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Changing Lives and Building Families: The Heart of Hillside Foster, Adoption, and Kinship Services

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Learn more about Hillside from director Jean Galle

By: Johanna Elattar

Hillside Foster, Adoption, and Kinship Services, an organization with a rich history of caring and dedication to youth and families, continues to be a beacon of hope and support for those who have experienced trauma and challenges. In an exclusive interview with Jean Galle, the director of foster care services at Hillside, who has dedicated two decades of her life to the organization, we gained insight into the organization’s mission, values, and the critical services it provides to the community.

Hillside, founded in 1837 as the Rochester Orphan Asylum, has come a long way over its 185-year history. While it began as an orphanage, the organization has evolved to offer a comprehensive range of services that address the complex needs of children and families. Today, Hillside is known for its therapeutic foster care, kinship foster care support, foster-to-adopt programs, and respite care.

Currently, Hillside provides a safe and nurturing environment for 130 children in foster homes, with ages ranging from under 5 for regular foster care to 5-21 for therapeutic foster care. One remarkable aspect of Hillside’s services is the dedication to supporting foster parents and the children in their care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Care coordinators, nurses, and “home finders” are just some of the professionals who ensure that children receive the best possible care.

Hillside’s commitment extends beyond the foster children; they also work closely with the biological families of these children. They assist with court orders, arrange supervised visits, and advocate for the essential connection between children and their biological families.

Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hillside continued its critical work, ensuring that children received the support they needed while adhering to strict safety measures. Home visits and face-to-face interactions with children remained a priority during these challenging times.

There are many misconceptions about foster care, and Hillside is actively working to dispel them. One common misconception is regarding fostering teenagers. While it can be challenging, many teenagers simply crave love and a permanent home. Similarly, some may believe that biological families do not care about their children; in reality, most of these families love their children deeply and want what’s best for them.

However, despite these misconceptions, there remains a pressing need for more awareness and more foster families. The shortage of foster parents is a reality in many communities, and Hillside is dedicated to recruiting and supporting individuals and families willing to open their hearts and homes.

Director Jean Galle expresses her pride in the opportunity to allow children to be children, to provide them with a sense of permanency and stability in their lives, and to help them thrive despite adversity.

To engage with the community and raise awareness about their services, Hillside Foster, Adoption, and Kinship Services are hosting several upcoming events:

  • Maple Fest – Hornell Broadway St – October 14th, 12 pm-6 pm
  • YMCA Trunk or Treat – Olean – October 27th, 6:30 pm-8:30 pm
  • Sparkle – Corning – December 2nd, 5 pm-9 pm

For those interested in learning more about becoming foster parents or getting involved in Hillside’s mission, there are two upcoming information sessions:

  • October 4th and November 1st – 6 pm-8 pm via Zoom (Access code: 5852567517)

Hillside’s philosophy of service is deeply rooted in being family-driven, youth-guided, trauma-informed, and culturally competent. Their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion ensures that all individuals are accepted, heard, valued, and given a voice. Excellence is the standard, with high-quality, evidence-based practices and continuous improvement at the core of their work.

In the face of adversity and change, Hillside Foster, Adoption, and Kinship Services have stood as a pillar of strength, proving that love, care, and support can transform lives and communities. As they continue to expand their reach and programs, Hillside’s legacy of caring endures, offering hope to those who need it most.

Johanna Elattar is a Hornell NY based writer with national experience. She focuses on human interest and community news. You can reach her anytime with story ideas, hauntedhill@yandex.com

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