Sunday, March 30, 2008

La Cuna Makes a Difference

Before my daughter was born, a friend from our church made us a cradle. It was a beautiful design. Made entirely of wood, it swung gently and quietly in our bedroom at night as I lay sleepily in bed and pushed it with my hand. It even came with a little wooden lock to stop it from rocking if need be. I carefully measured and sewed little bumper pads to line the inside and made a soft slip cover for the mattress.

My point it that a lot of love and work went into making that little cradle, which now sits in my daughter's room and holds all of her dolls. And that little cradle served its purpose well by giving my daughter a warm, soft, quiet, and secure place to sleep and grow.

So I think the word, La Cuna (Spanish for cradle), is the perfect name for a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide safety, shelter and love to Latino children who desperately need all of these and more.

Established in 2003, La Cuna is based in San Diego and has placed over 50 Latino children in foster homes since receiving its license in 2005. Its goals include identifying, recruiting, and training stable Latino or mixed-race couples to become foster parents. The organization believes that Hispanic children who are placed in foster homes with the same culture and language are better able to cope with and overcome the difficult circumstances that landed them there in the first place. It also allows these children (newborns to 5 year olds) to find the right love, support, and bonding that is essential during these critical developmental years.

Potential foster parents undergo an extensive training program and are asked to make a commitment to the foster child placed in their care. Foster children do much better when placed in a single, stable home rather than being shuffled around to two, three or more.

Rachel Humphreys is the founder and director of La Cuna. She states that "94% of our children have remained in a La Cuna home until they were reunified with their family or adopted. These children have avoided typical multiple home placements that threaten their ability to bond and thrive."

On average each placement costs the organization about $10,000. But the cost is worth it if it keeps the children from becoming a statistic. According to the Children's Advocacy Center, more often than not, foster children become caught up in the vicious cycle of homelessness and abuse with 50% becoming homeless within 2 years of leaving the system. These outcomes result "in significant long-term implications for the state due to incarceration, welfare, homelessness, etc." In California, the cost of incarcerating a person for one year is approximately $80,000.

Of course, the ultimate goal is the reunification of foster children with their birth parents, who may take the opportunity to try and regain custody of their children - provided that they can improve their lives (and/or parenting skills) enough to offer a secure and stable home environment. Around 65% of La Cuna placed children are reunited with their parents or immediate family members (i.e., grandparents.) The other 35% are adopted by their foster parents.

If you live in the San Diego area and would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, please check out their web site here.

Or if you would simply like to donate money, baby items, or time, click here.

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