Foster Care Awareness Month Guest Blog by Tiffany Sickler, Executive Director, Koinonia Family Services

May 26, 2022

Foster Care Awareness Month

Guest Blog by Tiffany Sickler, Executive Director

Koinonia Family Services

In 1988, President Reagan declared the month of May to be National Foster Care Month, and we have continued to celebrate those serving youth and families impacted by foster care every year thereafter. You can visit this link to read this year's Presidential Foster Care Month Proclamation.

Only six years earlier, Koinonia's Founder, Miriam Golden, realized her vision of providing safe, loving, and nurturing homes for youth that had been abused, neglected and abandoned. Since then, we have witnessed the ever-changing dynamics and needs of hurting families, we have helped to redesign vital protective, responsive and supportive programs, and we have worked tirelessly to implement our mission. We exist to bring hope and healing to children, youth and families through meaningful relationships and quality programs and services. 

“Koinonia” (Koy-no-nee’-ah) is a Greek word which means “fellowship.” It carries with it the meaning of a committed, trustworthy and dependable relationship. It is this “koinonia” relationship that has made the difference in the lives of thousands of children in foster care. This year's national foster care awareness theme maintains its focus on relatives and non-relative extended family members (NREFM). These relationships are of utmost importance to so many of our youth in out-of-home care, and Koinonia recognizes that these relationships may prove to be vital in the success of struggling youth and their families. We recognize that children who have experienced trauma in their significant relationships can only experience true healing through healthy relationships that promote such healing. For this reason, Koinonia has continued to provide as much face-to-face, in-person relational contact with clients as possible. We have strived to promote face-to-face, in-person visitation with family members whenever safe and allowed by local health department guidelines; providing masks, gloves, sanitizers, and Covid-19 tests kits, as needed. We adapted our residential/STRTP activities to promote safety without sacrificing vital social elements of healing.  We have added supplemental services to youth, families, and staff with hybrid/virtual models of training, support, advocacy, and counseling. Our ongoing social work services include resource family recruitment, assessment and approval, matching activities for youth waiting for adoptive homes, intensive care coordination, targeted case management, support groups, mental health assessment and counseling, crisis intervention and resolution, medication management, and various other services and supports for youth and families with intensive needs.  Through our partnerships with counties throughout the state of California and in Reno, Nevada, we have been able to maintain our high level of service to youth and families, while creating innovative processes to serve within system-wide funding limitations.

We would like to share the journey of a former Koinonia foster youth, Krystal. She entered the foster care system at age eleven after her mother became disabled and was unable to care for her. Her father had abandoned the family before she turned one. Krystal had already experiences significant early childhood trauma including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. After entering the foster care system, she was placed in many different foster homes and group homes as she became an increasingly rebellious teenager. At age thirteen, Krystal began drinking, skipping school, running away, and not listening to authority, which landed her several stays in Juvenile Hall. Eventually, Krystal was placed in Koinonia’s Short Term Residential Treatment Program (STRTP).  Krystal recalls that she flourished in this structured, healing environment. She connected with staff members and her social worker, whom she still stays in touch with to this day. It was the first time she truly felt loved and cared for. After graduating from the program, she was placed in a Koinonia foster family, and at age eighteen, she went off to college and lived independently. She graduated from UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business. Recently, she earned her Executive MBA from Saint Mary’s College, making the Dean’s list. She has a long standing career with Kaiser Permanente as a Principal Consultant, and with her unique experiences with business, information technology, and foster care, she is equipped to provide valuable organizational strategy and insights. Krystal advocates for our foster youth, and hopes to inspire other foster youth to believe that they, too, can also achieve success. Meet our Board Member, Krystal Edwards.

Koinonia would love to come alongside you as you open your home to kids in need of stability. We have offices throughout the state of California and in Reno, NV. Call us to register for the next orientation.

877-CHILDS-HOPE (877-244-5374)

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