By SDCNN staff
Hawaiian-themed gala raises money for fostering youth
If Downtown felt a little like Hawaii on May 4, it wasn’t your imagination. You may have smelled the fresh lei or heard the drumbeat from the luau dancers at Angels Foster Family Network annual gala Fostering Futures: Hanai Ohana at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.
With 300 attendees, the gala and auction raised more than $350,000 to support Angels Foster Family Network, a nonprofit serving families who foster infants and toddlers.
“We are so honored that Angels has such a strong community support, including our anchor sponsors FSAMarket.com and Silvergate Bank,” said Misty Connelly, event chair and longtime member of the Angels Board of Directors.
Angels Foster Family Network recruits and supports a diverse core of individuals, couples and families who open their hearts and homes to one infant or toddler (or sibling set) for his or her entire stay in foster care.
“Our goal is to provide children with high-quality, focused care, and the chance to deeply connect with loving adults,” said Executive Director Jeff Wiemann. “It is absolutely critical that young children learn to attach in a healthy way, especially after traumatic events.”
Wiemann said research consistently shows that children who establish nurturing bonds with caregivers have more positive outcomes in all areas of life. They are physically and emotionally healthier, more economically productive, and generally happier. They are less likely to drop out of school, engage in violence, or need public assistance.
While Wiemann sees tremendous benefit from focusing on one child or sibling set for as long as he or she is in the foster care system, he says identifying families to foster can be a challenge.
“It is thoroughly agonizing to receive phone calls from the County of San Diego asking if we have families available to care for infants and toddlers coming into foster care,” Wiemann said. “Sadly, our answer most often is no, and this greatly troubles me.”
Wiemann asks, “Why is it in a community of over 1 million households, we struggle to find a few hundred more families to open their hearts and homes to a child in need?” According to Wiemann, the two-part answer is simple, but the solution is not easy. First, people are not aware of the dire need for foster families in San Diego. Second, there are so many misconceptions about fostering that it can seem impossible to take on.
Currently there are 2,500 children in foster care in San Diego; 40 percent of them are 5 years old and younger.
“We have to turn away half of these infants and toddlers because we don’t have enough foster families to meet the demand.” As a former foster parent himself, Wiemann continued. “Fostering is hard work, but it has made me a better person, father, husband, friend, and leader,” he says. “The education and training, and ongoing support, foster parents get from Angels makes the experience that much better.”
The funds raised at the Downtown gala will go a long way in helping to raise awareness about the dire need for families to foster. It is also a wonderful opportunity for the community of current and past foster parents, and those who support Angels in other important ways, to reconnect and get updates on the state of the agency.
“My favorite part of the evening is seeing the thriving, happy, healthy children who were once placed with Angels families,” said Connelly. “The goal, always, is to reunify the children with their biological families and we are absolutely cheering for parents who are working to get their lives back on track. That is the goal, though sometimes it’s not possible and adoption is the outcome. When that is the case, it is a joy to see the children grow and flourish in their ‘forever homes.'”
-To learn more about fostering or supporting Angels by donating funds or child care supplies, visit angelsfoster.org