June 22 was the Gabilan Chapter Kinship Center's first ever Foster Family Appreciation Dinner held at Running Rooster in Hollister. The dinner was a thank-you to local foster families and those that are in training to become foster families. Organizers called this dinner "a new chapter" because they are turning the page to help and support foster families in our county. Through continued communication between the county, Kinship, CASA and families, Kinship will be better prepared to help and support our foster families.
Speaking at the dinner were: Maria Corona, deputy director of the San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency; Nancy Murphy, director of placement programs for the Northern California Kinship Center; Shyloh Stearns, social work supervisor II at the Health and Human Services Agency; and Janell, a local foster mom. Murphy shared with the group about the services that will be available locally through Kinship. Murphy also has an adoption/foster family support group every other month that is free to everyone. The group meets at the Presbyterian Church in Hollister. Child care is available if participants le organizers know in advance.
Janell is spearheading a network for the families to communicate, share respite care, meet for coffees, etc. One of her goals that is being implemented is a clothes closet for foster families to access. The clothes closet will have gently-used clothing for infants to teenagers. It will also have new items, such as sippy cups, bottles, and more.
Local Gabilan Chapter Kinship volunteers were also on hand at the appreciation event, coordinating the dinner with Shyloh Stearns from Health and Human Services. Kinship's foster families were presented with a gift bag filled with goodies that a foster family could use when adding children to their home. Future foster families were presented with a gift book and plant. Gabilan Kinship also plans to help with respite care and with the clothes closet.
Organizers said the evening was a great success. "Our goal is to keep our foster youth in our community as opposed to having them placed out of San Benito County. It was a great opportunity for our families to get to know each other, find out what new services are being offered, and to thank our foster families for all that they do. Through continued communication between all of our agencies and volunteers, we will make a difference in our foster youth in our county."