huber is the Director of the Diocesan Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care.