Youth For Change
Foster Family Agency
Established a decade ago as a residential program, Youth For Change has grown over the years. Its foster family agency was launched six years ago, and now provides foster care programs throughout Butte County.
Youth For Change Foster Family Agency provides comprehensive, professional services with integrity and compassion to meet the unique needs of each child and family it serves. Its goal is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children to grow and heal.
Lynn Bachus, administrator of the family foster agency, believes her segment of the organization draws strength from the “complementary services” offered by Youth For Change, such as its residential program and non-public school.
“One of the reasons why the foster family program is as competent and comprehensive as it is, is because we have a continuum of care,” Bachus explained. “Youth For Change provides multiple programs to all of the people we serve.”
Bachus said one of the hallmarks of their program is the attention and support they give to their foster families. They’ve been able to do that by keeping the agency small and the number of foster families they serve relatively low.
Foster parents receive innovative and intensive training to encourage them to become part of the working treatment team for the benefit of the child.
“Our goal is to have our foster parents be professionals, because I really honor foster parenting. They deserve that respect,” Bachus said. “We have a team approach. I believe in taking care of our foster parents and supporting our foster parents as much as the children.”
Meritt Odekirk is a Youth For Change foster parent. She has seven children, five of whom are foster children. She appreciates Youth For Change’s approach that emphasizes teamwork, communication and accountability.
“The one thing that I find that I really like is the support. The kids that you take in may have a lot of needs…and everybody supports each other,” Odekirk explained.
Odekirk says her foster children are well-acquainted with the social workers on the staff, and they view the Youth For Change office as a safe and secure spot.
“Nobody’s a stranger here,” she added.
Bachus admits that taking in a foster child can be a little scary, not unlike giving birth to a new baby. But on the plus side, foster parents have the joy of watching untold “firsts,” such taking a formerly neglected child out for his first ice cream cone.
Youth For Change goes out of its way to make dreams come true for its foster children, including helping to send one teenager recently on the Chico High School choir trip to Australia.
Last year, foster parents adopted 18 children through the agency, a somewhat higher than usual number. Adoption takes foster parents out of the system just like any other type of attrition, so the agency always seeks new foster parents, especially those willing to work with teenagers or those who are willing to consider eventual adoption.
People interested in becoming foster parents can start the process with a phone call to the Youth For Change office. Bachus encourages prospective foster parents to talk to current foster parents.
“Foster parents are really the ones who say that we care and we’re responsive,” she said. “Each child is treated as an individual.”
Odekirk echoed that sentiment.
“Don’t go in blindly. Educate yourself. Interview the agency, and find out what they offer kids.”
Youth For Change has developed a transitional living program for foster children between the ages of 16 and 19. The teens are taught basic living skills such as cooking and budgeting, as well as vocational and educational preparation. Some of the teenagers test their independence when they live together in an apartment.
Bachus hopes service groups will support the transitional living program by refurbishing a room. Community contributions of quality furnishings or housewares are also appreciated.