Truckee sees foster care shortage
(Editor’s Note: The name of the foster family featured in this article has been changed to protect their anonymity.)
Over the past 10 years, Truckee resident Tom Thompson has had more than 60 children.
As one of the few foster parents in Truckee, he and his wife have seen the gamut of young people – children from urban and rural areas, ranging in age from a few months old to teen, all with unique needs.
“Some of the children come with baggage,” said Thompson, who works with Portola-based Mountain Circle, a private non-profit foster agency. “What brings them into foster care is usually neglect or abuse, but by and large they’re great kids.”
Right now, there are two foster families in Truckee through Mountain Circle. Gary Revere, a social worker with the agency, said although he’s always found a place for all the children who’ve passed through Mountain Circle, there is a need for more foster parents in the Truckee area.
“We would like to see more (foster) families in Truckee. There are plenty of resources – doctors, schools, grocery stores – and it’s a little tougher to access resources in the sticks,” he said.
More than half of the children who pass through a foster agency are severely emotionally disturbed, Revere said.
“It’s really hard for them not to be,” he added.
Glenshire Elementary Principal Kathleen Gauthier said she’s seen quite a few of her students in need of foster care because of an “emergency situation with the parents.” With a growing need, she said, she hopes more parents will become available.
“It breaks my heart, when they have some sort of attachment here. It’s hard to pull them out of school. It’s not easy on children,” Gauthier said.
In some situations, children are placed in foster care out of the vicinity of their biological parents, for safety reasons. Most of the time, the agencies try to keep the child in the same school to maintain some sort of stability in the child’s life.
Peggy Wiseman, a private therapist with area schools, said that just over the past couple months she’s tried to find a place for a little boy and girl from Truckee. However, with only two active foster homes with Mountain Circle filled to their capacity, finding a home in the area might be difficult.
“I’ve seen what it does to have these children to have to leave their school,” Wiseman said. “We need long-term homes. We need someone to take them until they’re 18 years old.”
Children who move from home to home, she said, often get attachment disorders, which can set them back three years in their social development.
“Stability is the foremost important thing in a child’s life,” Revere said. “A child needs to know where they’re going to be in two weeks.”
Soon the Thompsons will sell their home in Truckee to move somewhere up north. Right now they’re in the process of adopting a child for the first time, a 14-year-old girl who has been in their home for nearly three years.
Once the Thompsons move, there will only be one active foster care family in Truckee. Thompson said he and his wife hope they can continue taking children into their home.
“It’s a real positive experience. I don’t think [potential foster parents] should let the issues a child may have be a deterrent,” he said.
There are a couple families looking into foster care in Truckee right now, Revere said. Families undergo a background check, a thorough one-month home study by the agency (to see which types of children will fit in their home), and first aid and CPR training.
Parents approved for foster care go through an initial training process and 18 hours of training each year thereafter.
“People can make such a socially beneficial impact,” Revere said. “You can change a child’s life in four days. If you can work with a child over the course of the year, you will see an impact in the community.”
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