Undoubtedly the Ward 5 community is in need of a helping hand for the kids and youths. Help comes in many shapes and forms, but one of the best kind of help is hands-on. This hands-on approach has been a safe haven for many foster kids for 20 years. The shepherd responsible for such greatness is named Serena Parks. I had the opportunity to sit with Ms. Parks to ask her a few questions about being a foster parent, adoption, and the entire process. Giving back to the community in Ward 5 or any Ward is a blessing.
Javan: Ms. Parks it’s a pleasure to meet you. How long have you lived in the Ward 5 area and how long have you been a foster parent?
Ms. Parks: Hello, I have lived in Ward 5 for more than 40 years. I became a licensed foster parent in 1996 in which this year makes 20 years of service . However, I was an unofficial foster parent for 6 years prior.
Javan: What’s the name of the agency you work for and how long have they been around?
Ms. Parks: The name of the agency is Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. and they have been operating in DC since 2005.
Javan: When you first decided to become a foster parent, what were the deciding factors, and what impact did you hope to make?
Ms. Parks: The deciding factors of me becoming a foster parent, was to give back to the community. I was raised with my foster parents since age five in foster care and wanted to help assist teenagers. So many people wanted younger children, but I realized teenagers also need a loving home.
Javan: How long were your parents foster parents and did you have a lot of foster brothers and sisters?
Ms. Parks: My foster parents were foster parents for over 30 years and raised over 30 foster children. They were my parents until they passed in 2004 (Father: age 90) and 2009 (Mother: aged 96).
Javan: Do you think that there is still a huge need for foster parents in Washington, DC?
Ms. Parks: Yes, there is still a great need. The number of children in care are not what it use to be, however, there is still a need for loving people to help a child in need. Families are not able to step up like they use too and in so many case don\’t know their families are in care.
Javan: What would you suggest to make the process of the ins and outs of foster care and adoption better for kids?
Ms. Parks: There are more services available to children in care, then when I was in care. So many times the children don\’t take the services offered. I believe outcomes would be better if the private agencies and Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) would work together more efficiently. The transitions of services for the kids need to be smoother. The need for information to be given to the foster parents about the children are one of the biggest factors so that the foster parents can have background on the kids. Sometimes the information come in late or in pieces. The children who become adopted, don\’t continue to get the services they received in foster care. I believe just because they are given permanent homes, doesn\’t mean their issues are gone. The adopted children issues really come out as they get older. So many adopted children end up back in care, because love is not enough. They still need services to address their issues.
Javan: Is there anything else you’d like to share with The DC Voice about foster care and/or adoption?
Ms. Parks: I would encourage anyone reading this article that feel they have room in their homes and heart to become a foster parent to do so. The children and community need you and the experience is worth it. The bad and the good is all worth it when you help someone.
On behalf of The DC Voice, we\’d like to thank you for taking time out of your hectic schedule to give us some insight on foster care, adoption and Seraaj Family Home, Inc.
Notes on Seraaj:
Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. was founded in the state of Nebraska in 1987. The company is owned by Abdul Seraaj.
Early Service Provision
In Nebraska, Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. provided an array of mental health services to children and families of various private and public insurance carriers. The agency also served as a sub-contractor for Family Networks, providing therapeutic wraparound services for families and children. Their services included in-home counseling, family support, case management, crisis intervention, group therapy, and support for foster families and group homes. While providing services in Nebraska, Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. was a certified General Education Diploma (GED) training site and provided counseling services to the U.S. Marshall’s Secret Witness Program. Additionally, Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. provided therapeutic transportation services for the State of Nebraska Retired Teachers Association, the Des Moines, Iowa Mass Transit Authority, Nebraska Department of Aging and several private school systems.
In 1993, Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. relocated to Alabama and established services under contract and vendor agreements with county child welfare offices to provide in-home family preservation services for families with children at risk of entering foster care. Their services included in-home substance abuse prevention services, psychological testing, psychiatric evaluations, therapeutic transportation, psycho social family assessments and treatment plans, individual and family counseling, respite care, behavior management, job placement, job coaching, parenting skills training, supervised family visitations, and introducing and connecting consumers to existing community resources.
In addition to Family Preservation Services, Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. was licensed as a child-placing agency in 1995. The agency’s commitment to service delivery is evidenced by its expansion of services nationwide. Seraaj Family Homes Inc. established regional offices in several Alabama cities including Montgomery, Huntsville, Gadsden, Cullman, Oxford, and Birmingham. There are also regional offices in Washington D.C. and the state of Maryland. From these locations, the agency provided therapeutic foster care, specialized foster care such as teen mothers and their young children, crisis stabilization for those who are coming into care for the first time, placement for children who are diagnosed medically fragile and placement of children with developmental disorders as well as enhanced sibling groups (4 or more siblings).
Also, in the District of Columbia, Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. has contracts with health maintenance organizations (HMO’s) to provide outpatient mental health services for consultation, assessment and treatment services, including individual, group and family therapy.
Since 1995, the organization has recruited and approved 999 foster homes. 37% of the families licensed were two parent homes and 63% were single heads of households. Since 1998 Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. has served 1,913 children of which 70% were in therapeutic foster care placements, 20% were in traditional foster care placements and 10% were placed through other programs operated by Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. The agency has accepted into care 435 children from intensive residential treatment or congregate care facilities.
In addition to receiving oversight from governmental regulatory and legal authorities in Alabama, Washington DC and Maryland, Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. has received accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA). In doing so, the agency is held to the highest standards of accountability, integrity and achievement in all levels of performance and service delivery with emphasis on continuous quality improvement.
* Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. established a data base for tracking levels of care in 1998.
References: Seraaj Family Homes, Inc.
Seraaj Family Homes, Inc.