Child Bridge seeks to bring hope and healing to children in foster care
A few years ago, “Erin Rodrigues” shared with a friend that she felt called to become a foster parent but, as a single woman, she did not feel it was the right time. The next Sunday Erin was sitting in church when her pastor introduced a speaker from Child Bridge, an organization that connects foster youth with families and supports those families once children have been placed. He shared of the great need for foster families for Missoula’s children in need. Fast forward two years and Erin is nine months into her first placement, two sisters.
Parenting, for Erin, has been the hardest task she’s ever done, yet also the most rewarding. As with all foster situations, the ultimate goal is that children are reunited with their biological family. Erin’s story embodies that both loving deeply and living with open hands are part of the foster journey, as the biological family of her two little girls is now ready to receive them back.
“No matter what you tell people and how well you prepare them, people are still surprised and overwhelmed by what they find when they take in a child,” said JD Partain, Child Bridge’s Missoula Community Director. “But the good news is that, when surrounded by supports, it provides an opportunity for hope and healing for children; that’s really exciting to see.”
Child Bridge understands that to be sustained on the long road of parenting, families need significant emotional and educational support from mental health providers, family, and friends as well as logistical support.
If a child is in the foster care system, he or she has experienced trauma in one way or another, usually in the form of abuse and/or neglect. Then, the removal—often involving a sequence of short-term placements—is an additional trauma for vulnerable children. Many children in foster care have significant mental health needs stemming from trauma, and many exhibit difficult behaviors that make incorporating them into a foster family extremely complex.
“Tom and Christie Miller” felt called to welcome a child in need into their family that already included two biological children. They went through the licensing process and opened up their home to receive a toddler. The little boy struggles with speech delays for which the couple diligently takes him to speech therapy sessions. The Millers take joy in seeing his speech gradually improve as time passes. They are now hoping to move toward adoption of this little boy and have expressed a desire to receive more foster children in the future. Tom and Christie entered into the foster care licensing process after attending a Child Bridge informational meeting in Missoula.
After families are licensed by the state, Child Bridge provides a multi-faceted support network for foster families, so that foster placements last until children are (ideally) reunified with their biological families or adopted by their foster families. Respite care, meal delivery, monetary support, and transportation are just some of the many ways that Child Bridge volunteers support foster families. Child Bridge also hosts monthly resource meetings where parents listen to expert speakers. This is an opportunity for parents to continue their education in trauma-informed perspective.
A bridge spans the space of uncertainty between land and sky, and though you sense that you could fall any moment, there is solidity underfoot. There’s a structure designed to carry the weight of far more than just you. Child Bridge is built similarly—to be the support that makes passage possible.