CHENANGO COUNTY — Fostering Futures New York Chenango County (FFNYCC), formerly known as Fostering Futures New York, has rebranded and expanded in the past year, adding on approximately four more volunteer teams. Now, they're looking to add one more team of about five volunteers before year's end.
FFNYCC is a nonprofit organization who's aim is to "support foster and kinship families in building better futures and community connections for children and youth," according to Coordinator Cathy Albrecht.
The organization was created by Welfare Research, Inc. (WRI), and implemented through the Chenango County Department of Social Services (DSS). In 2019, DSS was tasked with finding a Chenango County nonprofit to run FFNYCC, and selected Improve Norwich Now (INN) to handle the program.
This month, FFNYCC is ringing in their third year serving foster and kinship families in Chenango County through support, social interaction, and special celebrations throughout the year. They are also celebrating the addition of four teams of volunteers, made up of an average of five people per team.
Each team is assigned a foster or kinship family in Chenango County, and team members each support their family by engaging in at least one interaction per month.
"People will say to me, what does an interaction look like? It depends. It depends on what the family needs, it depends on what the volunteers can do, it depends on hobbies and skill sets," Albrecht explained. "Interactions can look anything like dropping off a dinner, grocery shopping, helping with laundry, helping with small projects around the home, having a pizza delivered."
"One particular team that I’m thinking about has a couple of volunteers that go over and have dinner with them, because the family really wants that social interaction. So it’s not just about dropping and going, it’s about building relationships with their families," she added.
Fostering Futures also hosts special celebrations two to three times a year as another way to provide positive interactions between children and adults. This summer, 65 of the more than 100 people impacted by FFNYCC visited Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, followed by a picnic lunch in Nathaniel Cole Park.
This winter, they'll be hosting a Christmas celebration at the Cooperstown-Charlotte Valley Railroad.
"We try to do those celebrations at least twice a year. This year it looks like we’re going to be able to do three. We did one at Easter time, we did the Animal Adventure one, and then we’re looking forward to a Christmas train ride," said Albrecht. "We’re actually able to charter the train, do a private charter, and it’ll be Christmas themed so we’ll have Santa Claus there and hopefully we can get some funding for some gifts, and we’ll be able to host all of the families that are participating in the program, and then all of the Fostering Futures volunteers."
"We try to do that a couple of times a year, just because anytime we can present positive memories and help create positive memories for foster or kinship kids, it’s a bonus," she added.
FFNYCC works closely with Chenango County DSS and the Children's Home of Wyoming Conference to get referrals of foster and kinship families looking for the support FFNYCC provides.
Currently, there are 31 foster and kinship families in Chenango County, and 11 Fostering Futures volunteer teams. Albrecht said the ultimate goal of FFNYCC is to provide a volunteer support team to each foster and kinship family. For this year, however, she's focusing on recruiting one more team of volunteers.
"We’re always looking. The more volunteers we have, the more families we can serve," she said. "I’m always recruiting people, background checking them, training them, because there is about a two-hour training that I do, and I've actually done two in the last month and a half. I'd love to be able to do one a month and have four or five people once a month, because a team consists of four or five people, generally, depending on the size of the family."
Those interested in volunteering with Fostering Futures NYCC can contact Albrecht at 607-238-3392 or email@example.com.
Volunteers will need to pass a background check and complete training, and engage in a minimum of one interaction with their foster or kinship family each month, as well as attend a monthly team meeting on Google Meet.
Those who would like to support the organization in another way can donate directly to FFNYCC by mailing a check made out to Improve Norwich Now to PO Box 161, Norwich NY, 13815. Donations can also be dropped off at NBT Bank with instructions to deposit to the INN account to support Fostering Futures.
Any and all support helps FFNYCC continue to foster bright futures for foster and kinship children and families in Chenango County.
"Fostering Futures is designed to support foster and kinship parents and promote better outcomes. Those better outcomes can be lower stress levels for foster parents and families, reduced burnout, placement stability for children and youth — and this is my favorite — safe and stable nurturing between children and care and the team members," said Albrecht.
"These children, some of them have been through horrible things in their lives," she continued. "If we can increase the amount of positive interactions, positive adults that they can come to — especially as they grow and become teens, and then eventually grow and become adults — if we can encourage those nurturing relationships, we’re doing the right thing. We’re doing what we were called for as far as our mission."
More information on Fostering Futures New York Chenango County can be found at ImproveNorwichNow.org/fostering-futures.