"Helping to rebuild the lives of our children."
 
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Foster families provide new beginnings


By Courtney Vaughn
The Desert Trail
Published: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 6:21 PM CDT
MORONGO BASIN— Schellee Harris is a full-time mom. For the past five years, the Twentynine Palms resident and her family have been caring for newborn babies at an average of two at a time.

“I just think I’m meant to have babies,” she said.

Harris is not a constant procreator, she’s a foster mom.

Since 2005, Harris has been involved with A New Beginning, a Hesperia-based foster agency that works closely with the county to identify children who need temporary homes.


“Most children are so angry because they’ve done nothing wrong and they have no control over where they go,” said Suzette Mohammed, the agency’s chief executive and administrator.

Of the roughly half-million children the federal government estimates are in foster care across the U.S., Mohammed is responsible for 82 of them in this county.

She makes herself available to foster parents and children around the clock. Not a minute goes by that her cell phone doesn’t ring.

Mohammed and her staff have the critical role of making sure foster families and their homes are properly equipped to provide care.

“We do a pre-screening interview, prospective parent orientation and training and a home evaluation,” she said.

Harris said her family was one of the first to get on board with Mohammed’s agency.


In her case, she feels her home is best suited for children in the earliest stages of life. She takes in infants every six to nine months, with some children well into the toddler stage by the time they leave her care.

Each child becomes a part of her life, blending into her nuclear family structure.

“We tell (the parents) to treat the children as their own,”  Mohammed said of the agency.

Harris and her husband, who is active-duty military, have a 16-year-old biological daughter, Britni.

“She’s done pretty well. We really try to make it to where it doesn’t hinder the things she wants to do,” Harris said of her teenage daughter.

Harris’s foster babies are by her side at all times, even on vacations and at all of her daughter’s swim meets.

Because she deals primarily with infants and children ages 3 years or younger, she’s there during the formative stages. She anticipates the milestones and keeps a camera close by.

“When the kids go home, I send all the pictures I’ve taken of them. A lot of kids in foster care don’t have pictures. I try to do that just so they have something to look back at,” she said.

Upon leaving a foster home, most children get reunited with their biological families after their parents regain full custody.

Mohammed said the goal of her agency is to “keep foster kids in their home environment.”

Sometimes kids will stay with another family member in lieu of foster care, while other times they stay in a suitable foster home until an adoptive family can be found.

Harris is always aware that each child’s stay is temporary, as she has no intentions to adopt.

Still, saying goodbye is never easy.

“It’s kind of bittersweet for me because it feels like I’m losing a baby, but it’s a happy moment because you know they’re going to such a good family,” she said.

In one Yucca Valley couple’s case, after fostering a brother and sister for a few years, they decided their home should be the children’s permanent environment.

On Nov. 21, National Adoption Day, Michelle Christian and her husband, Tim, will officially adopt their two foster children, a 5-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl.

Like Harris, Christian and her husband have been providing foster care through Mohammed’s agency.

In Christian’s case, however, adoption was always a prospect.

“My husband and I have always desired to adopt. After a while, we let the social worker know that after they came up for adoption, if there’s nobody else willing to take them, we would,” Christian said.

She fostered other children before the two she has now, but in this case, she said, the kids solidify her family structure.

“Because they’ve been with us for so long, they’ve called us Mom and Dad since the beginning,” she explained.

When the court finalizes the adoption, she plans to change the kids’ names.

Christian tried to get their input by asking which names they liked, but said when she asked, they gave pet names.

She preferred not to reveal the names she has chosen, in an effort to protect her family’s privacy.

 


 


Opening up their home, hearts to children

 

Women Prepare to open their homes for foster care

By Gary George

Daily Press (Victorville)

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2005

HESPERIA  – “It’s almost like having a baby and having to prepare,” said Elizabeth Taylor, of Victorville, who is preparing her home for the foster child she will soon bring into her home.

Taylor, 44, a widowed parent, is being helped by “A New Beginning Foster Family Agency”, which just opened in Hesperia.

“Most of the children are taken from their parents by the county because of general neglect, drug use or the kids miss school or come to school hungry,” said Suzette Mohammed, CEO of “A New Beginning.”

Taylor, whose youngest natural child is 17, is almost finished 20 hours of training and home preparation required to take in a child.

“I’m taking care of big people; I might as well take care of little ones. At least I can put them to bed at eight,” laughed Taylor.

“I love teaching kids how to love, making them laugh. When they’re with me it can be like their parent’s home – or better,” Taylor said.

Delores Clayton, Taylor’s 27-year-old daughter, has attended Mohammed’s foster care seminar and plans on trying to get foster children who are 5 and 8, so they match up with the ages of her two oldest natural children as playmates.

“Suzette is an inspiration and a motivator,” Clayton said.

Angelica Perdomo, 37, an unmarried mother of four, wants to match up foster children by age to her own four kids’ ages and sex.

“I feel the kids will be happier. It’s quieter when the kids are matched up with their own age,” Perdomo said.

“My oldest, Gabby who is 12, said not to get anyone older than herself. She wants to be the oldest. She likes to be in charge,” Perdomo said.

The state pays from $624 to $790 a month depending upon the age of the child.

Both Perdomo and Taylor say it’s the children – not the money – that motivates them.

“You have to care for people to do this. It isn’t much money. I wish more people had a heart and took in these kids,” Taylor said.

Perdomo, who is a self-employed real-estate investor and a seller of clothes on eBay, said she feels blessed and feels adults should step up to the plate.

“I want to share my home with these kids. I want them to know they’ll be OK here. I want them, from the time they get here till they turn 18, to think of me as a positive role model,” Perdomo said.

The children these women and others will care for may be with them as short as one month and as long as 18 months before they can possibly go back to their parents.  Both women are aware of the problem they may face to give up a child they have grown attached to.

“In my life things have come and gone. If I get attached to a child I will pray for him and hope he will be OK. But I am going to try to help some.” Taylor said.

Please Donate Now!

        You may donate by mail and send your check to:
        
A New Beginning Inc.
        16377 Main St., Unit A
        Hesperia, CA 92345

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