Today, at Central Falls High School, Governor Gina M. Raimondo encouraged all Rhode Islanders to consider becoming foster families, promoted an upcoming weekend-long event for new foster families, and highlighted community partnerships that are strengthening the work of the Department of Children, Youth & Families.
“If you have been contemplating opening your home to a child, now is the time,” Governor Raimondo said. “We have a particular need for foster families in Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick, and Woonsocket. All children have a right to live in stable, loving families who can provide support and encouragement.”
Over the past year, DCYF has partnered with the cities of Central Falls, Newport, and Woonsocket via “community reach backs”-meetings with DCYF and elected officials, schools, parents, non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, and other stakeholders to discuss each community’s child welfare-related needs. The Department hopes to expand their reach in 2018.
In a surprise announcement at the event, Central Falls Superintendent Victor Capellán officially submitted an application for him and his wife to become foster parents. DCYF is working closely with the police and school departments in Central Falls. Superintendent Capellán invited the Department’s foster care recruitment team to speak with teachers and other school personnel. These efforts have led to two classes of foster care training in Central Falls.
Capellan said keeping children in their communities whenever possible is essential. “School-aged youth who need homes benefit the most when they close to their communities-close to their schools, teachers, friends and others who love and care about them. I hope other school leaders across the state will recognize this issue. And, I encourage other teachers and school staff to come forward and partner with DCYF.”
“I applaud Central Falls for helping to support all foster youth, and especially the teachers who stepped up for their kids when they needed them the most,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Taking a foster child into your home is a profound expression of love, and anyone who is able to make this commitment deserves our respect and gratitude.”
“Schools are a wonderful place to find foster families because we can identify people that children are already familiar with,” said DCYF Director Trista Piccola.
In Newport, the Department is working with the Newport Partnership for Families-an association of social service agencies, community organizations, educational institutions, and businesses supporting the needs of children and families. The team recruited enough foster families to fill an entire training class.
In Woonsocket, the Department and the Child Advocate are working with city officials, faith-based leaders, community organizations, parents, and other stakeholders to identify and address areas of need regarding child safety and well-being. With non-profit organization Community Care Alliance, they have teamed up to conduct crisis planning with families before children are removed from home or their community. Also, a foster family training class will begin there soon.
“We all have one goal in common,” said DCYF Director Piccola, “to ensure the safety and well-being of children and youth in our communities. I greatly appreciate Central Falls, Newport, and Woonsocket’s assistance in finding foster families and look forward to a continued partnership to begin to address some of the factors that lead to families engaging in our child welfare system.”
DCYF will host a foster family recruitment weekend on March 9, 10, and 11, for up to 200 potential foster families, at the Rhode Island Convention Center. The weekend, the first of it’s kind in Rhode Island, is aimed at reducing the length of time it takes for foster parents to become licensed. The event is made possible by funding from The Rhode Island Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Governor’s FY19 budget includes an investment of $1.36 million in resources for foster families in Rhode Island. This is the second investment in foster care rates since Raimondo took office in 2015. The General Assembly passed Governor Raimondo’s FY16 budget, which included $1.4 million in additional funding to support foster families. Prior to 2016, the foster care rates were last raised in 2001.