Some Superheroes Are Real. Just Look At Brandon Warner!
“Regret weighs tonnes”
The day I announced to my adult children that I planned to become a licensed foster parent marked the day that I fully committed to realizing a long time desire of mine. Not one to live in regret, I arrived to that decision and those conversations after years of contemplation and education, both of which prepared me to answer the very real and understandable question of why? At fifty-one years of age, pockets of newfound freedom, and easy street just a step away, the notion that I would trade all that in for the chance to raise someone else’s child seemed perplexing. But this isn’t the first time my actions have confused those around me and, undoubtedly, it won’t be the last.
To me, easy street is actually the fast road to hell. It’s not a lane I'm driven to take. My belief is that human beings are placed on this earth to impact and make a difference and what better way to do both than by sheltering, loving, and infusing hope into a child? Just imagine if the parents of Ray Liotta, Faith Hill, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela and many more had chosen differently. We may never have known these names today nor benefitted from the many wonderful ways these former foster children have touched our lives.
That realization combined with a burning desire to never live in regret placed me in the company of a truly incredible individual and like organization -- Brandon Warner, the Therapeutic Foster Care Recruiting Coordinator and the Therapeutic Support Staff Coordinator for The Children’s Community Programs of Connecticut (CCP-CT). Employed by this agency for four years, Brandon’s role at CCP-CT may sound rather clinical on paper but when carried out in real life, folks, what Brandon’s work boils down to is “saving children’s lives.”
Any wonder he takes his position so seriously or why I felt like this was a leader I must share with you? The foster care system should be so lucky to have a “Brandon” in every one of their offices advocating for kids. We might just really make a dent in this crisis if they did. You’ll know what I mean after reading his interview below.
When was CCP-CT founded, by whom, and what was missing in the current foster care environment in Connecticut that CCP-CT was launched to rectify?
The history of agency goes back to the 1800’s when it was originally founded by New Haven Orphan Asylum. However, in 2005, Executive Director Brian Lynch, established CCP-CT in order to provide diverse and creative support services to children and families of Connecticut (CT). The goal was to focus more around foster care and assisting the CT child welfare system in placing the identified children in foster homes.
How many kids are currently sitting in the foster care system in Connecticut and does CCP-CT deal with all of them or a percentage of them? Explain.
Currently there are 3,000 to 4,000 children currently in the care of CT child care system, but not all children are waiting to be placed in foster care. CCP-CT and DCF work collaboratively in the process in placing as many children as possible in therapeutic foster care homes in a timely manner.
Explain the relationship with CCP-CT and DCF. How do you work together for the safety, care, health and welfare of children placed in foster care.
The relationship between CCP-CT and DCF is very team oriented during the process of placing a child in foster care. The two agencies are in constant communication from when the child is identified for the foster care placement through the time they spend in the foster care placement. CCP-CT and DCF work together in order to make sure the foster care placement is in the best interest of the child.
As the philosophy of CCP-CT and DCF is to reunite children with their birth parents predominantly until they can't anymore, share what that means? Approximately what percentage of these attempts fail?
Every child has a permanency plan once they enter the child welfare system. The permanency plan can be reunification with the biological parents, long-term placement in kinship care or foster care, or adoption. Typically, when reunification is no longer an option, all efforts are put into kinship care or adoption through foster care.
Being that you have a birds eye view of the growing foster care epidemic, share some of your thoughts as to why this crisis is expanding exponentially across the nation.
The current rapid growth in foster care nationally is mainly due to the opioid epidemic.
What programs are offered by CCP-CT that you wish were adopted by other agencies throughout the nation. Describe and explain why?
CCP-CT has really started to focus more about recruiting new foster parents and retaining the foster parents that we currently have. Within the recruitment process, we have also incorporated the search for kinship providers as well. Other agencies would definitely benefit from increasing their efforts around recruitment especially due to declining numbers in new foster parents nationally.
Describe your core foster parent group (Demographics) and share some of the reasons you have heard that they choose to foster.
CCP-CT really has a diverse group of foster parents and there isn’t a certain demographic that sticks out more than the others. The children in the child welfare system are from all different backgrounds and as the Recruitment Coordinator it is my goal to accommodate these different backgrounds by recruiting foster parents from all walks of life.
What is your biggest nemesis as well as challenge to placing these kids?
A lot of the children who are waiting to be placed are coming from residential facilities or were recently hospitalized for long period time. These specific children require a higher level of need and the current foster parents are not willing to deal with the difficult behaviors. In addition, the older children who are coming into the child welfare system, feel they are too old to be placed in foster care and can be very difficult as well.
What percentage of these kids can expect to return to foster care subsequent times after the very first time they enter the foster care system? What percentage of kids currently sitting in foster care in the state of Connecticut will remain there until age 18?
CCP-CT currently has children placed in foster homes with a permanency plan to be reunified with their biological parents. Unfortunately, a small number of these children will end up back in the child welfare system and placed back in foster care for many different reasons. However, DCF would have that exact percentage of these children who go back and forth between their biological parents and foster care.
Briefly share the process of how someone who chooses to become a foster parents gets licensed. How long does it take?
After the potential foster parent is identified, they come into the agency in order to fill out paperwork and have a face to face conversation about what being a foster parent consists of. Once the potential foster parent agrees to move on, they begin the paperwork process which includes background checks (criminal and child protective services), family history, physical exams, release of information forms, and an initial home assessment. When all the paperwork has been submitted, the potential foster parent will now be placed in the training. The training consists of 10 modules and the training will be held once a week. Ideally, the process should take approximately 90-120 days from the beginning to becoming a licensed foster parent.
With so many kids in foster care needing homes, do you believe that the current situation demands a quicker secondary route for the licensing of foster parents who can prove themselves fit parents and economically sound?
DCF requires that all of our potential foster parents go through the foster parent training before they become licensed. However, due to the large amount of children waiting for a foster care placement, DCF and CCP-CT have collaborated with making recommendations for Special Studies. This agreed arrangement is “when a potential family is identified for a specific child waiting for foster care, the child can be placed with the family while they are currently in the foster parent training or waiting for a foster parent training to begin.”
The foster care system has a reputation of becoming an easy paycheck for foster parents? How does CCP-CT guard against this?
CCP-CT and DCF both do a good job of thoroughly assessing potential foster parents. Some of this assessing is based around making sure the potential foster parents are currently employed and making enough money to pay their monthly expenses. This issue is also monitored through making weekly home visits to meet with the child to make sure all their needs are being met by the foster parents.
What frustrates you most about the all of it?
Recruiting more foster parents is something that I am putting a lot of energy in and seeking new creative ways to attract more foster parents. I’m not sure I’m frustrated, but more saddened about the amount of children in the child welfare system who are just looking for a family.
Share some thoughts of how we make this issue better and in the best of all circumstances, go away.
We make this situation better by making as many people as possible aware of the amount of children waiting to be matched with a family. With the efforts I’m putting towards recruiting, I also want to educate the potential foster parents on how to go about getting licensed to do the work. It’s amazing how many people I meet who have always wanted to be foster parents, but never knew about how to become a foster parent. I believe the work with regards to keeping the current foster parents has to be as hard as the work being put out to recruit new foster parents.
An intelligent and passionate voice for all those who can’t speak for themselves, I would call Brandon Warner a superhero if I knew that it wouldn’t embarrass him so. I can’t imagine a more appropriate qualifier, frankly, than to save a child and in Brandon’s case, many children’s lives and futures. And although, there is no doubt that he is not doing it alone (he would be the first to admit), without the successful recruitment of foster parents, Connecticut’s 3000-4000 foster kids would have no place to go. What that would look like, I can not imagine but it would be grim. Thankfully, I doubt we need to worry about that with Brandon Warner on the job. Sounds very Marvel-esque, I know, but not all superheros live in comic books. Some occupy real life.
Many thanks to Brandon Warner and The Children’s Community Programs of Connecticut for making this interview possible