The Heart Gallery is a tool used to engage and educate the community on the plight and potential of children living in foster care. We do this by displaying professional Heart Gallery images and simple biographies of waiting children in local venues. We have over 50 business, corporate and faith-based partners and venues. Professional photographers volunteer their services to provide the images and video for children all over the country. We have seen over 700 children pass through our Heart Gallery on to their forever families.
Our web site
We use our web site to work with the Heart Galleries and in conjunction with caseworkers to provide and facilitate professional images and information about foster children. Web Site It is also a significant stand-alone recruitment tool with private and public listing options. We have spent continued effort, resources and manpower (with a fulltime web employee) on continuously updating our web site. We went from recruiting for 250 children on our public web site to over 2,000 on both our private and public web sites.
In 2012 we began our on-line matching events to feature children available for adoption. We feature up to ten children, while as many as Matching Events 50 families can log on and hear a caseworker talk about the child and the kind of family needed. The families can text questions and immediately submit their home studies. We have also begun featuring families and having the children’s caseworkers attend. These events have proven so successful we are usually doing one per week, and we are booked three months in advance.
The program is designed to help adoptive families cope with the often frustrating and seemingly complicated, convoluted adoption process. The concept is to have a person on our staff and a log-on Matching Assistance Program web site exclusively for these families. We have found prospective adoptive parents to have more successful outcomes if they are able to be their own advocates as well as being educated and supported along the way.
A worker can contact us from any state, requesting exactly the type of family a child may need. Often these are urgent move needed requests. Using the information provided, we search our database create a mass email list of up to 500 parents. We design a targeted outreach communiqué about this child, complete with a photo and biography, and then we send it out. We often have 10-12 home-study-approved families in a few hours.
Our Agency writes home studies, approves and matches families in Oregon with children all over the country. We know we play an important role in bridging the gap between really wonderful families and equally wonderful children. It is our mission to find forever families for those children considered hardest to place, and this program is designed to hasten the adoption process as well as make it more affordable for families.
Family Finding Programs
The Family Finding model offers methods and strategies to locate and engage relatives of children living in out-of-home care. The goal of family finding is to provide each child with the life long connections that only a family can offer. We focus on reconnecting children with safe, supportive family members in order to speed the children in their recovery from emotional trauma. Using Internet search technology, we locate biological family members and friends for children in the system. Once we have identified family members and friends, we work to reestablish and create lasting relationships and/or find a permanent family placement for the child.
Family Preservation Program
There are families in our community at risk for child abuse and/or neglect. These families need guidance to move on from the past and into the next chapter of their lives, learning how to make positive changes for themselves and their families. AFFEC’s Family Preservation Program focuses on keeping the family unit together. We believe these early and often preventative steps can make the difference between a family successfully parenting their children and losing them to the foster care system. Effective family preservation efforts could keep many children from the trauma of entering foster care. AFFEC utilizes self-referrals, community partners, and DHS for referrals
Mentor activities focus on building foster children’s confidence and providing a stable, consistent, friendly presence in their often turbulent lives. This relationship helps foster children to develop common life-skills that will enable them to cope with their lives and build confidence. Mentors aid children in their search for permanent families and provide continued support if they eventually “age out” of the foster care system. We plan to constantly increase the number of mentors. 25% of our Mentor Program matches result in becoming permanent placements. Many of the children we serve do not have an adult they feel safe with. Mentors can change a life with just a little effort.
All children leaving foster care are provided with Life Books, which are created especially for them in order to preserve their past. Life Books represent a form of continuity and stability to foster children who are likely to see little positive continuity or stability. A Life Book records a foster/adoptee’s life that uses words, photos, graphics, the child’s artwork, and memorabilia. A Life Book includes information about the child’s birth parents and reason for separation. It always starts at the child’s birth and often includes the fun part of when the adopted child joined a family.
Replication of our programs and services to leverage and magnify their impact by reproducing our model in an array of independent agencies and partners throughout the country. We offer two unique and most in-demand elements to our programs. One is our use of volunteers, which includes information about how they are best utilized. The other is our use of technology, which includes our extensive collection of child and social worker information, our web sites, our marketing & targeted outreach, our Matching Assistance Program, and our use of social media.
900 strong, it is the basis of all we do. It is often said that foster care is a community crisis demanding a community solution. It is only through committed individuals, who literally fill every role we have, that we can make a difference in the lives of a large number of foster children. We have a dedicated, streamlined volunteer process that checks references, conducts background checks (when needed), recruits, trains, assigns and retains our dedicated volunteers. There is always an ongoing need for help from helpful and loving volunteers