Nomadic way of life takes its toll on state's foster children

From left: Doug Sauder, Tina Ury, AJ Vaughn, Irwin Haugland, Kevin Hunter, Benjamin Vaughn, Kathy Haugland, Zephaniah Ury, Jasper Ury. - Courtesy photo
From left: Doug Sauder, Tina Ury, AJ Vaughn, Irwin Haugland, Kevin Hunter, Benjamin Vaughn, Kathy Haugland, Zephaniah Ury, Jasper Ury.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

They get taken away in hopes of protecting them.

But in addition to leaving their homes and parents, many times foster children are also taken away from siblings, friends and teachers — everything they know, even their community.

In Federal Way alone, there are currently 110 kids in the foster care system; only 14 of them continue to live in Federal Way. Many others are placed elsewhere in King County or the state — and some even out of state.

By moving the kids into foster care in a new area, the kids lose what family life they have known as well as the connections they have made in life.

"It multiplies the losses," advocate Marilyn Hatfield said.

Hatfield was one of the speakers at a May 14 luncheon put on by Olive Crest Homes and Services for Abused Children and Fostering Together, a coalition of Olive Crest and the state of Washington. The coalition was formed in order to improve upon recruitment and retention practices of foster families within Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.

There are 11,000 kids in foster care in the state and only 6,000 homes available, according to Fostering Together.

"Stop the madness, stop the chaos," Hatfield said. "Stop moving kids wherever."

The luncheon raised about $5,000, which will be used for recruitment and retention of foster parents in the South King County area, organizer Paula Head said.

Also at the event, three families — one each from Federal Way, Auburn and Kent — were honored for their work in caring for foster children.

Kathy and Irwin Haugland of Federal Way were honored for taking in four foster children. The couple already adopted two of the children, with another in the process of adoption.

"My first thought was all you need is a bed," Kathy Haugland told the audience. "Then I quickly realized, no that's not all."

"You have to be really flexible," she added.

Kent residents Colin and Tina Ury also agreed that flexibility was key. The Urys have fostered 11 children over the years and specialized in getting drug-affected babies ready for adoption.

"It's not about you, but all the children around you," Tina Ury said.

The speaker for the event was Doug Sauder, an author who has worked in the foster care program in Florida for 10 years.

Florida has worked hard over the past decade to change a disastrous foster care system, he said. Since then, a partnership has formed with churches, the state and foster parents.

"Foster care isn't in the paper anymore," Sauder said.

The same could be done in Washington state, he added.

"This is a fundraiser, but also a chance to mobilize," Sauder said. "A solution is in this room. It's going to spread."

Sauder challenged the room to raise $10,000 and to organize speaking events at 10 churches to raise awareness. And while the group did not meet that goal, organizers said they were still very happy with the event and its results.

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Foster care facts (from Source: Fostering Together)

• An estimated 50-75 percent of school-aged children who enter foster care must leave their school districts because foster homes are not available near their current homes. Academic experts estimate that children lose four to six months of progress every time their education is interrupted by a change of schools.

• African-American children make up 4.2 percent of the general population in Washington state, but 10.5 percent of children in foster care.

• In Washington, Native American children make up 2 percent of the child population and 8.4 percent of children in foster care.

• One in six children in foster care was moved to three or more homes within the first year. Nearly 37 percent of children in foster care in Washington state were living with relatives.

• On average, children stay in the system for almost three years (31 months) before either being reunited with their families or adopted. Almost 20 percent wait five years or more.

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