New Law Set To End Group Homes As Foster Care Option

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (CBS SF) — Next month, a new state law kicks in to phase out group homes for foster care.

KPIX 5 spoke with a former foster child who is hopeful the law will create a more family-like atmosphere for foster kids, especially during the holidays.

Contra Costa County has about 1,100 kids in the foster care system. About 100 of those live in group homes, which are essentially private businesses that house up to 6 kids at a time.

Onetime foster kid Justice Woods says Christmas in a group home holds little magic.

“You wake up, they give you your stuff and then, that’s about it, said Woods. You go on with your day, do your chores and then sit around the house and do nothing.”

Justice is 19 now and on his own, but he has never really had anyone who could care for him for long.  He thinks group homes do more harm than good and it seems the State of California agrees with him.

In January, a new law will require the phasing out of group homes, which has counties scrambling to recruit enough new foster parents to fill the void.

“We want people who really care about children, who want to help them succeed in life, who want to keep them in our community and open up their heart and home to these kids,” said Kathy Marsh, the Interim Director at Contra Costa Children and Family Services

That’s what Katie and Ron Cisco did.  They took in Amelia and her little brother Trace, who really didn’t even know each other.

It wasn’t easy at first. It took a while for everyone to bond. But now these four are happy. And with an adoption on Friday, they are a family.

“Open your home. It’s doable. It’s worth it, said Katie Cisco. They matter. The kids need a chance.”

The county says it’s not looking for perfect parents, just people with room for one more in their homes.  Justice says he never really had that, but he still believes that’s where the magic is at Christmas or any other time of year.

“I feel like, you just come in with open arms and the foster youth, you guys will have a connection,” said Woods. “Just like a son and a father or a mother and daughter, you know?”

The new state law gives counties two years to end the use of group homes for foster care. Contra Costa County has already hired two full-time recruiters to find people to be foster parents.

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