At Victor, our foster services staff works hard to connect children and teens with caring families. It's not easy work, but it can be very rewarding. Susana Bernales has worked for the company for 15 years. She started with Rosemary Children's Services which merged with Victor over the past few years in an effort to further expand their reach and the great work they do. Susana started as an OSS, or office support staff and worked in that role for about 10 years. During that period she got more involved with the family recruiting process and really enjoyed it. She took phone calls and did the paperwork, but never got to go out and meet the families. When the opportunity came up to apply for a Resource Family Recruiter position she jumped at it. Susana wanted to help grow the agency, expand the foster services and get the opportunity to work directly with families.
Finding Foster Families
Victor runs ads in the local newspaper as well as online to help connect with those interested in fostering. In addition to advertising, Susana works community events distributes flyers and strikes up conversation with people to get the word out about Victor's foster services and to encourage families to consider working with Victor. Generally they have a lot of questions and some anxiety about the process. There's a lot of paperwork, background checks, fingerprinting and lot's of communication with state agencies. She walks with families through the entire process to make sure they are doing everything right and she's always available for questions. Victor also does thorough training to prepare foster parents for the many challenges they are going to face. Susana does her best to make sure that families are as prepared as possible before they take a child into their home.
Creating New Families
The joy of bringing a new family together is what drives Susana. Helping couples have a child placed with them is an emotional and rewarding experience. Susana recently got a text message from a family that she helped get set up saying, "Thank you so much for helping us through this process. We are finalizing our adoption next month!" Susana said, "To me, that's the greatest gift for what I do. Being a mom myself and knowing the struggles some couples have in being able to have their own children, and being able to help them create a family is the best."
The foster to adopt process can be challenging. The first goal of our foster care program is reunification with biological parents when possible. Our foster parents know this and are prepped for it, but it's never easy when a placement doesn't work out. "I continuously remind them because we always have those struggles and the sad stories when they get attached to a child and they're very excited but then the child goes back to their families." says Susana. When that happens, Susana stays in contact with them to make sure they are doing okay. The social worker assigned to the family continues to work with them, even thought he child is no longer in the home. They have access to support resources at all times.
It's Been a Good Year
This was a great year for Susana and the organization. Many families were approved and there was improvement over last years number of placements as well. Susana says, "That tells me that we were able to provide help to more children in need." Victor has expanded in San Bernardino and Riverside County, providing more approved homes in each. Moving forward, Susana's goal for the next fiscal year is to try to find more homes that will take teens. There's a great need for families willing to take teens, Susana hopes to find more of those families and get them approved.
Why Foster/Adopt with Victor?
From the first phone call Victor takes a very hands on approach with their foster families. Susana says, "From the very beginning, as soon as I get a phone call, I come out to the home and a lot of agencies don't do that. I like to meet my families one on one." Victor advises and assists potential foster parents at every step, even offering 24/7 phone support. If foster parents have any concerns or issues someone will always be there for them. Victor's social workers take turns each month being in charge of the "duty phone." That responsibility runs from 5 PM to 8 AM the next morning. Now that's dedication to supporting your foster families!
Even though the process of fostering can be difficult, Susana always reminds them, "This is going to be the most rewarding job you will ever do." They are giving children the experience of being part of a family and providing a safe and nurturing place for them that they can call home.
Are you interested in fostering? Click below to find out how to become a resource family.