Foster children in metropolitan Washington will have more loving families equipped to care for them as a result of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s (COG) new Work of Heart Regional Recruitment Initiative.
The initiative, supported by a federal grant and funding from the Freddie Mac Foundation, includes the nation’s first regional program to train foster and adoptive parents as recruiters of other prospective foster parents. In addition, a new Volunteer Respite Program will certify families and individuals to care for foster children one weekend per month, offering foster parents much-needed breaks for rest and rejuvenation.
"Being a foster parent is truly a 'Work of Heart,' but most of those who embark on this journey are just ordinary people. With a little training and support, anyone with love in their hearts and space in their homes can provide the stability, reassurance and hope for the future that these children need," said Maxine B. Baker, president and CEO, Freddie Mac Foundation. "The Freddie Mac Foundation is proud to once again join forces with COG to help the metropolitan Washington area's foster children, this time by increasing the region's number of foster parents and offering them the respite they often need."
Research shows that the best people to recruit foster parents and then keep them motivated about the work involved are those who have served as foster parents themselves. By training new Foster Parent Consultants for the region’s eight major jurisdictions, COG’s goal is to recruit, train and license at least 125 new foster parents who will accept children with special needs and groups of siblings. This would be a 20 percent increase in foster families in the region.
Through the Volunteer Respite Program, for the first time, families and individuals who are licensed foster parents in the District of Columbia will have the opportunity to take a break when they need some time to relax. By law, only licensed providers may care for foster children, making most foster parents responsible for round-the-clock care. The new volunteer respite program will equip people to care for foster children one weekend per month.
"Providing respite care for the District's foster children will help keep their licensed parents motivated to continue their valuable service to the community," said D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams. "This program will not only provide foster parents with the opportunity to rest, but it will also increase the number of caring, supportive adults in the lives of our city's foster children."
In metropolitan Washington, 6,000 children are in foster care on any given day. Approximately 1,400 are legally free to be adopted but have no adoptive placement identified for them. Many of them have been abandoned or abused and need to experience a loving environment.
"Foster children need to spend time with people who truly care for them and who can serve as role models," said U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D. M.P.H., who has designated 2005 The Year of the Healthy Child. "Programs like COG’s Work of Heart initiative are needed to help improve the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children."
For more information, call 1-800-669-HOPE or visit www.mwcog.org.