AspiraNet: Support is Key

What’s required for quality adoption and foster processes, youth development, and behavioral health?

The Rivera family is another result of AspiraNet’s successful foster-to-adopt program
The Rivera family is another result of AspiraNet’s successful foster-to-adopt program

In 1975, the first AspiraNet office was established in the state of California.

Now, in their 40th year, this nonprofit has 44 locations all dedicated to one common goal: the support and care for their families, particularly through the foster and adoption processes, youth development, and behavioral health. They have been a staple in Bakersfield since 1991, and to this day, they are providing invaluable services to those families within their caring network.

“Each office has its own specialties,” local District Director Carrie Ontiveros began. “Our office offers foster care, adoption, and wraparound services for youth who are in need of support to remain in their current placement. We also have a newer licensing that we obtained this past year called the transitional housing program for emancipated foster youth. This service is for non-minor foster dependents who are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one and are needing assistance transitioning out of foster care.”

AspiraNet District Director Carrie Ontiveros
AspiraNet District Director Carrie Ontiveros

Ontiveros went on to say that, as an established agency who is accredited with The Joint Commission, they also work very closely with the Kern County Department of Human Resources through different programs. “We try to have a presence and provide support in as many programs as we can, locally,” she said. As proof of this, their behavioral support system is based on school campuses, where their clinicians will visit and work with the children in regards to their special education plan.

As a result of their community presence, local residents who have needs that align with AspiraNet’s purpose have been drawn to them. “One of my husband’s coworkers had adopted through AspiraNet,” began Geri Rivera. “We were looking to foster-to-adopt, and he recommended them.” Prior to this decision, she and her husband, Miguel, had experienced frightening difficulties with the pregnancies involving the children they already had. “We dealt with bed rest, premies, and NICU stays with our two biological children. We had considered adopting, and after the difficulties we experienced, it became the practical solution,” Rivera revealed. “It made no sense to go through all of that again when there are children out there that need homes.”

Caring AspiraNet personnel provide invaluable service not only in Bakersfield but 43 other locations as well
Caring AspiraNet personnel provide invaluable service not only in Bakersfield, but 43 other locations as well

The Riveras linked up with AspiraNet and took the necessary classes, background checks, and fingerprinting, amongst other requirements, in order to be within legal compliance to foster and adopt children. “Almost all agencies have some sort of pre-certification training, and each have their own requirements,” Ontiveros elaborated. “We do two full days of PRIDE [Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education] meetings. It is a well-known, established training model used by a lot of agencies. It teaches families what to expect when they are foster parenting and how they can best support a child through the foster process.”

One thing to bear in mind, Ontiveros cautioned, is that the main focus in foster care is reunification of the child with the birth parents. Obviously, as was the case with the Riveras, that isn’t always what occurs, and adopting is an option with some. Ideally, any foster parent will also be willing to work with the birth parents to help the children get through these trying times.

Regardless, AspiraNet is always a huge champion of anyone who utilizes their services, and they even offer 24-hour, on-call support. They also provide monthly meetings for parents that have both fostered or adopted through them. Childcare is provided during these fun exchanges, as are meals. “They were really great,” Rivera said. “It was like having a friend hold your hand the entire time. They provide great services before, during, and after the process. They want to place the right children in the right homes, so you do have the options of which children you take in.”

Unfortunately, there are always children in need of safe, loving homes during very painful periods in their lives. But the great news is that for such children in Kern County, organizations like AspiraNet exist and are always working hard with these childrens’ best interests in mind. To find out more about this wonderful organization, visit their website at www.aspiranet.org.

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