Shelter Care Resources
Keeping Families Together
MIGRANT FAMILIES: What We Do
Shelter Care Resources has been assisting migrant families about as long as it has been open. This is not at all a new situation, and actually boomed here in Oxnard in June of 2014, when thousands of unaccompanied migrant youth crossed the border, and at least 180 of them went to the Hueneme Naval Base for temporary housing. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-port-hueneme-immigrant-children-shelter20140612-story.html
Since then, we have been assisting migrant families, particularly children and teen mothers.
See details below.
Keeping Families Together
Oxnard is home to over 200,000 of Ventura County's population of 800,000+ people. There is an abundance of migrant field workers who come to plant and harvest strawberries and other produce. They work from sunrise to sunset, and make very little money. They often have to live with other families to afford the rent, and still barely make ends meet. Some of them are in danger of losing their children because of general neglect (not enough clean clothing, soap or medical attention). Some of them have come over with children, and are barely older than children themselves. (We have visited homes with mothers as young as 13 years of age.) In many situations, the teen and baby are both in danger of being removed from the home, and most foster parents (virtually none) will take a teen with a baby. If removed from the home, the teen will often have to go to a group home and the baby will go to a foster home. In cases where there are many children, the children will be split up. Most foster parents can't accommodate large sibling sets.
We offer material assistance to these young children and their mothers out of compassion for their position, and without judgment. We hope that the teen mothers will attend and finish school, so we provide for both their children and their educational needs. We visit the homes and make sure everyone has a bed to sleep in, clean bedding, clothing, towels, dishes to eat from and toiletries to keep everyone clean. So much is being said about these families right now, but what we know is that the children and the families are here, and we are here to serve whoever is here.
KEEPING FOSTER CHILDREN WITH FAMILIES -
Important Information on Resource Families vs. Guardianship
One of the most common type of calls we get comes from the frantic grandparent who almost always says the same thing: "My grandchild was taken away from my child and the social worker says I have 48 hours to get a bed and sign for the child or they will be taken into foster care and I may not see them again." This message sounds far-fetched, but I have heard it dozens and dozens of times from people who do not know each other. Here is the information that I give them, which will be important to you and anyone you know if you encounter this situation.
If a child is taken away from the parent, the first effort the social worker makes is to find a family member to take them. If a child is officially taken into foster care, there is what is called an "open-dependency case". This means that the child is officially a ward of the court, and will be signed over to a family member as a foster child. The family will then be required to take classes to become a "resource family" or what used to be called a "kinship family". The caregiver will be required to do a home inspection, make regular visits with social workers and the biological parent as required by the court, and follow through with any instructions given pertaining to the case until it is decided whether the child should go home to the biological parent or stay with the grandparent/relative. If the child cannot return to the biological parent, the grandparent or other relative can choose to adopt the child or have them put in guardianship. If they are in guardianship, the caregiver is not the legal parent, but has certain legal rights to the child, which may include educational rights. If they are adopted, they are officially part of the caregiver's family and by law they are no longer the child of the biological parent. Caregivers who take in children from open-dependency cases are eligible to receive state funding for the child which varies by age and other demographics, but is usually in the hundreds of dollars per child per month. Both adopted children and children in guardianship receive medi-cal and denti-cal insurance benefits until they turn 18. Children taken from open-dependency may receive Kin-GAP (Guardianship) assistance payments, depending on the situation.
If a grandparent or other relative takes the child directly from a bad situation without open dependency, there are pros and cons. The relative may go to the court to get guardianship. This will give the relative more immediate custody and rights that the parent may appeal, but may lose depending on the situation. Going directly to guardianship will route the relative around all the red tape of dependency, social worker visits and such. However, there will be no compensation for this through the state. As soon as the relative signs for the child, they are signing away their right to compensation. They may want to do this if there is not enough evidence to support the biological parent's miscreance and they feel like it is likely the child will go back to a harmful situation. They might go straight to guardianship if they have a recent felony, are living with someone with a felony or have other situations which might endanger their qualification to take the child. They might want to do this if they plan to move out of the area, or if they just don't want to go through all the red tape. They must consider all the options before doing this, because once they sign for the child, there is no compensation. They must also consider the fact that if they choose to adopt the child, they will have to pay for themselves it at the cost of several thousand dollars.
THIS IS IMPORTANT
The law requires that the county give eligible family members, and even non-relative significant relationship (close friends) priority when considering placement. If a child goes into foster care because the relative needs time to prepare a room, the child will be given to the relative as soon as and as long as the relative qualifies to take the child. For anyone to say, "You have 48 hours and you might not see your relative again," is both untruthful and cruel. It is a way of trying to quickly shuffle off the child in order to save money and make less work. The county will also require that any relative with a significant relationship should be allowed visits with the child, so the relative will certainly be able to see the child. It may actually benefit the relative caregiver for the child to have open dependency, depending on the case. It depends entirely on the situation and the caregiver should take time to decide which choice is best, without fear of permanently losing the child. Certainly, if there are several children and the caregiver cannot afford to take them, they should consider the option of doing what will ensure the child has financial support.
If you encounter this situation, please call us, and we will do our best to assist you and refer you to people you need to talk to. We are in this to keep families together in the best possible situation for the child.