Lend a Hand: Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Magazine | June 1, 2009

“There weren’t enough foster families in Santa Barbara,” recalls Meichelle Arntz of her experiences as a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer for two boys relocated among foster care six times in 2004.

“There was often nowhere for the kids to go.” Upon coming to that realization, Arntz—a mother of five and former obstetrics nurse—began researching models on which to base a private, nonprofit foster care agency and discovered Angels Foster Family Network, founded by Cathy Richman in San Diego in 1998. “What struck me,” says Arntz of Angels, “was that the children stay in one place during their foster experience, they are the only foster child in the home, and a full time parent is required.”

With Richman’s approval and a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation. Arntz, her husband Jeffrey Lipshitz, and a volunteer board of directors founded the Santa Barbara Angels Foster Care in 2006. The organization now includes a staff of four as well as 45 foster families who take care of the children. “They love it,” says Arntz, “and more families want to help because they see them doing it so beautifully.” Parents committed to long-term fostering provide homes for babies age two and under and their siblings up to age five - the crucial years of relational development - until the courts determine whether the children can be returned to their biological parents or should be considered for adoption.

Becoming an Angels family can take up to three months; the application process begins with a phone screening and ends with a psychological exam. After a child moves in with a foster family for the year-long placement period, social workers visit as needed to monitor the progress, and the biological parents often have weekly supervised visits for the duration of the stay.

Since its inception, Angels has placed more than 45 children. Of these babies, 65 percent have been adopted by their foster parents. Yet when reunion with biological parents is the outcome, “Angels parents miss the children, but reunification is the goal,” says Arntz. “The focus is on the child.”

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