Ojai, city that cares for
by C.A. Gilman
Two crying infants competed with City Council member Rae Hanstad
while their foster mothers hugged them tightly at Tuesday evening's
City Council meeting. Hanstad was presenting a proclamation signed
by Mayor Steve Olsen affirming Ojai as a city that cares for
its children and recognizes the important contribution of 38
Ventura County foster families who take care of the county's
abused and neglected children.
Judge Charles Campbell, County Supervisor Steve Bennett and Ventura
County Foster Care Program Administrator Trish Cavanaugh accepted
Bennett captured the audience's attention with the harsh realities
for a 7-year-old coming home one day to find that his remaining
parent, who has neglected and abused him, has been taken away.
He said, "If you are in a county that does not have enough
foster homes, you will be institutionalized and separated from
your bothers and sisters."
Cavanaugh said, "There is a crisis in foster care in the
county of Ventura today. In 1991 there were 341 licensed foster
family homes. Today there are 160, although there are over 800
children in out-of-home placement in Ventura County because of
abuse and neglect. There are also 50 to 60 children in need of
homes every month."
Economics in California has been cited as one of the reasons
for the reduction in homes as both parents must leave the home
to work. At the same time there is a reduction in foster homes,
there are more reported cases of abuse and neglect. There are
13,538 reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Ventura County;
287 children are placed in protective custody and 885 children
in foster care.
In the city of Ventura alone there were 68 children placed in
foster care last year while there were only 38 Ventura foster
homes. Fifty-one percent of children in foster care are of Latin
American descent while only 8 percent of the county foster homes
are of similar ethnicity; 30 to 50 children are placed in foster
care each month.
Cavanaugh said, "When there are not enough foster homes,
children cannot stay with siblings, or in their communities near
their relatives, friends and classmates. It is well-known that
children who have been abused and neglected are at risk as adults.
We feel that with the proper support and service.
Bennett said, "The Kiwanis clubs of Ventura County have
decided to work together to make this their major regional effort
to recruit foster parents. We are asking Ventura families to
learn more about becoming a foster parent so that they might
consider foster care as an option for their families."
He added to allay anyone's fears that this was a commitment for
the rest of their lives, Bennett said, "There are many variations
of foster parents, some people only take infants and some people
only take teenagers. And this can be for short or longer terms."
Foster parents may be single or married, any age and can be employed
out of the home.
Judge Steve Campbell said, "We want you to make a commitment
to the children in Ojai. We don't want to house them in Filmore."
There are eight children in Ojai and Oak View who are placed
for protection. However, there are no Spanish-speaking foster
families in the Ojai Valley currently.
Judge Campbell said, "We are asking every family in Ventura
to consider fostering 'just one child' so that Ventura's children
can remain in their communities."
Cavanaugh introduced the two women who had been soothing their
babies in the lobby.
"Linda Sonerson is the expert on teens but you wouldn't
know that tonight. She has had 62 teenagers in her family over
the 14 years she has been a foster parent.
Pattie Hunt has been a foster parent to 23 infants and is absolutely
People wanting to learn more about becoming a foster parent may
call the Ventura County Foster Care Program at 654-3456.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news
POSE following the presentation of the foster care proclamation
Tuesday night.Pictured are, from left to right, back row: Pattie
Hunt, foster mother; Judge Charles Campbell; Ted Myers, director
of Family Services Ventura County; Lucille Rivas, Latin American
foster parent recruiter; Linda Sonerson, foster mother; Trish
Cavanaugh, Ventura County Foster Care program manager.