Thursday, October 30, 2014

Foster Teens Cut Off from College Entry Programs




So the question was asked by Marlena Krueger, "It's wonderful that the majority of foster kids want to attend college. Are there any existing programs to help them achieve this? The short answer is "yes", but that doesn't touch on the dismal reality for thousands of foster teens.


There are many programs to help teens in general and some to help foster teenagers specifically. Just in Time for Foster Youth is a San Diego non-profit that helps foster teens to get into and pay for college. There are many other programs such as Reality Changers, again in San Diego. They have an outstanding track record for working with student so they win scholarships to top level colleges such as Dartmouth and Harvard. And I would be remiss not to include PIQE and the Eva Longoria Foundation.

However, there are structural problems with many programs that can and do essentially exclude foster youth. Reality Changers has students come to their facility after school to do homework and then to get training so they can successfully go for scholarships. This is no slight against the program. As a past guest and speaker, I can say that the organization has the highest level of quality.


Having said that, though, someone has to deliver the student to the facility for an ongoing commitment. Most foster kids are not in a home situation where the foster parent will be this active. Many foster children are just happy to have some stability in their lives such as not changing homes for the year. So, yes, Reality Changers works (and very well), but foster children would not be ideal candidates.







A similarly focused program exists with PIQE, another outstanding non-profit dedicated to helping high school students get into college. The PIQE method is focused on parents getting trained so they can help their children successfully go through the entrance and finance process. Again, many foster teenagers are not greeted by an adult who asks them how their day was at school or helps the child with their homework. It can happen, but it's unrealistic to believe that the majority of foster parents are spending quality time helping their foster child get into college. Foster child education statistics show that this is clearly not happening at a alarming level that should be considered an educational crisis.
 
And finally let's talk about a new and active organization, the Eva Longoria Foundation. It's dedicated to helping Latina teenagers get into college. Again this is no slight to Eva or her foundation. She should be applauded for taking her fame and wealth and using it to help Latinas. But when I spoke with the foundation, they explained that they presently do not have anything in place to specifically help Latina foster teenagers. Could some get into the program? It's possible, but if there are foster teens in the program, they are either choosing not to identify themselves as being in foster care (completely understandable but that's another post) or there are not enough to have caught the attention of the foundation.





So the answer to the question is a huge "yes." There are programs that could help foster teens to continue their education and go onto college. Programs like Just In Time for Foster Youth are successful. Sadly, though, there are real obstacles preventing foster children from taking advantage of more than a handful of programs. Until more foster parents step up who have a deep care for their foster kids including helping them to stay in school, we will continue to see sickening educational statistics for foster kids.


One proven way to help all foster teenagers to stay in school is to support a service that locates their family members. Foster youth who are placed with relatives generally do better in school, graduate, enter college and earn their four-year degree at more than double the rate of children placed in foster homes. Our organization is launching a crowdfunding campaign Nov. 10 to raise funds for our foster children caseload for 2015. We invite you to be part of the solution.

The solution is not complex, but getting there will take more than just the failing educational and foster care systems.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Foster Children Crowdfunding with a Twist, Supported by Businesses




So many people have asked how they could get involved to help foster children. We have the answer. On Nov. 10, a crowdfunding campaign will be launched to raise funds so that hundreds of foster kids will be able to move out of the foster care system and into forever homes with loving relatives. And this campaign has a business twist.


First let's talk crowdfunding. You have heard of this but may not be clear on what crowdfunding is and how it works. Crowdfunding is essentially people giving money to a cause. It's not a donation is the traditional sense because depending on the amount you contribute, you get a prize that is called a perk. These perks can be very nice ranging from original drawings, artwork or music, or products such as clothes, books or even tickets to a movie that was produced by the money raised through crowdfunding.

Our crowdfunding campaign will be unique because it's oriented toward professionals and businesses. We have pulled together some of the top marketers, trainers and coaches in the country who are contributing products and services. Eric Lofholm, who is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on sales, sales systems, and sales scripting, is offering a digital program for just $25. Other experts such as Jill Lublin, master publicity strategist, consultant, and bestselling author, are offering one-on-one coaching sessions.





Ever heard of Tom Antion? Tom was dominating Internet marketing before most people knew there was an Internet. He's offering a special coaching session that cannot be bought except through our crowdfunding. Tom is a strong supporter of our organization's work to reconnect foster kids with their family members. Following Tom is Roberto Candelaria, crowdfunding expert, who is also donating his time and expertise to help ensure a successful campaign.


Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Gia Heller, social media marketing guru and the leading expert in her field. Gia is a contributor and is providing pre-launch support and guidance. But that's not all. Gia recently adopted a foster teen and is working on getting certified so she can become a foster mom to more children. She understands the challenges that foster youth face both while in the foster care system and once they age out.

Our contributors are smart, sharp and very successful business professionals who want to give back and are doing so by supporting our work to get 200-250 foster kids out of foster care in 2015 and into forever homes. If you aren't in a position to become a foster parent, you can absolutely join in our crowdfunding. Find a perk, get new skills to grow your business or improve an area of your personal life. With a dozen experts, there's something at a contribution level for everyone.





We're in the home stretch for 2014. The holidays are here. Now is the perfect time for you to give and help a foster child. It's never been easier and you'll go away with a perk that could help you make 2015 your best year ever.


Fulfill your desire to help foster kids avoid homelessness, not end up in prison, remain in school, and not become another sex trafficking victim. Do it for the children. Do it for yourself. I can't think of anything that speaks to the holiday spirit like helping a child in need.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Starting Oct. 27, you'll be able to follow our progress on the crowdfunding campaign by visiting our page at www.FindFamiliesInMexico.org/news.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Foster Kids - CASA Providing Help to McKean County Foster Children





There are many non-profits that have a mission to help foster children. One of the most important of these organizations is CASA, court-appointed special advocates. This national organization trains volunteers who are then appointed by a judge "to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children during a dependency case."


CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears of the court. They interact with foster youth, social workers, the judge, family relatives and any involved specialists such as child psychologists. Without a CASA, the needs of a foster child can be pushed aside by a parent, relatives or case workers. The CASA speaks for the child.

Many counties in Pennsylvania have had CASA volunteers for years. CASA has just initiated their program in McKean County, Pennsylvania. Although CASA is a national organization, there are many other counties around the country where there are no CASA volunteers.





Even though there is now a CASA presence in the county, this should not imply that all foster kids will have a CASA. The number of children entering the foster care system has been climbing steadily despite improvements in the U.S. economy. Foster care statistics reveal that there are simply not enough volunteers to handle every foster youth case.


Two of the best ways a person can become involved with helping foster children is to support CASA and services that locate a foster kid's family members. Becoming a CASA requires from 15-25 hours a month where a volunteer will work with a foster youth and their case. It is a heart-fulfilling activity.

Supporting services such as Find Families In Mexico is the other way to help these children. The first step to moving a foster kid out of the system is to locate and notify their relatives. Without completing this initial stage, tens of thousands of foster youths will remain in foster care until they age out.





Many cases have been brought to our organization by CASA. These volunteers saw where foster care agencies had failed to locate family members of several foster children and coordinated efforts that resulted in relatives being located. These foster kids are now moving through the system and into forever homes with loving, caring family members.


If you want to help foster children but aren't ready to be a foster or adoptive parent, consider being a CASA. If you aren't able to be a CASA, then support efforts to find family members. If you want to help foster kids, trust me. There is a place for you.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Foster Kid Statistics - Youths Flooding Arizona's Foster Care System


(video link is below)


I know that a lot of our readers live in Arizona so you'll probably be interested in the latest foster care statistics. In an interview this week, Kris Jacober, executive director of the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation, shares that Arizona is losing the fight to lower the number of foster kids coming into the foster care system.


Foster kid statistics reveal that the state has roughly 20,000 children in foster care. As the article describes, "That's more than the total population of Sedona and Winslow combined." That's a lot of displaced children.

To put this alarming number into perspective, it is almost double the number of Arizona foster youth in 2010. Texas is the only other state where the number of foster children has increased from years ago. 






There has been a lot of upheaval in Arizona since the beginning of 2014 because of publicized failures by the Department of Child Safety. Many include Governor Jan Brewer felt that the state's foster care system was broken. The article implies that this influx of kids into foster care is due to the Department of Child Safety having closed 6,500 outstanding child welfare cases within the last month or so.


Jacober's organization supplies items that the state doesn't provide to its foster kids. In 2009, Arizona made significant, "brutal" cuts in the foster care budget causing a strain on many non-profits that have tried to pick up the slack.

One of the crippling side effects from Arizona's reduced foster care budget is the lack of funds to support efforts to locate foster kids' family members. This deficit means that many foster youth who could be moving out of foster care don't because a relative was located and wanted to take in the child are simply not contacted. Instead these children are spending many more months and years in the state system.





The irony is that by investing in more thorough efforts to locate relatives, more foster kids would be processed out and placed with family members. The monthly support payments to these relatives is very modest as the support amount was also a casualty of the 2009 budget cuts. Bottom line: Arizona would save millions of dollars by doing more to locate relatives.


Foster care agencies and the politicians that sign off on their budgets need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Officials need to start identifying those procedures that will save these agencies money while still providing the necessary support to foster children and those caring adults, such as Gia Heller, social media marketing guru and soon-to-be foster mom, who step up and give these children a forever home. This is the only way real progress will be made so less children go into foster care in the first place.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.


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Monday, October 6, 2014

Foster Children - Foster Care Stages to Moving Foster kids into Forever Homes




You probably know that the focus of Find Families In Mexico is to get children out of foster care. Our organization's vision is for "all U.S. foster children to have a permanent home." We make this happen by locating a foster child's relatives, the critical first step in the process to move foster youth into forever homes. Many have asked about what happens to foster kids once their relatives have been found.


When we have completed our work, called family finding, a case moves to the second stage called "engagement." During this part, agencies will notify all the relatives who were identified in the initial family finding stage. This list may include as many as 60 adult relatives.

Relatives go through a screening process to ensure they are willing and able to take in and care for a foster child. When an appropriate match is identified and verified, the process advances so that the foster youth will be put in relative placement.




Sometimes no adult relatives are found during the family finding process. Once evidence is presented that every reasonable effort has been made to identify and locate the child's relatives without success, the court will often allow the case to move toward adoption or to placement with unrelated adults.


Our organization has a success rate of 95% resulting in relatives being located. The question that people often ask is, "What happens to the U.S. foster children whose relatives are found living in Mexico?" Our work often leads to other, possibly unknown, family members who are living in the U.S. In these cases, foster children go to live with their U.S. relatives.

Another common question is, "What happens if the only relatives found are living in Mexico?" First there is the matter that virtually every case we handle involves U.S.-born children who had at least one U.S.-born parent. The U.S. courts are not known for shipping U.S. citizens to other countries. Just imagine the headlines if a U.S. child was sent to the Ukraine or Liberia!






You may argue (and please do so in the Comment section below) that foster kids should be with their families. That is a philosophical aspect that we will leave to others although we did work a case where sending the child back to live with the birth mother would have been completely amoral. What we can share is that in every case we have worked, the foster youth stayed in the U.S. either with relatives or adoptive parents.


The goal of foster care agencies is to move the 400,000 foster kids out of the system either back with their parents or into forever homes. Foster children benefit from finally having a stable home and adults who care about them. Taxpayers benefit because of the savings of hundreds of millions of dollar that are spent annually supporting children while in the foster care system.

Family finding, locating a foster kid's relatives, is vital to the foster care mission. More funding needs to be directed to this activity so that agencies and taxpayers aren't paying for damage control while foster youth continue to spend years forgotten in a government institution.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.

Get a PDF copy of this blog on where
foster kids go to live.


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Friday, October 3, 2014

Foster Kids - Foster Children to Receive New Clothes from Fund Drive




Many people get sad or angry when they hear about the challenges that foster children endure while in the foster care system. Some may feel that there is little to be done to help these kids. If you ever doubted the ability of one person to make a difference, doubt no more.


Jackie Crusha has a new pastime that is brightening the Christmas season for hundreds of foster children in Kings County in California. Last year, Crusha started a drive to collect new clothes for the area foster youth. Her efforts resulted in 400 foster kids getting new clothes for winter.
 
The Kings County Human Services Agency is partnering with Crusha as she launches another drive that started Oct. 1. The goal again is to gather new clothes, gift-wrap them and then give the clothes as presents to hundreds of foster children on Christmas.


Many people don't realize that when a foster youth is removed from their home, it can be under very tense and explosive circumstances. Parents may react violently to having Child Protective Services come into their house and taking their children. Knowing this is a possibility, the goal is to remove the children as quickly and safely as possible. Children often enter the foster care system with only the clothes they were wearing. This could be a pair of pajamas, a night shirt or just a diaper.





Foster children often will move through the system will very few clothes, and almost all of them used. Getting brand new clothes is a present that many foster kids can only dream of. So the simple act of giving new clothes that these children can call their own can be a huge boost to their morale and self-image. The drive will last until Dec. 10. On Christmas, the foster care agency will give the gifts to the children.

Concerning Crusha's charitable work, Ruth Robles, King County Department Specialist, said:

"We’re absolutely grateful for her help, especially since she’s reaching out to a very sensitive group.” 

Nothing could be more charitable than to help foster kids. Starting a collection at church, selecting an evening at a restaurant where a percentage of the sales are donated, or starting a clothes or toy drive are just a few ways people can help these children. One of the best ways is to support efforts to find relatives of foster youth so these kids move out of foster care altogether into forever homes.

Crusha is setting an example that many women and men can follow. Helping a foster child this winter would be a great way to get into and share the holiday spirit.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.



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Monday, September 29, 2014

Foster Care - California Foster Teens Poised to Get Transitional Housing Relief




Foster care statistics reveal that "when foster children turn 18 and leave the state's foster care system, they do so with little more than a bag of clothes. Only 3 percent go on to college."


This reality for thousands of foster kids is nothing short of a crisis. State and local governments and foster care agencies across the country are working to find solutions. An uneducated work force is both bad for individuals as well as a financial hardship on the economy and taxpayers. Fortunately, California Senate Bill 1252 is set to bring much needed support to thousands of teens who have left the foster care system.


Senate Bill 1252 will fund an extra year of transitional living for foster teens who have aged out of the system. How critical is housing for these kids? One of the key reasons that foster kids don't continue their formal education at a college or university is that they lack a safe place to live. Most of these teens simply don't have an income source to afford rent or weren't able to secure a scholarship.





The creative minds behind California Senate Bill 1252 are two college students. Yes, once again it's our youth and not government bureaucrats who have served up a solution to help former foster children.

One of the co-founders of the organization, Foster Youth Investment Coalition, that is spearheading the effort to put this bill on the governor's desk is Sade Burrell, former foster child and presently a graduate student at the University of Southern California. Concerning the challenges of getting a college education, Burrell explains:

"Being able to study in a library or at home, having those late nights, I didn't really have a home setting to go to. That was a huge hurdle for me, so that's why I'm involved with this."

Lauro Cons, a graduate student at the University of San Diego is the other co-founder. The idea originated with a research project Cons did as an undergrad. He noted:

"We conducted extensive cross sectional research on 'foster youth' and 'housing support,'" Cons said in an email. "And found that the lack of housing assistance for foster youth, after aging out of the system, has a direct negative impact on their ability to continue with their education."




The bill is sitting on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. Although he had a busy few days signing many other bills, as of Sept. 28, 2014, this one is still awaiting his signature. We hope he signs this bill into law because it's clear that former foster youth do and will continue to struggle to continue their education.
 
Not signing this bill would be another painful punch to foster kids who need and deserve our help. As a society we must do right by these children.


Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.

Get a PDF copy of this blog on California
Senate Bill 1252 helping foster youth with college.


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Friday, September 26, 2014

Foster Kids - Foster Care Activities and Progress Report



There's something exciting about getting a progress report. Sure, there are the low points and areas that can be improved, but the best part is seeing where you are doing really well. So with the 2014 third quarter coming to an end, I thought it'd be good to let you see our progress report because many people like to hear good news about foster children. Our success means more kids are moving out of the foster care system and into forever homes.


Fifty-five percent of our time is spent on doing research, international communication, documentation and follow up on active foster child cases. We spend 30% of our time answering inquiries from agencies across the country and working to bring agencies on board so they can start sending us their foster children cases.

Working with county agencies involves a lot of documentation, and preparations can take months before we get their first case. The remaining 15% of our time and energy is spent on marketing, fund raising and administration. Every week we get calls and emails from agencies saying that they just heard about us.


We're in our second year of offering our services pro bono (free) to foster care agencies and non-profits. You may wonder why we offer our services pro bono. Before 2013, when we would get a call from a foster care agency, we would explain our research services along with the cost for our international work. The cost was less than $40 which does not cover the expenses to handle a foster youth case. Yet many agencies often said they didn't have a budget to pay that amount.





Our mission is to make a lasting, positive impact on the lives of foster children and allowing $40 to be a roadblock to helping a foster child isn't acceptable. Therefore in 2013, our organization launched a new program so that foster care agencies could and do get our services for free. Guess what happened? We doubled our case load last year. Guess what’s happening this year? You got it. We have already doubled our caseload and will probably triple it.


Bottom line: many more foster kids are moving out of foster care into forever homes usually with relatives in the U.S. or adoptive foster parents.


How are we doing concerning our caseload? It all depends. Every case is different. We have to point out that we can and do locate family members in just a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, several weeks to a couple of months can often go by while case workers get back to us with their results from our findings. Sometimes, our first effort is successful. Other times we have to launch a new search effort before we find a foster child's relatives.




Presently we have eight active cases. Each case involves three to five people. Our cases average between two to three months. It takes many weeks of time and effort when we have a case where a foster kid's only known relatives live in the mountains with no Internet, telephone or cell reception.


We are fast approaching the tipping point for our organization. We have multiple cases from several states with more agencies finalizing details so they can start sending us their cases. County officials are talking with neighboring counties that have already used our services. We've handled cases in seven states and expect Arizona to be number eight by October.

On the donor side, let's just say that an increase in contributions and volunteers would be outstanding. Supporters are the life blood of our organization and allow us to continue to offer our services pro bono to county agencies.


We are gearing up to launch a crowdfunding project in November. Gia Heller, social media marketing guru, has already offered to support our project. Others such as Star Devi with Spin Digital Publishing have also offered to help us. There are many ways that you, too, can participate and help a foster child.






As anyone in business knows, no matter what your day-to-day activities are, you still have to look at the numbers if you want to survive and thrive. Our goal is to make a lasting change for at least 200 foster youth in 2015. That will require a budget of $100,000. We're very optimistic that when New Year's comes around, we'll be poised to succeed.


Be a part of the solution and volunteer to help get more foster kids into forever homes.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.



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Friday, September 19, 2014

Foster Kids - Aging Out Foster Youth Get Transitional Housing in Florida




You've probably read about the terrible foster kid statistics: 25% will end up in prison, 50% will drop out of any formal education, and 25% will become homeless. All of these outcomes are very common for foster children who have aged out of the foster care system. Fortunately, these children have a political ally who is helping Florida's foster youth with practical solutions.


Enter Florida State Sen. Nancy Detert. Just shy of her 70th birthday, State Sen. Nancy Detert is hitting her stride as she tackles many challenges that face the foster children in her district and state.

Starting in 2013, she pushed through a bill that extended the age at which foster teens age out of the foster care system from 18 to 21. Many experts feel that the additional three years will allow foster kids a chance to plan better for their futures once they are forced out of the system.


Florida State Senator Nancy Detert

This week the state senator along with other community leaders attended a ceremony for the opening of a transitional housing facility for aged out foster youth. Experts agree that one of the biggest challenges for these kids is securing a place to live.

Up to 25% of former foster children become homeless within the first 24 months of being on their own. About half of former foster kids will stop their education because they have no safe place to live and study.


Rich Stroud, executive director of a nonprofit called Everyday Blessings explained:

"For decades, children would turn 18 and be forced to leave foster care with no safety net and little community support."

Marlena Krueger of Body Beautiful Spa and Rose Perkins of Radiant and Youthful had lamented the millions that seem to be wasted by the foster care system recycling old programs that show little success. These professional along with others feel that the system needs a serious restructuring along with new ideas.





A new housing facility for former foster kids isn't a new concept. Fortunately, State Sen. Detert understands that helping former foster youth requires a multi-prong approach. Not only will the new facility offer transitional living to these kids, but within the facility, they will have access to vocational counselors, tutoring and mentoring.


Only time will tell if this program, named Springboard, is successful. However, the former foster youth who are going to live in this new facility will most likely be much better prepared for independent living than those children who age out with only their clothes in a garbage bag and little else.


It's definitely time to try something new because the old programs continue to fail our nation's foster children.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Share your thoughts and ideas below and share this post with others.



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Monday, September 15, 2014

Foster Kids - Why Search for a Foster Child's Relatives in Mexico



If you have read any of our past blog posts (and if you haven't, I invite you to do so), you know that we focus on the challenges for children who are in the U.S. foster care system. We also talk about what happens when foster youth age out of the system and what can be done to help them before they are forced out. When and why do the foster child agencies ask us to step in? What is the connection between the foster child and Mexico?


The other day Gia Heller, social media marketing guru, asked about the name of our Facebook page, Family Finding MX. She knows that we work with Mexico, and Gia spent three years living there. She wrote:
"When I read it [your website - www.FindFamiliesInMexico.com], it made me immediately question, "Why only Mexico? Why can't you also help children in the states find family members?"
Gia's questions are much more complex that they may appear so let's first talk about how the foster care system works. When a child is placed into the foster care system in the U.S., social workers will question him/her. One purpose of the interview is to gather information about adult family members: grandparents, aunts, and cousins who can be notified that their child relative is now in foster care. This is the beginning of the process called "family finding." Case workers will give a similar interview to the parent(s).






The interview goal is to get the names and contact information of many family members up to 60 adults. Once the agency has this data, the staff either sends out notification to these relatives or they hit the U.S. databases to search out and locate family members.



Success Rate of Finding Relatives in U.S.

With access to several national databases, U.S. foster care agencies have a search and find success rate of up to 85%. The people who normally can't be found are criminals, folks who purposely live off the grid, people who have recently moved, and those relatives that no one knows about such as an uncle or third cousin. In general, the foster care agencies don't face too many challenges in trying to find the child’s relatives unless they happen to live in another country like Mexico. That's when the agencies turn to our organization.







Helping U.S. Foster Youth

So who are the foster children we help? Those who have been placed in a U.S. foster care program. Surprised? Confused? You may be, and I understand if you are. Here's the deal. As soon as people in the U.S. hear "Mexico," their brains short circuit, and an avalanche of ideas pop out. The truth is that we are:


"Not bringing kids from Mexico to the U.S."

"Not looking for kids in Mexico."

"Not trying to find foster parents for children in Mexico."

"Not trying to help people adopt children from Mexico."

"Not working with foster kids in Mexico."

When foster care agencies come to our organization, Find Families In Mexico, they have done their search and have found no living U.S. relatives of the foster child, but the agency knows of at least one relative living in Mexico. Our task is to find that relative and restore a much needed family connection.






So let's answer the first part of Gia's question, "Why Mexico?" We are the leading international, non-governmental organization that has been locating people in Mexico for more than 20 years. We have guided more than 6,500 families to find their relatives living in Mexico. U.S. agencies that have used our services include the Ninth Circuit Court, the Department of Defense and many offices of the Department of Human Services. Even People® Magazine has asked us to help them find someone in Mexico.


Bottom line: We're the best at finding people in Mexico, our area of expertise. When an agency needs to find a foster child's family members who still live in Mexico, they come to us.




Smart Questions Being Asked

Before I answer the other part of Gia's question, I want to be clear - these are not idle questions. These questions show that as an organization, we still need to work on how we communicate with the public and potential donors about our work. (Any volunteers?) We were just fortunate enough that Gia cared enough to ask what others have probably wondered.

Rose Perkins of Radiant and Youthful asked a similar question, "So does Family Finding MX help all foster children or just ones of Hispanic decent?" Short answer... mostly Hispanic although we have searched for U.S. parents who went to Mexico, usually because of their criminal past. We have also searched for relatives who recently came to Mexico from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. There is no simple yes and no, right or wrong, or "one size fits all" answer. If there is any field with lots of gray, it's foster care.









We Help U.S. Foster Children

Now let's answer the second part of Gia's question, "Why can't you also help children in the states find family members?" Well, we do. Almost all of the cases we handle involve U.S.-born children. All of the cases that foster care agencies bring us involve children under their care.

A large percentage of foster youth of Hispanic descent are second and third generation Americans. The Pew Research Center describes second generation as a person having one parent who is a U.S. citizen. Third generation is where both parents are U.S. citizens but one grandparent was not originally born in the U.S. This family tree probably describes more than 60% of all Americans. Surprised?


No matter their ancestry, foster children are simply innocent children. The goal of foster care is to get these kids out of the system as soon as possible. The first step to making this happen is finding a foster child's relatives even if it means looking in Mexico.

We have a 95% success rate finding relatives in Mexico. Interestingly, once an agency talks with these family members, they will often share information on the whereabouts of other relatives who live in the U.S. whom foster agencies either couldn't find or didn't know existed.






When you think about it, is it really strange that U.S. families have relatives in another country or two? Many families have relatives in two or more countries. Just think of all the Asian-Americans who have grandparents, uncles and aunts living in Japan, the Philippines or Vietnam. What about those Americans with family in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Canada? My family has hundreds of relatives in Europe. I could go on, but you get the point.


Bottom line: We help U.S. foster care agencies find a foster youth's relatives so the child can move out of the system and into a forever home. We only help children in the U.S. by finding their family members who just happen to live in Mexico.

This is clearly not the last word on this topic. If you have questions, leave them in the comment section below. If you have expertise that could help our organization better explain what we do and who we help, call me at 619-886-4760 or email me at info@findfamiliesinmexico.org.

And keep those questions coming.

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. Got questions? Have an opinion? Want an simple way to help foster children? Share your thoughts below.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Foster Youth - Prevention is Key to Helping Foster Children




In some ways it's easy to talk about the plight of foster children. Pull up foster child education statistics and photos, and you'll get some people's attention. Once awareness has been achieved, many caring adults will engage in thoughtful and thought provoking conversations. Some will ask why the status quo exists while others will propose ways to help foster youth have a better life once they age out of the foster care system.


Here is the recent foster care statistic that generated so much commentary.





Robert Callesen of The Car Lot commented:
"Thanks for the info, but what solutions are available?"

Nick Huntington, owner of Sweet Cakes Café, followed with:
"What is the solution. . .? Seems like this is an epidemic not only for Foster Children but for many children of varied backgrounds."

Barbara Loraine, Founder of Be Irresistible offered:
"Prevention is key... once kids have aged out, "working hard" isn't enough. They each need to be given training, a break and support along the way. What happens that they "can't keep a job more than one year?"

To understand the disastrous results that occur to foster youth once they age out, you first have to know what happens to these children while in foster care and leading up to the day these foster teens are forced out of the system.




As we wrote in our recent blog, "Foster Children - Not Finding a Foster Child's Relatives May Open a New Door," about half of the 400,000 U.S. foster children in the system this year will be returned to their parents or legal guardians. Thousands more will get adopted. Some foster teens will run away, and 24,000 foster youth will age out. Let's focus on those foster kids who will remain in the foster care system and will age out within the next few years.

We agree with the many comments we received including those of Terri Levine, marketing consultant, and Carly Fanguy of 57 Degrees that there needs to be a solid support system to help foster teens transition from being in the system to being on their own.


The largest federal program to help these children is Chafee. We highlighted this foster youth program recently. Foster children are taken through training to prepare them for being on their own. However, from the foster kid statistics, such as the one above, clearly this program has only limited success.





Educational programs have been established to help provide funding and scholarships for foster teens who want to go to college such as Just in Time. This San Diego-based organization is dedicated to helping these children get into universities. Actor and activist, Eva Longoria, has created a foundation that helps Latina get into college. It's unclear if this successful organization has a specific focus on helping Hispanic foster children who number close to 84,000 kids.

There are many community-based programs popping up around the country to help these children. In our blog, "Foster Children - Foster Kids Receive Support from Organizations," we highlighted the success of Epicenter that is helping California foster kids better transition into society once they age out. The organization was established ten years ago and has spread out into other communities in Northern California.


Ana Hawk of Instant Barter LLC had commented, "Prevention is the best cure. However, reality demands that new programs be put in place." Clearly you can see that new non-government programs have been created to help foster teens with their transition to independence.


Unfortunately, the majority of the preparation given to foster youth approaching age out appears to be coming from foster care agencies. Until more successful programs come on line and at a national level, it's probable that former foster kids will continue to suffer a dismal life.





As I wrote at the beginning, many people including Misty Morgan of Rental Matchmaker and Suzy Marmis Owen of Suzy Q Help wonder how they and others can help these children. Just as Barbara and Ana said, the best solution is prevention.

It's so important to repeat that foster children who are able to stay with a relative perform better at school. This higher level of performance means that these kids generally feel better about themselves. Their scholastic success helps them integrate with their peers. With family support, these foster teens graduate and more often go on to college or get vocational training. Armed with a solid educational background and family support, these kids can go on to live successful, productive lives.


One of the best and proven ways to help these children is for them to be placed with family. For this to happen, family members first have to be located and notified which is exactly what our organization does. Want to help foster children before they age out? Support our foster children efforts through a variety of ways.






If you decide to help another organization, more power to you. No matter which organization you support, you can make a lasting impact on the life of one or many foster youth. You don't have to wait for new programs and a reboot of existing government programs. All it takes to change the outcome for foster children from negative to positive is for you and those you know to step up and take action.

As Liz Harris of Liz Harris Realty said, "Let's lend a helping hand." What more needs to be said?

Regards,

Richard Villasana
  Richard

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico
760-690-3995

PS. As Tony Robbins says, "Take immediate action." Leave a comment below and share this blog post with others.



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