Nearly 58,000 children in California rely on the foster care system. Although State and local efforts continue to reduce the number of children in need of foster care in favor of more permanent alternatives, approximately 970 children in Santa Clara County currently live with foster families, relatives, extended family members or group homes. To acknowledge the giving heart of local foster parents, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors will join the national Foster Care Month celebration, presenting a proclamation at its meeting on May 10.

“We owe foster families a great deal of gratitude for opening their doors to children who feel rejected, neglected or betrayed,” said President Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee. “Foster parents provide love, structure, stability and encouragement to help these kids stay on track and realize their potential.”

State law allows up to six children in a foster home, including the foster parents’ biological children. Based on a wide array of factors, from particular needs, age, religious, cultural, ethnic and language background, to number of siblings, the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency works diligently to match children with foster homes. Currently, the County has about 420 licensed foster homes.

“Foster homes represent hope for many children in Santa Clara County,” said Supervisor George Shirakawa, Vice Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee. “We salute foster families for their courage and generous heart. They make a huge difference.”

The County of Santa Clara Department of Family and Children Services trains foster parents to help rear children experiencing neglect, separation and other personal challenges. The Social Services Agency looks for foster parents with a broad range of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, including bilingual homes, families willing to welcome preteens, teenagers and/or sibling groups of three or more children, or to provide for children with special medical, emotional, developmental and educational needs.

“Our Agency is committed to expanding options for children in foster care,” said Gina Sessions, Ph.D., Acting Director of the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency. “We are fortunate to partner with caring adults who are willing to give these children the time and attention they need to grow and thrive.”

Santa Clara County Social Services Agency also offers Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC) services. Children/youth with serious emotional and/or behavioral issues receive intensive in-home therapeutic and behavior-management services, instead of traditional group home care (Level 9-14).

The Social Services Agency’s research indicates that foster children fare better when placed in a specialized foster home, with an individualized treatment program that includes foster parents carefully matched and trained to meet the needs of each child.

ITFC homes provide close supervision and implement a structured, individualized program for each child. An ITFC home blends regular foster family care with intensive counseling, case management, and support services. Foster parents are recruited, complete 60 hours of certification training, and receive ongoing support as part of the treatment team. Besides meeting the minimum foster care requirements, ITFC foster parents must be at least 25 years old. Having prior experience with foster care or the target population also is highly desirable.

The process to become a foster parent starts with an application, a background check and training. It also includes meeting with a social worker for home visitations and consultation.

Those who are interested in becoming foster parents, or want more information on how to be a resource for the county’s children in need, may contact (408) 299-KIDS or visit the Social Services website.