When my two brothers and one sister entered foster care, I wanted them to come live with me. Unfortunately, my apartment didn’t meet the requirements of a foster home. This often happens to kin wishing to accept placement of relatives in foster care.
My family and I were approved by the Department of Children and Family Services to take in my siblings at the end of 2014, but we weren’t able to secure housing that met the foster care requirements for several more months. All the while we were trying to secure housing, my siblings remained in foster care placements where they were separated not only from their mother and father, but also from each other.
One of the agency requirements was for my sister to have a room separate from our brothers. I also have two daughters, so we needed to find a place with three rooms large enough for all of us. As you can imagine, the high cost of rent in Los Angeles was a huge issue.
This experience led me to want to advocate and raise awareness to encourage the foster care system to develop a better method of supporting relatives who want to gain approval to take care their loved ones in foster care. In our case, donations from friends and family helped us find a home.
Although I’ve accomplished my goal to reunite my family, I feel strongly that there is still room for improvement in how kin families are supported. If the system really prioritizes kinship placements, there should be programs in place to help those in need find adequate housing solutions to enable families to stay together.
Below are my three recommendations to address housing-related challenges for kin families.
1. Funding to secure housing. This could include stipends for first and last months’ rent, and assistance to pay for deposits and application fees. We applied for housing in many different places. Each time the application cost $25 to $50 dollars. These fees were a further financial burden as we tried to find housing that met the agency’s requirements.
2. Tangible support to meet housing requirements. This could include furniture (like bunk beds), basic living supplies (like bedding) and other safety items that are required by the placing agency.
3. Encouraging use of the Documented Alternative Plan and other exceptions or waivers to certain requirements that are non-health or safety related. Practices and policies that are considerate of family situations would have helped us secure housing quicker.
Epilogue: All three of my siblings are thriving in my home and have shown great academic achievement since coming into my care. The eldest of my three siblings is headed to college and I am very proud of his other accomplishments. Recently, he became President of the California Youth Connection chapter in LA, advocating for foster youth statewide. He was named Young Senator by State Senator Ricardo Lara. My brother was appointed a chair on the Commission of Immigration by State Assemblymember Mike Gipson. And he was the president of his high school’s site council. I think being reunited with our family has made it possible for him to earn all of these accolades. I would like to see reuniting children in foster care with relative caregivers be the foremost priority of our child welfare system.