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Foster parenting program making an appeal to San Diego's LGBT community

SAN DIEGO -- A new local foster parenting program is reaching out to the LGBT community.

The National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP) in San Diego is hoping to find new potential foster parents for at-risk youth. Recognizing that happy, healthy homes aren’t dependent on a parent’s sexual orientation, NYAP is asking LGBT families to consider foster parenting.

“I think there is no greater calling than to be a parent. To be a foster parent takes very special individuals who want to make a change in a child’s life, but at the same time are willing to risk a broken heart,” said Jane Schmoll, the Family Matters coordinator at The Center in Hillcrest.

The Center is working with NYAP to help find LGBT families who are interested in working with at-risk youth. They are also focusing on finding foster care for LGBT youth who are in need of welcoming and accepting homes.

NYAP will host an open house on Tuesday, May 24, from 3:30 to 6:30 pm at their Mission Valley office. The open house will be a time for potential foster parents to meet the NYAP staff and learn more about the organization.

The agency will also have an orientation at The Center on Saturday, June 18, at 10 am.

The open house is in honor of national foster care month, which is in May, and will serve as a head start on finding out about NYAP before the orientation at The Center.

“You have to be willing to make sacrifices, but when the placement is successful there is no better feeling,” said Schmoll. “Having a child that you fostered find you on Facebook or stop by your home, years after they left is priceless.”

“In San Diego County approximately 6500 youth are part of the foster care system. Each year 300 leave the system. After they turn 18, their prospects are grim. 50% will end up unemployed, 33% will need public assistance, 25% will be incarcerated and less than 10% will attend college, while only 3% will graduate college,” according to the San Diego State University’s Consensus Organizing Center (COC).

These numbers reflect how dire these children’s lives could become if no one steps in to help them. The label “at-risk” is an understatement, because these children need a strong support system in their lives if they are going to stand a chance at making positive changes for themselves.

“Being open to what foster parenting brings and patience are both incredibly important,” said Lori Weiner, licensing coordinator for NYAP San Diego. “Know that adjustment can be extremely difficult for some of these kids, especially in the first month. These kids don’t trust, so they will test, test, test until they can build that trust.”

NYAP has been assisting in finding placement for children in the foster care system throughout the country since 1978, and they recently opened an office in San Diego. They help place children ages 12 to 18 in consistent, stable, loving and nurturing homes. Their program also reaches out to families who want to be foster parents but have less time available so they cannot commit to the full foster parenting role. These families are welcome to participate in what is called respite care.

Respite care is a planned break for a foster family who is caring for a child that requires more constant care. Some foster families are willing to take on the challenge of caring for a child who has special needs and for these families the energy spent caring for this child can be overwhelming at times.

“Sometimes they need a break, just a couple of days to have to themselves to recharge,” Weiner said. “Not everyone can be a foster parent, not everyone has the time. But for those who are willing to put in one weekend a month or a week over the summer, we encourage them to join the respite foster families group.”

To help prepare families for foster parenting, NYAP has training programs in place so that families aren’t left in the dark.

“We have our Pride Program, which I call foster parenting 101,” Weiner said. “It gives a picture of what the kids have gone through. It prepares foster parents for everything: psychotropic medication training, behavioral issues, abuse and neglect issues as well as CPR and first-aid courses.”

Hundreds of LGBT families are raising children in San Diego and the surrounding areas, according to estimates from The Center, whose Family Matters program serves roughly 400 of these families each month.

If your family wants to find a way to help at risk youth in the San Diego area, the open house at the NYAP Mission Valley office will be a chance to learn about the many ways in which you can assist children in the foster care program. There will be light snacks and the NYAP staff will be on hand to answer any questions that you have about becoming a foster parent or respite foster parenting.

The details

-- NYAP open house: Tuesday, May 24, from 3:30 to 6:30 pm at the Mission Valley NYAP office, 4025 Camino Del Rio South, Suite 100.

-- Foster Parenting orientation: Saturday, June 18, from 10 to 11:30 am at The Center, 3909 Centre St. in Hillcrest.
For more information, contact Lori or Lindy from NYAP at (619)584-2022 or email Lori at lweiner@nyap.org.