The Daily Observer – FCS makes new plans to improve foster care services

Family and Children’s Services has taken the initial step towards improving services for youth in foster care.

If enthusiasm translated into a building, an education centre for foster children facing challenges learning in traditional settings would already be a reality if the first sessions of a two-day retreat are any indication.

A group of more than 20 individuals, including FCS staff members, board members and community stakeholders is working to develop an action plan for the centre which Ron Groskleg, FCS director of project development, hopes to have running by September 2009.

“We are creating a lot of energy here today and I am pleased to see the level of participation and involvement in the sharing of ideas,” he said. “Excitement needs to be generated from the community surrounding the project, parents, families and businesses.”

The centre will be based on the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Centre in Colorado, which has provided its director and associate director of professional development Michael Soguero and Dan Condon respectively, to serve as facilitators for sessions throughout the retreat.

They, along with Jeff Palladino, co-director of the Bronx Guild High School and Dr. Sandra Gomez of Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut are in Pembroke to share their struggles, successes and ideas with those who will ultimately work to develop the education centre’s vision and focus.

“We are sharing some of our own stories and struggles because we have all been involved in starting schools and programs,” said Mr. Soguero.

Mr. Condon is impressed with the group’s willingness to try something different to meet the needs of the young people it serves. He is honoured to be involved in the process.

“We want to facilitate conversations, raise questions based on our experiences and help make this project what it will become,” he said. “I am as excited to learn as I am to share.”

Mr. Groskleg appreciates the involvement of the facilitators and believes the local stakeholders will benefit greatly from the two-day retreat.

Joining Mr. Groskleg in the planning process are Jen Morine and Jimmy Frickey, a couple that has worked at the Eagle Rock School. The will be involved in curriculum development.

Considering there aren’t many models in Ontario to choose from for this type of facility, Ms. Morine is pleased that Renfrew County is so open to exploring its options. She and Mr. Frickey agree it is important to tap into existing programs and give them a local spin depending on the needs of the youth in the community.

Since children from Renfrew County are currently participating in other programs outside the county, the centre’s creation will allow them to be brought home closer to family and friends, freeing up some money in the process, which will be redirected to the new facility, Mr. Groskleg explained.

He is working on a budget that will be submitted to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services for consideration.