BARSTOW • About 30 children between the ages of 1-day-old and 19 are in foster families in Barstow through the Greater Hope Foundation.
As the city's only foster family agency, the nonprofit works through San Bernardino County to place children whose basic needs were found to be neglected or are living in homes with rampant substance abuse.
"The movie perception of an orphanage is what people think of a foster home," said GHF social worker and foster parent recruiter Anna Sciortino. "The biggest misconception about foster care is that it's about money. Or that there are a bunch of people piled into a home with little resources."
One foster mother did the math to find out what she made, according to Sciortino.
"It's about 39 cents an hour," she said.
She said there is a lot of heartache when a child is first placed, but that staff and families from GHF try to be as friendly and loving as possible.
"To see how everybody comes together to help and support the family dynamic and then to see the child go home makes our job worth it," she said.
More families are needed to host foster homes in Barstow, according to Sciortino. Foster children from Needles and Newberry Springs are being placed in foster homes far away, making it difficult for biological parents who are permitted regular visitation to see them.
According to Sciortino, foster children are typically placed into a home for a minimum of six months, and 95 percent of the time it's by no fault of their own. For parents to receive custody of their child again, she said they must work through "case plans" from the court that usually mean completing a series of classes and also proving they have learned from them.
"At six months parents go back to court to either extend or to show they have completed their case plan and are ready for their children to come home," she said.
Most children are in foster care for one to two years with only a handful adopted each year, she said.
"Mainly our goal is reunification. I would say the parents from the Barstow area work really well with the county as far as getting their classes started," Sciortino said. "I've seen a lot of parents very driven to getting their children back."
She said many of the parents tell her about how they too grew up under foster care and would never expect it for their own children.
"I would encourage them to learn from that experience," Sciortino said.
California law requires licenses to operate a foster home. Thousands of children in the state are in need of homes, according to the California Department of Social Services.
At the Greater Hope Foundation office, assistant Jessi Hodges said to become a foster parent, "the first step is giving us a call."
Contact the writer: BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or (760) 256-4123.