Weaving the Safety Net
Sep 06, 2014 09:00AM
By Omaha Magazine Staff
Every hour or so, another email comes. Sometimes, it’s every 45 minutes. A child has been removed from their home. He isn’t safe there. She’s been neglected. Sometimes it’s several children, and their caregiver was arrested or is too drunk to care for them. Sometimes their adults are fighting and the children are in the crossfire.
The children need a place to stay. Right Now. It doesn’t matter that it’s 2:00 am.
Jessyca Vandercoy oversees Permanency and Well-Being Programs for Children at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFS). She sees the emails come in. It breaks her heart. Because far too often, there’s no good place for the child to stay.
“We have 61 licensed foster families and another 10 more waiting for final approval. Our families are always fostering children,” Vandercoy says. “Sometimes they can take another child. Often they simply can’t because there are no more beds. And it’s just wrenching to see the lists of kids with nowhere to go.”
So what happens to those children when there’s no foster home available for them? It varies. Local foster care providers like LFS regularly receive a status report on children and teenagers still needing placement who have no or limited options. On the one summer day that we looked, there were 23 children on the list. Many were teenagers living in emergency shelters. Others were under 10, living in group homes. One was only three years old. The hope is always that a child will be able to move into a foster home near his or her school, but once that option is exhausted, the next step is changing schools. And probably not for the first time. Many children lose count of how many schools they’ve attended.
Despite caring social workers, case managers, and well-intentioned care givers, this is no way for a child to live, especially a child who has been removed from the home by no fault of his or her own. Children generally end up as wards of the state because, in some way, their adults have failed them.
“It’s traumatic enough for the child to go through the experience of being removed from their home,” Vandercoy says. “But then to compound that trauma by then not having anyone willing to take them in….” Her voice trails off as she shakes her head. “It’s just rough.”
Vandercoy would know. She was once in foster care herself and is now the mother of children adopted from foster care. “These children matter,” she says. “They are part of our community and deserve to be safe and loved. One day they will be adults, and we need to do everything we can to help them be well-adjusted and happy.”
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent through Lutheran Family Services, call 402-661-7100. Or email the foster care team at LFS at [email protected] A new foster parent licensing class begins in September