Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LifeBridge Employees Open Hearts and Homes

This is the time of year where we think a lot about helping those in need. For some LifeBridge Health employees, that means welcoming a child into their home.

In July, David Grant, a physical therapist in the Sinai Rehabilitation Center, and his wife Jane completed foster parent training through the Foster/Adoptive Resource Program sponsored by the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS). David’s motivation to foster children stemmed from wanting to "give back" because he says so many people have made a difference in his life.

“The things that made the biggest impact on me and my wife were small things,” says David. “But those small things had an impact on our lives.

“So far, we’ve fostered two brothers, ages 7 and 8. Their visit only lasted for one day but it was a roller coaster of anticipation, salt-stained little faces, open-armed care and even laughter as we played games and entertained them,” explains David. “When they left with the social worker and the lunches we packed for them, we knew we’d done the right thing.”

In Maryland, there are approximately 8,000 children in out-of-home placement, and 5,000 of those children are from the city of Baltimore. The goal of the BCDSS is to help provide safe, nurturing homes while the children are in out-of-home placement. Because recent studies indicate outcomes for children placed in family settings are better than those placed in group homes, BCDSS operates under the motto that “nothing matters more to a child than to have a place to call home.” Most of the children in foster placement are African American, and the ages range from infancy to 18 years old. The greatest need is homes for teens.

Employees interested in becoming a foster parent must first attend an information meeting with BCDSS, which addresses every aspect of the Foster/Adoptive Resource program. There are eight pre-service training classes, which occur twice a week. After attending the second class, applicants are assigned to a caseworker who guides the potential foster parents through the home study process, which can take roughly three months.

The BCDSS Foster/Adoptive Recruitment team visits LifeBridge Health one to two times per month to provide information, answer questions and recruit employees to become foster parents.

Doug Jackson, a biomedical technician at Northwest Hospital, and his wife Pat have been foster parents for more than 20 years.

“We have always taken in teenagers because of the ages of our own children," Doug says. "Even after our youngest son graduated from high school, we continued to welcome teens into our home because we felt called to do so. So many other foster families that we knew seemed to want younger children,” says Doug.

Doug and his wife have helped over 40 children, and still hear from several of them from time to time.

“I can't say the entire fostering process is all 'wine and roses,' but we feel we have been blessed to able to share our home and lifestyle with kids who were being taken out of their homes for whatever reason. We are glad we were able to help so many,” Doug says. “Fostering is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things you can do to help someone else. I encourage other LifeBridge employees to considering fostering. If you have an open heart and home, this is a great way to share love and help a child.”

Judith Mulloney, R.N., Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Sinai, echoes Doug’s feelings.

“Many years ago my husband and I became foster parents to a little 22-month-old boy who had never been out of the hospital. He had many medical needs and was a challenge. Seventeen years later, he is a healthy young man with well-managed health issues. We ended up adopting him and he is a much loved member of our family. We would be lost without him,” says Judith.

For more information about the Foster/Adoptive Resource Program, contact Janet Allen at the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

No comments: