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The Family Room 052817

May 25, 2017|

AN INTERVIEW WITH KIMBERLEE OLMSTED, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT THE FAMILY ROOM ABOUT THE WORK THEY DO REUNITING FOSTER CHILDREN AND THEIR BIRTH PARENTS.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is microscope. And Entercom radio Portland public affairs program and Gary blocks them in on the show this time we're gonna learn about another great local organization helping Foster kids one mistress go today we are welcoming Kimberly all instead she is the executive director of the general bigger family hello. So the family room only about a what does when what's the family room. Yes I think you so much first of all for having me here today pleasure to be here. The family room we'd provide aid or nonprofit programs here in the Portland area. We provide supervised visitation. And hands on parent training for families who are separated in the Foster care system. So for those who might not know when a family comes to the attention of the child welfare system and children are removed from their birth parents. The time that they spend with their birth parents while this system is sort of what you know is caseworkers are working to get everybody healthy and stable again. That time kids spend with their birth parents is court order to be super iced. Ants DH asked just do issue you know staffing limitations. You know budget limitations and what not gender relieved they are limited to one hour a week of super nice time. And it's you know it's it's certainly not a stretch she imagined that it's you know for really working to reunite kids with their families. One hour a week of tying together is just. Not gonna cut it that's woefully inadequate self. That's where the family rim steps and we'd provide aid I am you know that kind of piece of this whole theory complicated child welfare pie. Where we can provide a space. I am right now we're offering about nine hours a week over two different sessions Tuesday afternoons and evenings and Saturday mornings. For families spend together and then really even even kind of more critically than just that quantitative. Tying peace. Is the qualitative peace while we've got them together. We want to make the most of that time. You know we wanna take these parents and we want she you model why Seif com. Nurturing loving parents in looks like for their kids. You know most of the parents that they come into the attention of a child welfare. You either were in the system themselves. And really have never experienced. You know whites. What Seif an adequate parenting looks like so we get to we get to beat out pretty speedy release week it's kind of showed them what that looks like and what what does that look like. When they come what are you what are you showing them what's sure how well you know why I I think most folks that walks through our doors. Whether there. You know classes that are there visiting their families are tees workers are volunteers to come you know with our program. I think they're pretty surprised at how normal things feel at the family room it's kids and parents spending time together really. I kind of liken it to you to community centers that I took my own children to when they were young you know the indoor plea parks and view art sessions and that kind of thing. I'm you know kids are laughing they're excited to see your parents parents are snapping pictures of their kids in. You know bringing crafts and bringing choice and bringing snacks and I'm on the floor crawling around giggling laughing. But you know part of you know to kind of go beyond just that in chew Lehman of being together. You know we want our kids to get tired we want them to tantrum we want them to get hungry we want them to get you know need naps because in honor. L about about you in my household you know that dinner hour between about you know fighting six that's when things really kind of start get complicated and when I really kind of need to dig deep as far as. Mike parenting you know. Skills inserted reservoirs and and so that's what we dare to do is when you when trying to. When parents are sort of pushed to their limit when when kids are really testing boundaries when kids are being kids doing the things that they're needing to do to grow and develop. That we can step in and we can say gosh you know I am. This is this is looking tough pat how are you joining he needs some help but we brainstorm some ideas why don't I try something let's see how it looks. And then let's recruit afterwards and see. And he may be you can jump in and try next time. So that's kind of what we're easier for Acer released or to be that. That coaching and since he got modeling entities and then ultimately eat. That encouragement cheerleader praise and Citi where we say look at how much progress he has made. Look at how well you're doing how how do you feel about that how he T feel proud of yourself you should surprise yourself. Many times the birth parents don't have that experience right exactly yup so we're. How many how many people do you surf. Well these two locations right now he launched. About almost three years ago hamlets in northeast part lynched. And then about 9 months ago I am we opened our second location out in hills or else. So in each one of those two location Suisse served up to fifteen children at that time he and now depending on and you know how many kids per family. You know sometimes if we have larger families that ends up being maybe five or six families at a time if you know each family is just one momma and 180 then maybe we've got ten camrys at a time so kind of theory is Andrew. You know and that number we learned the hard way that fifteen is really. Kind of the sweet spot as far as maximizing. Our circuit says you know serving day you know the maximum number of families had time but also keeping it so that we can really eat. And we can be very intentional and dive really deep with families. You know were not kind of a mile wide in steep program we've really prefer to go. Very intensive build very very deep relationships trusting relationships because that's where change happen it's. And it's. Gas so you know that's that's why we keep those numbers. At about fifteen to me about yourself how do you who are the people that are helping you Abdul short irons are not just you yeah yeah. Yeah you know were relatively small program we have to staff rate now myself and our am fantastic program director Stacy quality act. She's been at this for about a year and a half now. On and outside of the to a class we are at a volunteer Bryan which is wonderful and I really think one of the strengths of our program. We eat our faith based program we partner with churches for space and for volunteers. So both of our locations both in northeast and in Hillsborough are are we see in church buildings. And then you know those church communities in the kind of surrounding supported church communities. Then send folks for a stitch mean of course you know we train them we background check make sure everybody's you know conceive and prepared. I am. And then no spark folks are you volunteering their tying to be there with our families and sometimes that means. Writing to knows to and from our program picking them up at their Foster homes and bringing the man. And sometimes that means helping us to cook meals we eat dinner together every Tuesday and eat French together pristine Saturday which is fantastic. And sometimes that means just kind of sitting alongside her family is playing on the floor with them. You know and again providing that kind of coaching and modeling piece for when things get a little rough and you know parents need a little bit how. What kind of training do you have to to do this type of support sure yak. I have been in the social work field my whole career. I am specifically in child welfare sell I got my bachelor's degree in social work who knew I wanted to work with kids and families. You know right out of college worked in a residential facility for severely behavioral mean emotionally to. Stripped kids for a couple of Beers. He was really of course moved and touched by some of the things I saw bear. Ended up going back to school to get my masters in social work it's here partly state. And then right out of the air went to work I am for the state so I was caseworker. Act sac act for the state child welfare system for about nine years. And actually enjoyed that you know I I kind of didn't run screaming for their hills you know I mean I really enjoyed my record is fortunate tack really creates a provision great teams. But as the years went by I think you know added. Those of us that are kind of immersed in the system we eat we see the service gaps and we see kind of the themes that our families in need over and over and over again and and just. Don't have access to because you know they don't they don't exist. And and this was one of those he says I thought you know gosh I. I think I could be in a position to attracts this parenting piece this this visitation peace and sell. Yap about 33 and half years ago I left the state to start immigrant. Well that's a big big step how did you decide to do you act while with a lot of faith to be honest. And just me. Each tremendously. Dedicated community around me. You know as though is sort of in in mice. Circle of a influenced my friends my family my colleagues. You know when I would kind of talk about cash this is this. You know they stream my having this vision and you know I think this is it a really significant mean within our community. I'm Il will no one person can want something like this on their own and how to take off I mean I just I am. I'm hugely grateful for and indicted she would back that initial community around me who say yes. I I believe and that I believe in you let's do best let's get behind estimates to best. Sound young that's great is the family room for children and their birth parents only the world they're Foster parents there to. Yeah he had a great question yes that I aimed at you know that. That is actually spent with Ian. Now we. We have just the deepest and and most profound admiration for a Foster parents this is just an unbelievably difficult job. Part of keeping our numbers you know kind of kind of low is also so that we can really developed deep and meaningful in support of relationships with our Foster parents as well. You know the timed at those kids spend with their parents at the family room is respite time. For those Foster parents which is just a critical component. I'm supporting Foster homes and speaking those placements last and prevent teen. You know kind of the burnout that understandably happens. You know in Foster families. I am so you know while they don't see you know spend time with their kid analysts and the birth parents within our whilst we encourage them to you. To pick ups and drop offs we want those kids to be seen their birth parents hand their Foster care Foster parents interacting. You know shaking hands hugging smiling and laughing treating stories. That is so healthy for those kids so wonderful for them to be able to CDs Chiu you know kind of trusted. Attachment pieces in their world. Hole K with each other you know end and communicating cell so that's kind of the culture that we that we hope to create empathy. So tell me about the importance of children and being with their birth parents were how why is that so important shore. Yeah you know I think it's a relief fair and understandable question that a lot of folks have you know it's something so you could read chest. Has happened such that a government and TT has had to become involved and remove children from their family. Wire wire we even working tick to get these kids back when they're urged parents to Judy's parents even deserve a second chance. And you know I understand that I really do I I understand that on the question and I think it's actually important question and I'm you know. I you what I usually say in response to that is I think it's actually more helpful. She was thinking not to get parents to surface but to the kids to star fest. You know we eat we are hard wired. To bonds. With her birth parents into wants to be we found that's that's how were hard wired and no matter the circumstances. That those kids have come from. Your first choice for where they live and where they grow up in who DC every day. Is their birth parents. And so really eat for me it's less of a question of due to parents deserved a second chance. So much as it is to peace kiddo is deserve their first choice. And you know week we know a few things to you know within this field of people that know way more than I do what you have done all the research and all of that you know sort of long term studies. We know that the government actually makes a pretty poor parents that you know kids beer batter in the long run. You know education statistics criminality statistics morbidity statistics. When kids can safely returned to their birth parents. I'm as opposed to kind of growing up in Foster care languishing eating out of the Foster care system they fare better. So you know we pay attention to that we pay attention to what our kids say it's yes. We pay attention to what the researchers saint Anne's. You know and if and if we can do everything we can't if we can offer every support. To try to successfully sea fleet. You know lovingly reunite this thing Moline I am acting and that's why we're here. We tell me about the birth parents of some of some of those. Birth parents are going through some difficult times that of their own right correct or am more than likely are going through very difficult times. Is a connection still important. Between the them children in the repair. Yes yes absolutely great question and and yeah you know at the simple answer is it is and you know I think that we. You know I think sometimes we can go to a place of judgment and we can kind of say you know how dare you how could you. You know every day you have a choice just choose your child choose batter. You know and I said that's true to an extent I think that we eat we also have to really am. We still look at these families in these parents to relents of trauma and you know again as I said earlier. Most of the parents that we work with worked in the system themselves as skits between you don't have to rewind the clock but about I had 710 years. And they were decal in the system you know just kind of hurting and wanting to be with their parent not having that access you know experiencing trauma over and over. You know in and that's trauma please itself outs in in addiction and an in mental health and in some really deep seated. Significant. Seen full sorrow awful stuff. And they think you know all. As this as a profession and has seen a kind of a social work or fashion specifically child welfare. He we've really need to be careful that we're approaching from a lens of compassion. And it's an hope and belief. That's that with the right kind of supports. And it's you know and access to professional services. And that we don't remove their children that we don't make that a punishment but we actually make that time an incentive. You know and you kind of an ongoing and promise of what's waiting for them on the other side of health. That that's actually the most productive way in fact that's another thing that research shows SaaS is that the number one predictor. Of whether children successfully reunite with their families is the nature of their visitation. What's outlook like how often and how affected how motivating is that titan. What kind of changes have you seen with birth parents and and Thomas and success stories who shares have some good ones yeah we do is I you know and I that's. That is probably my. My most surprising and my my most favorite saying of in Venus and starting his program and since being a part of this program is. Is watching house six status. Has spanned defined and redefined. Over the years and it's it would be easy to say. For a program like ours in the only way to measure success is how many families reunite and certainly that's plan A certainly that's what we hoped for. But you know there were were one slice it this high you know like I said there are many many deep seeded you know issues addictions and whatnot. On sometimes. We've seen success. As any parent real life saying. They can't do that yes this is this is too much for them to GO. And it's coming to that understanding. Of you know allowing their children to be placed into a loving adoptive family. And the family around gets to be the first place where that birth parent and that adoptive parent needs and start to form of Bonn and such that eventually. Were no longer need and it you know they can facilitate contact whether it's phone contact or visits or whatnot letters. On on their own because our relationship has been able to back compassion and you know sort of not that mutual gratitude has been evil happened. For ice that's a success now of course we've seen lots of families are skis meet lots of kids go you know go back home with their parents and that is. You know there really is no greater choice for us and to be able Mac geeks who cock you know cupcakes and I'm in and cheer and celebrate. You know a lot of really really hard fox and long work. And our fan you know doze those families returned to us you know they kinda. They go away for a little while and and then they come back they Collison say cash purchase for so. Grateful for you we loved being here Q we come back and say hi and of course you know our doors are opened Hercules at any time and we. We seen us families and we love seeing them back at how they're writing and how well their kids are sound that's great. Believe mr. website and one thing that's very unique about the family room are the hours through to offer for a visitation. And so walk me through that and in what a typical visit Annandale looks like. Sure. Yeah and in the hours or are. You're very intentional for a few specific reasons wine you know evening and weekend hours are ours that are really difficult for DH Shasta copper. So if we can stack and and we can kind of fill that gap a little bit for DHS were certainly happy to do that. I am. Also you know week. There is certain those are times and again they're in there longer times to six hours of time on Tuesday afternoon in an evening in three hours of time on a Saturday morning. You again I am I eight. We we wanna see kids get. Board you know we we want to see them get tired of an environment we wanna see him get hungry we want to and Sinead snaps we want to kind of creates. You know environments. That that more directly translate. To Wear him to home life you know to what a loose yeah exactly what. What my house looks like you know with my with my test. I'm meals you know preparing a meal keeping an eye on tennis at the same time you know. I don't know it. Refereeing a sibling squabbles and all those kinds of things that as parents kind of chastise and push a so the limits you know. And that's why we eat we've kind of really intentionally at arrived at various he'll late afternoon evening hours and then those weekend hours. And those are just them times and may be dear to us is not available to correct correct yeah. Let's also look what what's in what's the average age of the consumer can. Yeah deal were available to Tito's burn through rate seen I mean that's that's who DHI serves so we eat we your. Il available to serve any family that is. You know that's involved with ths. Now what it what it and Issa been. Sip big clue he. Most of Archie those are elementary school and younger. I would say seeking probably in Nat preschool tuner card and age is is kind of tends to be even you know the kid goes that we see the combined to babies right now that we've got a lot our sweet little new babies and a the funding come from how do you increase support this. Well right now we are 100% privately funded and I am. That's you know that's a really beautiful testimony thus you two certainly are. We copy champions the champions that support our program. You know that we have been able to keep this going to solely through the air generosity. I I just started. You know. Overwhelmed with gratitude for each one of them you'll most programs like cars. You'll contracts. To some degree your some extent with the state her wins don't count me. On. And you're right now aim. Probably most folks are aware I am you know the state is experiencing that I genuine crisis budget you know crises staff increase seized. You know child welfare is on. You know on its most recent federal audits it's yeah it's not doing very well. And I see that act and by no means to criticize you know. The states and and that system really I feel like they're feeling here is all of our feel here. This is an impossible. An unbelievable complicated. You know difficult task that they have and I think for two long we have kind of sank it sure problem. Eat you take this you do it it's ugly it's sad it's hard we don't wanna look at it. And the reality is is they can't the they cannot do this on their own again their failure is our failure and so we feel. I am here right now the you know they can't fund a program like ours so we're gonna fund a program cars and it's and we're gonna keep it going so that we can continue to come alongside them. And say you know we're here we're let's you know let's do this together let's start there. The awesome attitude that's. That's brilliant that's good for you think you know I appreciate that while I am. One very very small small part of this fire so yeah I do you're doing your part in the statements don't. It's a last minute or so we have here let's tell people how they get more information in May be volunteer for looking for sure yet how we are we're always looking for. You know for people were looking for financial partners and there are so many different ways to get involved at the immigrants so. Really am visit our website family room or again dot Ford. Darrius you know all kinds of information about who we are pleased to contact us we also are really active on both mr. Graham and he spoke with this is the world we live and now south. And family room Horry again I desired. You know our Ty Nash. He handle on those to those places in week we really do a good job we tried very hard it's you and we tell our stories on both of those places so if you wanna kinda. Get a really good sort of insider glimpse of what life is like at the family room. Follow us on instead Graham follow us on feast that you're gonna see pictures your Kenny your stories are gonna be you know made known as act are made aware of events that we have coming up. I am you know that's that's probably attacked the best way to stay in touch with us that's awesome than you would say that's to his kids are the home page that's my can't. Really that's what we got acute. The day DLC a little bit older now lay ad that's we have we were relieved to be really careful understandably about putting. I'm agencies is a bird to knows that we serves so that I can that might get on herself and didn't. Well this has been really great thanks for being in thank you my pleasure to really don't spend the executive director of the family room thinks we have an interest thank you so much. Microscope is an Entercom radio Portland public affairs program and I'm Jerry blocks of if you're involved with a nonprofit public affairs organization Ford you have an idea for an upcoming show I'd like to hear from you. This is microscope PDX dot com and submit your ideas you can also go to the station's website handsome richer information there. Thanks for listening to metals gold and enjoy the rest of your weekend.