As much as Aylee Rhea loves what she does for living, she also wishes there was not a need for her work. She would love to see all children have a home to go to, with parents who love and support them in their growing process. Then, the use for outside social workers would not be needed.

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Aylee Rhea has a passion for the seemingly unloved. As a Child Placing Coordinator for the Therapeutic Foster Care Program she has seen the need for foster families growing in the community. Photo courtesy: Aylee Rhea

But that is not the case. Aylee, who is currently working at GOBHI (Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc.) as child placing coordinator for the Therapeutic Foster Program, has seen the need for foster families only grow. She says that the program received 274 referrals last year, but were only able to serve 15 youth. “To me, this is tragic as those youth end up in a higher level of care in an institutionalized setting, furthering the belief that they don’t deserve a loving family,” Aylee says.

Many youth are currently sitting in the institution waiting to turn 18-years-old and then be released. “As most people are aware of, parenting does not magically end at 18, and unfortunately those youth will likely end up in another institutionalized setting we are familiar with, prison,” Aylee says. These young people do not have anybody who they could call, or who would support them after they are released to be on their own.

“I would love to have more foster homes in the area and want to get rid of the stigma that you have to have a ton of experience or be ‘perfect,’ to be a foster parent,” Aylee says. She always reminds her foster parents that their job is to have a relationship with the foster child and show them love. “The children learn from the imperfect things we do. The imperfect provides us with the opportunities for growth and humility.”

Aylee Rhea is very motivated to build people up and all the foster parents in the GOBHI program receive a great amount of support in both financial and emotional forms.

“At GOBHI Foster Care, we certify both full time foster parents and respite care that can be as little as one weekend in month,” she explains. “The Therapeutic Foster Program serves youth in Oregon at the ages of 4-17 that have been through trauma and are in need of a supportive, loving environment in which to heal and gain life skills.”

The Therapeutic Foster Program uses a method called Collaborative Problem Solving with the youth that teaches them how to process their thoughts and really helps build intrinsic motivation.

Passion to Help Those who are Seemingly Unloved

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Aylee Rhea dreams of a day when she is out of a job because every child has a loving home. Photo courtesy: Aylee Rhea

Aylee Rhae grew up in Sequim, a small coastal town in Washington, similar to the Oregon Coast in climate and beauty. She has always loved the beach and only left the region to attend Corban University in Salem where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in business. Her calling to the career of serving others begin with her mom, who did foster care and adopted three children by the time Aylee was a teenager.

“I have a passion for the lost and seemingly unloved and have a desire to express to them both their value and worth,” Aylee says. She loves to advocate for those who need help seeing their potential and worthiness to be loved by a family.

Aylee has served both the elderly and the young during her career, and she has always wanted to help give people the tools to achieve their goals. She sees herself as a servant to others no matter her position, whether she is acting as the executive director of an organization or helping a child or parents in their situation.

Aylee admits that her job can be very stressful at times as children that have been through a lot of trauma have developed many type of skills to keep them safe. Those skills are sometimes referred to as maladaptive. “People may be more familiar with the term behavior instead of skills, but we like to think of them as skills as they helped the youth through the trauma they endured and served them at that point of their life,” Aylee says. She adds that personal connections and love is imperative to our growth as human beings.

To a social worker it is also important to learn to manage stress, as burnout is high due to the emotional toll. Aylee seeks support from family and friends when she gets too overwhelmed. Her own family, husband Levi and their four children, provide her the best balance outside of her work. She also likes to read, though most of the time she is looking for new information to help those she serves.

“I would love to have the opportunity to work myself out of a job by giving biological parents the tools they need to break generational, or whatever hindrance they have, to parenting,” says Aylee. So long as help is needed, she is motivated to continue to make a difference where she can, being an important link between children in need and families who could provide them a safe haven even for a short season.

Be The Difference Event

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Their April 24 event hopes to find more people who are willing to help. Photo courtesy: Aylee Rhea

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and many local social care organizations are coming together at the Be the Difference event on April 24 in Astoria. The purpose of the event is to create awareness, to share information of local services and reach the community to find more volunteers who would like to support the youth. There is growing need for foster families, or volunteers who could help with other programs that are already established in the community. Some of the non-profit organizations that are involved with the event are The Harbor, Clatsop CASA, Lunch Buddies, GOBHI Foster Care, VOCA, DHS Child Welfare and FosterClub. These organizations serve local people in many different cases such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental health and legal issues.

“We are looking for people who would like to learn of opportunities to serve youth,” says Aylee. There will be local school choirs and other musicians sharing their talents, many activities for children and snack food.

The event will be held at the Guy Boyton Building, 857 Commercial Street, Astoria, from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

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