Help one child’s new executive director aims to expand services data recovery on ssd

Valerie crane, the new executive director of the los altos-based nonprofit help one child, not only works to recruit foster parents and run programs to support foster children – she and her husband have opened their home to vulnerable kids in need of a place to stay.

“it’s such a huge honor to be trusted and to have the opportunity to step in and protect these kids and advocate for them while they are with you,” crane said. “it’s such a volatile time in their short life, and you have the opportunity to be a fun, encouraging, loving adult. It’s hard to imagine leaving everything you’ve ever known and starting new someplace with strangers – it’s frightening, and yet these kids often allow you in.”

crane said

Founded by los altos hills residents mark and joanne morris, help one child – a longtime town crier holiday fund recipient – recruits, trains and supports those who open their homes to foster kids.

Crane officially stepped into her role as executive director jan. 1, replacing the retiring susan herman, but her appointment was planned three years prior when she was hired as director of operations. Crane said the preparation ensured a smooth transi- tion.

“initially when I started, I took on events and programs and then that kind of expanded to other areas of the ministry or the organization, so that when (herman) stepped down, there was very little that I wasn’t either involved in or actually doing at that point,” she said.Foster care

Crane added that she joined help one child as a volunteer because she was passionate about foster care but was not able to be a foster parent at the time. The more time she spent volunteering, the more she began to see ways to incorporate her business experience to expand the reach and efficiency of the organization. As executive director, her goals continue to focus on sustainable growth, with an emphasis on increasing advocacy.

“I have goals to grow our support services while making sure they are sustainable,” crane said. “I want to see us serve more people, serve them more meaningfully, and do so in a sustainable way. My biggest goal is to create additional advocates and champions of the ministry – recruiting more board members, recruiting people who will champion our mission in their workplace or within their community.” filling the need

foster care

Volunteer recruitment and development is a major area of attention for help one child, especially following recent legislation that regulates group homes, which will leave many teens unable to stay in those homes.

“the biggest need is for foster parents, for people who will open their homes to foster teens who potentially are aging out of the system in a couple of years,” crane said.

Crane noted that two main factors deter people from fostering: social stigma and misrepresentation of foster care in the media; and lack of time. The latter is a prevalent problem in silicon valley.

“in this area, you have so many families that are dual income and relying on that, that people just feel like they don’t have the time to become foster parents,” she said.Executive director “they are both working adults, and I think that’s a big issue. In other areas, like the central valley or even other states, you have a lot of single-income families, where as I think especially here in the silicon valley you see a lot of dual-income families.”

However, social stigma also plays a large part in the decision not to foster, crane said, noting that unfavorable media representation of foster kids, as well as lack of awareness and education, often creates a negative image of them.

“I think we have to do a better job of applauding those – and, I think, from a media standpoint – recognizing those who have overcome and who are healthy, contributing parts of society so that we don’t have this image of the foster teen being less than or frightening,” she said.Executive director “when you do hear about (foster care), you hear the negative stuff, about either the foster parents, about the children or about the county. You don’t hear about a lot of success stories – and they exist.”

“the hardest part about being a foster parent is saying no. You get a lot of calls, and not every child is going to be a perfect fit for your home, and not even a great fit for your home,” she said. “but you didn’t become a foster parent to turn children away. And yes, sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do to be able to offer a child their best situation.” spreading the word

“we are always trying to get people to understand that if they have a passion for our mission, their professionalism and their professional experience can benefit us from a board and a committee level, because that’s a volunteer position that is currently needed,” crane said.Foster care

However, she emphasized that volunteering with the organization is not the only way to support foster care. Raising awareness of the need for foster homes and becoming more educated on what the system is like and spreading that knowledge also are important contributions.

“we are trying to grow these advocacies – let’s call them ‘champions’ – people who will be better aware of what foster care looks like and get engaged and talk about it within their communities,” crane said. “these kids are so amazing; they are so worthy of our love, and being provided the opportunity to give back to them is an honor, it’s a privilege.”

Since becoming executive director, crane has spent much of her time on careportal, a support services software platform help one child plans to launch in may.Help child

“(careportal) will allow us to take immediate needs – right now, current-crisis needs in the community – and get churches and community-based organizations able to meet those needs,” she said.

The goal of careportal is to respond to the needs of foster children more quickly. A social worker is able to enter a client’s need into the careportal database, and the platform will contact people geographically to enable them to meet that need, eliminating the need for help one child and similar organizations to act as mediators.

“I think ultimately it is going to allow us to serve more people, and also just the time factor – that people can respond within a few minutes – I think it will streamline a big area of support services for us,” crane said.Crane said