Help One Child expands services to support ’fragile families’

Photo By: Courtesy of Help One Child
Photo Courtesy Of Help One Child

A teen volunteers at Help One Child.

Help One Child has long been known for supporting, recruiting and training people willing to house or otherwise help at-risk children, many of whom are in foster care. More recently, the Los Altos-based organization has extended its services to birth parents seeking another chance with their offspring.

Parents like Doria, reunited with her six children after assistance from Help One Child. In a video testimonial, Doria explained how her life was “very unmanageable – there were drugs involved.” This led to a jail sentence, and Doria’s children were placed in foster homes. Getting them back wasn’t easy.

“When you’re in the system, you have social workers, you have the judge, you have the court – you have people who you feel are poking at you to do this and do that,” Doria said. “You want people out of the system that (make) you feel like you have someone out there who is more like a friend. That’s what Help One Child became to us.”

A social worker connected the family with the faith-based organization, believing the children would benefit from its weeklong Signs of Hope Camp – particularly the two boys who were exhibiting bad behavior.

“In these sessions we were able to get them to open up and talk about what was making them angry, which led to what was making them sad,” Executive Director Susan Herman said. “Their trust grew, and I think they realized that we sincerely cared about them, regardless of their behavior.”

Help One Child didn’t stop there.

“Upon their return (from camp), we went out of our way to make sure they attended, along with another of their siblings, our life skills program, and we began to see a significant difference in their ability to get along with others,” Herman said.

The family was reunited shortly after that.

Help One Child provides moral support Doria and her family couldn’t find elsewhere.

“It’s not just helping us with things – it’s listening to us,” she said. “It’s just them giving you that pat on the back … or them calling you to see how you’re doing. That’s something the system doesn’t do.”

Help One Child’s support of what Herman described as “fragile families” – those in which parents are at risk of losing their children to foster care – has grown significantly in the past year.

“We are serving more and more families left out of the social service system because their children weren’t removed when in prior years they would have,” said Herman, who cited state budget cuts as the reason the number of children in foster care has dropped precipitously. “People are staying with their families, but things don’t change – not when the economy has been so poor. It isn’t as if people have gotten better.”

Teens in these unhappy homes often run away, according to Herman, and many find themselves in worse situations. Those who flee foster homes are at risk of similar fates, including prostitution.

“What we’re finding is that over 60 percent of the native-born children found in human trafficking systems are foster children,” Herman said. “These are kids who probably experienced abuse earlier in their life and are prone to be approached and falling to that.”

These victims of abduction “require very special care,” Herman added, and Help One Child wants to provide it. The organization is working with Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to recruit individual homes that will be networked to care for them.

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