Placer Kids’ picnic celebrates joys of ‘forever families’

Some 500 children still waiting for adoption
By: Anne Stokes, Press Tribune Correspondent
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Sierra Forever Families
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On Saturday, Oct. 6, Royer Park was filled with families and children, all of whom had been brought together by Sierra Forever Families adoption agency.  Families came to enjoy a picnic in the park and to recognize and appreciate those who have gone through the fostering and adoption process to welcome kids into their lives.

Since 1998, Placer Kids, a collaboration between Sierra Forever Families agency and Placer County’s Children’s System of Care, has worked to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system.

“The Placer Kids office is really unique in that we get to partner with Placer County Children’s System of Care to co-train and co-license families,” said social worker Jessica Miller. “So we get to directly serve the Placer County kids with the families that we have within Placer County.”
 Miller said Sierra Forever Families offers a great many resources for families who adopt.

 “Our services are all provided for free,” says Sara Hanson, PR specialist with Sierra Forever Families and Placer Kids. “We do that so cost is not an obstacle for a great family to come forward to bring a child into their home. Through that though we also need community support. All the resources we provide — support groups, therapeutic services to help strengthen the family bond — all those services are provided to families and children for free.”

Anthony Blue, who adopted his 17-year-old son Jacob four years ago, now serves as an ambassador family for the agency, mentoring and helping other families navigate the adoption process.

 “We spend a lot of our time educating them on what’s available as a family,” he said. “We focus a lot on that so when they do get a child placed with them, that they really know they have a lot of resources to help them out and to make sure that they’re going to be the last stop for these kids, their forever family.”

Bob Herne, executive director for Sierra Forever Families, said no child should be forced to grow up in the foster care system.

“Our belief is that every child has to have a forever family,” he said. “Foster care was created as a temporary measure, and it should be a temporary measure.”

For children who do age-out of the foster care system at 18, the statistics are grim. According to Herne and Sierra Forever Families, within two to four years, half of those young adults are homeless, in prison, or dead.

“It’s actually the worst outcomes for any subset of youths,” Herne said. “Former foster youth now make up the largest group of people using the homeless shelter system in California.”

With more than 500 children in Placer County in the foster care system, the agency’s biggest need is for more families.

“We’re really flexible, and that’s actually one of the things we ask of our families, that they’re flexible as well. We really are looking for all different types of families,” Hanson said.

Whether it’s faith-based, LGBT or any other community group, families from all walks of life are needed, Hanson said.“

“If you have a heart to help kids, there are certainly lots of waiting kids that need families that will love them and give them stability and nurturing,” Miller said. “So come on in and check it out and see if it’s the right fit for you and your family.”