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Marin Living Magazine/October 2023

Get to Know the Marin Foster Care Association

It was midnight when Ashley Hurd and her husband got the call. The voice on the phone said, “We have a warrant to detain this child and she’ll be at your house in three hours. Will you say yes?” recalls Hurd, executive director of the Marin Foster Care Association, describing how their first foster child appeared in their lives. “I asked my husband what he thought and we said yes.”

That was the first of eight more kids the San Rafael couple, who also have a biological son now age 10, would foster. And that experience gives Hurd a keen insight into the struggles and rewards of being a foster parent.

The organization got started in 2003 as a chapter of the California State Foster Parent Association and served mainly as a support group for foster families. In 2015, it broke away and started to carve a new, more inclusive and comprehensive path that is beginning to be emulated by the state.

“People think that we exaggerate when we say that kids are coming into foster care with just a trash bag full of stuff. I will say that in fact that is what actually happens. A lot of our babies have come literally in just a diaper,” Hurd says. “When they leave us they have a wardrobe and they have all their toys and they have their memories — we always make a memory book for them from when they lived with us. We’re setting them up for success.”

A big part of how that is accomplished is through the association’s unique resource center in its Terra Linda facility. “There is nothing like it in the Bay Area,” Hurd says.

But it’s more than that: the center also now offers on-site therapy for foster families (now called resource families), relatives, kids and more. And the reasoning for a resource center is twofold: to support the kids and families but also to encourage foster parents to want to do it again for another child — 50 percent only wind up taking one placement.

The need in Marin is particularly great, as some 40 percent of foster youth from here are sent to families out of the area. “These are our community’s kids and I think it’s our community’s responsibility to support them — everyone should be jumping in and supporting the future,” Hurd says.

She explains that one powerful way to do that is to join a monthly webinar training held in partnership with the county and become a licensed and background-checked “friends of the family” member. “It’s a really unique program,” she says. “Again, it’s something that we need because we can’t always lean on other resource families because we all get burned out — so we can lean on other community members.”

In the end it’s all about giving kids a chance to have a better life no matter how badly it started. “One of the most surprising things for me is that there is a lot of beauty in it. Even in this really troubled system,” Hurd says. “And we’ve been able to grow our family in such a unique and special way.”

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