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Commonwealth Catholic Charities in need of bilingual foster parents

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“I think there is always a need to have more bilingual parents. I can count on one hand how many parents we have who speak Spanish. So, it is a need for us to be able to invite more bilingual families to come and do this for us, for our children,” Commonwealth Catholic Charities COO Anita Wallen said. (Photo: Keyris Manzanares/VPM News)

Commonwealth Catholic Charities is calling for more bilingual foster parents to join it in providing forever homes. 

Chief Operating Officer Anita Wallen told VPM News Focal Point that there’s a critical need for foster parents who speak languages other than English. 

“I think there is always a need to have more bilingual parents. I can count on one hand how many parents we have who speak Spanish. So, it is a need for us to be able to invite more bilingual families to come and do this for us, for our children,” Wallen said. 

CCC not only caters to children in the domestic foster care system, but it also is one of three programs in Virginia that care for those who come to the United States as unaccompanied refugees. 

“These are children who are under the age of 18 but have left their home country and arrived here with no other forms of support. They do not have any family here, they do not have any resources that can depend on. So, they're entirely dependent on us,” Wallen said. “The children come from everywhere: They’re from Central America, from Africa. We have children who have come from Asia. So, they stay with us till they turn 21.”  

Jeneba Kone was born in Ivory Coast, but she grew up in Liberia. She was placed into CCC’s care after arriving as a refugee from Liberia in 2015. She wasn’t placed in a bilingual household, but she said communication would have been easier if she was.  

“I think some things will have been different than it was. Because if you are bilingual and you come from somewhere else, you're going to understand exactly what the other person is going through,” Kone said. 

Kone said that her foster parents from CCC have always worked hard to connect with her.  

“They accept me for who I am. And they respect my holidays, they celebrate with me. They [treat me like I wanted to be treated.] They are just very open-minded. They don't force me to do anything I don't want to do,” Kone said. 

Melisa Bates, who works for CCC, is dedicated to recruiting families from all backgrounds to fill in the gaps. 

“We have such a diverse group of children from all over the world. We are one of the few programs in state of Virginia [with] international foster care. [For] these children, English is not their first language,” Bates said. 

Bates spends a lot of time with children in her role. She also helps with recruiting events at CCC that bring the organization closer to reaching potential foster parents. 

“It's hard being in foster care. It's very hard for these youth to be in a new setting, in a new country. And if they could have the opportunity to be connected with a foster family that was able to communicate with them in their language, I feel it would be beneficial for the youth to adapt and understand a little more easily,” Bates added. 

Adrienne Lambert has been a foster mom with CCC for 18 years. In that time, she has fostered 14 international children. Her latest foster son is from Haiti. 

“When John came first to stay with me, he came with this little Haitian Creole dictionary, that was a picture dictionary. We would sit and chat about different words; I like to remember words that sound a lot like English. So, he was sharing all the little words,” Lambert said. “And then of course, by the end of our little session each day, I still couldn't say a word in Creole other than ‘Bonjour’ in French, because he does speak French, Creole, Spanish, and now English. So, he's got me beat and he's only been in the country probably three years.”  

Although Lambert hasn’t picked up a second language, she said she’s been able to provide a loving home. 

“Children can read your vibes, as long as you're smiling and there's love and they feel like they can trust you right away, you really don't have to have a lot of language, just a lot of love and compassion is what you really need,” Lambert said.