Robert Costa: Great need for intensive foster care homes

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BERKELEY, Mass.— Some suffer from serious medical conditions. Some have been left alone in their homes for days at a time or have had to call 911 because a parent has overdosed on drugs. Others have suffered physical or emotional abuse at the hands of a trusted adult.

These children's stories all are different, but what they have in common is the experience of severe trauma that has denied them a secure place in a loving home with people they can rely on.

It's often an immediate crisis that leads the police, emergency medical providers, school officials or someone else to these children. That's where the Justice Resource Institute's Intensive Foster Care program comes in. The state's Department of Children and Families, which oversees the foster care system responsible for 11,000 children, will partner with various intensive foster care agencies like our program at JRI to meet the specialized needs of these most-wounded children.

There is a shortage of these intensive foster homes, which require 20 hours annually of specialized training in addition to the 30 hours of MAPP training required of all foster parents. Because the work is so challenging and specialized training is required, some of these children end up waiting six weeks before we can find them a placement in one of the homes that provide the intensive care they need.

Some of the babies who come into their care must be held at all times because they find the world such an anxiety-filled place that a set of loving arms is the only secure refuge. Some infants must be gently cared for around the clock as they suffer withdrawal from being exposed to substances due to addicted mothers. Still others have serious medical needs, including severe allergies and asthma, that require constant attention.

TRUE HEROES

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And while our intensive foster homes are helping these children, JRI is working with the birth parents of these children and other community service providers to provide those birth parents the support, training and accountability that we hope will lead to a reunion with their children in a healthier, more secure home environment.

All foster parents do tough, often-thankless work on behalf of needy children in Massachusetts. Those who provide the expert care required of intensive foster care are true heroes whose devotion gives these youngest and most vulnerable people the chance for happy and productive lives. The pay these intensive foster parents get is small and the demands on their time and energy are great; but thanks to them, all of our communities are better, kinder places to live.

May is National Foster Care Month, and we want to thank our intensive foster parents and express our support for the essential work they do. It takes special people to do this demanding work well.

However, we need more homes for these children so that they do not have to wait a month or longer until a home placement opens for them. We hope that Massachusetts residents will consider joining this vital program devoted to

providing loving stability to these traumatized children for whom childhood is anything but stable and secure.

If you think you have room in your heart and in your life for this challenging and satisfying work, we hope you will reach out to us to learn more. Please email us at homefinder@jri.org or call us at (508) 821-7774 to learn more about what you can do to help.

Robert Costa is director of Foster Care Programs for the JRI, which works in partnership with individuals, families, communities, and government to pursue the social justice inherent in opening doors to opportunity and independnce.


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