The Needs in the Foster Care System – Cindy Shields

Let the Children Come to Me

Dear friends at Kings Harbor Church,

There is a tremendous need for foster families and support of all kinds for foster kids and their families. LA County has 80,000 kids in foster care (the largest number in the country). We’ve all heard that children need roots and wings. Under tragic and sometimes permanent circumstances, baby birds with broken wings are being ousted from their nests without the gift of lasting, healthy, nurturing roots. The life of a foster child is one of transition, most placed in numerous homes (one child had been placed in 60 different homes), medical/mental health and academic success suffering due to delayed medical/academic records being forwarded and sometimes confidentiality issues for the foster parents. It is no wonder that the outlook for foster kids is bleak, with higher instances of homelessness, joblessness, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and, tragically, suicide.

The issue of growing foster care needs in the South Bay has been relatively unknown… until recently! The Daily Breeze has had two articles on the subject and I was interviewed for one due to my position on Torrance Council of PTAs and friendship with Councilman Furey. Below is my edited response to one of the articles. (What the article doesn’t mention is that I’m a also a 30+ year believer!) This was my Letter to the Editor in response to that article:

I was so happy to see this article bring further awareness of foster care needs! I’m humbled and excited to say that the “hook-up” of DCFS and Torrance Council of PTAs basically stared with a prom dress!

As I happily cleaned out my daughter’s closet (with her permission!), I found us looking for a new home for her many dance gowns from high school. My hope was to put them into the hands of those who might not be able to afford buying them. Shortly after (and after months of invitations) I visited a friend’s church and just “happened” to hear a speaker from DCFS who shared about the plight of foster kids and offered a few opportunities of helping. My heart was already touched and at the end she said, “By the way, we’re having a pageant for the teens and if anyone has old gowns they’d like to donate…!” This led to discovering the DCFS office (practically in my backyard), and a long impromptu meeting with Councilman Pat Furey once the DCFS worker found out I was involved with Torrance Council of PTAs (whom they’d been hoping to partner with!) (FYI Councilman Furey is an attorney who prosecutes child abuse cases and his office (cubicle) is in our local DCFS office.) TCPTAs then-President and I had more meetings with Mr. Furey and other staff members to further learn about foster care needs and getting TCPTAs involved. This was August 2012 and the wheels have been turning ever since.

Last December, TCPTAs sponsored a gift card drive geared towards the teen foster kids (who are often overlooked in favor of the younger kids during the holidays.) TCPTA Board members, Presidents, and Principals cheerfully donated (as well as generous friends once I posted this need on Facebook!) In the end, I was able to drop off toys, gift baskets, even autographed teen books by a local author, and over 100 gift cards! The gift cards might be the only gift those teenagers received. It was truly one of the most meaningful endeavors I’ve ever had the honor of participating in.

 I helped create a new position of Foster Care Outreach (and it just so happens to fall under my role on TCPTAs’ Board as 4th VP of Community Concerns!) This means that all 30 TUSD schools will now hear updates about foster care needs in the community! We’re also having another holiday gift card drive in December. TCPTAs is honored for the opportunity to come alongside and help spread the word and lend whatever support we can.

I am thrilled and humbled by what has already begun in terms of outreach and what is to come. In addition to foster parenting, there are many other ways people can get involved (please keep this in mind when cleaning out your closets!) DCFS staff and caseworkers are diligently at work and go above and beyond to try and meet the many and varied needs of these kids. They truly need our help!

In closing… remember that beauty pageant? At one of the DCFS meetings we attended, we were shown a picture of some of the young ladies who participated, including the winner. And, you guessed it, she was wearing my daughter’s old prom dress! Still makes me tear up.

As you can maybe see, I believe that God has absolutely put this cause in my life for a reason and I will be happy to keep you up-to-date on opportunities to help serve foster kids and their families in the future.  If you have any questions please contact Cindy Shields – cinper1@verizon.net or (310) 375-2494.

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