La Mesa Executive Making a Difference in the Lives of Foster Children

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In just over two years as executive director at Angels Foster Family Network, La Mesa resident Jeff Wiemann has created unprecedented growth for the organization, nearly doubling its annual budget to $2.35 million and increasing the number of families served by 40 percent. It is a start, he said, but there is much more work to be done.

In just over two years as executive director at Angels Foster Family Network, La Mesa resident Jeff Wiemann has created unprecedented growth for the organization, nearly doubling its annual budget to $2.35 million and increasing the number of families served by 40 percent. It is a start, he said, but there is much more work to be done.

With more than 1,400 children under the age of five in the foster care system in San Diego County, there is a great need for families willing to provide long-term care, especially for sibling sets.

“The awful reality is that when the County (Department of Child Welfare) calls, we can only meet one in three requests,” said Wiemann.

He is on a mission to change that.

May is National Foster Care Month, and also when Angels Foster Family Network holds its annual gala. This year it will be at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa on May 20. The goal is to raise funds to expand its education, training, and support for foster families.

Wiemann feels there is a lot of misinformation about what it means to be a foster family. He said people assume foster children are juvenile delinquents.

“I tell our new families not to watch anything on Lifetime or the Hallmark channels because they are not an accurate reflection of fostering,” he said. “It’s actually an amazing gift because when you bring a young child into your home and show them love, their brains can be rewired for connection with other people.”

Wiemann should know. Before working for Angels, his family fostered a baby. His wife and four children not only adored their new foster brother, Wiemann enjoyed working with the biological father so he could reunify with his son. The relationship started on a rocky note because the father had preconceived notions about foster care and thought Wiemann was trying to take away his child.

“As soon as he realized that we were completely supporting reunification with him, and realized that we were providing his son with love, care, and attention, he realized that we were all on the same team,” said Wiemann.

This led to a close connection the two men still share today.

Wiemann said he also hears from people that they are afraid they will become attached to a foster child, and saying goodbye will be difficult. He said those fears are justified, but that the benefits far outweigh the cost of what Wiemann described as the hole in his heart. Moreover, though, he says being a foster family was amazing.

“I encourage people to come to an orientation at Angels and hear from foster families, former foster parents, get real facts about the ups and downs so they can make an honest decision,” he said. “They may decide they can do respite care when other families go out of town for the weekend, they may decide they want to go through the screening and training process to become a foster family, or they may realize that they can help foster children in another way.”

Looking forward, Wiemann has set his sights on increasing fundraising by 25 percent this year.

“The more we raise, the more we can do for foster children, families, and the San Diego community as a whole,” he said.

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