|There are no paid positions in our foundation. Every dollar is used to
provide MORE than just the basics for the children and to keep siblings
|VENTURA COUNTY STAR Readmoreatvcstar.com
Foundation seeks more than basics for foster kids
By Cynthia Overweg Sunday, December 20, 2009
When Bill Formanek talks about the unmet needs of children living in foster care, he is passionate about
giving them a future that is not defined by the trauma of the past.
And when he mentions his goal of raising millions of dollars to help them get a fair start in life, he's not
discouraged that it comes at a time when state and county budgets are being slashed and charitable giving
isn't what it used to be.
"I don't care if money is tight; these kids need a lot more than a roof over their heads and food on the table,"
said Formanek, a Camarillo-based foster care provider and a board member of the Ventura County Foster
"Long before a child is removed from a home, they've already experienced an awful lot of trauma, abuse or
neglect that has gone on for years," Formanek said. "No child should ever have to experience what many of
these kids have gone through."
A year ago, Formanek, 48, the owner of a Thousand Oaks upholstery business, created The Children Come
First Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission, he said, is to help kids in the foster care system
realize their full potential in a loving and nurturing environment.
Goal of $4.2 million
A single father of a 20-year-old son he adopted out of foster care at age 3, Formanek said he knows from
experience that not every foster home is a happy place.
"My son had never even walked on grass before; everything was concrete. What little yard there was, (it was)
nothing but dirt," Formanek said. It motivated him to improve the lives of children in foster care, he said.
Formanek said he applauds the good intentions and hard work of foster parents, and started the foundation
to help offset diminishing resources and an overburdened foster care system in Ventura County.
His foundation has an ambitious set of objectives, including a college endowment fund and job training
programs for kids when they "age-out" of the foster care system at 18 or 21; parenting seminars and support
programs for foster families; specifically designed programs for foster parents with older kids or kids with
special needs; and grants for home repairs that enhance the foster home environment.
To put his plans into action, Formanek wants to raise $4-2 million, which includes funding to build a
Children's Ranch in Ventura County and at least one foster home with six bedrooms, enough room to keep
some siblings from being split up.
"It happens much too often because most foster homes don't have enough space to keep brothers and
sisters together," Formanek said.
He said the proposed ranch would be a haven for foster families, a place where kids could ride horses,
participate in sports activities, and attend educational and cultural programs that connect kids to nature, to
one another and to the community.
The goals of his foundation would make life better for kids in the foster care system, said Vicki Murphy,
director of development and operations for Casa Pacifica, a residential treatment program for at-risk
youths in Camarillo.
These kids have been let down by the very people who were supposed to love them. Bill understands that
and knows how to provide stability and build trust," Murphy said. "I can't think of a better advocate for
kids in foster care." We have recently closed our small children cottages and so what Bill is doing is
essential to our community
Janet Gretzky - who with her husband, retired Hall of Fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky, has helped
thousands of disadvantaged kids through their own foundation - is an adviser to Formanek and is lending
"I've known Bill for years, and he's dedicated to making a difference for these kids," said Gretzky, who lives in
Thousand Oaks. "I want to help in any way I can."
Recruiting foster parents
Formanek is bringing much-needed attention to a lack of resources and the necessity for more foster homes,
said Kari Garmin, placement coordinator at Ventura County Children and Family Services.
"We're now actively recruiting foster parents who are willing to take in older kids, kids with special needs and
kids who have medical and behavioral problems; the need is great," she said.
Most kids in foster care have never had a loving and stable home life because they come from very
dysfunctional situations, said Pegi Stenberg, owner of Pegi's Family Child Care in Camarillo and a
foundation board member.
"Bill wants to give them hope," Stenberg said, "and help them create a fulfilling life."
- For information or to contribute, individuals may contact The Children Come First Foundation, 2890
Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks CA 91362, or call 794-8363 or visit http://www.
© 2010 Scripps Newspaper Group