In Transit

The Faith Hope and Love logo (2)Journey of Hope
Written by Heather Lojeski, co-director
Faith, Hope and Love – Duffel Bags for Children in Crisis

Last Thursday,  I had the privilege of being a part of the “Journey Home” experience; the life of a child entering foster care.  Our morning began on a school bus, and upon entering the school bus the group of us were given a black trash bag; which we would later find was how most times the children move their personal belongings.

The beginning of our trip was a narration reminding us of our family, homes, and pets; we had left that morning on our way to this event.  How would we feel if a person of authority had interrupted our morning and said we were being moved from our home because it was no longer safe?  Would we be scared, angry, or sad?  Read more…As we continued on our drive, we pulled up to a home (we later found out it was the home of a foster parent).

At this stop, a human services investigator and police department investigator boarded the bus.  They walked us through their portion of the transition to foster care and the tasks they are involved with.  It was hard to fathom that in the city of Racine, we have 4 ½ investigators for the sole purpose of looking into abuse cases and they are overloaded.  As we continued on our journey, we learned about the training involved in becoming a foster parent; each parent goes through 36 hours of training and it takes approximately 2-3 months to become a licensed foster parent.

Our next stop was the Racine County Child Advocacy Center, which up until 2008 did not exist and would have made the journey for a child much longer; as they had to drive to Milwaukee or Kenosha County for same services.  At the Racine County Child Advocacy Center, the staff is able to perform child abuse assessments and rather than have the children go through questioning by more than one individual; due to the ability to perform video taping of investigations. Following this stop along our journey, we took time to hear from two case managers regarding their task of helping to find the child a  temporary home initially, and then a permanent home when necessary.

We heard a story of a situation that they were called upon to assist with regarding a child who was having difficulty during the investigation process and was refusing to speak with investigators.  When the case manager arrived and began to talk to the child, the child informed the case worker how she no longer trusted adults and was not going to talk.  The case manager was able to ask what could the agency do to help make the situation better for the child.  Surprisingly, the one thing the child really wanted, was just to know her dog was OK.  Once the case manager was able to assure the child the dog was being cared for; the child was better able to talk.  This is just one of the many stories we heard, that shows just how complex their job is; including the fact that each case manager has 30 children under their care per month.

Our next stop was the Racine Circuit Court, where we met Judge Constantine.  We learned about the judicial process that takes place within his court room.  The court room process can take as short as 45 days, or as much as 12 or more months.  All parties involved: biological parents, foster parents, and case managers; when they work together, can assist in shortening the length of time the children remain in foster care and the length of time the case remains in the court system.  We learned in Judge Constantine’s court room, that most times; biological parents realize the great resource, foster parents can be.  Many times even after the children are reunited with their biological parents; the foster parents still remain involved in the child’s life either by having visitations or providing respite care.  This was just one more way we learned about the amazing work foster parents provide to the children of our community.  As was said all day today, “Foster Parents Rock!”.

The courthouse was our last destination of the tour, but on the way back to the facility; we were privileged to hear from a couple who have been foster parents for 15 years and have seen over 150 children come through their home.  In the process they have adopted 6 children, and still continue to provide care to children in need within Racine County.  We also met another couple that has been providing foster care for many years, and ultimately ended up adopting one of the children in their care.

These foster parents and their stories are humbling and this experience was something I will never forget. Our community’s hurting children, should never have to move their belongings in trash bags; they are worth more than that.  Faith, Hope, & Love – Duffel Bags for Children in Crisis has set a goal of making sure each child entering foster care will have a duffel bag for their personal belongings and know that we believe they are priceless.

Faith, Hope, Love is a ministry of Living Light Christian Church and co-directed by husband and wife team, Mark and Heather Lojeski. Mark and Heather reside in Racine and have 10 children ages 7-23.

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