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As threat of human trafficking grows, so does Pathway's foster care challenge

by Amanda Hollingworth
April 04, 2018
Representatives from CoastHills Credit Union and Pathway Family Services pose with a $1,000 check donation.
From left, CoastHills Community Marketing Officer Amanda Hollingworth presents a $1,000 donation to Clinical Social Worker Daisy Weisbein and Supervising Social Worker Michelle Moses of Pathway Family Services along with CoastHills Relationship Manager Theresa Binney. Theresa chose to donate to Pathway as part of the Credit Union's employee giving program.

It’s easy to forget about things that fall through the cracks. And more and more here on the Central Coast, it’s teen girls who are dropping out of sight and out of mind.

Pathway Family Services is one of few organizations helping make sure they’re not forgotten.

“Many people don’t realize that Santa Maria is a hub for human trafficking,” said Michelle Moses, Supervising Social Worker for Pathway, an organization that provides safe homes, counseling, resources and education for foster children, many of which are neglected and abused.

And teen girls have the highest risk of being sexually exploited.

Even after they’ve entered the foster care system, many still struggle dealing with physical and emotional trauma and/or drug addiction. They’re also most likely to run away, and they shuffle between homes more than any other demographic.

Theresa Binney is the Relationship Manager at the CoastHills Credit Union branch in Lompoc. Tasked with awarding a $1,000 sponsorship on behalf of the Credit Union’s employee giving program, Theresa shuddered to think about how her own granddaughter would fare in similar circumstances.

That empathy inspired her to make her donation in support of vulnerable children. That’s the cool part about the “I’m All In” program. CoastHills employees donate as little or as much from their paychecks as they choose, and when the times comes to give the money, it’s the program participants who select the cause.

It was the Pastor’s wife at Theresa’s church, also a nurse at Marian Regional Medical Center, who pointed her toward Pathway.   

Pathway Family Services is a foster care and adoption agency with an office serving Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. The organization works closely with Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Services and local nonprofits like CASA, which pairs children with volunteer court advocates, and CALM, which provides treatment and preventative education, to find the best possible solutions for the children in their care.

They also operate an emergency shelter for instances when a safe place is needed immediately on a short-term basis — such as if a parent is arrested in the middle of the night and there is no one to take care of their kids.

The end goal is family reunification, but if that isn’t a possibility, Pathway Family Services is dedicated to finding forever homes through the adoption process. The organization will even complete the necessary home study for the prospective family at no cost to reduce barriers in the adoption process.

Pathway has found that as kids move on and grow up, it’s not uncommon for them to stay in contact with their foster families. Thanks to their selection and training process — which includes hands-on mentoring, counseling, and providing resources — these families are able to form strong bonds of trust essential to recovery.

Daisy Weisbein, Clinical Social Worker, describes the joy of success stories. Recently, she ran into a former foster child who had graduated high school and was preparing to start college — two milestones that may not have been possible without their intervention.

Thanks to donations like Theresa’s, Pathway will be able to fund respite care for foster families. Babysitting trauma victims requires specialized training in therapeutic skills and deescalating techniques.

Respite care isn’t funded by the government, so Pathway must fundraise for it themselves. Caregiver fatigue has a negative impact on the foster families and foster children. If the families aren’t taking care of themselves, they can’t take care of the kids properly, which is why respite care is so essential.

For those interested in becoming involved, Pathway Family Service is always in need of donations and people interested in babysitting. Pathway will even provide the necessary background check and trauma-informed training in order to ensure that respite caregivers have the tools they need to make a difference. 

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