Saturday, May 05, 2007

Learn more about Beta Foster Care

Finding homes for abused children
Founder recruits foster families for his foster care agency

Evezich, Lois. Orange County Register, May 4, 2007.

Craig Zacuto keeps his eyes and ears open for loving, nurturing families. He finds these for children who need an environment to grow and flourish. Courts must remove a child from an abusive or neglectful home, and sometimes there's nowhere else to go, Zacuto can be counted on to find a nurturing family willing to help kids in need.

Q: What is Beta Foster Care?

A: Beta Foster Care is a private nonprofit, state licensed, foster family agency.

Q: What made you decide to found this agency?

A: I worked in the mid-1980s as a social worker for San Bernardino County Child Protective Services. I discovered that many of the foster children I placed were failing at a very high frequency.

There were five basic reasons for these placement failures.
-Foster parent training needed to be conducted in much smaller groups to best prepare foster parents and make placement matches based on the foster parents' interests and strengths.

-Matching foster children with foster homes needed to be re-organized on a smaller scale and conducted by the professionals that trained the foster parents.

-Children need immediate counseling services upon placement prior to exhibiting any symptoms.

-Foster parents need weekly case management and support services from the same professional that is also providing counseling services to the foster children placed into their homes.

-Foster parent training and support meetings need to be on a regular basis.

Q: How many hours a week do you work?

A: Between 45 and 55 hours, sometimes more.

Q: What is your role as executive director of the agency?

A: I manage the daily operations of the program and report directly to the board of directors; train and supervise all the staff; recruit and train all prospective foster parents; match all foster children referred to our agency from the county, children who need placement with our certified foster homes; provide on-call case management services when social workers are out of the office and unavailable; report to the board of directors; provide all fund development services by coordinating fund-raising efforts with our advisory board, and do anything else needed like clear all printer and copier jams.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge?

A: Recruiting new foster parents. There are many negative images of foster parenting that make it difficult to reach into the community when recruiting foster parents. This is a big problem as the need for foster parents is greater than ever for our organization. Many of our foster parents adopt children which is wonderful for those children and yet when this occurs we also lose a valuable resource to care for future foster kids.

Q: What has brought you the most satisfaction?

A: My greatest satisfaction is successfully matching these needy children with our certified foster families for placement. I love to see the happy faces of these children later knowing our foster parents are providing great care. It's also a great feeling knowing that the foster parents who went into the pre-service certification training trust that I will teach what they will need to know. Following the training we are able to successfully match the foster family with a child. This is a win-win situation that makes it all worth while for me.

Q: How did you fund the agency at the beginning?

A: The state required three months operating capital in the bank when I applied for the foster care license in 1988. I had just gotten married and living with my wife and step-daughter in my condo. My wife allowed me to sell her house, the home she lived in before we were married, and use that revenue for the start-up funds.

Q: What mistakes would you like to do over?

A: I think my biggest mistakes were not foreseeable. The state determines the rate our agency charges the county for the services we provide on a per child basis. The state has gone for long stretches not providing our industry with cost of living adjustments. The current one is going on six years now, and we had one that lasted nine years. The result is that we are forced to do annual fundraising to maintain program services to our foster children and foster parents. I do not want to compromise best practices due to financial survival. I think I would have started fundraising earlier. It's difficult though to say this as during the years prior to starting our fundraising I was developing the successful program we do have.

Q: How many foster families do you have enlisted now?

A: We have a total of 23 certified foster parents.

Q: How many foster children have you served since you opened Beta Foster Care?

A: Over 800 children.

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