A Social Worker is sitting in her cubical, her hair roughly clipped out of her face in the tousled look that signals the end of the day. She skipped lunch again and will likely be working well past what should be quitting time. She is dialing number after number, her leg bouncing up and down under the desk while she drums at her papers with a pen. Her urgency isn’t because she wants to get home, it’s because she knows that most other agencies will be closing at 5 p.m. Even if she was willing to work until midnight, it’s unlikely that anyone will answer the phone after hours and it’s already 4:45. Sitting across from her, holding a worn and dirty stuffed dog, is the 6-year-old boy she is desperately trying to place.
This is the problem that faces Social Workers in Los Angeles County every day. They can make as many as 100 calls before finding a place for a child in their caseload. While other counties restrict their social workers to 15 or 20 cases each, Los Angeles workers often have 35 or more. If there were more foster families, at least they would be able to place children more quickly, and those 99 other phone calls could be to help other kids.
Childhelp, a nonprofit organization, has been fighting child abuse for more than 55 years and is now working to meet the immediate need for foster families in Los Angeles.
Since Childhelp is a private agency, Childhelp foster parents work with a local office and have a number they can call at any time, day or night, instead of dealing with the county directly. Foster parents form real relationships with the Childhelp team. The team personally works with every family they certify and can remember each one, keeping track of who’s going on vacation or expecting a new baby, who faced challenges the prior month or called to share a happy story about their child’s progress. There are barbecues and events where foster parents can come together to support each other as well. Working with Childhelp, no foster parent ever needs to feel alone. There is ample training and support and someone is always available to answer questions.
Somewhere in Los Angeles a young boy or girl is crying right now, not sure where they will go. Childhelp is reaching out to the Los Angeles community to find homes for these children. If you or someone you know has ever considered being a foster parent, or has a room and love to spare, Childhelp is looking for you.
Kimberly Rogers is the mother of a special-needs child and the Children’s Outreach Coordinator for Childhelp. She works with potential foster parents as well as county placement offices to try to match children in need with people who care.