Mayors and City Council Members Answer the Call to Help Youth in their Community
John Quincy Adams once said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” This quote rings true for many local government leaders who stepped forward in May as part of National Foster Care Month. During the month of May, the County of San Luis Obispo Department of Social Services partnered with the Board of Supervisors, local mayors and city council members from Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Grover Beach, Atascadero, and Pismo Beach to help raise awareness about an ever present need in our community: the need for more foster/resource families to care for children in foster care. Social Services was invited to present at city council meetings throughout the month and shared foster care information and local statistics pertaining to each city’s unique needs.
In many presentations, Social Services was honored to be joined by a resource parent willing to share their experience in support of recruiting additional resource families to care for children in foster care. On April 14, 2019, Fiona Slattery, a resource parent since 2013, shared her experience of having provided care for eleven children over the years, two of whom were adopted by her family. She’s quoted saying “I’ve learned that being a resource family is more than just providing a child with a home. With the right support, resource families can help improve our community and ultimately, the very fabric of our society through our work with these children and their families.” She went on to share that resource parents weave Trauma Informed Care into their relationships with children and families (Trauma Informed Care is a practice that promotes a culture of safety, empowerment and healing). A focus on developing trust with youth by utilizing empathy and compassion can help break the cycle of abuse and neglect that many families involved in the Child Welfare system experience. Ms. Slattery was also present to share her appeal during the National Foster Care Month Awareness Proclamation by the County Board of Supervisors on May 14, 2019.
After each presentation at city council meetings, councils across the county agreed to support youth in foster care by raising awareness in different ways with their respective districts and constituencies. Information brochures and service guides are now prominently displayed in local City Hall buildings around the county. City mayors and council members were provided data, information, and social media-friendly outreach materials pertaining to youth in foster care, including details specific to their community.
With over 370 children, youth, and teens in foster care in San Luis Obispo County at any given moment, there is a crisis level need for additional members of the community to come forward and explore the many opportunities to support youth in foster care, particularly for adolescents, sibling groups, and youth with special needs.
With the current shortage, it becomes increasingly difficult to place youth in the community they were living in at the time they entered foster care. This results in a loss of a familiar neighborhood and often a change in schools. Research has shown that students placed in foster care lose as much as four months of academic progress for each move/placement change, contributing to a dismal high school graduation rate.
The following statistics show demonstrate the need for additional members of the community to consider providing foster care to youth:
- Five Cities area (Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Oceano, and Shell Beach)
70 children, youth and teens living in the Five Cities area entered foster care from the Five Cities area. Of these, only 27 youth (38.5%) were able to stay in their home community.
- City of San Luis Obispo and Surrounding Areas
72 children, youth and teens entered foster care from the San Luis Obispo area. Of these, only 10 youth (14%) were able to stay in their home community.
- City of Paso Robles and Surrounding Areas (Paso Robles, Bradley, Shandon, Cholame, San Miguel)
55 children, youth and teens entered foster care from the Paso Robles area. Of these, only 14 youth (25%) were able to stay in their home community.
- City of Atascadero and Surrounding Areas (Atascadero, Creston, Templeton, California Valley, Santa Margarita)
55 children, youth and teens entered foster care from the Atascadero area. Of these, only 12 youth (22%) were able to stay in their home community.
- City of Morro Bay and Surrounding Areas (Morro Bay, Cambria, Harmony, Cayucos, Los Osos, San Simeon)
17 children, youth and teens entered foster care from the Morro Bay service area. Of these, only 4 youth (24%) were able to stay in their home community.
Resource families are vital to provide safe, stable, and loving care to our community’s youth; providing care in this way not only contributes to the well-being of a child in need, but strengthens our community as a whole. There are many ways members of our community can support youth in foster care. From being a temporary and short term respite care provider to being a full-time resource family to becoming an adoptive parent and everything in between, to being an advocate and using your voice and social connections to spread awareness for the need for more caregivers, there is a way for everyone to support our county’s youth.
Wonderful things can happen when people with a heart of compassion and a call for service make a difference in the lives of children, youth and teenagers in foster care. Youth have hope. Relationships grow stronger. Families are transformed.
We thank our local city and county leadership for stepping forward and shedding more light on this critical need in our community. We look forward to many more opportunities to work with our community until we find a safe, stable and loving family for every youth in foster care.
For more information on how you can help support youth in foster care visit www.slofostercare.com or call 805-781-1815.