Latest 'Up Front' Episode Examines the Foster Care System in Cabarrus County
Sep 12, 2019 12:59PM
By Jason Huddle
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Welcome to Up front with Cabarrus magazine, sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, CERTEC Automotive, Code Ninjas, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Family Wealth Partners, Merle Norman Cosmetics and Eadi's Salon and your CBD Store of Concord. I'm your host, Jason Huddle.
Welcome once again to another episode of Up Front with Cabarrus magazine. Pleased you're here with us today because we're going to be talking about a very important issue in Cabarrus county and that is foster care. It's not something we talk about a lot because I feel like it has a negative stigma. Both foster parents and foster kids get an unnecessary bad rap in my opinion. Uh, many of the foster parents are - are out there doing this because it is something that is needed and it's something that's on their hearts and they have the purest intentions. Unfortunately, the foster parents that make the news are the ones that are mistreating kids. Likewise, the kids in the foster care system also get a bad rap because they are labeled as troubled or you know, come from broken homes. They have behavioral issues, whatever the case may be. And so people tend to steer clear of them or, or at least look the other way. Well, as it turns out since April, my wife and I have actually been going through the process of becoming licensed for foster care and just a few weeks ago we received our license. This is not something that you do for the money because there isn't much. This is not something you do because you're guilted into it and it's not something that is easy to do. Let me tell you, between the trainings and the paperwork and the things that you have to do to your house to get ready and more paperwork and the preparation and more paperwork and we just found out that we've got to do some more training, eventhough we already have our license. There's more training that we need to do over the next several months. This is not something that you do because it's fun or because you're bored. This is something you do because there is a need and you realize when you read these stories of these children who are coming out of homes of abuse, they are coming out of homes of neglect. This is something that is desperately needed. And so what I wanted to do today was bring in some people who are both advocating for the children, helping foster parents. And actually we're going to be talking to the Department of Human Services as well to talk about what their job is and the needs within the foster care system. So I'm looking forward to getting into that with you today. But before we do this, I want to introduce a new segment and this new segment is called letters from a fan.
Okay. So I created a new segment for the podcast that, uh, I think is pretty interesting. As the publisher of a magazine, we occasionally get. Now, typically our magazine doesn't have anything controversial really. I mean we're pretty positive as a norm, but there are some people that are just out there to find controversy where really there was none intended or certainly implied. So anyway, I get a letter and I have to set this up so you can have the full context. I get a letter that's addressed to the magazine with not one stamp, but seven stamps, seven, 8-cent stamps, which there's nothing wrong with that. Hey look, that's cool man. It's being frugal. The return address label, I won't say who it is from, that's not fair to them, but uh, it is, it does have a confederate flag on the return label and on the back there's also a confederate flag sticker that says the word unreconstructed over the confederate battle flag sticker. Okay. So that's - I'm not giving an opinion one way or the other on the confederate flag. What I'm saying is that is what the letter looked like coming in the mail. Okay. So I open it up. There's a tear sheet from the September issue of the magazine where we featured Bost Grist Mill, and part of that feature included the fact that they are doing reenactments, actually this month, at the mill and there were pictures from past reenactments. There are several pictures of both confederate and union reenactors. There is a picture of Union reenactors with an unfurled American flag. There are no confederate pictures with battle flags flying. Okay? On the backside of that tear sheet, however, there is a group shot of reenactors and they look like confederate reenactors. Uh, and I'll get to that in a second. I'm going to come back to them. So here's what the letter says. Wait a minute, let me back up. The letter is on stationary that has the six flags of the confederacy. It says six flags of the confederacy. And there were six different flags that the confederates flew apparently, and another return address labeled identical to the one that was on the envelope with the confederate flag as well. So that just gives you a little bit more context. Okay, so here's what the letter says. The letter says, I see the Yankee flag Yankees, all in caps. I see the Yankee flag prominently displayed and some confederate reenactors. But no, no, his caps and underlined confederate flags at the reenactments. They are everywhere. Deliberate or simply overlooked question mark. Deo Vindice, which is Latin for with God as our defender or protector. Okay. And then it's signed well and we'll just call him JC. JC, let me explain a couple things to you when it comes to publishing a magazine and I want to answer this as respectfully as I can. Okay. Because I realized there are deep opinions when it comes to the confederate flag, both pro and against, and I'm not going to speak to that at all. That's not where I'm coming from at all. But here's what I'd like to say. First of all, JC, when you are publishing a magazine and developing a story and you need pictures from past events that you are not present at, you are dependent on the pictures that are given to you. Okay? And the pictures we used were the best pictures for the article. In other words, they were the most visually or aesthetically appealing. That's not a comment on whatever was in the pictures. It was just the actual angles of the pictures, the action taking place in the pictures, those kinds of things. They appealed to us. We thought they would appeal to our readers more. So we were only given these pictures in order to use them for the article. All right, so that's lesson one, lesson two. If you'll notice on the backside of the tear sheet, which is, this is on page eight, if you're following along in the magazine, this is on page eight of the September issue. There's a group shot of the reenactors, which I mentioned before in that group shot. Granted it is not unfurled but it is present in the shot. It looks to be the first confederate flag that is behind them. So, JC, you are incorrect in that there are no "capitalized underlined" confederate flags. There actually was one, you just didn't see it. So that is a little lesson in publishing a magazine. Sometimes you are limited to the pictures that you are given and so now you know JC, that the lack of confederate representation as far, as a flag is concerned, in the reenactments, which by the way, wasn't even the point of the article. It was a subplot, if you will, of the entire article, which actually was about the mill. The lack of confederate flags was simply due to the fact that we didn't have pictures of them. So there you go. That is my answer to a letter from a fan.
Okay. That was a very long segment but uh, I appreciate you sticking with us. We're going to get back to our task at hand, which is covering foster care in Cabarrus county and coming up after the break. We're going to be talking to Overflow Ministries. This is a great ministry out of Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg and they are actually set up to help foster parents and provide needs both spiritually and the practical needs that they come across as they are trying to care for foster children. So stay tuned, we'll be back after these messages from our sponsors
welcome back to Up Front with Cabarrus magazine. This week we are speaking about foster care and there's an awesome ministry based out of Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg called overflow ministries. This is a great ministry that is ministering and providing needs for foster families. And I have in studio with me, Cassandra Overcash and Staci Powell and they head up this great organization. First of all, Cassandra and Staci, thanks for being on the program today.
Thanks for having us.
Absolutely. So Cassandra, why don't you tell us first how over four ministries got started and why you guys saw a need?
So my husband and I were actually foster adoptive parents. Um, and we met Stacy through, she was a school counselor at uh my boys school. Um, and we learned really quickly how important that supportive relationship was. Um, that's a really hard world to step into. And, um, we realized what a big need it was just to have someone there and the wraparound support, someone who cared about what was going on, who checked back in with you. Um, so Stacy and I talked a good bit about that being a need in general in foster care that people needed that. And she approached our pastor with that and he was supportive of jumping into Cabarrus County in general. And we were like, we don't know where to go with this, but we know that there's a need. So we actually shortly after that shot with two local foster moms, um, Brenda Cox and Amber Darba and asked them, what do we, where do we go from here? We know you need things to tell us what you need. And they were gracious enough to sit with us through some coffee and talk over ways that we could get involved or try to get involved in the community that time. And so we at that point were trying to figure out what's the direction and where do we go with this. Um, we have a friend Mike Filotto who sat with us and with you some scripture verses and, and gave us a name, which is where Overflow 419 came from. It comes from the verse,"We love because He first loved us first." John 4:19. So we were just setting out to try to love on the foster care community out of the overflow of what God has already given us.
Incredible. And Stacy, why don't you tell us a little bit about what it is you guys provide. Obviously there's a need, but what kind of needs do you actually supply?
Well, that's what we were trying to determine in our meeting with Brenda and Amber. I'm just trying to figure out what families could use. And we realized through meeting them and then having the privilege of meeting so many other foster families in Cabarrus county, that there are some amazing people doing this work, that they are really invested in the lives of kids, um, and that they could use some, some help. So what they came up with was, um, just kind of a list of things like a parent's night out and we were able to offer that at Providence. Um, we offer it four times annually, just an evening for parents to drop their kids off and be in a safe and fun environment and give them the night off. Um, so that was the first thing that we initiated in our ministry. Um, after that we learned that parents really could use, um, a support group and we have a licensed counselor in our congregation, Lynn Allred, who stepped up to lead a support group for parents that meets once a month and prevents free childcare and allows parents to just kind of learn from each other and this experience. And we also have a resource unit. One of our members of our congregation, Christine Bradford, said she would like to put together a unit that where we can just store items that foster families might need.
So if somebody needs a cradle, because one thing that people don't necessarily understand about foster care is you can get a call in the middle of the night that hey, there's a baby and we need to bring him to your house. And some people just aren't equipped for that. So these are the kinds of things that you guys have on tap so that you can, uh, provide those almost immediately.
Absolutely. So we are developing a team of volunteers who would deliver those, but we have a core set of people who just run to the resource unit, grab what we need and get it to those families, um, as quickly as we possibly can. Things like car seats, beds, cribs, maybe swings, toys, all kinds of awesome things that people have donated. So that's been really, really cool to see.
Now, One other thing that you guys do that you didn't mention, and I think it's, it's sort of unsung, is that you're helping on the front end because overflow also plays host for Baptist Children's Homes in training foster care families. I said at the beginning of the program that my wife and I just completed the licensing process. We took our classes at providence and you guys were actually like providing meals for us coming in at the end of the day. Usually on a weeknight, we would come in almost directly from work for these classes and you guys are providing meals for these foster families that aren't even signed up yet. They don't have their first kid, but you're already establishing that relationship. Tell me how important that is.
Um, I think we again realized pretty quickly that people are jumping into something that's that scary and overwhelming up front. Um, so our goal was to have them come somewhere where, take a little bit of the load off, like, we're going to feed you food, we'll take care of your kids. There's childcare, uh, to try to make the process as easy as possible. Um, even just to build the relationships and be someone that they could ask questions to or just to say, man, this paperwork is hard. Um, and those type of things, it's just, uh, again, an opportunity for us to be, um, close by and somebody that people can reach out to Um, in that process.
Before I let you go. If someone wants to get involved with overflow, even wants to donate, how can they find you guys?
The easiest way to do that is probably through our website. Um, it's PBCharrisburg.org/overflow419. And you'll find a little more about each of our areas of ministry there plus a contact form that would allow folks to sign up if they're interested in volunteering in any of those areas, we would welcome the help.
Awesome. And you don't have to be a member of Providence Baptist in order to be a part of Overflow, is that correct?
That's correct. We would love to have anybody who's interested in providing just really genuine wrap around support for foster families in our community.
Cassandra Overcash, Staci Powell with Overflow Ministries, thank you ladies for coming in today and thank you for serving our community in the way that you are.
Thank you very much.
All right, stay tuned. We will be back in just a few minutes,
Welcome back to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. This week we are talking about foster care and closely linked with foster care is the Guardian ad litem program. Uh, for some of you that don't know, Guardian ad litems are essentially advocates within the court system for children who don't have anybody else to speak up for them. I brought in Amanda Flores from the program and she is here to talk to us a little bit about the program, what it is, what you guys do, and then how people can get involved if they want to. So first of all, Amanda, thanks for coming onto the program today.
Absolutely. It's my pleasure.
So tell us about the Guardian ad litem program and exactly what it is.
Sure. Uh, the Guardian ad litum program came into existence because we have all these children in foster care that don't have anyone to speak for them directly. Um, parents have attorneys, the state has attorneys, but our children in the system did not have any representation whatsoever. So in North Carolina, every child who comes through foster care that carries allegations of abuse or neglect is statutorily required to be appointed to our program. So our volunteers who are from the communities that these children are from, go out and complete monthly home visits just like DSS does. We speak to all the parties, we investigate the case, we of course advocate for our children, and then we put all of that into a court report, which is the document that the judge uses to make his or her decisions from.
So about how many kids are in the program right now? Within Compares County.
So we have currently 131 children wholly come who are in foster care who are appointed to our program. There is a third category of foster children that our program does not automatically represent and that's dependency cases. And typically with dependency it's usually teenagers who have running away issues or have absent parents. Our program takes abused and neglected children.
Okay. All right. So what are some common obstacles or issues that you guys face on, on a daily basis?
So a lot of times volunteers are heavily involved in the school system. As a guardians for the children, we are allowed legally to request the IEP or five Oh four process in the school system. A lot of what we do is checks and balances, making sure that our children do not fall through the cracks, that they're getting the services that they need, the help that they need and loving and permanent homes to go to. Um, and so our volunteers advocate pretty much in every aspect. We have a court order that gives us 24, seven, 365 day access to our children. Um, we have more confidentiality with our kids than HIPAA does. Um, and so we're advocating in pretty much all aspects. A lot of times where we're successful is talking to family members when we're looking at placement. And of course family always comes first. Um, and a lot of times our volunteers are able to kind of be that mediator, that third middleman who is able to talk to the family and get them to really, you know, come to the table.
So Do Guardian ad litems make a recommendation to the judge when it comes to where this child should be living?
Absolutely. Um, that's really a big portion of what we do. Our court reports are child-focused. Um, which means that when we talk about issues in the case we talk about and how they are affecting our children, um, more specifically than DSS who just states the facts, this is what happened. This is what I did. Our volunteers make recommendations to the judge on what they feel is in the best interest of the child no matter what that decision is.
So basically a guardian ad litem can have a incredible effect even maybe even more so than an attorney.
Or on a child's welfare.
Exactly. Because our volunteers have one on one contact. The social workers have probably 15 to 20 children on their caseload, whereas our volunteers have one, one family.
So it's one to one.
It's one family to one. So if there are three siblings, then the volunteer would be there for all three children just to, you know, make sure there's continuity between, you know, we don't want to have a lot of changes and a lot of people in child's lives, which is one of the requirements to be a volunteer is that years commitment because we don't want to make drastic changes in children's lives that affect them negatively. And so we ask for a year's commitment for our volunteers because of that.
All right, so you have a guardian ad litems they are volunteer, right?
They do not get paid.
That is correct. They are not. They're the only ones not getting paid in this scenario.
Is that - is that due to a lack of funds or is that just the way it's always been?
It's the way it's always been. The GAL program employs this simply because the fact that our volunteers are not paid gives them a perspective on the case that other people don't have. Now, those social workers or paid foster families are paid, and so sometimes their viewpoints on what has happened in a child's life come from a place that's not a non-biased opinion. So our volunteers don't, don't have any pony in that race. And so their opinions are supposed to be and should be non-biased.
So let me ask you this. If a guardian ad litem through the process of working a case, discovers abuse or discovers something is going on with that child's welfare, that is a detriment. Well, how do they handle that?
Well, we act immediately. So as a GAL, we would contact DSS immediately, obviously, um, to bring the attention to the matter because DSS has sole placement authority when it comes to our children. So they're the ones who would make the decision on whether the child was moved. But that creates a new CPS investigation on which is child protective services. So if our volunteers witness or hear about a form of abuse in a foster home, we act on that immediately.
Okay. And if someone wants to get involved with the Guardian ad litem program, how do they go about that?
Well, first of all, please go to our Facebook page. Cabarrus Guardian ad litem and like our Facebook page, you'll get a lot of information on how you can get involved through there. Um, you can also go to our website, which is www.volunteerforgal.org. That's where you'll access our online application, which is required in order to be considered for our class. Um, We have a new class in Cabarrus County coming up in January. Um, that is our first class of the New Year, 2020, and we currently have 26 unassigned children in this county who are waiting for a volunteer. Um, so please, if the volunteer program is not for you, please tell your family and friends about us. Word of mouth is probably our number one recruitment tool.
26 kids waiting for a volunteer.
How about that? So, desperate need for Guardian ad litem volunteers as well as foster parents in Cabarrus county. Amanda Flores with the Guardian ad litem program. Thank you so much for coming in today. Thank you. All right, we'll be back in just a moment.
Welcome back to this final segment of this week's episode of Up Front. We're dealing with foster care and I wanted to come and talk to the woman who knows all and sees all in Cabarrus County when it comes to foster care, Sharon Reese with the Department of Human Services. Sharon, first of all, thanks for being on the program today.
Thank you. It's a pleasure.
So Sharon, tell us about the department of Human Services and how you guys deal with the foster system in Cabarrus county.
Well, specifically DHS in the child welfare program, we are responsible for child protection. So safety of children in our community is our primary responsibility. Uh, we get reports from the community about children who they have concerns about. And in some reports upon our investigation of the family and the conditions of the children, some of them have to enter into foster care when they come to us in foster care. Our first goal is reunification. We believe that children should try to return to their families if at all possible in a safe and secure environment. So we work with the parents and caregivers to try to remedy the issues that brought their children into care. However, not all parents are able to do that. So we also look at relatives as placement options or foster parents. So that's where it comes for people in the community who have a heart in a home for children of all ages. We work from zero all the way up to 21 to open their homes, bring kids into their lives and help, I think of foster care as almost recovery, a place for children to heal from the wounds of their abuse or neglect and to feel safe. And we also asked some foster parents if they're comfortable to do what's called shared parenting and to model the appropriate behaviors that we would like for the birth parents to show. So many of our parents never learned to parent because they weren't parenting well themselves. A lot of us learn because we had good moms and dads. So for our parents of the children who come into custody, they need good parenting models and that's where foster parents can also come in to help show them like, hey, this is what we do. This is our routine with your child. These are types of things we're feeding them. Toothbrushing bath time, getting haircuts, those nails being clipped. These are the basic things that a lot of our kids have not had.
You know, it's interesting that you take that approach because I know from the foster parents side and from talking to other foster parents, they often feel they're treated as the enemy when it comes to the parents that this is somebody that - hey, you're taking care of my kid. You got my kid in your house. I don't even know where you live. I don't know what you're doing with my kid. All these things, but really the foster parents are on the same team.
They are. They are. I always tell our new foster parents to expect the parents to maybe be resistant and probably closed off in the beginning because number one they're embarrassed. Sure they're, they have some shame attached to the fact that their children had to be rude, moved from their home. They also have fear about being replaced and that my child is going to love these people more and that's a process now we don't have that shared parenting in every situation. In terms of the face to face, it can take place via text, via email or even notes that can get past like you know, Johnny's doing well in school or here is a picture that he drew for you. But yes, foster parents were part of the team. Foster parents are the individuals who provide us with the information about the children's development in the home. Kids disclose more abuse sometimes to the foster parents. So we bring them into custody for one reason and then after the child becomes more comfortable with their foster parents, sometimes they say, hey, by the way, x, y and z also happened. And so we have new information doctors and therapists rely on foster parents for, and again, same thing, giving us feedback about what the children are doing at home. So yeah, they're part of the team. I've seen the most successful situations come when parents and foster parents can collaborate in a variety of ways and the children have good outcomes as well, even when reunification is not possible and we have to seek adoption. I have seen parents being able to relinquish their parental rights to foster parents they've had a relationship with.
Sure. So now they're more comfortable with the situation. They realize they're not equipped to parent these kids, but in the interest of their children and what's best for them, they are comfortable with letting somebody else take that reign.
It does. It does happen. And it's a beautiful process. And again, it's, it's, I don't want to say seamless, but for the child to see that they're getting permission from their birth parent to move on with their prospective adoptive parents slash foster parent is a beautiful thing.
Not to go off on a rabbit trail because I don't have the time. But one thing you mentioned is that sometimes things will come out under foster care, right. That they weren't admitting or um, I want to say confess to, cause they didn't do anything wrong but things that were done to them. Right. Okay. And so that's kind of one of the benefits of foster care. In fact, I know I've talked to other foster parents that said, you know, little Timmy was sitting at dinner and all of a sudden he just kind of blurts out, hey, this happened to me. And you're like, whoa, Whoa, okay. And so, but you, you let them talk. And of course they deal with the social workers at that point. But that is another benefit of foster care is it puts them, as you said, in a safe environment. And when a child feels safe, then they feel like they can talk more openly about what they're dealing with.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Those, those conversations, I'm then, there's no planning, you never know when it's gonna happen, but we try to warn our foster parents that it will happen and it's like wow. And it's just again, you information new - new information for the therapists use for the social worker to use those types of things.
Real quick, in the waning minutes here that we have left, how many kids are currently in the Cabarrus County foster system?
As of this week, we have 145.
Holy cow. And those range from zero to 21 years old?
Wow. Okay. And if I am somebody who wants to be involved in helping in some way, not necessarily a foster care parent, but maybe that as well, how can I get involved?
Give us a call, uh, (704) 920-1400 and ask to speak to a licensing worker or someone in foster care and we'll direct you to the right spot.
Awesome. Sharon Reese with the Department of Human Services. Thank you so much for spending time with us today and we appreciate all the work you guys are doing in the community.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
Hey, thanks for being with us today. I'd like to thank Overflow Ministries, the Guardian ad litem program and Department of Human Services for being a part of today's program. I hope you learned a lot about foster care. If you'd like to get involved either in the Guardian ad litum program, contributing or being a part of Overflow Ministries or even talking to DHS. I'm going to put links in our show notes about these organizations and you can feel free to look those up on your own. Guys, I can't stress enough if you have the space in your home and the heart to deal with children who are in desperate need. Please consider being involved or becoming a foster parent or at least contributing to those who are because this is such a need. You heard how many kids are awaiting a guardian ad litem because they don't have an advocate. You heard how many kids are in the foster care system in Cabarrus county. This isn't statewide. This is in our county. These are our children and we need to help them. So I encourage you to do that.
Next week we're going to be talking about small businesses. We're going to be celebrating some small businesses in the area, so make sure you tune in for that. In the meantime, I would of course like to thank our sponsors, Atlantic Bay mortgage, Cabarrus Arena and Events center, CERTEC Automotive, Code Ninjas, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Family Wealth Partners, Merle Norman cosmetics and Eadi's Salon, and your CBD store of Concord. Please remember to always support those that support us. In the meantime, I've been your host Jason Huddle, and we'll see you next week!
Episode 27: Foster Care