Six kids in 14 years. Those are the foster parent stats of Celeste Bodner and her husband.
The first two kids were placed with the Bodners on the children's request, according to Celeste. The first two, and all but one that have come after, became part of the family.
"I guess our philosophy was always that our home could be a permanent place for them, if they wanted it to be," said Celeste.
Celeste's life revolves around children. There are children in her home, the youngest aged 4 and a foster child, and there are children in her work as the executive director of Foster Club.
What struck Celeste Bodner about the foster care process when the first two children came into their home, was how much support foster parents receive. There was emergency training to prepare the Bodners, access to other foster parents, packets, pamphlets and brochures, an avalanche of help.
The story was different for the children entering into the foster care system. There was no support, no one for them to speak to about their experiences.
"In 1999, I started Foster Club as a kitchen table project," she said. Her "kitchen-table project" is now a nonprofit network offering children in the foster care system support through a Web site, summer internships for those who have gone through the foster care system but aged out of it, and publications aimed toward kids.
Bodner grew up in Seaside but moved away in her ninth grade year. She and her family relocated to Seaside from Portland in 2002. Along with establishing their home on the North Coast, she established a home office of sorts for Foster Club.
She says that the six children who have stayed in her home is a more usual story than the stories of 200 kids being paraded through one house. Bodner and her family remain in close contact with five of the children they fostered.
"We're trying to do a lot of work dispelling the stigmas," said Bodner from her small office.
Part of that dispelling of stigmas is now being funded by the largest grant Foster Club has received. The organization was awarded a grant of just over $500,000 by the Pew Charitable Trust.
Along with dispelling stigmas, the funding is being applied to growing Foster Club to reach more children. That growth goal has been justified by the invitation of Foster Club children to speak before the United States Congress.
"We have led two Congressional briefings and participated in six," said Bodner.
Her other goals for the group are creating better situations for the children going through the foster care system.
"Clatsop County is desperate for foster parents," she said. "And, for Foster Club, I would love it if every kid who entered foster care had access to information on how to advocate for themselves."
Bodner also pointed to an Oregon State law mandating that Native American foster children be placed in another Native American home. On the North Coast, she said that there were no certified tribal homes, meaning Native American children from the North Coast were being removed from the community when placed in foster care.
She urged anyone interested in becoming a foster parent to call the Department of Human Services at (503) 325-9179 and said anyone interested in volunteering or donating money to Foster Club should call (503) 717-1552.
"We'd welcome anyone who wants to work with us," she said. "I just know that once people in the community met these kids they would want to get involved."
For her part, Bodner will be off on another trip to the East Coast soon, continuing to advocate for the children she first fell in love with when they entered her own home 14 years ago.