We all need someone we can turn to during critical moments, someone who will listen to us, offer advice, help us resolve a conflict, and lend a helping hand when we need one. However, for many of California’s children and youth currently and formerly in foster care and their caregivers, this vital support, which is critical when issues big and small come up, is not always available. Without it, relationships can become strained or damaged, and stable homes can come to an abrupt end, causing further trauma for children and youth. Even worse, sometimes police are called, resulting in the inappropriate criminalization of children who have experienced trauma.
To address this need for 24/7 trauma-informed support, California launched the Family Urgent Response System (FURS) earlier this year. Through FURS, children, youth, and caregivers can immediately connect with a caring counselor any time day or night to get support when they need it the most, free of cost. Additionally, local mobile response teams are available to swiftly come and meet with the youth and/or caregiver at a place of their choosing when they want in-person support. FURS is crucial to preserving relationships, linking youth and families to longer-term supports and services in the community, promoting healing and stability, and preventing inappropriate calls to law enforcement that only further traumatize youth.
While FURS is relatively new, youth who have heard about this resource recognize the impact it will have on the lives of children and youth who have spent time in foster care. Minnie, a youth in extended foster care, believes FURS will provide, “…important and indispensable advocacy for caregivers and youth. As the middleman between a youth and a caregiver, it can bring unity and harmony into the relationship and resources to help both the youth and caregiver.”
For example, Minnie recalled an incident at age 14 when she was punished for cursing when she was upset; she had thought she was alone but someone in her foster family had overheard her. Instead of helping her process the emotions that she was experiencing which resulted in her cursing, her caregivers’ reaction discouraged her from doing so. Had FURS existed at that time, someone could have sat down with Minnie and her caregiver to talk through the situation and help her caregivers understand how to best support Minnie. Together, they could have worked to respond in a way that would not exacerbate her trauma, and help her feel like she had someone in her corner.
“[The interaction] added to what I had going on in my life. Foster youth have been removed for serious reasons that have caused us trauma that we need to work on. FURS can say this isn’t a rebellious teen, they have been traumatized. It can recognize a cry for help and really be the eyes and ears of what is going on. All of our stories are different, but what we do have in common is that all of us at some point were hurt, and [coping with] that while also facing and surpassing life’s barriers at such vulnerable stages in our lives without positive support is something that we cannot be expected to achieve, that’s unrealistic. FURS is set up to adequately support and advocate for the youths’ needs by helping guide and support both the caregiver and the youth.”
Less than six months into its full implementation, FURS is already making a positive impact in the lives of California’s foster families. For instance, C.*, a Los Angeles caregiver with long-term experience caring for many children in foster care, including children with disabilities, recently reached out to FURS for help with her foster child. The child was engaging in challenging behaviors and nothing she did seemed to help. She called the Cal-FURS statewide hotline and was immediately connected to a caring counselor.
“Oh my goodness, I was so pleased with FURS’ service! The counselor was so reassuring. She questioned me about the situation and guided me as I worked with my foster child. She helped me find ways to calm them down to where they were no longer head banging nor biting….”
Moving forward, it will be important to build on FURS’ strong launch to ensure youth and caregivers, like Minnie and C., have access to this valuable resource when they need it. Continuing to raise awareness about FURS, including through community outreach, will be key to ensuring that more children and youth who have spent time in foster care and their caregivers understand how FURS works and are encouraged to use it. Additionally, gathering feedback from youth and caregivers will be essential to figuring out what is working well, thinking through how to fix anything that is not working, and identifying how FURS can grow and evolve to be even more effective in the years to come, and will be a key area of focus in the weeks and months ahead.
Please visit cal-furs.org to learn more about FURS or to connect with this critical resource.
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