Local organization to help reduce number of foster children in state pilot program

JACKSON CO., Ore – A local organization is part of a state pilot program to reduce the number of children that are put in foster care.

Hearts with a Mission is a volunteer-based program that helps families get back on their feet. The Oregon Department of Human Services DHS started contracting with Safe Families for Children, who subcontracted with Hearts with a Mission for the service last month. They are working with the organization to help families stay together and avoid the foster care system.

“The foster care system, they place a child. We host children,” Bill Hague, Service Coordinator of Hearts with a Mission, said.

Hearts with a Mission, a faith-based non profit in Medford, has been helping local homeless, runaway and transitional living youth for more than decade. It’s also trying to lower the number of foster kids locally.

“The kids want to be with their biological parents,” Hague said.

Now Hearts with a Mission is one of seven agencies subcontracted throughout the state to continue the work throughout twelve counties. It will focus on Jackson, Josephine and Lincoln counties.

“This is about redeeming families and getting kids back where they belong,” Kevin Lamson, Executive Director of Hearts with a Mission, said.

The organization helps out families facing a variety of problems by hosting children.

“A lot of times people just need help, they don’t need someone to take their children away. A lot of times poverty can be mistaken as neglect,” Lamson said.

The organization works with churches to create circles of support for families that need assistance. That help could even be something as simple as bringing the families meals.

“All of our studies have shown that it’s far more damaging to a child to remove them from their biological parents then, long term, than the abuse or neglect they removed them for. It damages families,” Lamson said.

The host and biological families often form a tight-knit relationship.

“Host families become like aunts and uncles or grandma and grandpa,” Hague said.

After the Family First Act was signed by the federal government in 2018, it mandated states implement a preventative plan to help keep children out of foster care. Oregon is the first state to partner with an outside organization. If states do not implement a preventative plan, the state will not receive funding from the federal government for foster care.

“Once the hosting happens, the biological family can start working on the things they need to do to become healthy, we provide a safe home for them, and then building a relationship all in the middle of that,” Hague said.

To get involved, contact Hearts with a Mission: http://www.heartswithamission.org/

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