In an effort to further serve those in foster care, All Saints Foster Care Project is partnering with Five Acres and RaiseAChild to celebrate May as Foster Care Awareness Month.
The ministry and its partner agencies are hosting a reception on Sunday, May 22 from noon to 1 p.m. in All Saints Church’s Guildroom for anyone interested in learning more about the fostering or adoption process.
Five Acres and RaiseAChild staff will present a brief program and answer questions.
All Saints Foster Care Project helps foster children and their families through advocacy, services and community education.
San Marino resident Gail Bardin is one of the ministry’s founders in addition to Jeanette Mann, Sara Hoover and Joe Duggan. The four began All Saints Foster Care Project as a ministry of Pasadena’s All Saints Church in 2003.
“The four of us spent a year talking to various people in the community about kids in foster care, kids living on the street, kids in juvenile hall and just kids who weren’t living with their parents and what services were available in the area,” Bardin said, mentioning that Hillsides, Five Acres and Hathaway-Sycamores used to be orphanages. She continued, “There’s always been a lot of foster kids in the area.”
Bardin said the four founders wanted to ensure that they didn’t duplicate services already available in the region.
“Our thoughts were to fill in the gaps,” she said. “Because we were a volunteer group, we wouldn’t be restricted. We could see where there was a need and recruit volunteers.”
Bardin said Mann, Hoover, Duggan and herself came together because they wanted to take action and help local children, specifically those in foster care or on the streets.
“We have great parishioners at All Saints,” she said. “They were people who we felt would also care about the kids the way we did if they just knew about them. So our goal was to educate the parish and the community, and through that recruit people and refer them to the various agencies. We wanted to be involved in public policy also, by looking at laws and rules to see if they could be improved.”
Bardin said they originally thought they’d be able to just guide volunteers to agencies; however, organizers decided to do more projects themselves.
Foster Care Project partners with 22 San Gabriel Valley agencies plus My Friend’s Place in Hollywood.
The Steering Committee of All Saints Foster Care Project generally has 15-18 people on it. Last year, the ministry had more than 104 volunteers participating in various projects.
One of the first projects that the Foster Care Project did was begin a Birthday Club that provides gifts to Pasadena-area foster care children who may not otherwise receive them.
“We are finishing our 12th year with it,” Bardin said. “We have about 375 kids in the Birthday Club. They are all referred by DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services). We have 200 and some volunteers who give the gifts. Many volunteers give a gift a month.”
She said certain organizations have even adopted a number of children to provide gifts to annually.
“It’s a way that people who want to do something can do it without a lot of time,” Bardin said. “We have people who have been in this club since the beginning.”
In addition to the Birthday Club, programs include the ministry Adopt a Child Abuse Caseworker (ACAC), which, helmed by Beth Gertmenian and Anne Riffenburgh, provides emergency items, such as cribs, refrigerators and diapers, to a caseworker’s family, the Back-to-School Shopping Spree, which provides funds and a personal shopper for foster children, and holiday gifts.
Foster Care Project also provides holiday gifts and baskets to foster children through other programs.
The newest endeavor offered by Foster Care Project is a family visitation program called Family Connect.
“We work again with the Department of Children and Family Services,” Bardin said. “Children removed from the care of their parents go through a court process. The emphasis is on reuniting them. While they’re separated and it’s being decided, it’s very important that the parents and their children visit. It’s important to keep that tie. We are in our third year recruiting and training people to be monitors for that.”
This program has several sites in Pasadena and is branching out to other areas. Foster Care Project has 15 trained coach monitors now and is looking for 15 more as it expands its reach from three to seven family visitation sites.
For more information on Foster Care Project and its many programs or to become more involved, visit www.fostercareproject.org, 818-248-9343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be mailed to All Saints Church Foster Care Project, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101.