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Kinship House 050717

May 3, 2017|

AN INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER JEFFERIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF KINSHIP HOUSE, AND JOSH KEELING, A BOARD MEMBER AND FOSTER PARENT, ABOUT THE WORK THEY DO SUPPORTING FOSTER CHILDREN.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is microscope and they're called radio Portland public affairs program and during block some. The month of may is Foster care awareness month and a local organization kinship house is on the front lines doing amazing things for Foster children. On the show this time I'd like to welcome Heather Jeffrey's brother is the executive director and kinship palace. And just killing jobs as a board member kinship palace and also a proud Foster and adoptive parent or go to my school because I care act. So Heather let me sir review what is can Chappelle's. Well let me tea and so back in 1996. That there were some professionals who work in child welfare. On and also some local mental health professionals all of them women. I'm and backhand there was another big health care change it was called the HMO. And what that really means is there was just another way is that mental health payment. It was to be delivered. And they also wanted to focus on. A different model of treatment which was back then called solution focused and cognitive behavioral which is very short term he really effective particularly with adult populations. But these folks were like Lewis isn't the great model for kids especially kids with. Long term trauma and problems with attachment in relationships which is. Really is come reason that his and her Foster care. So they were like Elton we need to do something to make sure these kids don't get lost in the state health care change and they really get the services they need and so they treated kinship house. Sadly. Here in 20:17. Am we're going through again so many changes. That really are impacting this most vulnerable group of kid knows and so our mission is even more relevant today than it was in 1996. Which is would be this ad and we have 200 still with the agency and others of them still participate with us and they're very glad they created can supposed to be there but they're also still sub with a larger environments struggles come to meet the needs of kids so that's where we kicked prime. So tell me when we go Foster kid comes to you look what we're really experiencing. So kids can test them it several different stages in there we call it a journey through Foster care. So they can come to us when there are first removed from their biological home. And we helped them get stable in their Foster home 'cause one of the big struggles Foster children have particularly Foster children who have more severe trauma. Are more severe problems in trusting adults and relationships and attachment. And they end up moving many many many times very quickly even when they're very young. So lots of kids with more significant mental health concerns me of anywhere from. For 1010 times any year can I mean I can't imagine being a four or five year old child and having that many times it's almost like every month right. Two different strangers sharing stranger but a stranger's home. And so that's at one point that we humor with children and help them get stable and give those Foster parents for support they need because they need a lot of support in the system is having a hard time supporting them. I'm which Daschle talk more how come in so we really try to help the whole family to keep stable and keep that kid in care. And then they also can come to us when they're preparing to brief return home to a biological mom and dad Mamie mom or dad got clean and sober after you know doing a lot of treatment working really hard. And they're ready for their kids to come home so we help prepare mom or dad. And the child to be back together as a healthy family which will be a new experience for them so they need a lot of support a lot of meant Waring in training. And then also we help I'm kids prepare for getting adopted. So maybe it's time to meet this new adoptive family maybe it's time to think about anti is mom instead of anti. And work on open adoption or help set boundaries if there's not going to be an open adoption. And help families be successful so that children stage an adoption. And everybody doesn't get so stressed that the child ends up returning to state care which is really really sad and really hard for everybody because everybody's coming into it from such a caring and concerned place. So like nationally children that are similar to ones that we survey kinship house meaning they have trauma or other mental health concerns are pretty bad attachment problems. Failed third option at 25%. It kinship house it's. And just under 3%. And people say well that's a huge difference missy well really it's not because it's magical it's because the children here are able to come kinship house kept the rates service at right time. It's all about access the work we do lots of people can do lots of people can be trained there's research on it all that kind of stuff it's really about having enough access. And knowledge for kids to get access to the right service at the right time so we can make a huge change in their life. And a cup how do the kids get access so and when a child is in the custody of the state of glory again. They're caseworker is their parent right so like every parent has to sign their kid up for a doctor's appointment signed their kid up. For going to the dentist. That means that that case worker has to sign in the paperwork that allows us to provide behavioral health care services. The Foster care parent of course to bring them in and also asks for the services. But because they aren't the legal. Technical legal guardian the caseworker actually has to sign that piece of paper to meet her for now they're getting ready for adoption or they already been adopted many become real therapy support tuneup. Then of course who over the legal parent is. As the person who can bring them and so we do get referrals from teachers and physicians and Foster parents but we have to make sure we involve that caseworkers very important. It can Chappelle's it's an outpatient facility right yeah so we don't can't no one lives at kinship house was sometimes you get confused by the name because it's house. But we air outpatient just like any kind of health care visit you make an appointment compress our and then you know. And so really it's about practicing skills and paying attention to what's going on to that precious hour of time but it's the work happens outside of the session that is equally important from. So I think it's like coming for therapy if it is therapy so we do feeling therapy individual therapy with the kids we also do what we call sibling therapy because a lot of times. Unfortunately kids in Foster care may not live in the same home. Maybe even when. I'm one of them might have been in the custody of their biological parent may be another one was in Foster care or maybe another one lived with an aunt or uncle not in Foster care but in a different kind of private arrangement. So we're really focused on whole family. And focused on keeping the family together and getting everyone the skills and the comfort level that is needed. To keep the whole family together we don't have a stake in his family as we just not feeling to be permanent. Yeah and I think one of the things that's really critical about what how kinship house does that is that it creates it has this environment that is like being in a home that is like very much like a safe and stable place. There's toy is there's art therapy there's all these ways that the kids can sort of work through things and very safe way in a way that feels familiar to them and hasn't. As sterile as I think you get sometimes and and more formal. You know more traditional. Behavioral therapy. Yeah I guess for the listeners because our I guess that is part of the name is not just our name but actually the the services tapping into old Victorian homes in and everywhere we do service this. We do them in places where people live. And also going back to when I talked about cognitive behavioral therapy that's just talk therapy that's left I sometimes I use lingo sorry MetLife. It's it's a failing. And that just means talk therapy. We don't do you just talk therapy can Chappelle's because kids tell their story through play and neck and through art. And so we have drama therapists are therapist's place therapist. And that's how we all learn actually we all learn by doing and talking. And so and it's really important for parents with kids have a trauma history to learn how to help play with their kids in not only. Talking to each other. But to actually do in our active. Activities that build relationships. And happy doing something together to such a different kind of bonding so it's really important Syria and thank you Josh via hearing. The be introduced just dealing once again Josh you are a Foster parent I am. Yeah how did you look totally did you become a Foster parent thumb. You know home. When my wife and I were deciding to have kids and reluctant all of the different options we have and you know. It it's great being a parent is really even better when you can do it in a way that you can sort of get back. And my wife's. Mother was. A child protective case worker pronounced you really familiar with the system. And that made it feel a little bit more familiar more safe for us to do that unfortunately a lot of folks are kind of scared off from Foster care. But it's religious that you rewarding experience. And I'm so glad to each chose to do that. May I ask Emily could just. So we currently have three kids and our counselors to Foster kids and a ramp went out to connect while. All under the age five so it's a pretty crazy how so yeah. Took the flotilla children. And what's been your experience. And it's been you know I I say it's just like parenting it's the hardest and the best thing ever right content. So I mean I can't imagine. Anything more rewarding. You know both you know through adoption process and also you know we've had kids returns we've had four kids total. And some of the kids there with us today have gone back to birth family and come back. And that's always really hard but. You always feel like you're making progress and you know as long as the kids feel safe and feel happy I mean they're just amazing children and we're just so lucky to have them. How did you get involved in kinship else. So can your house actually. I became cleric into the house through that might my adopted daughters case she has a pretty big birth family and other siblings or another home. I'm intention house was for right services and they are pretty complicated case prom. End. It's the one consistent. The consistency colder and advocates for those kids where it was kinship house. So we had over a two year case had four caseworkers. So much back and forth kids moving in and out of house's was really tough and it was really hard on the kids. But kinship house and dare I therapists were unfair for those kids matches advocates when so many people you know we've caseworkers who didn't even know what was going on with the kids. Barely knew who they were. But there is always a servicer advocate for them that as snacks such a difference. Thing to tell from looking from the outside world seems like they're really long tough road. As Jews think Foster parents and yeah I mean it is but I mean parenting as it's because it's tough you're all right you're sung you know it's just a lot more over you know. But like so many things see you you don't really have control over what can happen and all you can do is really do your vast. And you just remember that no matter what if you're being you're creating a loving caring environment those kids in doing your best that's all that matters. I often say that actually being a Foster parents kind of freeing compared to more traditional parenting because. Yes so much more perspective on on how much worse things today and that you you you're not as purge yourself on yourself as I think some parents are your quick. You know what I'm doing your best and these kids are going to be OK so some. Others that your experience. Working with parents he had it really is innate and I think at Lowe's unclear just talking about in preparing from that Foster parent perspective preparing kids in giving them all loving nurturing environment and then letting them go back to that bio parent who's worked. Very very hard to get their life back on track and most frequently went history you know I think it's anywhere depending on the year in answer if I'm off but it varies. On house tracked in the year. Give me anywhere from 45 did. 58% of kids in nothing chair because of their parent's addiction. Yeah in our state in so. You know when a parent has enhanced that severe of an addiction that they can't even parent the children they love because they love their kids. The work that they have to do to get to the place for their kids can return and they can help hold down a house and a job and keep their recovery on track. You know it that is such a gift to have a safe loving home. That helps heal that child until relationship and model what a healthy relationship and a healthy family. Looks like. Such a gift for bio parents and an all spoke. Josh should mention a lot of times Foster parents spend a lot of time to mentor ring in and supporting those and biological parents on their journey to recovery. I'm and become a great support system panel likened adopted in T uncles. For those out and I straight up again and again it's absolutely true I mean that's something else that I really like wreckage of house is that. They're not there is a really an agenda besides just making sure that kids and their families are safe and stable and that they can make progress towards being you know being in a safe stable place. And you know that's always the case for everybody in the system are there are a lot of agendas out there. I'm and everything in the Foster care system is complicated. There are no simple answers and it's really important to. Be open men and supportive and loving and just doing your vast. And that mimics a huge difference you know both are adopted daughter Anna and her Foster. Chile and we had opened you know really supportive relationships with birth family and we continue to. And I think that's so important. And can your house hopes of horror he sort of complex families that have caught up. You have come a lot of ANTs and uncles and cousins entered not sure what you call them the heralding a much. Big complicated love and family out. Yes yes or sometimes arguing failing relish earlier I don't really ailing elderly who are going to play out and then you know and I think that that's we really tried to come from that perspective that. Darnit we're complex people all of the skin and how and we honor each other entry. Healthy relationships. For for everybody involved in the process and really and get to mentor that and and be apart of that. Process and I think that's one of the things you know the clinicians would say they'll about the work. That island about being part of the agency is that we have realistic expectations of people nobody's perfect. And everybody. Is just really working the best they canned to create. A stable healthy and we. So that we can help. Create its healthy staple grown ups. Ready with a little children working with and that's the goal and whatever that looks like it looks like for every family it looks different. And that's important that's okay because she's to be really boring if we were all the same ones. Really door they shot really so where are absolutely no simple answers and trust security and Asher and a and then in I think the other big pieces you know we're talking a little bit I mean. DH sin and all of you know. People leadership being fired last year and and really the whole system being buried under resource to. And you know that's when partnerships and nonprofits like kinship house really become excruciatingly important because our state system that is the legal guardian. Of children come right now is in kind and a huge transition huge reorganization. And is it has been underfunded for many many years. Just as Josh mentioned. Hit a lot of the kids he's worked with him had four caseworkers. And so we have to be very caring and supportive of the kids they work with. But also understanding that caseworkers have some really huge expectations and very limited resources at hand. So I'm for kinship house to be healthy and sustainable. And be as support is even more important because we're not just supporting Foster parents and adoptive parents and biological parents and the children that we serve. We also are helping rallies and larger system and provides supports a knowledge is an engines for Tony when you're sending 21 years this fall. And so many caseworkers have now been on the job for what nine months and the turnover rate is twelve to fourteen months right now. So we're constantly really having to support those new workers. And I think statewide they're only staffed at 80%. Of the very low underfunded. Allowable position anyway hate and so I'm. That puts huge burden on our folks working for a child welfare and also puts a huge burden and struggle for the kids who that's their parent. And is in charge of their life and so we really all have to rally together and we can't we and a. I mean Andy even with a perfectly operating system yet if he would be re immune it's extremely chaotic experience for kids to come into Foster care who's. And so. Compound that with the fact that it is not a stable and perfectly pesos arbitrary chaotic system. Right now Mohammed there's all there's a lot of issues going on. That puts the onus even more are on organizations like kinship how's that how very consistent staff and very low turnover. That have a varies a stable place there is there consistently. And how Foster parents adoptive parents and biological parents. Being brought together in a way that they can they can maintain that consistency even if the system may not be able to do. So we're really fortunate because we have so many great partners in the community and mean carry your partner clean or not. You're yeah. You're you know helping us get the word out that think a lot of people really have no idea about the struggles and of children in the Foster care system and we end until more people more hands make work easier rate. Until more people are aware. We need to get critical mass to really support in May change could she can't make change unless you have that critical mass and and we're really fortunate that we have so many great supporters that we need more you know not everybody can be a Foster parent like Josh. But or adoptive parents. Bit by being somebody who can help us spread the word like you Kerry or by being someone who can donate or volunteer. Or help attend or even just attend some of our great events and help us raise funds. Every little tiny bit makes a huge difference you know I have volunteers who come in once a month to clean our play therapy for students can still always toys I mean if people wanted to come see it's crazy it's like death. Totally jammed packed toy room we called Lamar therapy tools because they are tools. So we have like more than one we have more than one Playhouse has our kids have to talk about moving so we have multiple Playhouse and so they can act out moving. We have. Lots of food because so many of our kids one of the reasons they were removed as may be moment adversary deepen their addiction they were leaving kids home alone with no food. No resources being unsupervised and very young age so kids have some issues with food in town so they need to be able to play with food and learn how to what is and what's it look like when when you have an appropriate meal what's it look like when you share food together what's it look like. If there is no food and you don't get any food today they play out all those scenarios. So yes toys but it's how they tell their story and how they make sense of it and how they can communicate that with apparent that there are living went and how that parent can learn to support them. And so we have to clean almost 5% until a lot of toys you know the volunteers come and they're like. Oh I'm just cleaning toys once a month that's nothing I'm like are you kidding me can you mention him. To a cost higher cleaning crew to come clean almost as I couldn't afford it. I'm gonna be no way any nonprofit can afford that stuff and real little hand. Every little bit of help by any caring individual. Is hugely impacted because each in just continues to grow and how can people get information about becoming a volunteer. They can go to our web site and then all the contact information is on there it's www. Kinship house. Dot court. Me and there is opportunities to attend events there's opportunities to. Participate in volunteer. There's Denise. Claiming she's over here on the other side and then we also have a great down the office name baca who does the launcher court nation. So you know they just just need to pick up the time Quarshie this email are and who you know actually our volunteers come up was way better ideas of how to help sometimes and we do because there's a lot of Smart people out there. And I like the idea that the and they example of the one person that says delay only come in once a month it clean toys but that is invaluable to your kids so don't feel. Like you can't help just by coming in want to know why there's no such thing as doing too little now. I don't know OK and then on top of it and you know my bigger attendance and say you're partner Gary is. Not only are they help theme that it's one more person who really knows what's going all fun and until we have enough people who known. What's going on with the problem until we know there's a problem we can't fix the problem right. So we're gonna get more kids access to kinship house so that. Not 25% of them are failing adoption only less than 3% are we have to have more access which means more hands helping. To create more access for kids and you can ask a huge question what's going to fix the Foster care problem. Cold or really doesn't get yeah yeah yeah I got that figured I'm available that I might backfire. There it is right there to look at what's gonna. Ultimately what would be the answer well I think. Having many pathways to permanency. So what permanency means is that for fancy word. For getting kids out of the system as quickly as possible when they get there. And then getting them as quickly as possible into permanent family so that's one and we have to think about. Another thing we have to think about his gee whiz if we don't want kids to go into Foster care we don't want as many kids to go into Foster care. If we had this huge issue with addiction in our community. Maybe we should have better access to addiction treatment. And prevention I think that would help a lot. I am biased annual I'll disclose that I as a man I was amount health professional and I also was an addiction. Treatment professional. So I do have a bias so disclose at the you know we don't monitor so the only problem is so and troll it's completely out of control and and massive scoring and we are again we we Wear special we have people like to do speed balls with this meth and heroin together which I guess I didn't know is not a national phenomenon as a special thing that happens here on the West Coast and I think in Maine and in our brother's the same no there's a connection oil. You know we have a Vieri significant addiction problem in our state and we have very very poor access and not enough access just like there's not enough access for services for Foster children. There's not enough access for addiction treatment. We have. They would call it a continuum of care that means there's outpatient treatment there's residential treatment there's enough. Treatment so that people who need it can get in. Are continuum of care for many services is fairy tiny. And there's just such huge need we just don't have enough and so an and sadly because people don't not enough issue what I have found in talking to our volunteers about this is they don't realize that. If you need treatment you just can't walk in and get it. And especially when your air most vulnerable. And then that's kind of perpetrate some myth because we still have stigma about these things and amidst the treatment doesn't work. That actually in my opinion and may be unbiased. It's not that treatment doesn't work as Wilmington there's a lot of research out there that shows you treatment does work addictions treatment and mental health treatment it works. But if you don't have enough access he'll never make a dent. Rain and you have to have enough access to impact enough people to get to that critical mass where it feels like to the larger community were making a dent. And I think that there's many layers but those are two layers and create systems to get kids out on CNN. And also may be support some of that addiction struggle cousin is a big chunk of kids coming carriers their parents' house production. And the other thing that Aaron and is. We just seem Prosser it's. I mean to be completely honest when you can throw all the money in the world at ths and it won't make more Foster parents are up about something that that the community house to make a decision about. And that people need to really take a look at and act and think about what what capacity they have for that. And it's something that people don't talk about I mean being a Foster parent and being open about it I can't tell you how many people out of the woodwork who taught you about their experiences. There's a lot of people who all have had some have been touched by an assistant somewhere. It they just don't talk about it it's true and it's not it hasn't been through normalized in the culture. I feel like it it's person that people keep quiet and and in some ways that may be appropriate in certain delicate situations for the most part like. You know just talking about it I mean I think per one volunteering is so important is that it gives people experience there in a safe way. Where they're contributing and they serve to learn about what we you know what that where there's need I mean so many people who become Foster parents are because they were introduced in some small way. To the problem and they realized that it wasn't impossible in the normal people every day choose to do that and that is to eat you know you just have to give British. Yeah no I each ushered right on in we duty and so many fast Christmas we have. Not enough. And then that means that people who are doing Foster parenting. Are asked to have many many children in their home and because they're loving caring people. Now days they say yes Kelly more than nations like all of us here MM if we have word Foster parents we get more that critical mass and it. And we can help transition kids and then you know when you have less kids. You know we only have so much time in the day we can provide more free to those children were. See you see all these these controversies about housing for Foster children and that that ever happened in the last year and you know one way to look at that is to say well ths of screwing up a that they don't have enough money you're there they're not they're not managing well. Some of that is probably true but another part of that is those kids wouldn't be in housing if they had tossed her eyes rested. Took to the US tan and and so and that that's just an issue that that is a reliving a drastic. I am Anna and I think in it I think it's getting that word out this is another way to get the word out and I know tell offers working on the campaign. And a couple different campaigns to advertise. Her recruiting Foster parents and and I think we just have to do a much better job in her field. As of like just said seeing people do this every day it's just a different form of parenting and come superb reporting and the kids. Largest. Inspiring they're inspiring kids kids who have gone through so much and I'm really can just missed. Iron you have and and that's very I think that your house is really important because it is this consistent sort of it. Nexus between all these different parts the system and all of these different families in communities and it is consistently fair and it provides us avenue for people to have a safe way to engage in the system and contribute. I'm and it and it really has helped part of that building that community because that's really what it's all well Jessica tortillas forever until we're out of time. Yeah I don't like our none of the about the listen one more time OK it is www. Kinship analysts. Dot for the is doing amazing work home thinks carry out another Jefferies executive director can Chappelle's. In just Keeley a board member kinship house and proud Foster and adoptive parent thanks Newsom thank you think you. Microscope is an Entercom radio Portland public affairs program.