July 6, 2016
By Negin Daneshfar
A white picketed fence, pink house with pink pillows and carpets inside to match the interior held a group of five young teenage girls.
Inside there were three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. The house resembles an regular traditional family home except five vending machines and arcade games are in the living room for snacks and prizes.
“I asked the girls what scared them the most when first entering the house and they said entering it!” Michelle Evans, foster parent of Chelle Home 4 Girls in Los Angeles said. “I painted my care and the house pink so that they would feel welcome.”
The household holds one 15 year old, two 16 years olds, one 18 year old and one 19 year old. Ten out of 63 minors grew up in Chelle Home 4 Girls foster care home without a family and one out of the 63 minors was adopted. A majority of the teens do not get adopted and return back to their families.
Chelle Home 4 Girls became a foster home 11 years ago when Evans moved. Evans has worded as a foster parent for 13 years with the Department of Family and Children Services, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles County.
The Department of Family and Children Services offer Medical and $789 per month for each minor.
Evans was inspired to become a foster parent when she discovered that her neighbor’s daughter was physically and emotionally abused. Her neighbor’s daughter was taken by Child Protective Services after she was arrested.
“I had to become a foster parent to take care of her. She was eventually placed to live with her grandmother,” Evans said. “I decided that if I can’t help her, maybe I’ll help others.”
The state’s division of social services, part of the state department of health and human services that organizes the foster care system and surveys county social services departments and private foster care agencies.
The foster care agency social workers determine where to place children oversee children’s progress, work with children’s families for reunification and local adoption agencies. A home study that conducts safety inspections checks the criminal background of children’s relatives before placing the child in a foster home.
Social workers provide additional needs every month to counsel each minor and to make sure they are not mistreated.
According to Evans, each minor receives visitation rights every week to once a month on a regular basis. Evans keeps in contact with each minor’s parents to answer questions about their medical history and their well-being.
“The kids like it here better than living at home, because they usually come from an unhealthy and abusive environment,” Evans said.
The foster care system allows an individual at age 18 to continue living in the foster home or to be discharged from the household. At 21 a person reaches the maximum age limit to live in foster care.
The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act authorizes that states improve on attempts to give children permanent families and requires that states ensure foster children a permanent plan.
On average, children stay in the system for almost three years before adoption or reuniting with their families. Almost 20 percent wait five years or more. Children on average move from three different foster care placements, according to an ABC news articles published on May 30, 2006.
Evans adopted one minor, Cherrie Sever who lived at Chelle Home 4 Girls for four years and was adopted for two years. Sever grew up without a family. Evans filed to take her off the household, because of financial difficulties and she moved to a different foster home by the age of 20.
“My purpose as a foster parent is reunification,” Evans said. “I do not want them to grow up in a foster home because the children that have families with parents can raise them and they are taking up space for the children that do not have families.”
According to a national survey of Adoptive Parents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, 86 percent of foster parents adopt to provide a permanent home for a child.
The percentage of children adopted in foster care has increased by one percent. Last year, 13 percent of children in foster care were adopted, an increase from 12 percent in 2011, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
The number of kids in foster care remains fairly constant. Approximately 400,000 children are in foster care. Last year, 52 percent of boy’s outnumbered girls, and the median age was 8 years old, according to a USA Today article by Cathy Payne, published on Aug. 12, 2013.
Foster care provides additional support services, such as family therapy, mentoring and support groups.
Lauren Sessa, 16, moved from a different foster home into Chelle Home 4 Girls at the end of June. Sessa attends the Youth Opportunities Unlimited High School in Los Angeles. She has made new friendships at her High School and has bonded with the other girls in the house by participating in different activities, such as board games and movie nights.
“When I first go her I was quite, my therapist requested to talk with Michelle everyday for at least 30 minutes and once I got adjusted to the house, I got used to everything,” Sessa said.
Fifty-Five percent of children that wait for adoption in foster care have had three or more different placements in foster homes. Thirty-three percent of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, according to an Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Report.
Evans worked as a school bus driver at Linden High School for 15 years. Mia Mccalippp, 19 a student of Linden High School took the bus to school and back home everyday. Mccalipp introduced herself to Evans and they started to talk on a regular basis.
Mccalipp was in foster care for seven years. At age 11 she was placed in four different foster care homes and 19 group homes. She told her social worker that she preferred to live at Chelle Home 4 Girls.
Mccalipp moved into Chelle Home 4 Girls at age 17 and lived there for one year. The transition was easier for Mccalipp. Evans would wake her up to drive her and the other children to school.
“Living with Michelle was really fun, it felt like for once I had a home,” Mccalipp said.
Mccalipp did not visit her parents when she stayed at Chelle Home 4 Girls. She received therapy sessions and learned to grow from the relationships she built with her foster family. She now keeps in contact with her parents and family members every week and receives financial support from the Department of Family and Children Services until she turns 21.
“My goal was to complete Mia’s final days in the system and to teach her that she didn’t have to fight her own battles,” Evans said.
Minors usually move from different foster homes or live in group homes that hold up to 50 to 60 people. Foster care group homes are similar to dormitories and function less as conventional families. In a foster home there are rules and more privileges. Many children are place in group homes, because of the shortage of foster parents.
As of 2011, nearly 60,000 children in foster care in the U.S. are placed in institutions and 47 percent live in a foster home, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services.
“I was more of an authority figure in her life,” Evans said. “Mia grew up to be very successful and graduated from Fair Fax High School.”