The Boys & Girls Aid Society
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Boys & Girls Aid (formally The Boys & Girls Aid Society of Oregon) was founded in 1885 by a group of community leaders and people from the business community. This non-profit organization started as an orphanage and is considered by some as a pioneer in applying the Foster care model instead of the typical orphanage model. Later on, the services provided by the organization included a wider range of services for children in different age groups. The organization grew into several branches in different parts of the state of Oregon. It is Oregon's oldest child welfare society.
Mission and goals
The organization's mission is to help children in crisis, this has been its mission for over 128 years. It has also evolved from an agency that takes care of adoption to a wider range of services for children in need. The organization’s prospective is to be able to provide help to all the children in the area that require such care.
The Boys and Girls Aid have helped in more than seventy-thousand adoptions. The annual report for the years 2004 – 2005 recorded about 1,236 children who have been helped by the organization during that year. About two hundred of whom been helped in the prevention program that involves children who are mentored by a responsible adult. About seven hundred were in the intensive services, these children receive care during times of crisis. More than three hundred were placed in loving adoptive homes. Both prevention and remedial services help more than 75,000 children a year.
Services and programs
The Boys and Girls Aid offers a wide range of services that include Adoption, Prevention, and Intensive Services.
The adoption services involve both the giving mother and the adoptive family. For the birth mother, the process starts before or after giving birth. The mother giving her child would first be given counseling by the organization trained workers. Counselors try to explain the situation from all aspects to help the giving mother make a decision. Topics like parenting and abortion are discussed with the birth mother.
The adoptive families go through a long process of qualification in order to adopt a baby. The primary qualification for the adoptive family is the ability to provide a safe and comfortable home for the chil. The organization does not discriminate against applicants on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation, race, disability, religion, etc. Each applicant would have to complete an application reporting all information about them including financial and health records. After filling out the application, the organization would conduct an home study on the adoptive family. This study includes interviews with the adoptive family and home visits to ensure that the home is a safe environment for a child. Other requirements for the study include reference letters from friends or relatives, income statements, a background check report, and autobiographies. Although the adoption home study process seems invasive or lengthy, it is conducted to help to decide whether the family is ready for adoption or not.
After the birth mother undergoes the consultative sessions and has made a decision to go through with the adoption, she is given the choice to select the future family for the child. She can select the family she feels that the child deserves and she can also have contact with the adoptive family. The organization believes in open-adoption, which means that the birth mother can always stay in contact with the family through the organization. Both parties can decide on exchanging letters and pictures throughout the years. Most giving mothers that decide to give their child up for adoption are not ready for parenting, either because they are not financially apt, or emotionally ready to support a child. Other mothers have fallen into addiction on drugs, alcohol, or Methamphetamine (METH). Some giving parents have their own other personal reasons.
Just like infants, the process of adopting older children is similar for the adoptive family. The organization provides training programs including preparing the families for this child and making sure the family understands their choice. Children who don’t get the chance for adoption remain as the organization’s responsibility in foster homes. The organization estimates about three hundred kids who are in a need of foster care everyday. Most of these kids are going through a difficult period. They are taken by the state either because they don’t have a family that supports them or they were victims of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or their supporting parents went to jail. The typical period that a child stays at one foster home is one to two years. If they don’t get adopted during that period they are moved to another foster family. Unfortunately not all kids that are kept at foster care get a chance of being adopted by a family. Some aging children, kids older than eighteen, are forced to leave the foster program and are left with no support from the state’s foster program.
Intensive Services at the organization include: Crisis Services, Foster Care, Pettygrove program, and RISE. Crisis Services include immediate attention and care 24/7 for children that are going through difficult times because of family problems or out of control circumstances. Foster Care services are for children in the age range of ten to sixteen. This service helps in providing sixteen thousand nights of shelter and safety each year to some of Oregon's most vulnerable children. The Pettygrove program is a residential program for teenage girls that have convicted crimes; this is a healthy alternative for jail. These teenage girls go to school during the day and spend the nights in the program’s houses. The Reaching Independence Stability and Empowerment (RISE) program is a ninety days program for teenagers, especially higher risk kids, who are no longer stable in their current situation in their birth parents or foster parents. They stay with specially trained foster parents that can handle their higher needs. During the day they attend the school located at the Boys and Girls Aid center. They do therapy with staff members and they also do recreation activities during the day. At the evenings, they go to their foster homes.
Prevention Services include: the Girls Leadership & Development (GLAD), Girls Opportunity Groups, and other prevention programs. These prevention programs are aimed at children living in high-risk neighborhoods. The community-based staff help provide a wide range of support and a variety of future opportunities usually missing in the children’s lives. One of the main goals of the prevention programs is to emphasize on the academic achievements and its importance to the overall success of a child’s life.
Support and accreditations
About 50% of the funding comes from contracts with the cities, counties, and the state or federal government. The other half comes from donations and fundraising campaigns. Another source of support is the auxiliaries ran primarily by adoptive parents or any one who wants to support the organization. One source of funding are social groups that work as small scale groups and try to do their own fund raising in neighborhoods. The organization is part of many health care and social services associations like:
- The Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services, Inc.
- Foster Family Care Network.
- Child Welfare League of America.
- Association of Fundraising Professionals.
- United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.
- National Association of Social Workers.