Four siblings came to the United States from Puerto Rico last June and within weeks were placed in the city’s foster care system.
Manolo Rodriquez, 15, Kevin Rodriquez, 13, Maryelly Ramos, 10, and a five year-old boy, whose name can’t be shared because he is still under guardianship of his biological mother, are among the 15,889 children currently in foster care in the city. Of those children, nearly 2,552 are in foster care programs throughout Queens and 662 of that population are Latinos, yet there are hardly enough foster parents to take in these children.
“Kids come to us but we don’t have foster parents for them,” said Mary Odom, assistant executive director at SCO Family of Services, a program that offers foster care placement throughout New York City.
Through federal guidelines the agency must place a child in any home regardless of race, religion or culture, but Odom said that the agency tries to place children within their same culture or community, especially if those children are older.
“There are fewer traumas if we have a home culturally familiar,” Odom said.
Manolo and his siblings were among the lucky few who were able to find foster parents soon after they were placed in the city’s system and in homes that share their same language since none of the children speak English.
Though SCO Family Services try to keep siblings together, Odom said sometimes foster parents just don’t have enough space for a lot of children. Manolo, Kevin, Maryelly and their newborn sister were placed in the care of Maria Jimenez, while the five-year-old brother was placed with Marisela Arroyo. Both foster mothers said they have become a family through the children.
The siblings were placed in foster care because of abuse.
“My sister’s father used to hit us,” said Manolo Rodriquez. “We lived with him for about 11 years.”
As of now, the children’s biological mother only has parental rights for the five-year-old son and the step-father is no longer around. Maryelly, along with her newborn sister, is currently in the process of being adopted by their foster mother. Manolo and Kevin are waiting to return to Puerto Rico, where their biological father is trying to gain full custody of them.
For information on the agency or how to become a foster parent call 718-657-0234 or visit www.sco.org.
To comment on this story please go to qns.com.