Sharing your heart, sharing your home

Carl Robinette

Mon January 25, 2016 1:39pm

Raising your own children alongside foster children helps give your family a chance to grow and appreciate different cultures, according Pam Sokol, president of the San Diego County Foster Parents Association. She knows this from first-hand experience.
“It enriched my children’s lives as well,” said the 66 year old Sokol who fostered many children while raising her own. Her children are now all adults. “It made them empathetic and they’ve lived with every culture and ethnicity. It was a real benefit to my kids to have that experience. They’re minds and hearts are all in the right place, and they’re all doing well.”
The majority of new foster parents are young families or younger individuals, said Sokol who has been fostering children for more than 30 years.
If you are considering foster care it is a good idea to do some research ahead of time and decide on the kind of fostering in which you are interested. County licensed foster parenthood is California State licensing that is obtained through San Diego County, while other options like foster family agencies are considered a higher level of care and include older children who may or may not have behavior problems.
There are a variety of foster programs under Community Care Licensing and each has unique requirements. Potential foster parents should also plan on getting certified in things like CPR and first aid care.
Raising kids alongside foster children requires a bit of extra parental diligence and keeping your permanent children your priority is critical to success of a foster situation.
“You can’t say oh my family will be ok because these children need me more,” Sokol said. “You can’t become a bad parent to help out another kid.”
While many foster parents spend money out of pocket to provide for foster children, people living on a fixed income shouldn’t necessarily rule out applying based purely on a financial situation, Sokol said. The application only requires that your income is enough to sustain your current living situation and there is government funding and community resources to pay for the child’s essentials like clothing, food and healthcare.
“Some people try to abuse the system on occasion, but they don’t last long,” Sokol said. “I believe the majority foster parents don’t do it for the money. Because if your hearts not in it you can’t do it.”
Sokol said the entire system is under subsidized in general and there is not much opportunity to profit from fostering.
Drug abuse often plays a role in the separation of children and parents, and the foster children are often victims of abuse.
“It’s the whole drug culture and it shows you what a strong hold it has because parents just aren’t able to get off the drugs to get their kids back sometimes. And the court says the kid can’t wait in limbo forever. It’s sad because one family has dissolved but on the other hand it’s happy because we do see children adopted by families who love them. So in that sense it’s happy.”
Abuse and neglect can contribute to behavioral issues, but potential foster parents are able to choose gender, age and rule out certain behavioral problems before they take a child into their home.
Sokol said foster care agencies and social workers want the child to fit well with the foster parents and for victims of abuse to feel as comfortable as possible. If the foster parent feels weird, the kid feels weird.
“They’re like your kids you know. You love them and all that, and then when they leave, even when it’s a good situation for them, it’s still a loss to you and your kids. So it’s hard that way,” Sokol said.
“I love it. Most foster parents will tell you, they love it. We do it far into our retirement. It’s something that’s rewarding, the kids need it, and there’s a kid for everyone that’s for sure.”