Through the pandemic, Children’s Bureau, a nonprofit leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in Southern California, has continued to serve more than 50,000 at-risk children across Southern California.
“We haven’t stopped and we’re not going to because the need is always there,” said Bernadette Boylan, program manager for foster care and adoption at Children’s Bureau. “There’s children still being abused, still being neglected, and they need a family. That doesn’t stop.”
Pushing through the challenges
Children’s Bureau offers a comprehensive foster care and adoption program, along with prevention programs and mental health programs — none of which have stopped through the pandemic.
“When this hit in March, Children’s Bureau kicked it up into high action and thought, ‘We need to protect everybody. How do we still do our job and still make sure that everybody stays healthy?’ And the agency has really taken it seriously,” Boylan added. “Children’s Bureau has really been out there to meet the needs of the community.”
Children’s Bureau has hosted drive-up giveaways for families in need of essential supplies, such as fresh food, diapers, formula and more, and has provided more than 2,000 hours of virtual mental health services, along with more than 3,000 hours of virtual support groups.
In working with children, having to restrict in-person services has been difficult, but not impossible.
“This is a people business — it really is all about relationships,” Boylan said. “These kids come in, they’re needing companionship, they’re needing a family, they’re needing connection. … But what we’ve done is we’ve really latched on to the whole virtual concept, so kids are still being seen the way they should be.”
As worries of COVID-19 continue, it’s also been difficult to place children in homes.
“There are many people who are concerned, and should be concerned, about the pandemic and maybe are not so keen about having a child they know nothing about come into their home,” Boylan added.
In Los Angeles County alone, the foster care population exceeds 21,000 children, with 200 of those foster children waiting for an adoptive family.
Many of these children are either older or siblings in need of families who are willing and able to keep them together. In fact, Children’s Bureau turns away at least 10 sibling sets weekly due to lack of families.
Even so, Children’s Bureau has continued to offer orientations for families interested in foster care or adoption, with more than 250 families participating virtually through the pandemic, while 50 of those families have since begun the process of becoming resource parents, according to Boylan.
Orientation meetings go virtual
As the need for families remains high, Children’s Bureau has begun to transition their foster care and adoption orientation information meetings to a virtual setting as well, with meetings scheduled monthly on Zoom until they can be resumed in-person.
These meetings are the first step in helping families understand if they have the ability and resources to help a child in need.
“It’s really a great way to get introduced to the foster adoption process and who we are as an agency,” Boylan said. “That’s where people can get online and ask questions, learn about the program, find out about the process.”
Brittany and her husband Jeremy, whose last names have been omitted for privacy, have three biological children, yet still knew that fostering was something they wanted to do, then made the decision to foster-adopt two sibling children.
“Being a foster parent lets you help someone in their time of need — you’re the support system for a child and for their parents,” Brittany said in a prepared statement.
“Children’s Bureau has been there to help get us through the challenging times and to celebrate the special moments, especially when the adoption of our two children was finalized.” Jeremy added.
A much-needed donation
This month, Children’s Bureau also announced a Matching Gift Campaign sponsored by the Reissa Foundation, where from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31, they’d be matching gifts from individuals up to $50,000.
Funds raised are expected to go directly toward helping Children’s Bureau continue to be responsive to the needs of the thousands of at-risk children and families served annually.
Children’s Bureau welcomes every individual regardless of race, age, religion, disability, marital status, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression to become a resource for children, and qualifying families receive training and support throughout their journey.
Online Foster Care & Adoption Orientation Meeting sessions are scheduled 4-5 p.m. monthly on Zoom, with the next meeting set for Sept. 17. For more information, visit all4kids.org or call 800-730-3933.