Imagine being a child pulled from your home in the middle of the night with no warning. You take only the clothes you are wearing and leave with strangers. You are driven to a home you have never seen and are told you will now be living with people you have never met.
Now, take this scenario and imagine that you do not speak the same language as anyone in the home. Can you imagine the fear and helplessness a young child must feel in that situation?
For thousands of Asian foster children in Southern California, one organization is trying to bridge that gap by being a familiar and steady presence in the lives of these children. As reported by The Chronicle Of Social Change, the Asian Foster Family Initiative (AFFI) was created in 2014 to encourage more Asian families to become foster care providers. The hope is to avoid situations where a child feels more alone than the situation already perpetuates.
Korean Family Services created AFFI but has contracted with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to be able to provide training and support to the larger Asian community and Asian caregivers. Only 600 of about 34,000 children in foster care in the area are of Asian descent; however, English is not the primary language of 120 of those 600 children.
Alice Lee, Program Manager of AFFI notes, “For us, just making the community aware of the shortage of Asian foster families has been a challenge in itself since we live in a world with very fragmented media for one thing.” She further notes that many Asian countries do not have a foster care system, opting for orphanages and group homes. In turn, this makes foster care a foreign concept and causes many Asian families to be unaware of the need or what it entails.
Even though AFFI is doing a great job spreading the word of their program, there are still roadblocks for families throughout the application. Lee notes the application can be extensive, with the process to be approved taking around three to six months on average.
Lee stated, “For the prospective families, the sheer amount of application and paperwork that families have to deal with both pre-approval and post-placement can be quite overwhelming…especially when they’re new foster families and not totally fluent in English.”
The program is growing at a steady rate with five families licensed as foster parents, 15 more undergoing home studies, and six more families close to approval. The need for foster homes in the area is dire as the number of foster homes has decreased by 50% since 2005.
Above and beyond breaking down a language barrier, AFFI is in place to ensure the right of Asian children to have cultural and racial mirrors from which they can grow, learn, and relate. Lee summarizes AFFI’s big picture saying, “It is doubly traumatizing to the child. Our goal is to try to make the situation a little bit better.”