There are 96 children at Orangewood Children and Family Center in Orange County and a coalition of faith-based organizations are joining forces to bring awareness to the issue.
Orangewood Children and Family Center is a licensed temporary shelter care facility (TSCF) in Orange County and one of only six county-operated temporary shelter care facilities in California. There are currently 2,460 youth in foster care in the region, ranging in age from newborn to age 20, with non-minor dependents still in foster care.
“In general, there are approximately 100 youth in need of family-based care on any given day,” said Turtzer. “The County of Orange Social Services Agency works diligently to recruit resource families to care for all foster youth, especially for teens, sibling sets, children with significant medical and/or behavioral issues and commercially sexually exploited children. We also work closely with and rely on our community and faith partners to help engage the community in addressing this significant need for loving and nurturing homes.”
Ernie and Patricia Casarez, coordinators of the Vision 2020 Ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, have fostered several children over the years. They also have two biological children. Their ministry’s goal is to find a family for every foster care child in Orange County and then support those families through their local churches by 2020.
Patricia’s tough battle with cancer forced the couple to put a pause on foster parenting but it did not stop them from continuing to advocate for foster children. They partnered with Orangewood Children and Family Center, County of Orange Social Services Agency, Olivecrest and several other churches and faith organizations in the county, including the Diocese of Orange, to educate and promote awareness.
On every first Wednesday of the month, the couple delivers a three-part video and presentation at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest about foster care and adoption options.
“There are a lot of myths about why people do foster care. You want to do this because you want to help a child. We’re looking for a family for the child, not a child for a family. It’s a different way of looking at it,” Ernie explained. “And even if it’s to discourage them because we don’t want people doing this for the wrong reasons. We go through the myths and have a frank discussion about the good, the bad, and the ugly of what people have done wrong or right and the best way.”
The presentation also includes a discussion of ways they can help, cost information and ends with the couple answering questions in depth.
“It’s a frank discussion with people who have walked the walk,” said Ernie.
Copies of the presentation are available as kits so that it can be easily duplicated and shared. They hope this helps to spread the word and gives them the opportunity to train others so that the process can be repeated at other churches.
Diocesan Director for the Office of Restorative Justice / Detention Ministry Fred LaPuzza has worked in the past to campaign and educate the Catholic communities.
“A big percentage of these kids are Catholic–the Catholic community we’ve gotten the least response from,” said LaPuzza. “What’s concerning for us, since we are an office that ministers to people who are incarcerated, is that statistically 70 percent of these kids may end up in the criminal justice system. And getting them into good loving foster care homes would be a good way to bring that number down.”
For more information, contact the Diocesan Office of Restorative Justice / Detention Ministry at 714-282-3000. Ernie and Patricia Casarez also invite families to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest for a presentation held every first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 pm or visit their website at zeroby2020vision.com. The County of Orange Social Services Agency also encourages those interested to visit www.oc4kids.com or call 1-888-871-KIDS.