Su­per­hero run to sup­port S.J. foster kids

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Shantel Dick­er­son

Sev­en­teen hun­dred — the stag­ger­ing num­ber of foster youths cur­rently in the San Joaquin County foster care sys­tem. Sta­tis­tics from the na­tional Child Abuse Pre­ven­tion Coun­cil (CAPC) paint a grim pic­ture for the fu­ture of foster youths. It’s pro­jected that 50% of these chil­dren will not grad­u­ate from high school. One in 5 will be home­less af­ter turn­ing 18 years old. Fur­ther­more, only 50% are em­ployed by age 24, and 71% of young women will be preg­nant by 21.

The foster care sys­tem of­ten func­tions as a pipe­line, says Shauna Buzu­nis-Ja­cob, de­vel­op­ment direc­tor at San Joaquin County CAPC. High-risk youth en­ter the com­mu­nity, and sub­se­quently raise rates of un­em­ploy­ment and home­less­ness. Staff and vol­un­teers of the San Joaquin County CAPC meet the needs of these at-risk chil­dren by pro­vid­ing pro­grams fo­cused on men­tor­ship and ad­vo­cacy. How­ever, due to lim­ited re­sources and min­i­mal vol­un­teers, they can only serve a small per­cent­age of the foster youth pop­u­la­tion.

To in­crease aware­ness and gar­ner more vol­un­teers, the CAPC is host­ing the fifth an­nual Su­per­hero Run and Health & Well­ness Fair this Satur­day at Lodi Lake. The 5K run/walk

starts at 9 a.m., fol­lowed by a “Kids Dash” at 10:15 a.m. You can sign up on­line at nochild­­per­hero.

Any­one reg­is­ter­ing on race day should ar­rive early.

Par­tic­i­pants are en­cour­aged to wear a su­per­hero cos­tume.

“It is a great way to ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity, and it is also a great way to show the foster kids that this is the com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether be­cause we do sup­port you,” Buzu­nis-Ja­cob said.

For kids who are only fa­mil­iar with abuse, ne­glect and aban­don­ment, show­ing sup­port and gen­uine care can have a pro­found im­pact on their lives.

“Just think of your very worst day, or your very hap­pi­est day. Who do you run and tell? Your mom, your dad, your sis­ter. What if you didn’t have any­body to tell,” Buzu­nis-Ja­cob ex­plains of the lone­li­ness foster youth ex­pe­ri­ence. “And now we say ‘hey, we can be your com­mu­nity.’ ”

The funds raised dur­ing the run will sup­port the CASA pro­gram: Court Ap­pointed Spe­cial Ad­vo­cates. CASA vol­un­teers un­dergo a manda­tory 30-35 hour train­ing about the foster care sys­tem, cul­tural aware­ness, and how to be ad­vo­cates for foster youth. They are ap­pointed by a judge, and com­mit to 18 months of meet­ing with their youth at least once a week.

“A lot of foster fam­i­lies can get over­whelmed when they have a child that has maybe had a lot of trauma or spe­cial needs,” says Jami Alexan­der, foster par­ent and direc­tor of fam­ily ser­vices. “So it is a huge help to have the out­side per­son (CASA vol­un­teer) com­ing in and help­ing to de­cide what the best path is for the child.

Alexan­der says that some funds go to as­sist­ing CASAs with out-of­pocket ex­penses for ex­pe­ri­ences that most of us take for granted. Ex­pe­ri­ences such as swim par­ties, roller skat­ing, hol­i­day fes­tiv­i­ties, and even see­ing the snow for the first time.

If run­ning isn’t your superpower, you can still sup­port CASA by cruis­ing through the Health and Well­ness Fair where you can meet with lo­cal den­tists, gyms, and pub­lic health groups. And don’t for­get to stroll down Su­per­hero Al­ley, where fam­i­lies can en­joy free fun with live en­ter­tain­ment, games, and a photo booth.


Chil­dren run dur­ing the CASA Su­per­hero Run last Oc­to­ber at Lodi Lake. This year’s run will be held on Satur­day at Lodi Lake.

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