Nurturing adoption, kinship and foster/resource families

Elizabeth Kimball, Board Member and past Board President presenting a proclamation from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to David and Faith Friedlander.

by Jennifer Tipton

Kids & Families Together is one of the county’s leading contractors providing services to children and families within Ventura County’s child welfare system. The not-for-profit organization was founded in January 2000 by David and Faith Friedlander, along with other passionate community members with the purpose of providing services to families that have come together through adoption, kinship care (most often grandparents raising grandchildren) and/or foster (now called resource) care.

In Ventura County, close to 3% of all children have grandparents as their primary caregivers, that’s greater than 5000 children and does not include informal guardian households.

In recognition of Kinship Awareness Month, on Thursday, September 13th, Kids and Families Together held a Community Leaders Luncheon at their new 864 East Santa Clara Street location, here in Ventura. The event was an informal “get to know each other better” afternoon and a notable attendance filled the relaxed surroundings (with Charles the therapy dog taking up any space leftover – see Scamp page for his photo).

Along with several highly regarded guest speakers, the County of Ventura presented a proclamation for Kinship Awareness Month recognizing Kids & Families Together and the work they do with families in the community. Much of this work is to provide information, education and services to the caregivers who have been asked to care for some of the county’s most vulnerable children by collaborating with others such as Ventura County Public Health, Ventura YMCA and Ventura County Office of Education (amongst others). Many of these children have witnessed or been victims of family violence and/or abuse, were prenatally exposed to drugs and/or other harmful substances and have experienced trauma, loss and grief.

Sharing her story, it was 1996 when Barbara Morris Jensen, a professional woman and single mother with children of her own had stepped in to take custody of her 3-year-old niece after the child lost her mother (Barbara’s sister succumbed to mental illness). Without any help from an organization like Kids & Families Together, the tangled paperwork and bureaucratic pitfalls she encountered could have easily caused anyone else to concede. But, after a long battle, she was able to adopt, and they bonded as mother and daughter. Years later, when Barbara was asked if she would take her 5-day-old grandson by her biological daughter who struggled with addiction, she was overwhelmed. If not for the support of Kids & Families, Barbara may have said no, but “David and Faith were tremendously helpful” and despite the difficult challenges, her now nearly 7-year-old grandson remains safely in her care.

Often, children in these and similar situations are shuffled from group home to foster home despite a family members interest to adopt them. Kids & Families Together recognizes that if a child can’t be with their birth parents, the best alternative is to be placed with a family member and the organization advocates on their behalf, knowing how the system works and guiding the process. They have served more than 1500 children living with relatives in Ventura County. As Executive Director and co-founder, David Friedlander listened to Barbara and others share their stories, his face expressed deep compassion, but he praised his wife, “Faith is the true founder and the heart of Kids & Families Together”.

Although some funding comes from the County of Ventura, there are also fundraisers, such as the Harvest Fest coming up October 13th providing kids with costumes, pumpkins and coats. Christmas brings cozy Christmas pajamas and toys. Donations and participation always welcome!

David and Faith, together with the organization’s leaders have modified the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” to “it takes a loving village to raise a child”, they invite you to join their village.

To learn more about Kids & Families Together and support their efforts contact them at (805) 643-1446 or connect@kidsandfamilies.org and www.kidsandfamilies.org.

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