Bri Berens is the Foster Care Manager for Mount Saint Vincent in Berkeley. The organization is celebrating 140 years of service to children and families on June 10. Bri answer our 5 Questions about how Mount Saint Vincent has changed from its orphanage days and how the community can support foster children.
Mount Saint Vincent used to be an orphanage. How has the mission changed over the years?
As social philosophy moved away from orphanages, foster care services were introduced to provide a family home for each child.Although Mount Saint Vincent has evolved in how we care for children, our mission and vision are the same today as they were 140 years ago—to help children and families heal beyond trauma into a healthy and hopeful future.
What children do you support and are all of them experiencing trauma or disruption?
Mount Saint Vincent provides a continuum of care including pediatric behavioral healthcare, a community preschool, and foster care. As the manager of the Foster Care Program, our team is dedicated to supporting children experiencing abuse and neglect and in need of emergency out-of-home placement. All of the children coming into the care of our foster homes have experienced various traumas and disruption, with the added trauma of separation from their families and communities.
What do foster children need most from the community?
It takes a village to help make healing possible for children and families. Children deserve to participate in a community that embraces them with acceptance, compassion, and patience. There are so many stigmas around the complex issues children and families face, and our community can prioritize understanding the depth of these issues and the child welfare system better, and possibly discover areas for involvement.
How can people in the community support the work you do?
Our foster parents are impactful influences for foster children during their journey back home, and one way to help is to consider becoming a foster parent. There is a critical shortage of foster parents in the state of Colorado to support the over 3,600 children and youth in need of out-of-home placement each year. We need families willing to provide unconditional care and support for children and youth with complex needs and diverse backgrounds. We know there are a lot of questions about what it takes to become a foster parent, so we offer individual information sessions to answer all questions and explain the process in depth. Interested applicants can arrange a session at their convenience by calling 303-318-1704.
For those who are not able to be a foster parent but want to be involved in supporting those that are, we are interested in volunteers to provide tangible services to our families including meal and resource delivery, property maintenance, and short-term childcare to name a few.
We are appreciative of financial contributions and donations that help us to resource foster families and foster children to meet their needs. Each circumstance is different, and these contributions allow us toprovide individualized support to our foster care homes and promote placement stability. We believe there is something that everyone can do to support healthy children and families. Please see our Amazon Wish List or explore ways to give to our program.
How do you help foster children that are aging out of the program so they can be successful?
Our program has high rates of children concluding their child welfare cases with permanency established. We see this primarily occur through reunification, or through adoption if reunification is not possible. This permanency allows children in our program to naturally be supported in nurturing communities as they enter into adulthood.
In circumstances where a child remains without a permanent option as they approach adulthood, we are active partners withcounty Youth in Transition teams, the Chaffee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood and other community agencies providing comprehensive support to young adults. Additionally, many of our foster parents enjoy close connections with children they’ve cared for after reunification and become extended family and support well beyond a child’s time in care.