County adoption celebration event highlights issues faced by foster care community

Not every child who needs a family gets one. 

That was the sentiment Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Arthur Garcia said he hoped community members would remember at an adoption celebration on Nov. 14, when nine former foster children were officially  adopted by six families at the Santa Maria Juvenile Courthouse.

The ceremony acted as both a celebration of the children and their adoptive families, and as the county's kickoff event for National Adoption Celebration Month. While each November brings happiness for those who've been adopted, Garcia said the month is also a reminder that not all kids are so lucky, and that more adoptive and foster families are always needed. 

"Adoption is very special," Garcia said at the event, "because each adoptive parent is doing this with their eyes wide open."

Lisa Johns is one of those parents. 

Johns, who works in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, officially became a licensed resource parent in June 2017. Two young siblings, Jowayne, 4, and Josephine, 3, landed in her care in September of last year, and they quickly started to feel like a permanent part of her family. 

click to enlarge County adoption celebration event highlights issues faced by foster care community
PROVIDING RELIEF: San Marcos High School students and Resource Family Association Student Support Team members Jaiden Feldman (left) and Antonia Fields (right) work with a foster child at a recent club event.

"It was like a perfect fit," Johns said.  

Soon it became increasingly clear that the toddlers' biological parents might not ever be able to care for them adequately–family reunification is the county's ultimate goal–and Johns said she and her family decided that if necessary, they would agree to adopt Jowayne and Josephine. 

The family waited as the toddlers' parents slowly lost custody, a process that Johns said was an "emotional roller coaster." When they did finally lose parental rights, Johns said her feelings were even more complex. 

It hasn't always been easy, Johns said, but it's all paid off. Her now adoptive children are thriving and looking forward to a magical holiday season. 

Johns said a lot of people considering fostering or adoption say they don't feel ready or worry that the process will be too difficult, emotionally and financially. Those unknowns can be scary, but Johns said she tells people to "just embrace it."

"One house can change a child's life," Johns said. "So if there's a chance to give a child a happy ending, I think you should just take it."

That's what San Marcos High School teacher Frank Koroshec did nearly 12 years ago, when he and his wife became licensed foster parents. Since then they've adopted two children, agreed to adopt another, and fostered about 13 total. 

It's been a rewarding experience, Koroshec said, but it comes with challenges, and he said resource families need all the support services they can get.

So four years ago, Koroshec and a small group of his students started the Resource Family Association Student Support Team, a club that provides child care, support groups, and informational events to resource parents in the Santa Barbara area. 

In its initial stages, the club provided free child care services to resource parents who were attending training sessions, which Koroshec said resource parents need eight hours of each year to stay licensed. 

After receiving donations and grant funding, the club grew, and now some of its 80 members are trained in trauma informed care and CPR, some tutor local foster kids, and others organize events specifically designed for resource families. 

The program has been a huge success in the Santa Barbara area, and Koroshec said he's working to find educators in North County willing to launch a similar program to help youth there. 

"We realized the majority of foster youth are in North County, but most of the resources are in South County," he said. "We need a partner club up in Santa Maria." 

Koroshec said he hopes North County will take it on because the program has truly proven to be a win for foster families and kids, the students working with them, and the adoption and foster community as a whole. Many of his students have even told him they plan to adopt one day themselves, or pick up a career working with foster youth. 

"That's it right there," he said. "They're working with people, and when you do that, it kind of changes the way you view the world." 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash writes School Scene each week. Information can be sent to the Sun via mail, fax, or email at [email protected].

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