It was seven years ago when Susan and Richard Kurtik of Encinitas decided to attend an informational meeting about Angels Foster Family Network, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing safe, stable, loving homes for foster children.
Susan, who had just retired, said she wanted to make a “real difference in the life of a child.” When she heard the stories about foster children and their resource families — a volunteer foster family that serves as a resource in support of the child until she or he returns to their family — Susan knew she was in the right place.
“Their words truly touched our hearts and we wanted to be part of a community that was committed to restoring and healing families,” Susan said. “We were also impressed with the compassion and support of the Angels’ staff and their focus on improving foster care for the youngest victims, newborn to five [years of age].”
The Kurtiks is one of many local families that supports San Diego’s foster youth. But Angels Foster Family Network said more are needed to provide for the estimated 2,800 local children in foster care.
Jeff Wiemann, executive director for Angels Foster Family Network, said an estimated 50% of local foster youth are under the age of 5 years old.
“The first five years of life are so extremely critical that any disruption or deviation in the natural growth and development has the potential for life-long negative impacts,” Wiemann said. “Our resource families focus on discovering and understanding the trauma and neglect a child has been exposed to while helping them mitigate and or resolve this trauma through proper attachment and bonding.”
Although the volunteer role is a 24/7 position, the nonprofit provides resources and guidance along the way. Resource families also receive a monthly monetary stipend to pay for food, clothing, diapers and transportation for the child. Children five and younger in foster care are also eligible to receive nutritional assistance through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program and health, mental health and dental coverage provided via Medi-Cal.
Wiemann said the average length of time a child in foster care spends with one resource families is just under 11 months, while the range is from just a few days to over two years.
For the Kurtiks, sometimes the time with a foster child is not enough. The couple has cared for many children over the years with experiences ranging from three months to two years.
“When they leave your care, your heart breaks in a million pieces,” Susan said. “But, we try hard to build a relationship with the child’s family, to support their reunification with their child, and to maintain contact with them after the child returns home. Not everyone understands how you can love someone else’s child so deeply — it was surprising to us the first time.”
But, loving other children is possible, which is why the Kurtiks encourage others to consider fostering as well.
“If you can open your hearts and home to a vulnerable child, then attend an Angels’ information session to learn about fostering,” Susan said. “It is about these kids, the innocent victims of abuse, and the future they face if we won’t step up because we might get hurt. It will all be worth it and you will change a life forever.”
To be a resource family, you must:
- Reside within San Diego County
- Must be at least 21-years-old (preferably 25)
- Be financially stable
- Have adequate space for child/sibling set (minimum of 2 bedrooms)
- Pass a criminal background check
- Have references from friends/colleagues
- Have a working vehicle
- Attend pre-certification training held at Angels First Aid/CPR certified (offered through Angels) Have TB & TDAP vaccinations (completed after training)
- Have an approved home study (completed by Angels staff after training)
For more information about Angels Foster Family Network, go to angelsfoster.org.
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