Santa Barbara Adopts a Foster Care Agency

An inaugural luncheon and informational slide show was held at Fresco at the Beach last month to benefit and introduce Santa Barbara’s newest non-profit agency, Angels Foster Care. The county’s first private foster care agency, Angels is designed to fill an apparent gap in safe and reliable services for foster children. Founded last year following a model used by a private foster agency in San Diego, Angels has already placed nine babies in homes since its infancy, according to the organization’s executive director, Meichelle Arntz, a neo-natal pregnancy nurse and advocate for CASA, the Santa Barbara non-profit that finds homes for abused and neglected children. But even with the agency’s accomplishments so far, Arntz says Santa Barbara last year was unable to find homes for more than 35 babies, most of whom ended up getting shuttled out of the area.

Citing studies that claim that 80% of America’s prison population today has been through the foster care system, Arntz stresses the importance of helping children find quality homes with quality guardians.

”Numerous studies speak to the importance of love, bonding and touch in the early years of a child’s life,” she says. “That affects their emotional and psychological health, their entire lives, and increases their chances of adoption and increases their trust in adult caregivers.”

Angels of Santa Barbara is modeled after Cathy Richmond’s San Diego-based Angels program, which since 2000 has successfully placed more than 160 infants and toddlers into homes. In cooperation with recruits from Santa Barbara County Social Services, Angels screens and trains foster parents to care for infants that have been detained by child welfare service. There are currently more than 680 children in Santa Barbara’s Foster Care System, according to County records.

Differing from foster homes that take in as many as six children at a time, Angels puts emphasis on kids receiving utmost attention and care. Children are placed in an environment with at least one stay-at-home parent who is over 25 years old and is chosen through a rigorous screening process. Prospective parents must undergo a physical test, tuberculosis test, a psychological exam and must be CPR-certified and attend training classes.

The organization’s childhood development professionals are trained in a program created by the Child Welfare League of America. Angels social workers make weekly visits to assist the child and family to monitor the family’s progress. The foster parents must agree to keep the child for at least 12 months or until reunification with the biological parent or an adoption occurs. This goal is designed to prevent the child from being moved while awaiting a permanent home.

Foster parents don’t receive payments from Angels, though they do get $400-per-month stipend from the County to cover expenses such as diapers, clothing and formula. Families may also receive assistance for additional food costs through the Women Infants Children (WIC) program and all medical and legal expenses are covered directly by the state.

At the luncheon, hostesses Melissa Iannelli, Rikki Emory, Leslie Haight and Roxanna Solakian provided a catered luncheon from Fresco on the terrace overlooking East Beach. The occasion afforded the more than 50 guests in attendance to learn more about the program and introduce the organization’s Team Angels: Lisa Fritz, an attorney; Gabriela Dotson, a social worker; attorney Maria Novatt; Dr. Jeff Lipshitz, a retired high risk pre-natal specialist; and Angels board member Carol Brown, who is also head of Santa Barbara Peoples’ Self-Help Housing.

For more on Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara call 805-898-0901, e-mail info@angelssb.com or visit www.angelssb.com.