By Susan Latiolait for Eugene Daily News
Lane County currently has 1,200 children in Eugene’s foster care system, and since the recession of 2008, this number continues to rise. However, Eugene’s array of foster care services ranging from programs offered through the Department of Human Services (DHS), a Family For Every Child (AFFEC), and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), all specialize in different aspects of Eugene’s foster care system to help the community’s children in need.
Associate Director of AFFEC, Linzy Munger, recognizes the struggles that Lane County’s foster care system has experienced and recent years. She hopes that AFFEC’s programs can help the increasing number of children entering foster care to find permanent homes as soon as possible.
“[Lane County foster care] is definitely not good, it is rising. We are seeing an increase. When there are bad economic times, you see a rise of foster care placements,” says Munger. “Every child deserves a family. Too many times, these children are given up on. When the child reaches the age of 10 years old, their rate of getting adopted is only about 10 percent. Our mission is to stop that, let’s make that child’s move their last move. Seventy-five percent of family’s that start the adoption process do not finish, so we want to be that matchmaker in between to make it all possible.”
To improve these numbers AFFEC offers nine different services focusing on targeting multiple areas of the foster care system. From their popular Heart Gallery that raises awareness towards individual kids, mentor programs that finds secure connections, family finding programs that find those who know the child, and an adoption agency for foster care adoptions, AFFEC’s mission is to find adoptive homes for every foster child. Achieving this goal means collaborating with other Eugene organizations.
“We have really good partnerships with CASA, and they are really important in terms of helping the child through court and the legal system, so we work closely with them. All of our kids are from DHS and referrals from DHS, so we have good relationships with them,” says Munger. “We definitely have organizations that we work with and support because every organization has their own little niche in the community.”
Munger explains that neglect is a primary reason for children entering Lane County’s foster care system. Organizations such as CASA focus on helping abused and neglected children find adoptive homes. According to U.S. Department of Justice Office statistics, children of CASA are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system due to abuse, have less time in foster care, and are likelier to find a permanent home sooner.
These organizations need all the help they can receive from Eugene residents. AFFEC has no state or federal funding, and therefore, rely on individual donations, family foundations, corporate sponsors, and help from volunteers. But with continued help from strong supporters, AFFEC has exciting opportunities for the future.
“One thing that DHS is trying to put in place is a program called Differential Response, a program that basically evaluates what the family needs when the child is taken into care. [AFFEC] is also working on a program called 30 days to family, so within 30 days that the family comes into foster care, let’s find that child a home,” says Munger.