Portland, OR. Boys & Girls Aid (B&G Aid) has been helping struggling youth find foster families and support for over 135 years. According to CEO Suzan Huntington, foster parents have stepped during the pandemic more than ever. B&G Aid’s day programs are temporarily closed for public health concerns. Without the day program and without school, parents have their foster kids 24/7. But they are taking extra responsibility in stride.
“I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to their generosity of continuing to open their homes and hearts,” Huntington said. “These kids have had abuse and neglect since they were born, and that does something to our brains, and it’s hard. And not one foster parent said I won’t do that. Not one.”
Caring for the kids full time is extra work for foster families, but they say their kids are actually helping them to weather this tough time. “Foster children were born to live through a pandemic … I never thought about it like that until one of the foster parents said that these kids are actually helping us because they are used to total uncertainty and chaos,” Huntington said. “It isn’t a place where anyone thrives, but they have the skill set.”
Although the current COVID-19 situation challenging, this isn’t the first time the organization has had to face a flu pandemic.
The Boys & Girls Aid day program is reopening because many foster parents are returning to work. Residential programs continue to be open as well. B&G Aid is proud to say it hasn’t had to lay off or furlough any of its staff during the lockdown, even though it has lost significant revenue from seven major fundraisers that were canceled.
“It is because our staff are diligent and committed to the work and the kids that we serve,” Huntington said. “Our foster parents are angels walking this earth, as are foster parents across the nation. We’re not gonna come through totally unscathed, but we’ve been able to keep everyone employed during the height of absolute chaos.”
In the last 7 years, B&G Aid has been relying on a trauma-informed care model, which sets it apart from other similar organizations. Huntington said this switch made the organization’s work and her job much more meaningful.
“Before [switching to this care model], we were a stop along the way. Now, we’re really meeting the kids where they’re at,” Huntington said. “We’re really diving deep into mental health, we’re making sure they have those lifelong connections, and really starting to see the trajectory of those relationships change with kids and how their growth is.”
Alongside coordination with foster families and guardians, B&G Aid works in family counseling to rebuild broken relationships to the best outcome for each client. Furthermore, they connect kids with stable figures, like an uncle or a teacher, to act as a point of guidance and support.
“Kids do better when they have someone in their corner,” Huntington said. “We all do better when someone’s got our back.”
Huntington said she would like to see B&G Aid as a more visible part of the community. Historically, the stigma around adoption has limited the publicity for this long-standing organization.
“I would like to see in the future that Boys & Girls Aid is a more prominent figure in the community,” she said. “We could be a tremendous resource to a lot of community organizations.”
From Boys & Girls Aid:
Boys & Girls Aid is committed to ensuring children exit the foster care system to loving, stable families.