May is National Foster Care Month, a campaign to highlight the needs and increase the well-being of youth in the foster care system. This year, we’ll share a series of blog posts that explore the issue in depth.

The YMCA of San Diego County is proud to serve families of all backgrounds and structures, and nowhere is this more evident than our commitment to strengthening families involved in the Child Welfare System (CWS). Within YMCA Community Support Services, we serve youth and families involved with CWS in a way that promotes healing and ensures youth and their families increase their resilience in the face of a crisis. By accessing our services, resource families, formerly known as foster families, can increase their ability to create a safe, stable environment for the children in their care.

One of the major barriers for potential families seeking the placement of a foster child is child care, and YMCA Childcare Resource Service (CRS) is just the entity to meet that need. In 2018, we were contracted by the State of California to operate the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children, or YMCA Foster Care Bridge program. The program consists of 3 components:

1. Emergency childcare vouchers: when a resource family takes in a child, the world continues to move around them, and they may have limited ability to adjust their other responsibilities. Emergency childcare vouchers ensure caregivers can continue to work without having to pay for childcare out of pocket, for up to 6 months, until the child is successfully transitioned into long-term, subsidized child care.

2. Childcare navigation: choosing a child care provider can be a daunting process for any parent or caregiver, let alone one involved in the complexities of being a resource family. YMCA childcare navigators support the emergency child care needs of resource families by providing enhanced referrals and education to identify child care options that support the family’s need.

3. Provider trauma-informed care and coaching: quality child care is just as important as access to affordable child care, so a caregiver knows the child is safe and secure while in someone else’s care. The YMCA trains child care providers in offering trauma-informed care and coaches providers in applying that training curriculum and strategies to working with children who have experienced trauma so children in the foster care system are surrounded by a network of adults invested in their well-being.

Less than a year after it started, the program is already making a difference in the lives of many families.

“A few months ago, we served a 5-year-old child who had been hospitalized due to medical neglect and lack of available resource family willing and able to care for this child,” said Lodia Ruiz, Resource and Referral Manager of the Foster Care Bridge Program.

“When the resource family who had finally taken in this medically fragile child contacted us, we immediately began searching for a child care provider. The caregiver was overwhelmed by the situation, but she knew she had to keep her and could do it as long as she had the right childcare in place. Without the child care, this working foster parent would not have been able to take in this vulnerable child.”

The story Lodia shared is just one of the many ways the program makes a difference in the lives of resource families throughout San Diego County. Resource families face a host of unique circumstances, and they can count on us to help manage the transition when a child is first placed in their care and throughout the process to maintaining a safe and stable placement that prioritizes the family’s well-being.

For more information about Foster Care Bridge eligibility and program services, please contact Lodia Ruiz at [email protected].

TO READ MORE ABOUT NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH, CLICK ON THE BLOG POSTS BELOW:

NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH: TRANSITION AGE YOUTH AND HOST HOUSING

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