Contra Costa County officials working to phase out group homes for foster children

Alan WangIn the Media

CONCORD (KRON) — Contra Costa County is making major changes to its foster program, as officials are working to phase out group homes for foster children.
Nineteen-year-old Justice Woods writes lyrics every day. He raps about the struggles he’s lived.

“I was in a group home from the age of 8, all the way to like 17 and half,” Woods said. He compares group homes to an institution and says it doesn’t provide the family atmosphere children so desperately need. That is why Woods supports the move by the State of California to phase out the use of group homes for long-term use. It’s a plan that begins next month.

“Group homes are more bad than they are good, so in phasing them out, I feel like it is a good choice, but the fact is there’s not enough foster homes,” Woods said.
Aida Amezaga is a child services supervisor for Contra Costa County and is hoping to recruit 250 additional foster families by January, especially families willing to take in teenagers, even people who want to do it part time. “We’re looking for people who want to change the life of a child but this child is going to change your life,” Amezaga said.

Jill Stewart has fostered six children in three years. “We have ornaments from the different kids when they’re here during the holidays,” Stewart said.
Many of them were coming to visit for the holidays. “I get to stay in those kids life…so it’s expanding my family,” Stewart said.
Many of Stewart’s former foster children are visiting for the holidays. “I have so many gifts, so many blessings, and I just have this opportunity right now to give back; I’m lucky,” Stewart said. She’s hoping others will also give back.

A loving foster home is something Woods wished he had. “I always wanted somebody to come out to my football game, come to my choir rehearsals and stuff…,” Woods said. While Woods is on the right track, living on his own and starting college in the spring, he says he missed having that support system.