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Meet Jeff Wiemann of Angels Foster Family Network in Kearny Mesa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Wiemann.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In July 2013, my wife and I became a certified foster family through Angels Foster Family Network. We have four children of our own, but we wanted more and fostering seemed to be the perfect answer for us; to help children and to give back to our community.

About a week after we completed the foster parent training through Angels, we received a call that there was a baby boy waiting for us at Polinsky Children’s Center in San Diego. My wife and I drove to pick him up – we really weren’t sure what to expect. When we arrived the 6-week-old little boy was dressed in two onesies and was strapped into a car seat. He was cool to the touch and looked to be in shock with a blank stare.

During the first few weeks with us he didn’t cry, he didn’t coo, he really didn’t do anything except eat and sleep. But as time went on, we noticed that he was starting to cry, smile and make little baby noises – we were thrilled! We later learned that his initial behavior was due to the trauma he had endured in the beginning of his life. When he cried his needs weren’t being met, so he simply gave up.

Although he only spent four-and-a-half months with our family it completely changed our lives, and his life, forever. It brought our family closer and taught our children so much. We were all impacted in a positive way. And although it was very sad when he left to be with his forever family, we knew that the positive impact we had made in his life would be with him forever.

At about the same time that we were preparing for our foster son to transfer to his then to be adoptive home, I learned that Angels was looking for an Executive Director. With a proven track record of creating and sustaining high performing organization, I tossed my hat in the ring. In November 2013, I was hired as Angels first Executive Director.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Sadly, we are in a “silent” crisis due to a continued severe shortage of families willing to care for children in need of a stable, safe and loving home. It is a silent crisis because there are not enough people in our community talking about the need for more families who will foster. Here in San Diego County there are roughly 3,000 children in foster care and nearly 40% (1,200) are under five years of age.

Tragically, it’s only getting worse as the “opioid epidemic” further devours the lives of families in our community and across the country.

In 2017, we turned away 100 children (half were siblings who needed to stay together) because we didn’t have enough Angels homes to care for them. Despite the challenges, we never lose sight of our goal that every child placed in foster care is cared for in a stable, safe and loving home. We strongly believe in this because we have seen what happens when children are not cared for and bounce from home to home. As teenagers and young adults, these victims of the foster care system at a minimum will experience higher rates of anxiety and depression and fail to obtain a college education, let alone a high school diploma. They will fail more often in relationships and, in the end, not be able to appropriately function in the work place. Failing these children in foster care in their first years of life virtually guarantees each of them will be part of the social service system and justice system the rest of their lives.

Angels Foster Family Network – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Angels Foster Family Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe, stable and loving homes for infants and toddlers throughout San Diego County. Our mission is to passionately and collaboratively care for children five and younger with diverse and exceptional families who dedicate themselves to each child’s wellbeing. Since our first placement in 1999, Angels has cared for more than 840 infants and toddlers.

Angels is unique because unlike traditional foster care, our families who foster commit to the stable placement of a child or sibling set until the child(ren) is reunified with their biological family or placed for adoption.

We are pleased that 50.8% of the children in our care returned to their family, while 46.3% of them were adopted into their forever home.

This is a tremendous achievement as were the final placement for 97.1% of children in our care before finding a permanent home. For the remaining 2.9% of children, we were the second to last placement. Stability of care for children, especially those ages three and younger, is critical to their long-term health and development and is how we greatly differ from traditional foster care.

What are your plans for the future? What are you looking forward to or planning for – any big changes?
After years of declining interest in fostering, we finally saw a resurgence in 2017. Inquiries about fostering increased 72.1%, while attendees at our information sessions were up 29.4% and applications to foster were up 21.4%. We attribute these increases to our focused social media campaign efforts and our expanded community outreach.

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