Nonprofit starting up to support foster parents in Great Falls area

Two foster moms in Great Falls are working to create a new non-profit with the goal of developing a support network for foster families in the community.

Nikki Davalos and her friend Kat Whitish are both foster parents and had noticed a lot of unmet needs for foster families, so they started working to create Linking Our Voices Everyday or LOVE.

Among their circle of foster parents, many said they need more training and that it would be nice to have events or social gatherings, as well as resources and a place to share books, clothing or supplies for foster kids of all ages as they cycle through local homes.

Davalos said they want to help pay for extracurricular activities such as sports, band equipment and other expenses.

“We want to provide these kids with normalcy,” Davalos said.

They’re working with state agencies to help fill gaps from state budget shortfalls and ensure their efforts are inline with requirements for foster families set by those agencies.

Their biggest hurdle right now and first fundraising goal is to come up with the $800-$900 fee for registering as a nonprofit.

They’ve created a Go Fund Me page to support that effort.

A long-range goal is to shift the public perception of the foster program.

“There’s such a negative outlook on foster parenting right now,” Davalos said. “We’re wanting to change that view. There are some bad apples, but we want to make sure kids get the services they need while they’re with us.”

Statewide, there are currently 3,929 children in foster care, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

Davalos and her husband have three foster children currently, and since they started fostering about three years ago, 22 children have come through their home.

“We don’t have enough homes,” she said.

There are people going through the process to become foster parents, but it takes time, she said. After going through the application and background check process, there’s a foster parent class and parents have to annually certify and do certain amounts of training each year.

It would be more efficient, Davalos said, if foster parents could do some of that training together and also share experiences since every parent has their own area of expertise.

Davalos said they started a Facebook group and that her and Whitish have contact with about 60 families in the Great Falls area. Davalos said people in Billings contacted her asking if they could replicate the Facebook group and she’s hoping to eventually grow LOVE statewide.

“There’s the need for it all over the state,” she said.

The goal in most cases is reunification with the foster child’s parents, but it can be an emotional experience for everyone involved.

“There’s a rollercoaster of emotions. We want to smooth the rollercoaster as much as possible because burnout is easy,” Davalos said.

The nonprofit is entirely volunteer based and all funds raised go into the foster children, services or events, she said.