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posted on November 08, 2012 17:15
There are 1,300 children in foster care in Idaho. Unfortunately, one of seven of them will turn 18 before they find forever families and will age out of the foster care system. Only half of the children who age out will graduate from high school; less than 2 percent will actually graduate from college. The future of children aging out of foster care is bleak.  

But now, a National Service Grant may help change that. The grant has allowed the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) to begin working with seven volunteers in the Americorps Volunteers in Service to America as part of the state’s One Church, One Child program, which works to ensure healthy futures for Idaho children in foster care.

The Division of Family and Community Services (FACS) in DHW started rolling out the program earlier this year to establish relationships with faith-based organizations. The goals are to:

1)   Recruit foster and adoptive parents;
2)   Provide services and natural supports for those who choose to foster and/or adopt;
3)   Provide support to children in foster care and their birth parents who are working to regain custody of those children.

One Church, One Child is now available statewide. Forty-three churches have already pledged to support the program, which means families are volunteering to foster children while other church families help provide support to their congregation’s foster families.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to work with faith-based communities to make sure children in foster care in this state have access to the care and services they need,” said Rob Luce, FACS division administrator. “Our goal eventually is that no child will age out of care before they can become part of a nurturing home.” 

The seven volunteers have been assigned to FACS professional teams in each of DHW’s seven regions around the state. The volunteers are liaisons between the state’s child welfare system and the faith communities. They work to improve the lives and outcomes for children in Idaho’s foster care system. The volunteers are charged with identifying churches and other faith-based organizations that could help children, and then engaging and building relationships with them. The VISTA volunteers each receive a stipend of $10,000 per year to work 36-40 hours a week in the program. The stipends are paid in state and federal funds. 

“Our program is three-fold: It’s not just about fostering or adopting, it’s about offering services to help these children deal with their circumstances so they can become healthy adults,” said Courtney Keith, DHW program specialist in charge of One Church, One Child. “I think we’ll see fewer children coming back into care if we build a good support network for their birth-families as well as their foster families.”
The grant is from the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages Americans in service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Social Innovation Fund. It also leads President Barak Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.

For more information about how to help, please contact the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine at 211 or 1-800-926-2588.

Contact:  Niki Forbing-Orr
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0693