Book Recommendation: Another Place at the Table

By Jordan Upton

Kathy Harrison used to struggle for an answer to the common question, “What do you do?” After decades of experience, Kathy now has a ready reply: “I do some writing and some teaching, but my important job is being a foster mother.”

Toothbrush.jpg

Kathy explores her family and life choices in her highly rated book, Another Place at the Table. Published in 2003, the book details many of Kathy’s experiences fostering children in need. At the time of publication, she had fostered 100 children. Now in 2018, she has fostered 153.

In her book, Kathy describes how she found her calling to “offer a small island of safety in an unsafe and terrifying world.” After raising three biological sons, Kathy went to work in a Head Start program. She dealt daily with children in need, seeing them placed in foster care and fast-tracked for adoption. She and her husband decided to foster-to-adopt a pair of siblings from the Head Start program, after which Kathy began her full-time commitment to foster care. “I chose to devote myself to caring for the state’s neediest children,” she wrote.

Kathy and her husband were awarded Massachusetts Foster Parents of the Year in 1996. In 2002 they were awarded the Goldie Rogers Memorial Award for embodying Goldie’s ‘spirit of dedication and commitment to foster parenting and advocacy efforts’. In 2003, Kathy was featured as one of People magazine’s ‘Heroes Among Us’.

Another Place at the Table is an excellent read for current foster parents, those considering becoming a foster parent, and those who are curious to know more about the system in general. Kathy writes about heartbreaking situations and difficult children but manages to keep a positive attitude and a sense of hopefulness. She believes in the goodness of people and the ability to make a positive impact on children’s lives through patience and compassion. Through her writing, Kathy empowers readers to “live a life that matters, a life that makes a difference”.

Read reviews and see why Another Place at the Table has been rated 4.2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/391081.Another_Place_at_the_Table

Read more about Kathy Harrison here: http://www.helpourkidsinc.org/foster-hero-kathy-harrison/

Partnership Made in Heaven

by Lisa Brewer

Lisa Brewer serves as Executive Director of Carolina Bible Camp Bluegrass Festival.

For the past two years, AGAPE of NC has sponsored the Kids’ Activities tent at Carolina Bible Camp Bluegrass Festival. The event is the nation’s only bluegrass festival held at a Bible camp promoting Bible study and wholesome recreation. In fact, it might just be the most family-friendly festival around. And that works out well for a partnership between CBC and AGAPE.

More than two thousand guests have visited the festival on the second Saturday of September since AGAPE began sponsoring a children’s area. Multi-generational families with members of all ages have enjoyed the best in bluegrass artists, tasty meals, a classic car show, and a variety of free crafts activities. The AGAPE of NC’s Kids’ Activities tent has featured Bible crafts, recyclables for art projects, a Bible coloring page and free face painting. Each year, a “Save the Date” coloring page has been designed by artist and CBC camper, Melea Womack, of the Charlotte area (she doubles as a face painter).

Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 3.54.45 PM.png

“Our involvement with Carolina Bible Camp Bluegrass Festival began because we wanted to increase our own organization's profile,” said AGAPE of NC ExecutiveDirector, Kimberly Scott. “The festival gave us a very appropriate venue in which to do that. What makes this a great place for AGAPE to be is the audience. Guests who attend this event believe in family values. And if they have not experienced strong families before, we can demonstrate what they look like here.”

The annual bluegrass festival is a fundraiser for the Bible camp’s capital development and scholarship funds. No child has ever been turned away from Carolina Bible Camp due to an inability to pay. In fact, every camper’s fee is kept low and supplemented by the fundraiser.

Performing artists are chosen carefully by the festival committee to ensure family-friendly listening. Alcohol and tobacco products are not permitted at the Camp at any time, including during the festival.

Carolina Bible Camp is situated on sixty-eight wooded acres in Mocksville, NC. Cabins are rustic in design with modern accommodations including heat, air-conditioning, and private bathrooms. A dining hall with commercial grade kitchen comfortably seats 250 at one time. Outdoor activities include walking trails, in-ground pool (open during summer camp weeks only), beach volleyball, jungle gym, disc golf and more. The largest outdoor shelter is a popular gathering spot for a cappella singing during camping weeks.  During the bluegrass festival, it becomes a Pickers’ Place for instrumentalists who want to “jam.” More than 100 volunteers work together to create a memorable family festival experience for guests.

In addition to sponsoring the Kids’ Activities tent, Scott and other AGAPE representatives promoted AGAPE at a separate booth at the bluegrass festival.

“This has given us a means to engage with festival guests directly,” Scott explained. “We have had many special conversations about exploring foster family service and supporting AGAPE’s mission in various ways."

“We believe in the healing qualities of music, fun, and fellowship,” Scott said. “Those activities are so important to families, and they are highlighted at Carolina Bible Camp Bluegrass Festival. With Christ as the foundation of the Camp and the foundation of AGAPE, we know we are at the right place to share Christ as the foundation of the family.”

The seventh annual Carolina Bible Camp Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 8, 2018. Performing artists include Grammy winner Alison Brown; acclaimed Bobby Hicks, Mark Kuykendal & Asheville Bluegrass; returning favorite Tim White & Troublesome Hollow; 2017 MerleFest band competition winners The Trailblazers; 2016 MerleFest band competition winners Fireside Collective; the popular Snyder Family Band; and famed pre-war stringband musician Dwight “Sawman” Hawkins. For more information, please contact Lisa Brewer at spchwoman@ aol.com or visit www.cbcbluegrass.com.

Board of Directors Profile: Meet Vice Chairman Joe Hall

By Jordan Upton

thankfulus.png

AGAPE of North Carolina could not run as efficiently or productively if it were not for the help of our amazing and diverse staff, volunteers, and board members. The board of directors is made up of various members of the community who help maintain AGAPE’s pursuit of excellence. Each of these members bring a unique yet equally important aspect to the organization, which allows growth, new perspectives, and expert problem solving. The board is made up of various positions, each of which holding a particular purpose and integral for the board to function well. The positions rotate every few years allowing for new faces and fresh ideas to be brought to these posts. The members of the board, who live across parts of North Carolina and in various states across the U.S., meet quarterly either in person or via teleconference to discuss the future plans with AGAPE and to ensure the organization is running at its highest potential.

One of these board members is Mr. Joe Hall, of Claremont, North Carolina. Mr. Hall is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Air Force. After spending 20-plus years traveling the country, Joe and his wife of 34 years, Cathy, ended up in Kansas. There, the couple with their two biological children, fostered a two-month-old daughter, Kimi. Shortly after, Kimi had three other siblings brought in to be fostered by the Hall family. Three years later, all four children were adopted by Joe and Cathy. The family then moved to North Carolina where Joe teaches JROTC at Bunker Hill High School.

Lt. Col. Hall became involved with AGAPE after viewing a presentation former Director Tom Slaughter made at a church service one morning recruiting potential volunteers, foster families, donors, and sharing the message of AGAPE. Shortly after Joe became a board member where he has now served in various capacities including Vice Chairman and Chairman over the past seven years.

AGAPE is blessed to have people such as Lt. Col. Hall be a part of our organization and thank him and his family, as well as families like his, for all of the work they do for AGAPE.

Making Lemonade for Those Given Lemons

By Jordan Upton

AGAPE of N.C. is incredibly blessed to have such helpful, thoughtful, and compassionate donors and volunteers. This help comes in various ways, whether it be by donating monetarily, donating their time, or even sharing AGAPE’s social media posts to raise the public’s awareness of the organization. While any and all support for AGAPE is greatly appreciated, one of the most special stories of our volunteers is that of 11-year-old Meredith Finch.

In June of 2017 the Finch family, Craig, Cara, and their daughter Meredith had three foster children placed with them from AGAPE. After the arrival of the three children, the then 10-year-old Meredith saw that children in foster care have very few personal effects to call their own and was determined to help in any way she could. This led her to build and paint, with the help of her grandfather and mother, a lemonade stand. Meredith sets up either at home or outside of a family friend’s store in town. The money made over the course of a few months from September of 2017 to the end of the year was over $300. With the profits, Meredith bought toothbrushes, pajamas, blankets, toys, and anything else she felt foster children would need. The remaining funds Meredith had were donated directly to AGAPE.

Lemonblog.png

So far this year, after only being open twice, Meredith’s lemonade stand has raised close to $300 and shows no sign of slowing down. Meredith’s mother, Cara, explained that the kindness of strangers has led to the accumulation of the money donated to AGAPE. After learning the money is going to the organization some people do not even purchase the ice cold lemonade or delicious cookies. Meredith advertises AGAPE’s website and those who simply want to give are directed to the donate page of the website.

AGAPE is honored to have people like Meredith and her family associated with the organization. If you or anyone you know would like to help donate time, supplies, or money to AGAPE please visit https://www.agapeofnc.org/donate/.

Maintaining Relationships Between Past Foster Parents and Foster Children

by Carrie Craft

liveabout.com
eye-for-ebony-415494-unsplash.jpg

Connections are important to a child.  When caregivers change, sometimes without the child understanding why, it can send the wrong message to the child that they are not loved or worthy.  Finding creative ways to keep a level of communication open with those that a child wants a relationship with can be very important and healthy. Today's article by Carrie Craft offers good advice on maintaining relationships.   

Source: https://www.liveabout.com/maintaining-rela...

What Does It Take To Become A Foster Parent?

By Jordan Upton

Have you thought about becoming a foster parent? Wondering what it may take?

juan-cruz-mountford-559414-unsplash.jpg

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services requires that potential foster parents meet these eligibility requirements:

●  Be at least 21 years old

●  Have a stable home and income

●  Maintain a drug free environment

●  Be willing to be finger printed and have a criminal records check

●  Complete all required training and be licensed by the state of North Carolina

  • AGAPE of NC asks also that foster parents are in good health, free from communicable diseases, and Christian.

If you meet these requirements and are interested in more information, please contact AGAPE of NC! Call the main office (919) 673-7816 or email kscott@agapeofnc.org and inform us of your interest in becoming a foster parent. You will be assigned to a social worker who can provide specific information and start the process. The social workers employed by AGAPE will always be there to provide 24/7 support.

Source: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/state-gu...

The Opioid Epidemic and Its Effects in North Carolina

By Jordan Upton

chuttersnap-425090-unsplash.jpg

Last year, Governor Roy Cooper announced a $31 million grant to address the opioid epidemic in North Carolina.

Gov. Cooper said, “This grant will help further our commitment to fight this epidemic that is destroying families and lives across our state. This is a problem we must solve for the safety and well-being of our citizens. Our families, friends and neighbors need our help.”

The grant is welcome relief to our community since four North Carolina cities rank among the nation’s worst for opioid abuse. The funds however are only being directed to prevention, treatment, and recovery supports for individuals with opioid use disorders.

There is no mention of increasing resources for the families, those indirectly impacted by another’s opioid abuse, which in most cases is children. According to Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center based in Maryland, about 32% of children nationwide entered foster care in 2015 because of parental substance abuse. North Carolina’s numbers were above the national average, with 39% of children entering foster care due to parental substance abuse.

During this epidemic, the health and safety of children are at risk, and we face an increasing need for compassionate foster parents. There were 10,324 children in NC’s foster care system at the last count by Child Trends. AGAPE of NC is ready to provide training and support for those who are interested in helping the most vulnerable of North Carolina’s citizens, the innocent children left in the wake of the opioid crisis.

Source: https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/upl...

Mayor Grateful To Start Family With Adoption

By Jordan Upton

london-scout-27289-unsplash.jpg

On May 22nd, the mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, announced that she has adopted a newborn baby. Mayor Bowser, now 45, became the youngest person and only the second woman to serve in the position when she was elected in 2015. In a statement released today, Bowser announced that she began the adoption process last year and it progressed quickly, allowing her to bring her baby home today. Bowser becomes a single mom with this adoption and she is committed to being a great mother as well as a strong leader for her community. “I am thrilled, nervous, and looking forward to each and every stage... I am so grateful to be able to start my family in this wonderful way” Bowser stated.

Adoption has allowed for Mayor Bowser to fulfill her wish of having a family of her own and additionally gives her newborn baby the gift of growing up in a loving, caring, and supportive home. Bowser is an excellent role model for those who wish to start a family and have exhausted other means and are perhaps exploring alternative routes, and is a champion for the adoption process.

Adoption and foster care changes the lives of all involved. It allows for the parent(s) to love and care for a child that needs it tremendously. AGAPE helps foster parents find the children who need them the most. Placing children into safe, caring environments offers them the best opportunity to grow into the strong, resilient, and important people that every child has the potential to be.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Family/washingt...

A Call for Partnerships

By Jordan Upton

rawpixel-653769-unsplash.jpg

AGAPE of North Carolina offers a lot of impactful programming for youth and families, and we would love to share more information about our organization with you!

In March 2018, we were pleased to attend the Southern Women’s Show at Wake Technical Community College and connect with women in the Triangle area.

We were excited for the opportunity to outreach more recently in western North Carolina. Early in June 2018, we were able to speak with members of the Abilene Church of Christ in Statesville.

We appreciate the opportunity to meet with people and have important conversations in person. As we increase our efforts to recruit potential foster families and spread the mission of AGAPE, we would welcome the opportunity to share our message with similar organizations.

For example, later in June, we’ll be visiting with members of the Kannapolis Church of Christ. We will also be participating in the annual Juneteenth celebration in Durham on Saturday, June 16.

If your church or community organization would like to hear more about AGAPE and our mission, please contact us! Call our main office at (919) 673-7816, or e-mail our office manager, Kaye Orander (korander@agapeofnc.org) to discuss the opportunities for partnership.

There are children in need in our area, and we believe our community can join together to positively impact their lives.

Staff Recommendation: Wards

an Online Literary Magazine

By Jordan Upton

pexels-photo-306534.jpeg

Wards is an online literary magazine founded in 2017, publishing a new issue semiannually where each issue focuses on a specific, dramatic, and difficult aspect of life. Each issue is compiled of submissions of poems, creative fiction, and short nonfiction stories taken from writers who have first-hand experience in these areas. The first issue of Wards which was published in the Winter of 2018 focuses on the topic of fostering. The editor, Rebecca Ogle, writes in her opening notes:

“In this issue, we feature writers who were considered wards of the state as children in foster care....Person-first language places the person before his or her circumstances. When we say foster children, we label young people. Like many labels, “foster” comes with baggage and stereotypes that stick. When we put the person first by saying child in foster care, we remind everyone listening to consider the individual without prejudice, and without placing undue limitations on them. This is the spirit with which I approached Foster, and I intend to approach future issue themes in a person-first way.”

Following the issue on foster care, Wards has also taken submissions on fire, which they describe as “open to firefighters, including municipal firefighters, wilderness managers, and rescue crews; their families; and anyone who has protected people or property from fire; including victims of fire”, and are currently taking submissions on the topic of borders: “Open to immigrants and their children; also to border personnel, and residents of border towns.”

The first issue is free to download as a PDF, and submissions are open to be published in the following two editions. If you are interested in submitting, donating to help the magazine, learning more, or reading the submissions, go to https://www.wardslitmag.com/.

YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM IS A KEY TO YOUR LONGEVITY AS A FOSTER PARENT

By Jonathan Rockoff 

Jonathan Rockoff is a Training Specialist with the Family and Children’s Resource Program at the UNC School of Social Work.

For years I had the honor of working alongside some of the most selfless people I have ever met, individuals who opened their homes and hearts to children with a multitude of needs. These unheralded heroes I refer to are the foster parents of North Carolina. They are without doubt one of the most precious resources in the child welfare system.

When someone makes the decision to become a foster parent, they embark on one of the most rewarding journeys they will ever take. Yet if they aren’t prepared, this journey can be surprisingly brief. Consider this: one study of data from three states found that between 47% and 62% of foster parents quit fostering within one year of the first placement in their home (Gibbs, 2005).

What is it that enables some families to make it past that first year? In my experience, one of the most important factors is a strong support system.

Your Support System Is Key

During pre-service training, agencies ask prospective resource parents to think about who they have in their life that will support them as they face the challenges that come with fostering. Though this makes a lot of sense, many new resource parents don’t realize how critical this is to their future success. Their vision of a support system is limited to someone to provide occasional respite, answer a question here and there, and be a sounding board.

A support system can be all these things, of course, but it can and should be much more. Each child in care is different. So is every foster family. Each has different needs and types of support that will empower them to success.

Family and Friends

Family and friends are the foundation of support for many resource parents. For example, I have seen a single mother with no prior parenting experience and a full-time job beautifully parent two children under the age of one in large part thanks to her support system.

helena-lopes-459331-unsplash.jpg

While this was an extremely strong-willed and resilient parent in her own right, before accepting the placements, she already had an established and benevolent support system in place. She had a dear family friend and a sister nearby she knew she could rely on, even when times were tough. They were fully on board. She spoke to them before becoming a foster parent and explained what she would need help with. They told her they would help whenever possible, and they lived up to this commitment.

 

Community Groups

The community can also play a big role lifting resource families up. For instance, I have seen families rely on church networks for reassurance, guidance, and support. I’ve also seen businesses and volunteer organizations donate time and tangible items to resource families. At one appreciation dinner, various groups gave their time, food, gifts, and talents to give foster parents an enjoyable evening and to let them know they are valued by their community.

Here’s another example. I knew several families that participated in a support group for foster and adoptive families called Mercy for America’s Children (http://www.mac-cares.org/), which is based in Wake Forest, NC. Once they became licensed, this group gave families opportunities to obtain continuing education, participate in events and trips, and be a part of a network of other foster and adoptive families that could provide support and genuine empathy.

The Role of Agencies

Agencies’ role in supporting foster families should not be overlooked, either. Agencies can best support their families by valuing them, providing trauma-informed training, listening to them, and being responsive. Turnover is less likely when foster parents feel heard and backed by their agency.

I have worked with several families who felt comfortable reaching out to their supervising agency for assistance with challenging child behaviors, guidance, and to serve as a sounding board to constructively solve problems. The families that felt more comfortable openly communicating with their supervising agencies were more likely to stick around and care for more children over time.

Well-supported foster parents are also more willing to share their experience with others in the community, which helps with recruitment.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it may take two villages to raise a child who has experienced trauma. When a foster parent has a strong support system within their family, friends, community, and agency, they gain confidence, are empowered, and can focus on meeting the needs of their children.

I would encourage any foster parent who does not feel supported or who feels stretched thin to reach out to their agency and their natural supports. Regardless of when you read this, there are children in foster care in North Carolina who need you.

 

Source: http://fosteringperspectives.org/?p=1378

What Can Churches Do to Help AGAPE of N.C.?

By Jordan Upton

One of the greatest assets AGAPE of N.C. has at our disposal is the support and friendship of local churches in our community. The encouragement, volunteer time, and donations received from local, state, and nation-wide partners are invaluable resources that help AGAPE of N.C. provide the greatest possible care in fostering, adoption, and counseling services.

If you are new to AGAPE and are wondering how you and your church can help further our mission, here are a few easy ways you can help be an advocate.

sarah-noltner-509340-unsplash.jpg

Donations

AGAPE is grateful for any and all monetary donations that support our continued programs. Gifts may be made online or via check. For more information on donations, please seehttps://www.agapeofnc.org/donate/.

Shopping Through AmazonSmile

Many people already use Amazon for online shopping, but did you know your purchases could make an impact on local non-profits? By shopping through https://smile.amazon.comyou can select “Association For Guidance Aid Placement And Empathy Of N C Inc.” to receive a donation of 0.5% of your total purchase price.

Normalize the Idea of Fostering and Adoption

There’s a joke about newlyweds constantly being asked by family when they’re going to have kids. It’s played out on television and movies, even in best-selling novels. When these conversations happen in real life, you have the opportunity to discuss alternative family planning. Fostering or adopting isn’t the first idea that comes to most minds when planning for children, but with open, honest conversations, the ideas can be more normalized in today’s society. A better understanding of and a more accepting attitude toward fostering and adopting will benefit those in the system.

Encourage Fostering

Talk to your friends, family, and fellow church members about fostering. Explain how children in crisis could benefit from a stable, nurturing, secure, Christian environment. Encourage others to explore the option of providing comfort and care to children in need.

Volunteering

AGAPE welcomes volunteers who wish to share their skills and passions with us. We hope to create a valuable experience that will benefit both the volunteer and our organization. Please check our list of current volunteer opportunities here: https://www.agapeofnc.org/opportunities/. If you don’t see a role that fits you, please contact AGAPE’s administrative assistant Kaye Orander at 919-673-7816 or korander@agapeofnc.org to express your interest in volunteering and to discuss how you can become part of our mission to serve the children of North Carolina.

Support Those Who Foster

Ask how you can be there for current foster parents: physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually. Monetary donations to AGAPE support our foster parents, but you can be their advocate in other ways too. You could be a shoulder to lean on or a compassionate, listening ear. Pray for the foster parents and their families. Refer them to AGAPE if you feel they need more professional support than you can provide.

Help Spread the Word About AGAPE

The more people who know about our organization, the more people we are potentially able to help. Sharing our blog posts, liking our Instagram posts, following our newsletter, and liking and sharing our Facebook updates will allow us to reach a wider audience. You never know who may see a post you share and how it may affect them. Your sharing could indirectly lead someone to AGAPE to become a donor, volunteer, or foster parent! Spreading the word about AGAPE will help bring awareness to our mission and garner more support of it.

Fostering That Became Adopting

By Jordan Upton

On May 11th, the Friday before Mother’s Day, ABC Evening News with David Muir chose to spotlight the Peters family as their ‘Persons of the Week’. Sharis and her husband, Thomas, wanted children but due to fertility issues they were unable to conceive. Faced with expensive fertility treatments, the couple instead sought other avenues in order to fulfill their desire for children. This led the couple to begin fostering in 2010. Sharis and Thomas were contacted about siblings Miles, 3 years old, and Jasmine, 5 month old. After bringing Miles and Jasmine home, the couple fell in love with the children, and 10 months later, the Peters received another call from their social worker that baby Jade, Miles and Jasmine’s sister, had been born. Baby Jade was the exclamation point to this happy couple’s fostering story. Sharis and Thomas have officially adopted all of the children who are now 11, 8, and 7.

jude-beck-552276-unsplash.jpg

"Being a foster parent and becoming an adoptive parent has meant everything to me," she said. "There's nothing else I'd rather be doing with my life." Sharis says. She goes on to describe the overwhelming joy she has felt on this journey beginning with fostering and ending with the adoption of her children. Sharis advocates for the importance of fostering, not only for the joy that those who foster feel, but more importantly the need for these children to receive the love and care they deserve.

"You don't have to be perfect to be a foster parent. You don't have to be perfect to be an adoptive parent. You don't have to be rich. You don't have to own your own home. You don't have to be perfect," she said. "You just have to be able to love somebody and accept their love. That's all you really need to do."

AGAPE of North Carolina helps create happy endings just like this with our foster care services, adoption services, and counseling services. If you are interested in enriching your life as well as changing a child’s life in an extraordinary way, are interested in helping promote the AGAPE mission, or want to donate to the organization, please visit www.agapeofnc.org.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/couple-ad...

FAMILY FIRST PREVENTION SERVICES ACT

HISTORIC REFORMS TO CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM WILL IMPROVE OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN

By the Children’s Defense Fund

On February 9, 2018, President Trump signed into law the landmark bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act, as part of Division E in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892). Family First includes long-overdue historic reforms to help keep children safely with their families and avoid the traumatic experience of entering foster care, emphasizes the importance of children growing up in families and helps ensure children are placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate to their special needs when foster care is needed. Family First builds on the original version of the bill passed in the House of Representatives in June 2016 (H.R.5456).

brandon-mowinkel-211936-unsplash.jpg

In 2016, more than 437,000 children were in foster care. After years of decline, the number of children in foster care has risen steadily since 2012, with anecdotal evidence and expert opinion linking this increase to the parallel rise in opioid addiction and overdoses. Family First provides struggling and overburdened child welfare agencies with the tools needed to help children and families in crisis, including families struggling with the opioid epidemic.

The Family First Prevention Services Act redirects federal funds to provide services to keep children safely with their families and out of foster care, and when foster care is needed allows federal reimbursement for care in family-based settings and certain residential treatment programs for children with emotional and behavioral disturbance requiring special treatment.

Family First Includes

Federal investments in prevention for children at risk of foster care. The act provides federal funds under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, beginning in FY2020, to support evidence-based prevention efforts for 1) mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services and 2) in-home parent skill-based services. The services may be provided for not more than 12 months for children who are at imminent risk of entering foster care, their parents and relatives to assist the children, and pregnant or parenting teens.

Federal funds targeted for children in foster family home, or in qualified residential treatment programs, or other special settings. Federal funding is limited to children in family foster homes, qualified residential treatment programs, and special treatment settings for pregnant or parenting teens, youth 18 and over preparing to transition from foster care to adulthood, and youth who have been found to be—or are at risk of becoming —sex trafficking victims. The act requires timely assessments and periodic reviews of children with special needs who are placed in qualified residential treatment programs to ensure their continued need for such care. After FY2020 (unless the state opts to delay until 2022), Title IV-E reimbursement will be provided only for administrative costs for children in other group care settings, and not for room and board.

The new dollars for preventing children from entering foster care and restricting federal funds for group care take effect in FY2020 (or states may choose to delay until no later than 2022) so states can make necessary accommodations. The act recognizes adjustments will be needed to establish prevention services to keep children safely in families and in care that meet their special treatment needs. States have flexibility in defining the safety services they provide to children and families, and how they will ensure quality residential treatment for children with emotional and behavioral needs.

Additional investments to keep children safely with families

  • Offers additional support for relative caregivers by providing federal funds for evidence-based Kinship Navigator programs that link relative caregivers to a broad range of services and supports to help children remain safely with them, and requiring states to document how their foster care licensing standards accommodate relative caregivers.
  • Allows Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program funds to be used for unlimited family reunification services for children in foster care and an additional 15 months of family reunification services for children once they return home.
  • Extends for five years the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services Program and the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program, including the Court Improvement Program grants.
  • Requires states to have statewide plans to track and prevent child maltreatment fatalities.
  • Establishes a competitive grant program to support the recruitment and retention of high quality foster families to help place more children in these homes, with special attention to states and tribes with the highest percentage of children in non-family settings.

Helps address opioids and other substance abuse

  • Reauthorizes and updates the Regional Partnership Grant program, which funds state and regional grantees seeking to provide evidence-based services to prevent child maltreatment related to substance abuse as an important step in addressing the recent spike in requests to child welfare systems due to opioids and other drugs.

Supports youth transitioning from care

Extends the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program’s independent living services to assist former foster youth up to age 23 (currently available to youth between ages 18-21) and extends eligibility for education and training vouchers for these youth to age 26 (currently only available to youth up to age 23).

Promotes permanent families for children

  • Establishes an electronic interstate case-processing system to help states expedite the interstate placement of children in foster care, adoption, or guardianship.
  • Extends the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payment program for five years, which allows states to receive incentive awards for increasing exits of children from foster care to adoption or guardianship.
  • Takes steps, including requiring a GAO Report, to ensure states are reinvesting in post-adoption services state dollars freed up by making additional children eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance payments. To help pay in part for these new reforms, a federal income eligibility requirement for the adoption assistance payments for children under age two was established.

The Children’s Bureau anticipates releasing additional guidance in October 2018 regarding implementation of this new law. In the meantime, North Carolina will begin discussions with counties and stakeholders to gear up for implementation.

Learn More

For more about the Family First Prevention Services Act, visit the Children’s Defense Fund (http://www.childrensdefense.org/policy/welfare/), where you will find a more detailed summary and an implementation timeline for the Act.

Source: http://fosteringperspectives.org/?p=1422

Foster Care Awareness

By Jordan Upton

May is National Foster Care Month. This national month of recognition began in 1988 when President George H. W. Bush issued the proclamation as a way of shining a national spotlight on the foster care system and to help show appreciation for foster parents.

andrew-seaman-597889-unsplash.jpg

While there are countless foster parents who work hard to raise foster care awareness in their communities, they do not receive the same national media attention as do celebrities. International movie stars like Angelina Jolie, Hugh Jackman, and Michelle Pfeiffer have all adopted or fostered children in their lives and have spoken publicly about the joy it has brought them in their lives as well as the importance it holds in the lives of the children. Of this group of celebrity foster and adoptive parents is movie star Sandra Bullock, who has adopted two of her children out of the foster care system.

In an interview with InStyle magazine, Bullock discusses the importance of adopting, especially out of the foster care system. Bullock also discourages the use of the phrase “my adopted child”, stating that the word “adopted” is unnecessary. This is an important distinction to make and one that is looked over frequently. There is a stigma place upon fostered or adopted children when using those kinds of terms and it is essential that these children be made to feel loved, cared for, and respected.

While most of us do not have the ability to discuss these topics with international media outlets, we can still work locally to promote fostering and adopting practices. The need for loving and caring foster parents is not contained only to the month of May, but every day, every month, and every year. So please take a little time out of your day to help promote great organizations like AGAPE of N.C. and help us give every child a forever home.

http://www.instyle.com/news/sandra-bullock-june-cover https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/faq/foster-care-5

Staff Profile: Meet the Mentor of Salem House

By Jordan Upton

With the help of donors, board members, and the community, AGAPE of NC was able to open the Salem House in 2017. Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this house allows for young men aged 18 to 21 who are near to aging out of the foster care system to reside with a house mentor. Here they gain invaluable resources such as job training, resume building, and life skills that will be utilized after their stay at the Salem House.

Currently there are four residents at Salem House under the tutelage of Mr. Larry Dais. Mr. Dais, a recent retiree from the electronic industry, is the foster parent who serves as guardian, teacher, and mentor to these four young men. When asked how he became involved with AGAPE, Dais explained, “There’s a gentleman I go to church with, Joe Hall, and he is a member of the board of directors of AGAPE. And he approached me one day and asked if I would be interested in fostering these 18 to 21 year old boys. And I thought about it for a week or so, and thought it might be something I’d like to do.” This was only the first step on the path that would lead Larry to the Salem House.

The next step for Mr. Dais was to become certified in Foster Care, which is a North Carolina statute to serve in this capacity in the system. After training alongside Mrs. Grace Hepler for ten to eleven months, which included exhaustive and extensive research on scenarios, state rules and regulations, as well as understanding the values associated with AGAPE, Mr. Dais passed his state licensure test in June of 2017.

When asked what a typical day at the Salem House looks like, Larry explained that school and work are first and foremost. Any remaining time available around those two areas include family-type interactions with each other where adult responsibilities such as chores and budgeting are discussed. Additionally, Larry stated his intent to teach the boys skills like writing a resume, how to perform well during an interview, and how to properly fill out job applications. Larry also has hopes of bringing in volunteers to show their certain areas of expertise, such as cooking, to the residents of the house.

neonbrand-618320-unsplash.jpg

When asked about what members of the community can do to help the Salem House and the foster care community as a whole Mr. Dais said that they need “volunteer[s] to teach these boys about life; how to be adults. We could even have families come in to talk about family dynamics. Hopefully one day these young men will become dads or fathers. And with these break-ups and disconnects they’ve gone through in their lives, I’m sure a lot of them have no real model for how to be a dad, how to be part of a family. So I would just really encourage folks to get involved.”

Whether you are in the Winston-Salem community and are willing and able to volunteer your time to help these boys learn how to expertly navigate adulthood, or you just get the word out about the Salem House, Mr. Dais strongly urges to be an advocate for not only AGAPE and the Salem House in particular, but of fostering as a whole and describes his short time fostering as incredibly satisfying. Donating your time, money, or materials to worthwhile projects such as the Salem House benefits all involved and helps to maintain a community of love, care, and fellowship. Even if it is as small as donating a jar of peanut butter. As Mr. Dais told me, “We could always use another jar of peanut butter.”

Backpack Blessings

By Beth Storms

“These backpacks can seem like a tiny thing to us, but they can mean so much to a child with nothing; it says someone cares for them.” Sandi B

IMG_5870.jpg

It takes many caring hands to fill a little backpack 14” square. These first response foster care bags are just big enough to hold a child’s blanket, small stuffed animal, coloring/activity book, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a note of encouragement.

Before these little yellow backpacks with the AGAPE logo on the front can be filled, a call is made, donated items are purchased, a collection area is set up, and arrangements are made to transport. Upon arrival, the items are sorted into bins and gently used items are washed and sometimes mended.

Packing day arrives! Fran described her August backpack packing experience this way...what initially looked like an amazing amount of items sorted across two long rows of tables, came to mean so much more after learning how they would be used; maybe a little boy would like a superhero themed backpack or a little girl might like a pretty pink princess themed backpack. Sandi shared how she and her husband were once AGAPE Foster Parents; perhaps their loving example is a reason their son and his family are now fostering through another organization where they live in Arkansas. Sharon appreciated the opportunity to learn more about how the AGAPE ministry touches the lives of children placed in foster care as she worked. While Carolyn feels physically limited in how she can serve these days, she was glad to able to help.

Hands help in many other amazing ways. Carolyn also serves with the Raleigh Bear Ministry; both Raleigh and Brooks Ave provide bears. A Quilt Ministry at Deep River creates beautiful quilts and graciously donates several to the AGAPE Backpack Ministry. Sarah is a stay-at-home mom of an active toddler who often feels like her life has been reduced to an unending round of laundry, dishes, and story time. Making comfort blankets for the younger foster children when her schedule allows helps fulfill her desire to serve.

IMG_4612.jpg

Two fall youth rallies hosted by the Cary and Raleigh youth, produced over 150 encouragement cards to slip into the AGAPE backpacks by simply setting up an area for kids to get creative. Geri, the coordinator of this activity at Cary, said several stayed to make cards specifically because the cards were for AGAPE; many already knew about the ministry because their congregation had collected items to go in the backpacks. One girl, about 12, not aware of AGAPE asked Geri about the activity; after learning what it was for, she shared with Geri that she was currently in foster care and intently proceeded to make several cards. Each card was designed with a sense of caring and, while Geri said she struggled with what to say to a young child she did not know, most of the kids had no trouble with what to write.

Teresa became a Backpack Distributor last July; upon following up with the Social Worker Supervisor a few weeks after her first visit she learned all the backpacks were given out within
a week which was heartbreaking for her to hear but also solidified her reasons for volunteering. The supervisor shared that many children they place only come with the clothes they have on and how she was blessed to personally witness the happiness these backpacks can bring when she had the opportunity to hand out two herself.

And then, we begin again! A spring donation drive is in the works. We tend to run out of blankets when we are packing; winter clearance sales may be a good time to help us stock up! Five Below or thrift stores may be other good resources.