Los Altos Hills residents Mark and Jo Anne Morris know first hand about foster family burnout.That's why they started Child S.H.A.R.E., shelter homes a rescue effort, to increase the quality of foster homes, to recruit more foster homes, and to provide support and respite care for foster families to help them avoid burnout.
After 14 years of marriage they had a baby daughter when they had given up on having children. They didn't expect to have more, they weren't sure about adoption, so they became foster parents.
"The very first child we had, we adopted," Mark Morris said. Their girls are now 15 and 13.
They continued being foster parents. They knew they couldn't adopt each child, but they vowed a child they took would not be bounced around, Mark Morris said.
"If a child is disruptive, the foster parents call and say, 'Take this child out of my home.' And it's called a 'failed placement,'" he said as he shook his head.
They kept their second foster child 18 months, and she was a difficult girl, Morris said. But they kept her until she could go back to her mother.
"We helped her," Morris said. "We love her." And they are still in touch.
"But we were burned out at the end. No one would help us. You must get fingerprinted, TB tested, be trained in CPR. You just can't ask your friends to help you."
Jo Anne Morris read about Child S.H.A.R.E. in a church magazine just after she had said she wouldn't do foster care again. She and Mark started a group in Los Altos. And they are still taking foster children.
Child S.H.A.R.E. is a public, non-profit organization. The Union Presbyterian Church on University Avenue gives it free office space. Mark and Jo Anne Morris accept no salary for their work. All donations go directly into their program.
They recruit through churches, asking if a congregation will take on a ministry to help a child.
"We'll help with the forms and getting fingerprinted," Mark Morris said.
They currently have 107 children in their network, which Child S.H.A.R.E. supports. They have recruited 12 homes that are now certified to accept foster children. And they have 50 homes that can offer some type of support to foster families, 43 in which a baby sitter is certified and seven that are respite homes that meet county regulations to take a foster child for an overnight or a weekend.
Mary Beth Orr answers the Child S.H.A.R.E. hotline.
"That's the primary thing we offer," Jo Anne Morris said. "It's more than just calling in and saying we need a sitter Thursday night. We also get calls with people saying, 'I can't stand it,' with people in despair.
"Mary Beth's really good at turning people's discouragement into strength."
That's what Child S.H.A.R.E. does.
"Together we are making a difference...child by precious child."
For more information, call Child S.H.A.R.E. at 917-1210.