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  • Latino Families & Foster Care

    by Sarah Elzas

    Multiculturalism is just one issue addressed by the Coalition for Hispanic Families. The Coalition, started in response to Hispanic kids being transferred to foster homes out of their culture, serves 233 children ages 1 month to 21 years in the mostly Hispanic Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Providing services that run the gamut of foster care issues from education to parent training to multicultural sensitivity, the Coalition also places children in homes.

    Michelle Britto, head of Independent Living Skills (ILS), explained that foster parents go through a screening and training process. Called Model Approached Partnership Parenting (MAPP), it’s a standard twelve-week course that teaches about the developmental stages of children, conflict resolution, and most importantly, how to work with biological parents. “One of the major challenges is getting the foster parent to respect the biological parent,” said Britto. Foster families often see the removal of the child as an indictment of the biological parent.

    It is important to keep ties with the biological family when possible because “for the most part, the goal of foster care is re-unification with the parents,” explained Britto.

    Parenting a foster child of a different culture is part of MAPP training. Foster parents are encouraged to ask questions and talk to their child about their culture. A parent might be concerned about “something as simple as combing hair,” said Britto. The training addresses these routine concerns as well as the larger issues.

    A child stays in a foster home for an average of two years. Reasons for leaving vary, but often, a foster family will want teenaged children to move out. Children “age out” of the system at 21, but can opt out on their own at 18.

    According to the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the Coalition, as a foster care agency, provides a monthly sum to parents for each child, from $428 to $1,420, depending on the age and needs of the child.

    At the Coalition, teenagers learn the basics of caring for themselves through ILS courses, mandatory from age 14 onward. If someone is having trouble at school, Sonya Hemphill, the Education Coordinator at the Coalition, steps in and can find in-home tutors to help students.

    “It’s all about monitoring,” explained Hemphill. “In everything, the goal is to be one step ahead of the children.” #

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