Foster Mom Mentors Her Resource Parent Peers
Liz Thiele of Moorpark, Calif. has been an official foster mom since 2010, but the seed was planted more than 25 years ago. She was working as an optician at the time, fitting a special little girl with bottle-bottom glasses who was there with her foster mom. Her story stuck with her.
Now a Peer Partner Educator with Channel Island Social Services, a program funded through the Ventura County Community College District in coordination with Foster VC Kids, Thiele and her husband have fostered more than 35 children and youth through Foster VC Kids. She currently has one teen in the house, and four adopted children, all of whom started out as foster youth before they were adopted.
The Peer Partner Educator Program that Thiele joined is new, launched in late 2016, as a kind of “been there, done that” mentorship program for experienced foster parents such as Thiele to provide a web of support in the form of phone calls, in-person mentoring, resource referrals and group support meetings for licensed Ventura County foster parents.
This is all in line with California’s new legislation on foster care, called AB 403 or Continuum of Care Reform, which became effective Jan. 1 of this year. The legislation phases out the traditional group home model, which means there’s significant pressure on counties and agencies to recruit more families and increase placements in individual resource homes. But it also means resource families will receive stronger, more in-depth training to prepare them for high quality of care, as the broader goal is to place kids in supportive, family homes as soon as possible.
“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is the resiliency in all of us,” Thiele says. “There’s a lot of heartache and heartbreak; it’s an emotional journey, and we’re always happy to see foster children reunited, but just the resiliency of humans, our own family, bio parents, and everyone involved. Never give up on any situation you think is hopeless. There’s always hope.”
The need for loving homes for foster children and youth in Ventura County is as vital as ever, with more than 1,000 children and youth across Ventura County in need of support, guidance, and hope to help them thrive while separated from their families of origin. Foster VC Kids identifies, trains, and supports foster families like the Thieles as they welcome foster children into their homes.
Liz has a modest message for all those considering becoming resource families: Go for it. “Just do it. If you have that seed in your heart, and that little bit inside of you, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Move forward because the blessings outweigh everything else.”