“A safe place, a loving home, a promising future” is so much more than a tagline at Jonathan’s Place, a non-profit dedicated to serving Texas’s most vulnerable children. Staffers come to work each day with a clear mission: to provide care for kids who have experienced abuse or neglect.
That care takes place on-site and in our community, an issue families everywhere can get involved with to help in big and small ways.
The need: foster care in Texas
More than 11,000 foster children are currently in foster care throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. However, there are only about 7,000 licensed foster homes, which leaves almost one-third of children in state care without a domestic setting to call home.
Children can stay in the Emergency Shelter at Jonathan’s Place for up to 90 days, an immediate solution when a child is waiting for a foster home. A therapeutic program for girls ages 12–17 with significant trauma who need a more therapeutic environment is also on-site, along with a transitional living program for girls ages 17–23 that prepares young adults to succeed independently, often after transitioning out of state care.
“I wish more people knew about the need for foster homes,” says Elizabeth Mosman, director of foster care and adoption at Jonathan’s Place. “Kids are sleeping in offices and being placed all over the state. Private shelters have their place for therapeutic services, but that setting is not a substitute for a stable and consistent home environment. There are more than 3,000 children in just the Dallas area that need a foster home. Dallas County is one of counties with the highest number of children in foster care.”
Abuse, neglect and issues related to incarceration and substance abuse are often circumstances beyond a child’s control that lead him or her to require state intervention for more suitable care.
services and solutions: finding more foster families
Finding solutions for a kid’s future is the bottom line in the work that happens through Jonathan’s Place. No matter what children in state care have lived through or where they’ve come from, case managers and other trained professionals are in place to offer interim services, with referrals that continue once a child is in a foster or adoptive home. The organization’s staffers in Garland and Fort Worth help solve the need for more foster homes by recruiting new foster families.
Professionals from Jonathan’s Place host orientation at the nonprofit’s offices once a month to help potential foster parents better understand what fostering entails and how to start the process.
Background checks, training in-person and online, drug testing, financial assessment, a homestudy, and other steps for thorough vetting are part of the process to become a licensed foster home. Staffers at Jonathan’s Place help potential foster parents navigate those steps. Identifying an optimal fit for a child based on his or her age, needs and background is also part of their role.
“There are all types of kids and all types of needs,” Mosman says. “People can get scared away by just the words and what those differences can be, but our staffers are available 24/7 to help resolve situations that may arise. One of the great things about Jonathan’s Place is that we offer a continuum of care.”
day-to-day living: continued support for foster parents
Uncertainty about a foster child coming into one’s home after experiencing abuse and neglect is a common worry Mosman’s team sees in their work. The training they offer families helps each person involved work through potential difficulties before a placement happens.
Mosman clarified a common myth that the foster child can somehow be considered inherently flawed or broken: “We teach families about how trauma affects development and the brain,” she explains. “The foster child is not trying to make things difficult. It’s how they have learned to survive the environment.”
Jonathan’s Place staffers continue to check in after a placement is made.
“We provide referrals development and education-wise,” Mosman says. “We also get the children set up with therapy, and we’re in the home at least once a month just to check in to make sure their needs are being met.”
Coordinating donations of clothing, diapers, formula and toys is another way the organization seeks to fulfill what’s needed, along with referrals for respite care. Contact agencies support foster families in a variety of ways, including a support team of people to help the foster families with babysitting, cooked meals and grocery shopping on a regular basis.
a foster child’s future
The goal of foster care is reunification with a family member, a fact that emphasizes relatives’ key bonds and the importance of identity. About 60% of children in foster care are returned to biological parents or cared for on a more permanent basis by a relative.
There is no set period of time a foster child will spend with a foster family. Jonathan’s Place staffers work with foster parents as long as needed while biological parents receive rehabilitation or resolve other life circumstances to become better parents. Staffers also help foster families learn to make peace with foster children’s possible return to their original homes or adoption by relatives.
“As adults, we can put aside those negative emotions and focus on what we’ve been able to do for that child,” Mosman says. “When help was needed, a foster parent was there. We hope that children are able to return home to their families or to a family member, but if that is not the case, our foster parents can potentially adopt the child, and that can be their forever home.”
Jonathan’s Place celebrates adoptions for children of all ages. There is hope in the connections made through families, children and helping them in ways both material and emotional.
“The success stories are so great,” Mosman says. “They’re really what keeps you going. It makes you feel good. This is what is worth the long nights. Children need someone and somewhere to go, and we’re providing that connection at Jonathan’s Place.”
If you would like to find out more information about Jonathan’s Place as a potential foster parent or community supporter, visit jpkids.org.
Who is Jonathan?
A single child inspired the help thousands of foster children have received through a foundation created in his name. Dallas native Lisa Matthews started the foundation that became Jonathan’s Place in 1991. Through numerous expansions and increasingly specialized services, the 501(c)3 has steadily grown. “We are really expanding our services that we offer for foster children,” says Elizabeth Mosman, director of foster care and adoption at Jonathan’s Place. “We are serving by expanding into specialized foster care. We’re recruiting families to serve children with autism, intellectual disabilities, children who have been trafficked and those with emotional disorders. We want to serve those kids and be the place where they can go.” Jonathan, the foundation’s namesake, is also flourishing. The foundation’s website mentions that he is now a college student. Supporting Jonathan’s Place helps children just like him with a continued legacy. More than 200 children have received services so far in 2019 as JP Kids.
Basic Foster Care Requirements
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) oversees all foster care standards and requirements. These are some of the basic requirements for potential foster parents; find a complete list here.
- Foster parents must be at least 21 years old; potential foster parents working with Jonathan’s Place must be at least 23 years old.
- There may be no more than six children in the foster home, whether they are adopted, biological or foster children.
- Each child requires their own amount of space based on square feet.
- Children ages 6 or older cannot share a room with a child of the opposite gender.
- There are no set income requirements, but foster parents’ financial stability is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Is Fostering For Me? An Easy Next Step
Attend a foster care orientation: Jonathan’s Place hosts monthly informational meetings. There’s no commitment implied by coming to an orientation, which is set up to help potential foster parents better understand the process. Check out upcoming dates, and RVSP if you’d like to attend a session. Find more info here.
3+ Ways to Help Foster Parents—Without Fostering
Being a foster family might not be for everyone, but there is something almost anyone in our community can do to help kids in need. Here are three ways to support foster families:
- Babysit and mentor: Whether through respite care designed to give foster parents a break or just for an occasional outing, babysitting can be arranged formally through an agency or on an individual basis. Mentoring at the residential shelters on-site at Jonathan’s Place can also be formalized with a background check and official inclusion as a volunteer.
- Give material resources: A foster parent spends an average of $500 on each new placement, according to leading statistics, as a foster child usually arrives without any personal items. It’s uncertain how long the placement will last, and foster children often take items with them. Items such as clothing, shoes, diapers, sheets and other daily-use articles can make an important difference in a child’s quality of life. A child often changes schools when he or she goes to a new foster home; for that reason, school supplies are needed year-round. Amazon.com’s wishlists and monthly donations are also easy ways to give to Jonathan’s Place.
- Sponsor a unique interest: Foster children are just like kids everywhere, with interests such as sports, cheer, music, dance and other motivating passions that instill confidence and build skills. Continuing with a previously-established routine through a series of classes or being involved with a familiar pursuit kids have an affinity for already can also provide a sense of normalcy to a child whose life is otherwise in transition. Consider sponsoring an after-school activity, purchasing needed items such as band uniforms or dance shoes, or coordinating a themed birthday party.
Promoted content provided by Jonathan’s Place.