'Doing the work of angels' - The World

Wednesday, Oct 30th 2013

Area could use a few more homes for kids in foster care who have mental illness

October 30, 2013 9:19 am • By Emily Thornton, The World

Kairos

To help mentally ill kids in foster care, call Kairos at 541-756-4508 or visit http://kairosnw.org/treatment-foster-care.

For more information on all of the programs Kairos offers, call 541-956-4943 or visit http://kairosnw.org/.

NORTH BEND — There are just two full-time homes in Coos County for children in foster care who have mental illness. There are three respite homes for them.

And there are at least 10 children who are on a waiting list for one of these homes.

This is a problem, said Alex Taylor, foster care coordinator for the program Kairos.

Kairos places mentally ill children in foster care with homes specifically screened for them. These homes’ parental figures have undergone 24-32 hours of training and a rigorous background check, Taylor said. Few homes that volunteer actually qualify because the standards are more stringent than for regular foster parents, she said.

Kairos, which used to be called Southern Oregon Adolescent Study and Treatment Center, or SOASTC, changed its name last year to the Greek term Kairos, meaning a moment when change is possible. The main reasons for the change was its growth of various programs to other counties and its main office is now in Grants Pass, said Bob Lieberman, executive director.

Bonnie Cool has one of Kairos’ three respite homes. She got involved with the program in January after she moved from North Carolina to be closer to her only grandchild. Sometimes she’ll have a kid for a day and sometimes for almost a month, she said.

“It’s been a challenge, but very rewarding,” Cool said.

Cool said her role is complex.

“I’m here to teach kids skills, but in the long run the children also teach me,” Cool said.

Qualities sought for a Kairos home include an extra bedroom, since the kids must have their own room, Taylor said. Ideally, one parent would be able to stay home while the other worked because of the time commitment to the children, but it wouldn’t prevent them from being considered, Taylor said.

“It’s best to have somebody available at all times,” Taylor said.

Kairos has counselors on call 24/7 in case parents have a question or an emergency with their child.

“Therapy children are a lot more hands-on,” Taylor said.

There isn’t a set income level for applicants, but a stipend is supplied to cover food, clothing and other needs, Taylor said. She wouldn’t say how much Kairos foster parents were paid, but said they were given more than those who fostered “normal” children.

“We don’t want them (parents) to volunteer for the money,” Taylor said.

Ann Dreveskracht has one of the only two foster homes for mentally ill children in the county. She said the decision to help was easy.

“I’ve always been in the care field,” Dreveskracht said.

She took care of her son, who has attention deficit disorder. She also watched after 25 senior citizens in a facility. But, she wasn’t seeing her family enough.

“I researched DHS and this program, then decided this might be a good way to go,” Dreveskracht said.

She now can stay home with her children, do what she enjoys and earn a small amount of money.

But, she warns it’s not for everyone.

“It takes a unique person,” she said. “Not everyone is cut out to be a (foster) parent.”

Lieberman said his employees and volunteers are exceptional.

“It’s the work of the angels that they do,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman also said foster parents are paid more than their monthly stipend.

“It’s their second paycheck when the children show them what they’ve learned,” Lieberman said.

Reporter Emily Thornton can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249 or at emily.thornton@theworldlink.com or on Twitter: @EmilyK_Thornton.