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Carolina Castro

They say it takes a village to raise a child. For kids in Oregon’s foster system, that powerful idea has taken on new meaning.

As a state, we’re seeing strong demand to support foster kids in need. Although it can be hard to feel like you, as one person, can make a difference, the truth is there are incredible opportunities right here in the Gorge to be there for foster kids in our community who need extra support. You are a part of their village, and you have the power to help.

Many of the kids in our foster system have grown up with disruption in their lives. Many have experienced trauma, abuse and neglect. These are the kids who need us the most. And it’s up to us as a community to come together and support them. In fact, their future depends on it. 

Foster parents provide care and support to kids at a critical moment in their life journey. The power of this relationship can be amazing. I’ve seen kids learn how to respect and love themselves and others. I’ve seen them work through deep pain and emerge resilient, healthy and strong.

At The Next Door, we believe that all kids have the right to grow up in stable, caring homes, and that supporting young people in foster care is the right thing to do. We also know that kids in foster care do better when they can stay in their communities, in the care of people who believe in them.

But right now, we do not have enough families raising their hands to provide that support.

This is not unique to Hood River and The Dalles — it’s a challenge throughout the state. And no one organization alone can fix it. That’s why 13 nonprofit social service agencies across Oregon have joined together to do something about it.

We launched Foster Plus, a campaign to recruit the families best suited to support kids who need care that’s a step up from traditional foster care. As any foster parent will tell you, the work can be tough. But the best part is the growth and healing that can happen before your eyes and the lasting impact you can have on the life of a child.

There are other ways to be there for local kids: You can foster part time as a Relief Parent and host kids for a couple of nights or a weekend at a time, on a schedule that works for you. You can also volunteer to become a mentor for foster kids, or you can donate clothes, school supplies and other items the kids need.

Maintaining community connections is so important, but right now, many of these kids end up at residential treatment facilities outside of their counties, or even their state. If we can keep them connected to the community they know, that’s one less loss for them to endure.

Now more than ever, foster kids need the people in their community — their village — to give them empathy, care and support and to help guide them toward a healthier, happier future. 

The families most likely to be a good fit for fostering are committed, patient and kind, and they can provide structure and boundaries. If that sounds like you, please reach out.

It starts with a conversation, but you could end up changing a kid’s life.

Carolina Castro is a clinical administrative supervisor at The Next Door, Inc

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