When Erica Quiding was growing up, she had no relationship with her biological mother. She was placed in the foster care system as an infant, and was adopted at age three. But then at ten-years-old, her adoptive parents decided they could not keep her, and she went back to foster care. She bounced around the system for years. By the time she was matched with volunteer Ann Harding as part of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, Erica was a troubled 13-year-old. But she was also resilient. And with Ann Harding on her side, available day or night for phone calls and support, Erica made it out of the foster care system, graduated from high school and is by all accounts a success. She’s 24 now, taking classes at Portland Community College. She says she can’t imagine that she would be where she is today without Ann in her life.
Of course, not all children in crisis end up in foster care. And some child advocates say the direction to go is to provide help to families so kids can stay with their parents and avoid the separation that can be so devastating for children. Oregon has just passed a law to set up a system called Safe Families. It’s worked well in Illinois, providing a way for parents to get temporary relief from the pressures of parenting without losing custody of their kids. In Chicago, the program boasts that it’s helped reduce the number of kids in foster care from 50,000 to 15,000.
Have you ever needed help? What helped you? What could have helped you? What kind of a support network, if any, did you rely on?
Do you work with parents or children in crisis? What kind of help do you provide? What are the kinds of programs you think work for these families?
- Ann Hardy: Volunteer with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program
- Erica Quiding: Participant in the CASA program
- Christine Stolebarger: Parent mentor with Morrison Child and Family Services
- Richard Wexler: Executive director of National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
- Tom Maluga: Director of Chicago Safe Families