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Washington County seeks new foster families


Tristen and other children are waiting for foster parents

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Tristen, who has been in foster care about six years, plays a great game of checkers and says hes good at chess, too.Tristen is a boy in search of a family that is, in his words, “kind, patient and willing to accept me.”

But this smart, witty and polite 12-year-old foster child faces many challenges in finding that security, says Sarah Kopplin, who does specialized foster care recruitment through a program started in 2011 and funded by the Washington County Mental Health Department.

Kopplin is currently seeking foster families for five Washington County children. The five, ages 11 to 14, have been removed from their homes by the Oregon Department of Human Services and have been in residential treatment or therapeutic foster homes to overcome trauma they’ve suffered in the past. They’ve all made significant progress in their therapy and are ready to be placed with families who can make a long-term commitment to helping them create happy and successful futures, says Kopplin.

“I would like a mom and a dad — or just a mom or just a dad,” Tristen says as he nervously dances about. He’d like to live in the country or a quiet neighborhood. And, he says, “it would be good if they had wi-fi."

Sarah Kopplin does specialized foster care recruitment funded by the Washington County Mental Health DepartmentSelf-aware and verbal beyond his years, Tristen is eager to engage with adults and sounds like a 40-year-old when he greets Kopplin, “Oh, Sarah, it’s been a long time.” But he’s 12 again when he plays (and wins) a game of checkers. When he asks if he can have an apple, he smiles broadly and says he has a large “apple-tite.”

Tristen, who has been in foster care for about six years, says his future foster parents will need to be patient with him.

Like the other children Kopplin is seeking to place, Tristen struggles with mental health issues and will continue to receive therapy. Anxiety and depression are common among children affected by early childhood trauma. Some have trouble regulating their emotions and difficulty attaching. The children Kopplin works with typically have been in the foster system for several years, are older and have been moved many times, which adds to their trauma.

“These kids need families willing to learn the type of parenting they require,’’ Kopplin says. “The families will need to learn about attachment issues, trauma and how to respond to the child.”

People who have worked with Tristen in therapeutic situations say he does best when he has a consistent schedule, lots of structure and attention and constant supervision. They say he is comfortable with adults, affectionate and very smart.

Families who open their hearts and homes to the children will receive significant training and support, such as an on-call therapist, respite care and a monthly stipend. The families must be certified by DHS or a private foster care licensing agency. Most of the children will be best placed in families where they are the only children or the youngest child.

For his part, Tristen has made big improvements in his ability to ask for help and express himself, Kopplin says. “Tristen is a really special kid and has such potential — now he just needs a family where he can grow up and continue to thrive.”