Eliada Expanding Foster Care Reach Westward

RECRUITING FOSTER PARENTS IN THE WEST

Eliada was founded as an orphanage for children who needed a safe roof over their heads and loving care from compassionate adults. Today, Eliada is a modern hub of services for children including residential and non-residential services.  The core principles of giving children a safe and loving place to live has remained the same, but Eliada also cares for and serves children who do not live on our campus in Buncombe County.

Thanks to funding from the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation (www.hchealthfnd.org), Eliada will now be able to recruit and train foster parents from Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties. The goal of recruiting foster parents in these counties is to keep children entering the system in their home counties and near their natural supports.

Currently, 20% children in foster care and therapeutic foster care from these counties have been placed outside their home county.

According to Casey Family Programs (https://www.casey.org/), removal from the home is a significant traumatic experience for children. Placement instability increases the chances of extending time in care, and extending time in care without permanency leads to negative life outcomes.

Robin Tindall, Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation CEO and Executive Director expresses, “We are proud to support an organization like Eliada as they build their foster network in the far-west counties of WNC.  We understand the importance of keeping children close to their family and community, and we are pleased that we were able to participate in funding this impactful program.” 

Strategic placement matching in the local community, including with relatives, to keep children near their natural supports improves outcomes. The partnership with the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation will allow Eliada to increase parent recruitment in each county, increase the number of foster parent trainings that happen locally, and increase the number of licensed foster homes in each county. Our goal is for youth to leave Eliada’s foster care services and transition back home with biological family, to a relative, or to a pre-adoptive placement in the local community.

Eliada plans to specifically focus recruitment on therapeutic foster parents who are trained to provide therapeutic supports to children who have experienced trauma.

According to Angie Cornette, Eliada’s Foster Care Director, “Historically, access to treatment services in the far western counties of North Carolina has been difficult.  This has been no different for Therapeutic Foster Care.  We have youth, especially adolescents, who are having to go several counties away from their home communities for therapeutic foster homes.  This makes access to natural supports, familiar surroundings, and their community school difficult, and all of these factors have major influences on the success of a child in care. Serving children in their communities gives us a noteworthy advantage.”

SUPPORTING FAMILIES IN THE WEST

Eliada is pleased to announce that with support from the Evergreen Foundation (http://evergreenfoundationnc.org/), we are able to build on the partnership with the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation and support the recruitment and training efforts in the west with a foster care consultant who can support licensed families when they have foster children in their homes. Support looks like weekly team meetings to help meet the goals of the placement. Goals range from reunification with biological family, skill development in the home, or seeking a pre-adoptive placement. Support also includes 24/7 on call crisis assistance. This team approach will ensure there is a continuous cycle of recruitment and training occurring bringing new foster parents on-line, while the consultant is able to work directly with foster parents and children on a daily basis. Beyond supporting families in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties, the foster care consultant will also have ability to support foster families in Haywood county.

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON FOSTER CARE

Beyond the number of children in care, COVID-19 has put enormous weight on foster families and the whole foster care system. Natural supports such as school, friends, clubs, faith groups, and more have been temporarily cancelled or gone virtual. For children in foster care, this has impacted their ability to receive in-person therapy and visits with biological family. For foster parents, this has meant little respite and moving to virtual communications with social workers. While more in-person visits are now occurring, the needs of children in the system is exacerbated by the pandemic.

Simultaneously, child-placing agencies, such as Eliada, have had to hit pause on recruiting and training foster parents. These are in-person activities that could not be achieved during the stay-at-home order. This has meant a slowdown of new foster families coming on-line, and increased the need to recruit and train foster parents to meet the demands of children entering the system.

Foster parents have certainly stepped up during this time. Not only have they guided children through virtual learning, but have continued to support children’s needs including mental health and permanency.  Many children’s therapy went to telehealth, and visitation with their family went from face-to-face to video calls.  Most  of the children struggle with change and isolation.  The COVID-19 season has brought both of those for all of us.  Foster parents are learning to navigate a new system of support and help the children in their care feel safe and heard.   They have been a solid foundation for them during this uncertain time.” Angie Cornette, Eliada’s Foster Care Director

Eliada is grateful to both the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation and the Evergreen Foundation for helping Eliada address the needs of children in foster care who are especially challenged during this time.

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