SAN ANTONIO – Advocates in Bexar County are calling on community volunteers to help foster families who need breaks and extra support.
“Fifty percent of foster families drop out in the first year because they can’t take a break,” said Sandi Jarzombek, a former foster mom and current certified babysitter.
Jarzombek and her husband fostered teen girls for years. Now without kids at home, they’re offering other families the support they know is necessary.
“Most of these children are being removed from hard places, which means they’re traumatized, and sometimes that means they have behavioral issues. So you need a break,” she said.
When most parents need a break, they call a family member or whatever babysitter is available.
However, foster children require certified caregivers that have gone through training acknowledged by the state.
“It’s a one-day training. People come in, they can become certified babysitters by the end of it, and they can serve local foster families,” said Jennifer Smith, the executive director of the South Texas Alliance for Orphans.
The STAO simplified these training sessions into a program that only takes several hours.
“You’ll get all your trauma training you need, you’ll get your CPR, and you’ll even get your TB tine test,” Jarzombek said. “The only thing you’ll have to do on your own time outside of this one Saturday is get your fingerprint.”
Smith says certified babysitters can give foster parents a chance to recharge.
“So these families can go out on a date with their spouse. They can go take care of the needs of other children. It just helps support that community so those foster families don’t burn out and quit. Because the last thing we need is foster families not being able to persevere,” Smith said.
Smith said almost 850 children currently need foster families in Bexar County.
“What that means is they’re either sleeping in offices, or they’re getting kicked out of Bexar County and going to Houston or Austin or El Paso or Dallas because we don’t have enough homes. That’s just not San Antonio. That’s not our community,” Smith said.
Jarzombek babysits for many foster families throughout San Antonio, ultimately helping keep foster kids sleeping in homes instead of offices or hotels.
“We desperately need more help. The only way foster families can get a break is if those of us that don’t have foster children at home step up and get certified,” she said.
Jarzombek said even if community members can’t become babysitters, there are so many ways they can help local foster families.
“Without proper support, my husband and I never would have made it as foster parents. When I was fostering, these women would help with my linens and towels. I’d leave a bin outside, and they would come pick it up, take it home and wash everything and bring it back,” Jarzombek said.
She said community members can volunteer to cook meals for families, pick up groceries, help with laundry, donate diapers, mow their lawns, or even become drivers to get the children to their many parental visits and doctors or counseling appointments.
The quest is to create a more extensive community web working together to give foster children the love and care they deserve.
If you’d like to volunteer in some way, reach out to the South Texas Alliance for Orphans.
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