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DHS news release

The following guest opinion was published in The Oregonian on June 8.

The following is a guest opinion by Angela Dobbins of Portland. She has been in foster care for the past five years.

Length: 505 words

Safety, Stability, Security and Second Chances

By Angela Dobbins

No one chooses to be a foster child.

By the time we come into the system, our bodies may be battered, our minds tormented and our spirits crushed. Some might say we are damaged goods.

I have been in foster care for five years, since I was 13. I have experienced good times and bad times, but mostly good. The good times have been with a woman named Carol, whom I now call Mom. She has been fostering teenagers for more than 20 years.

She says being a foster parent rewards and enriches her life, but I will never be able to give to her what she gave me: A second chance.

I had been going down a different path, a destructive path. I was skipping school, doing drugs and wasting my life.

When I met Carol, I was skeptical at first. Why should this woman or these kids be any better or different from where I had been living?

Everything was different and better. I went to school and there was someone to make sure I did -- and cared that I did -- my homework. There were regular meals and plenty to eat. We were treated kindly and respectfully. My life had a purpose. Carol showed me a new path but never forced me on to it.

Oregon needs more foster homes for children of all ages, including teenagers. There is no cost to become a foster parent and each month you will receive a reimbursement to help with the cost of caring for a child in your home. Our medical and dental costs are covered under the state’s insurance program.

To become a foster parent, you don’t have to be a parenting expert or even have kids of your own. The essentials are really patience, flexibility and a sense of humor. Don’t be afraid to enforce rules and set boundaries. We test them because we’re kids, but structure and consistent expectations make us feel safe and secure.

There are some really helpful things you should know about fostering teens:

  • There are no bottles, formula or diapers to change. And we sleep through the night.

  • We will be ready to move out sooner (but we can still visit and have a place to call home.)

  • We will keep you up to date with the latest fashions and will teach you how to run your computer.

  • We can drive you places and we can help around the house.

  • We can learn from you.

Legally, I am an adult now. Because someone chose to be a foster parent, I experienced a safe, stable family life. I have graduated from high school and I will be getting a job and going to college. I will be contributing to society, not taking from it.

I did not choose to be a foster child, but you can choose to be a foster parent and give a child a second chance.

For information about becoming a foster parent, call 1-800-331-0503 or visit the DHS Web site.

Angela Dobbins is a 2003 Graduate of PIVOT Job Corps Center.