By Karen Stokes
When you think of a family, most people have images of children living in a loving home with their parents. This is not a reality for the thousands of children in the foster care system.
Saleem El-Amin, president and CEO of New Horizon Center and his wife, Olivia, director of corporate affairs, have been offering services to the needs of area youth for nearly 30 years through their agency.
Over the years, New Horizon Center has offered a range of social service programs from a female shelter care program to a daycare center.
In 2007, New Horizon Center opened a child placement agency which provides services to children and families in the foster care system. New Horizon recruits, trains and license foster parents in addition to placing foster children in safe and loving homes.
According to New Horizons, foster care is a temporary living arrangement for children who experience unfortunate circumstances in their homes.
They need a safe place to live when their parents and relatives cannot take care of them due to abuse, neglect, poverty or homelessness.
There is a substantial need for foster parents. According to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, there are 6000 children in foster care in the state of Wisconsin and approximately 2000 children in the foster care system in Milwaukee County.
Statistics from Child welfare. gov states: In 2012, 45 percent of children in foster care were White, 22 percent were Black and 21 percent were Hispanic.
The ratio of male to female children in foster care was 52 percent male to 48 percent female.
“We don’t have enough men in the role of foster care parent,” said Mr. El- Amin.
As many as 100 children from infants to the age of 17 are removed from their homes.
Children who need foster care come from diverse backgrounds and may have behavioral, cognitive or physical disabilities.
“The kids come fully loaded with issues,” said Chantel Bowen, licensing aide at New Horizon. “When a kid can go somewhere and feel loved and safe, seeing them being a family is my favorite thing.”
“I think when you are working to make a difference, it’s very rewarding,” said Bowen. “I try to find good homes for kids with appropriate care givers, we have to match well.”
“It’s important to match well, so the placement does not disrupt, “said Sopheya Farrell, treatment foster care administrator at New Horizon Center.
“We do pre-placements, visits, and get the parents to get to know the child.”
Jami Arce, treatment foster care specialist at New Horizon told a story about a newly licensed family that took in an 11- year-old boy named Jon (not his real name).
He did very well in the home, the parents got him involved in baseball and swimming.
The family had two sons of their own, and Jon got along well with the entire family.
“The family showed him so much love, Jon was eager to be adopted,” said Arce.
“The family had some struggles, there were Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) issues, but eventually he was adopted.
This was a success story.”
“The main thing is we are looking for quality foster parents,” Farrell said.
“We care about the parents, we are part of the family, and we are a team and are hands on with the parent.”
“Our longevity in the community, our history and our exceptional reputation for quality service for almost 30 years speaks volumes for NHC,” said Olivia.
“We are here for the children and families and that is our priority.
What people know us best for is that New Horizon Center has a heart.”