The number of Latino children in foster care more than doubled from 6.7 percent of the foster care population in 1982 to 19 percent in 2006, according to a fact sheet published by the Casey Latino Leadership Group.
A large percentage of Latino children placed in foster care are infants and toddlers. Surprisingly, they are also the hardest children to place in foster care homes.
In San Diego County, California' foster care system, it's recognized that there is a "silent crisis" in placing infants and toddlers. That's where the non-profit La Cuna comes in.
Founded in 2003, La Cuna is the only foster family agency in San Diego focused on providing services to Latino infants and toddlers. There are over 5,000 children in San Diego foster care. Over a third of these children are between 0 and 5 years old, and half are Latino.
La Cuna, which means "cradle" in Spanish, created a holistic approach to serving Latino foster children by including both the foster and biological parents in their services.
Additionally, La Cuna staff provides targeted outreach, in-house specialized foster parent training, therapeutic services to families, child advocacy work and mentoring to the biological parents the necessary parenting skills to hopefully reunify them with their children. To top it off, no La Cuna social worker works on more than 24 children caseloads at a time.
The defining difference with La Cuna versus traditional foster care agencies is that:
La Cuna programs and services prevent the adverse effects of multiple foster care placements by linking infants and toddlers with one and only one foster family until reunification with their biological family or permanent placement - i.e. adoption.
While the mission of La Cuna is to ensure that Latino foster infants and toddlers grow up safe, happy and healthy, La Cuna also strives to impact foster care for Latino children in other parts of the country.
For that reason, La Cuna created the National Institute of Foster Family Excellence.
Functioning as an education and resource center for public and private foster care service providers, the Institute also serves as a supportive resource for other cities to either start up their own branches of La Cuna or implement a model for excellence in foster care.
In turn, supporters can easily see the success rate of La Cuna: