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Abused children need a Safe Haven

Foster Children Safe Haven is a nonprofit organization that aims to find temporary homes for youth in the foster care system. Their services extend into all of Kern County, including Wasco.

Ana Vazquez has spent the last 10 years as an administrator and former social worker for the FCSH.

"We get to help children in need and, most importantly, give back to the community. That is the best feeling," she said in a recent interview.

She said FCSH is a refuge for children, and the staff takes pride in their work, doing all they can to meet the children's necessities.

The children they help have suffered some sort of abuse. They come in after sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect.

"The biggest one is neglect," Vazquez said.

FCSH helps infants and youth up to 18 years of age to ultimately return them to their biological parents or family members.

"At the end of the day, the best place is for them to be with their family, even if it is an aunt or cousin, as long as it's a family to reunify them. We are only temporary."

The organization was founded in 2005 by the current CEO, Omar Hemali. He started it because he saw the need for the children and wanted to take care of them. "We've been pretty successful and have been flourishing since," Vazquez said.

The goal is to give children a stable home.

"[Our mission is] making sure that all of the services are provided to them," she said. "It's one child at a time."

There is a high demand for homes in Wasco.

"We get children from different cities, and a lot of them do come from Wasco."

The organization tries to match them with homes near the children's school, because they need "to have that same bond with those schools so they can continue with those relationships, and it is one less struggle that is added."

She said they are also looking for parents to work with teen boys and girls.

Teenage mothers are taken in and put into the AB12 program, which prepares them for adulthood, teaching them to get identification and bank and savings accounts, for example.

They work to teach them how to take the bus for transportation or managing their money. They get help with resume writing, filling out a job application or exploring options for college, Vazquez explained.

Resources are provided to the foster parents, including culturally sensitive and trauma-informed training, a 24-hour hotline, a social worker assigned to them and a social worker always on call.

Often there are those who want to be foster parents but think they must have a social security number or own a home.

"[Foster parents] can be renting. The home just has to be suitable and safe for the kids, and they have to have a valid ID, auto insurance and a reliable vehicle," she said.

Some parents don't speak English.

"Bilingual foster parents are gold. We get children that only speak Spanish. Certain applicants want to do foster care but don't speak English, so they feel intimidated. We work with many Spanish-speaking foster parents and would like to have more bilingual homes."

The screening process to become a foster parent involves a thorough background check. Once that is cleared, there are a series of interviews between a social worker and the applicant and several home inspections.

Approved foster parents are then provided with eight days of training for a total of 16 hours. After that, they are required to have an additional eight hours of training per year.

Foster parents receive a monthly stipend, with a beginning rate of $1,129 per child.

"Open your home, open your heart and become a foster parent," she said. For more information on how to help a child, call 661-396-7025.


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