Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome

By Jordan Upton

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Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is not a formally recognized disorder but is a term that has been used since 1995 to describe feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression that some parents feel following an adoption. PADS usually affects adoptive mothers and can be attributed to a variety of factors.

The adoption process itself can be an emotional rollercoaster, but challenges may continue even after parents have brought their child home. There may be bonding issues, residual emotions about infertility, overwhelming pressure to be perfect, or a let-down that occurs after accomplishing a major goal or life milestone, like getting married or graduating from college.

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome may present itself through:

●  Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy

●  Fatigue or loss of energy

●  Excessive guilt

●  Feeling powerless

●  Feeling worthless

●  Sense of hopelessness

If you or someone you know may be experiencing these feelings post-adoption, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Reach out to a therapist or counselor. Contact AGAPE staff for their guidance and referrals. Take time off - whether it’s time off work or a day away from home to clear your head - take care of yourself so you can better take care of others.

Remember, you are not alone. A study by Purdue University found 18-26% of adoptive mothers reported depressive symptoms within the first year of bringing home a new baby or child.

Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. You, your child, and your family as a whole will benefit when you are honest about your feelings and seek help to be and feel your best.

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/2018/3/16/post-adoption-depression https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2012/120322FoliResearch.html

Adoption in America

By Jordan Upton

In 2007 the National Public Radio morning show Morning Edition began a series titled “Adoption in America”. This four-part series examines the highs and the lows of adoption with four families and adoptees. The listener learns various aspects of adoption and how lives are impacted in sometimes unforeseen ways.

Part one talks with Judy Stigger and her now 26-year-old adopted son, Aaron. Over 30 years ago Judy and her husband, after discovering infertility issues, decided to adopt. They adopted two biracial children. Judy and her husband are both white. Judy and Aaron discuss the obvious and unexpected issues (such as the skin color of the angels on the family Christmas tree) involving race the family have faced.

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In part two, NPR’s Steve Inskeep hears a harrowing story from the Smolin family who adopted two girls from India in 1998. The Smolins were told that the girls were orphans who were looking for a new home in America. But, when the girls arrive in Atlanta the Smolins learn this was not the case. The two girls, Manjula and Bhagya, were emotionally distressed and tell their new adoptive parents that they had a home and a mother in India and that they were taken from her. The Smolins learn that the biological mother of the two was poor and in order for her daughters to be taken care of had temporarily placed them in a boarding school. This school turned out to be an orphanage and the director essentially sold the girls overseas and had given false information to the adoption agency in America.

Part three has Susan Soon-keum Cox tell her story of being adopted by an Oregon couple after spending her first four and a half years in South Korea. Adopted in 1956, Susan was one of the first children from overseas to be adopted in America. Susan’s childhood was spent learning how to be an American and she essentially lost all touch with her Korean heritage. Cox, now the vice president of an adoption agency, advocates for the retainment of an adopted child’s heritage and culture, which was not the case when she was adopted.

Finally, in part four author A.M. Homes talks about being adopted just after her birth. Growing up with no intention of finding her birth mother, Homes, then 32 years old, came home to find a voicemail stating that “someone is looking for you”. That someone, was her birth mother who wanted to get in touch. Homes talks about the complicated histories of her birth mother and her birth father, who she would also eventually meet, and how these events and histories have shaped her own understanding of identity.

These heartfelt, unique, and diverse stories are all available for free online at

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12138181

Anthony Pico's Story Featured on This American Life

By Jordan Upton

This American Life is a weekly radio show based out of Chicago. The program has been on the air since 1995 and has produced over 600 episodes, which are now aired on over 500 public radio stations across the United States with over 2 million listeners. Each episode typically consists of several stories from journalists, writers, comedians, and various others who share common themes, traits, or ideas. In an episode from August of 2007, the theme was “The Spokesman”. In it, four different stories are told about people being forced into a spokesman-like role, dramatically altering their lives plunging them out of common anonymity.

The second story shared on this episode focuses on Anthony Pico of California. Anthony was born into the foster care system after his mother, a crack addict fled the hospital after giving birth. Anthony never knew his father and therefore was shuffled from relative to relative, facing abuse and neglect along the way. At age 12 Anthony was adopted by a relative who cared for him, but after their death two years later he was forced back into the system. Then, at age 15 he was placed under the care of another relative who also passed away when Anthony was 17. The tragedies in Anthony’s life forced him to see the foster care system not only in California, which is the nation’s largest foster care system, but as a whole, and he saw it needed reform. So at age 15, Anthony began public speaking on behalf of foster care reform to judges, legislators, groups advocating for foster children, and anyone who would listen. And in 2006, Anthony was appointed by California's Chief Justice to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care in order to represent the youth voice in California's court.

In this story, which was recorded over ten years ago, the reporter with Anthony is Douglas McGray. McGray follows Anthony for weeks as he travels giving speeches on his life and background in the system. Anthony was 18 at the time and was living in a group home with other 18 year-olds who were about to age out of the system. McGray discusses the hardships of not only children in foster care but, specifically, the children who are about to age out of foster care. McGray discusses a massive study conducted by the University of Chicago that looked at this exact group. At the end of the year-long study, it was concluded that nearly 70% of these kids had dropped out of high school, half had lost their health insurance, half of the girls had gotten pregnant, 15% had been homeless, and 1 in 5 had been in jail.

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While Anthony is an advocate for all foster children, he himself is still a foster child. During the story, the listener is able to hear Anthony’s eloquent and powerful speeches to groups at lavish dinners, while also learning that Anthony has fallen behind in school. He is 18 and has gone to 6 different high schools over 4 years. He has fallen a full year behind and is not close to graduating. In an attempt to catch back up in school he enrolled in a six-week summer program but his public speaking caused him to miss orientation and his first full week of classes. The stark dichotomy of positive, confident speaker at elegant gatherings to the scared, frustrated 18-year-old kid trying to go to school is heartbreaking.

In the years since the story has aired Anthony has not only received his GED but also a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Loyola Marymount University and continues to be an advocate for reform in foster care and a mentor for those in the system.

Anthony’s story can be heard online for free at https://www.thisamericanlife.org/338/the-spokesman  For more information on Anthony Pico please visit http://anthonypico.com/bio/

Book Recommendation: Four Waifs on Our Doorstep

By Jordan Upton

Trisha Merry won a regional mother of the year competition and was titled “Mum in a Million” for her outstanding work as a foster care parent. Mrs. Merry has fostered over 700 children and adopted seven in her 50 years of experience.

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Mrs. Merry gained an excellent reputation as a foster care parent and was often the first call for emergency placements and large sibling groups. In 2015 she published a book, “Four Waifs on Our Doorstep” which described the last sibling group she and her husband fostered and eventually adopted.

Throughout the book, she voiced her frustration with certain authority figures who failed the children in her care. She constantly pushed them to do better, to keep her kids’ best interests at the forefront of all decisions. Using these difficult situations as more purpose for writing the book, Mrs. Merry explained:

“I’m hoping just one foster carer, just one adopter, one social worker, perhaps one social-work manager, one psychiatrist, one teacher, one whatever, will pick it up and read it and sit and think.”

While the book mentions some of the traumatic incidents that led to the children being placed in care and eventually on the adoption track, Mrs. Merry tried to keep the overall story hopeful and inspiring. She did not want to dwell on the kids’ past, but “loved being able to open their doors to life.” She focused on the future, the opportunities now available to those in her care.

When telling her now-adopted children about her reason for sharing their story, Mrs. Merry said:

“I would like a child who’s been in the care system, perhaps who’s just been kicked out at sixteen, to pick up our book and read it, and be inspired by how you’ve turned your lives around. I would like it to help them.”

For more information on “Four Waifs on Our Doorstep” see:

https://www.amazon.com/Four-Waifs-Doorstep-Trisha-Merry/dp/1471138453 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25325738-four-waifs-on-our-doorstep

Why We Do Respite

Your donations support and equip foster families in your community who are opening their loving, Christian homes right now to children in need. Other Christian families assist them in this mission work by occasionally providing respite. Please watch & listen as the Williams family shares why they became Respite Providers.

A Reunification Story: We Just Hugged

By Jordan Upton

Bonnie Hendrix is now 30 years old. As we speak on the phone I hear the playful and raucous laughter of Bonnie’s two children, aged four and two, and Bonnie frequently has to take a sidebar from our conversation to answer questions posed by her curious kids. I was put in touch with Bonnie to hear and share her story. AGAPE has had a large impact on her life: she was adopted when she was two months old and recently was reunited with her birth mother.

Bonnie’s adoptive parents, Randy and Joyce, were on AGAPE’s Tennessee-based waiting list to be placed with a baby. When the couple heard no news of any children needing a home, they switched to AGAPE of North Carolina. After making this switch to the North Carolina branch, the couple was contacted about the birth of Bonnie while they attended a baseball game. Bonnie jokes “...it’s always funny I get to tell people that my mom was at a baseball game on my birthday.” This is one thing that surprised me while speaking with Bonnie about such intimate and dramatic details of her life: her unwavering sense of humor. The openness and willingness to discuss such events in her life with a relative stranger were both pleasantly surprising and uplifting.

Bonnie grew up in a happy home with Joyce and Randy as her adoptive parents. Two and a half years after taking Bonnie home, Joyce surprisingly became pregnant and the couple welcomed another girl into their family. Bonnie was raised knowing that she was adopted. Bonnie tells me how her mother explained to her that “I had not grown under her heart but in it”, and that her parents had always welcomed and supported Bonnie’s idea of finding her birth mother if she ever wished to do so. It is easy to see how caring and compassionate Bonnie’s parents are, especially considering how hard situations like those could be. Three years ago Bonnie decided to embark on that journey.

Bonnie contacted director of AGAPE, Kim Scott, who supported Bonnie’s search fully and helped in every way she could. Bonnie explains the process of filing the paperwork and sending in money to receive information on her birth mother. She was then told the information would take up to 90 days to find its way back to her. “I waited all summer and exactly on the dot 90 days later I got an email that said that they found her and that she really wanted to meet with me.” I asked if this 90 day wait was as grueling and stressful as I imagine it would be, to which Bonnie replied succinctly: “I immediately started freaking out”.

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The two decided to meet during Bonnie’s fall break because she is a teacher. Joyce (Bonnie’s adoptive mother), Bonnie’s husband, and her then two and a half year old and six month old kids made the trip to AGAPE of NC’s offices. Bonnie impatiently paced the waiting room for 45 minutes waiting on her birth mother to arrive. “She was running late...she was terrible at directions which made me laugh because I’m also terrible at directions” Bonnie tells me. And then she arrived. I could feel the tension as Bonnie was telling me the story and could only imagine how this moment would feel. I was anxious as to how this story would end. And then Bonnie tells me with all of the sincerity and simplicity she had exuded throughout our conversation: “We both just started crying as soon as we saw each other. And we just hugged and it was great”.

While this was the only time Bonnie and her birth mother, Wendy, have met in person, they maintain contact over the phone and the internet. Wendy lives in South Carolina while Bonnie and her family live in Tennessee. Wendy had two other daughters, making them Bonnie’s half-sisters, and while Bonnie has not met them in person they have been in touch using Facebook. As we end our conversation Bonnie tells me that this journey has been a “really great experience” and that by contacting her birth mother it has “benefitted my whole family and I make a lot more sense to myself now”.

I was privileged to hear Bonnie’s incredible and uplifting life story. AGAPE is honored to have had a part in placing Bonnie with her incredible adoptive parents as well as helping her contact and reunite with her birth mother.

Staff Profile: Meet Social Worker Marilyn Bredon

By Jordan Upton

When speaking with Marilyn Bredon, two things become apparent: her love of working with children and her faith in God. These pillars in her life led her, in January 2018, to join Agape of NC as a social worker II.

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Marilyn has been an advocate for children since she was a child herself. As a Christmas gift when she was young, Marilyn was given a doll and named it Baby Sister. She knows that her parents had entertained the idea of adoption on their own, but with her insistence of wanting a baby sister, they adopted a two year old girl when Marilyn was five. When completing the adoption paperwork, five year old Marilyn piped up to give their home address and phone number, feeling very included in her sister’s adoption.

Marilyn and her sister, like their parents before them, grew up in the Church of Christ. Marilyn participated in youth group, and when she was old enough she became a leader in the children’s church Sunday morning service. She was also a leader during Vacation Bible Schools and taught bible study. In college, she ran a “Mothers Morning Out” program. Marilyn’s work with children has truly been a lifelong calling.

After college, Marilyn moved to North Carolina with her husband. While living in Durham and working for Durham County Child Protective Services, they had three children. A job opportunity moved them to Virginia, where their fourth child was born. Marilyn swears this move was all God.

In Virginia, she was diagnosed with ocular cancer. She had an ocular melanoma wrapped completely around her optic nerve. Fortunately, one of the nation’s leading doctors with that expertise was working in Richmond. Marilyn was his last surgical patient. When the job opportunity turned out not to be what their family expected, and they moved back to North Carolina, Marilyn realized God’s real purpose in moving them to Virginia - that specific place at that specific time- was so this doctor could save her life. She has been cancer-free since 2001.

Upon their move back to North Carolina, Marilyn spoke with Nicole Spickard, whose father started AGAPE. She applied in the fall of 2017 and officially started work in January 2018.

There is no such thing as a typical day in her work. What families and children need may change every day, depending on who is involved and what is happening. She was the social worker for Salem House, and is currently working with two other families that are fostering children. She may be visiting, calling, texting, and/or emailing the foster parents on any given day to discuss the children in their care. If there are older teenagers currently in care, she’ll check in with them via texts and calls too. Marilyn also helps people who are working to become licensed foster parents or renew their licenses. Some days are hectic - like during the recent July Fourth holiday when she needed to find last minute respite care after late notice of closure from a daycare. But other days, like when she receives adorable school pictures of happy children in care, balance it out.

Frequently Asked Questions

By Jordan Upton

Are you or someone you know interested in becoming a foster parent? We at AGAPE would love for you to be involved! Before getting started, here are some general requirements and frequently asked questions that may help you make the amazing leap into the world of fostering.

General Requirements:

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●  You must be at least 21 years old. There is no top age limit.

●  You must be in good health.

●  If married, you must have been married for at least two years.

●  Both parents are allowed to work outside of the home.

●  You can be a single parent.

●  You must be a Christian.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Who are the children in need of foster care?

Children placed in foster care are those that are temporarily removed from their birth family. This is sometimes due to the child being in an unsafe environment where they have faced abuse or neglect. Or, the child could have been surrendered to an adoption agency and, while waiting for the legal process to be completed, need a temporary home with a foster family. Children’s ages can range from a few days old up to eighteen years old. Sometimes it is a single child in need of a home and sometimes it is an entire family. Occasionally some children face serious medical concerns or physical maladies. Most foster children have experienced great emotional or physical trauma, which makes the need for them to be placed in a loving, caring, understanding home even greater.

2. How long are these children in foster care?

While every situation is unique, the average time spent in foster care through AGAPE of N.C. is eight months. Some children will spend a few days with a foster family and others will spend a few years. Both during the licensure procedure and when a specific child is being presented to a foster family, the potential length of stay will be fully discussed, and the foster family will participate directly in making the decision of what is right for them. Foster care is by definition temporary, but the length varies with every child and his/her circumstances.

3. What happens if I become too attached to my foster child that I do not want to let them go?

Bonding and becoming attached is a natural and necessary part of fostering. Without these things, the child would feel unwanted and unloved. Foster families feel as if they are sending a piece of their heart with their foster child when they leave. This is an important part of the process and your caseworker is sensitive to this. AGAPE will help you prepare for this sense of loss and how to adjust after your foster child has left. AGAPE believes that God has given foster parents an even bigger heart so they are able to give so much of their love away to these children in need. If you feel as if you would be too easily attached to a foster child and would experience a tremendous loss when your foster child is placed in a permanent home, AGAPE feels as if you would be the best candidate to participate in this loving service.

4. What is involved in the licensure process?

AGAPE uses state regulations and agency policies to ensure prospective families are a right fit for becoming foster parents. Foster families submit an application and will be put in touch with a caseworker. This caseworker will begin the evaluation process and preparation period, usually lasting three months. Additionally, the caseworker will spend many hours interviewing the family in the AGAPE offices as well as in the potential family home. Home inspections and background checks are given. In the end, the caseworker will assign a specific number of foster children to the home (one to five), a specific age range (from birth to 18 years old), specific gender when applicable, and the family will be informed of any special needs or circumstances for the children if the family feels they are equipped to handle such situations.

5. What if I have never fostered before? How will I know what to do?

During the licensure process families will undergo a minimum of 30 hours of training for the specific type, situation, and age of children in which the family is placed. While fostering, the families also receive more training. Most importantly, the family is never on their own. Their caseworker is always available and will visit on a regular basis. Additionally, the AGAPE staff is on call and available 24 hours a day, ready and willing to help with any question or concern that arises.

6. Is this a paid or volunteer position?

This is strictly a volunteer-based process. The agency does provide a set reimbursement per month per child to cover expenses directly associated with the child. This money is not treated as income by the IRS and does not need to be reported since it is reimbursement of actual expenses. Foster families report that this is an adequate amount to meet basic needs. With older children, there is often a clothing allowance once or twice a year. The foster home is not responsible for medical expenses related to the child.

7. How can I get started?

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or have additional questions please contact AGAPE at 919-673-7816for a no obligation information meeting. This meeting will serve to help you “count the cost” of such service, and to decide if this is right for your family. At that time an application will be made available to you. Please visit AGAPE’s website at www.agapeofnc.orgfor more information and subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with news and relevant information.

Adoption and American Ninja Warrior Contestant

By Jordan Upton

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Season 10, episode 8 of American Ninja Warrior aired on July 23, 2018. The Dallas City Finals showcased contestant Katrina Ratcliff, a police officer from Austin, Texas.

In a heartbreaking video about her background, Kat tells the story of losing her father to pancreatic cancer when she was eight years old, and the troubled years with her mom that followed. Her mother had alcohol and drug dependencies and committed suicide when Kat was 15 years old.

When she was 16 yrs. old, Kat met Ellen. They were both working at their small town’s veterinary clinic when Ellen adopted Kat.

“I just felt like she needed somebody, and I felt like it should be me,” Ellen says in the video.

“She started nurturing me and loving me,” Kat says of Ellen. “And gave me the chance to believe in myself. That I was worthy enough to be loved.”

Kat and Ellen illustrate how important it is to offer opportunities to older teens who may have fewer prospects for fostering and adopting. Kat’s life was changed from the love and attention she received after being adopted at 16.

See Kat during the episode: https://www.nbc.com/american-ninja-warrior/video/dallas-city-finals/376613719:15 - 22:45

https://austinpoliceassociation.com/will-of-a-ninja/ https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/austin-police-officer-will-compete-on-american-ninja-warrior/994836140

My Reflective Experiences with AGAPE

By Jordan Upton

As the school year begins again and my summer interning with AGAPE of N.C. draws to a close, I felt it would be appropriate to reflect on my experiences working with the organization. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the privilege of working with AGAPE. Everyone involved with the organization is compassionate, helpful, knowledgeable, and each person cares about the work they do and the children they help. This is true about every staff member from the social workers such as Marilyn Bredon, to the Board of Directors members like Joe Hall, to the executive director Kim Scott.

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Not only do the staff members work tirelessly to promote the mission of AGAPE, but the volunteers, donors, and community members work just as hard and are just as passionate about helping children find loving homes. Take 11-year-old Meredith Finch, for example, who began selling lemonade in her town to raise money to donate to AGAPE. People like that are special, and they recognize that the people at AGAPE are special, too.

When I began working with AGAPE, I had not heard of them and I knew very little about adoption and foster care experiences. Now, by having spoken with those who have adopted, been adopted, and foster children themselves, I have grown a deep appreciation and respect for these people.

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to get to know everyone involved with AGAPE, and for all of the people I was able to speak with who were so open and honest about their experiences, and for the chance to share their stories with the public. I only hope I was able to convey their messages and stories in a meaningful way and that they were heard and appreciated by those who read them as much as I appreciated hearing and sharing them. I am excited about the future of AGAPE and can not wait to see what the future has in store for everyone involved.

10 Reasons to Bring Your Family to the 7th Annual Carolina Bible Camp Bluegrass Festival

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#10 = MUSIC - There are seven groups performing this year! The Alison Brown Quartet; Bobby Hicks, Mark Kuykendall and Asheville Bluegrass; Tim White & Troublesome Hollow; Fireside Collective; The Snyder Family Band; The Trailblazers with Ivy Phillips; and Dwight Hawkins with Brody Hunt. The $15.00 advance ticket price is a great value, and kids under 12 are admitted free. Gates open at 10:00 AM. Opening ceremonies begin at 10:45 AM with the A Cafellas singing the Star Spangled Banner.  The music ends at 6:30 PM. 

#9 = FOR KIDS - There is an abundance of free activities for kids at the Kids’ Activities tent sponsored by AGAPE of North Carolina! The festival volunteers, called Servants, supervise children’s creative play with a variety of arts and crafts and recycled materials. A unique coloring page to save the date for next year, old-fashioned sidewalk games like marbles and jacks and free face painting are also included. 

#8 = FOOD - The festival features many delicious food options. Choices include Southern comfort foods made from scratch at the Dining Hall just behind the Front Porch Stage featuring BBQ, ribs and chicken with all the fixin's; the award-winning Gunny Smitty’s Hot Dog food truck; Carolina Shaved Ice; Baked With Love home-baked desserts; the CBC Coffee Café for hot and cold coffee beverages, and the popular CBC Canteen for the genuine camp snack experience. 

#7 = AUCTION - One-of-a-kind items are available through the exciting and easy online auction, or simply show up at the CBC Hexagazebo in person to bid on your items. The Swicegood Group, a leader in real estate and auctions, manages this activity so all goes smoothly. You can bid on a beach trip, an autographed ukulele, lunch with a patriot, an album collection, a banjo, and much much more.

#6 = SHOPPING - You can shop but don’t drop; just stop where you are! The festival’s vendors include a unique assortment of 20 vendors selling apparel, jewelry, home goods, doggie treats, soaps, artwork, and so much more. Don’t try to buy it all at once; take a break and return to your lawn chair for a musical interlude.

#5 = WEATHER - Don’t sweat the weather. The large professional grade tents will keep you shaded and covered. Historically, the weather on this date has been made to order. And, there are plenty of beverages both iced and hot to keep your body temperature feeling “just right.”

#4 = FAMILY FRIENDLY - This festival is the best family-friendly event in North Carolina. With no alcohol and no smoking, tobacco, or vaping permitted, you can feel good about bringing guests of all ages. Registered nurses staff a  First Aid tent; handicapped parking and assistance is available,  and volunteers called “Servants” work hard to make your festival experience an unforgettable one. Registered guide dogs are allowed.

#3 = PICKER'S PLACE - If you like to pick, then you will feel right at home here with a special pavilion for those folks who want to do more than just watch. Pull up a chair next to some of the best musicians in the world; you never know who you'll meet. 

#2 = ANTIQUE CAR SHOW - That's right. We have cars too! These beauties are located next to the canteen behind the main tent. They are so close to the music that you won't miss a note when you decide to go browse.

#1 = OPEN SEATING - CBC has always used first-come, first-serve, festival style seating. Since there are no assigned seats, you are free to come right down front and set up your chair. (No high-backs please!) Fortunately, there are no bad seats at CBC. All of the grounds provide good views of the stage, and the professional sound team makes sure that every note is crystal clear. 

For more details and to purchase tickets, click here: www.cbcbluegrass.com.

Higher Education for Foster Care Youth

By Jordan Upton

Research has shown that youth in foster care are less likely to continue on to college compared to other high school graduates. Of those who do enroll in college, many do not make it through to obtain a degree.

In efforts to help boost student success, programs such as NC Reach have been established. NC Reach is a state-funded scholarship offered to qualified applicants for up to 4 years of undergraduate study at any of the 74 NC public colleges and universities. Qualified applicants are North Carolina residents, and were either adopted from the NC Division of Social Services (DSS) foster care after the age of 12 or aged out of NC DSS foster care at age 18.

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In addition to scholarship funds that cover tuition and fees, NC Reach provides emotional supports that students may not otherwise have in their personal lives. Students are matched with a coordinator who helps them academically and personally navigate higher education. They can also request a personal coach, or mentor, who will be there to support and encourage them throughout their collegiate experience. Students will receive three care packages per year and are eligible to participate in the Foster Care to Success InternAmerica Program.

Programs such as NC Reach are making higher education more attainable for all students.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/12/07/for-foster-care-kids-college-degrees-are-elusive http://www.ncreach.org

Coping with Back to School Anxiety

By Jordan Upton

The start of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. For children who have experienced personal trauma - like those in foster care who have been removed from their home and biological families - starting a new school may cause or worsen existing anxiety.

The goal for parents is to be supportive without increasing their child’s stress. Some tips for dealing with back to school anxiety:

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  1. Listen to and Don’t Dismiss Their Worries

    Worries are common but listen to them seriously. Rather than saying “There’s nothing to worry about”, acknowledging your child’s fears will help them feel more secure. Taking them seriously will help your child trust and feel comfortable talking with you over future issues.

  2. Problem Solve

    If your child has very specific worries, like forgetting their lunchbox or homework, work out a plan ahead of time for how you will solve it. Make sure they know who to contact if something goes wrong.

  3. Prepare and Practice
    If possible, take your child to the school before the first day. Let them walk around, find their classroom, get comfortable with this new setting. Practice driving to the drop-off or bus stop. If available, attend open house events where your child can meet their teacher and principal in advance of the first day.

  4. Focus on the Positives

    Ask your child what they’re excited about at school; even if it’s just recess or snack time, it’s a start. Focus on the fun parts of their day to distract them from anxieties. Find things to praise - going a certain amount of days without calling home, being prepared (not forgetting their backpack or lunchbox), good grades - that will encourage them and boost their confidence about attending school.

  5. Pay Attention to Your Attitude and Behavior

    If you are stressed or upset, your child will be able to tell. Be careful what you say and do as children look to you as a model.

https://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/coping-back-school-anxiety https://childmind.org/article/back-school-anxiety/

Helping School-aged Children in Care

By Jordan Upton

Did you know. . .

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●  Children in foster care are far more likely to change schools during the school year, to be in special education classes, and to fail to receive passing grades than their general population counterparts.

●  High school dropout rates are 3 times higherfor foster youth than other low-income children

●  Only about 50% of youth in foster care will graduate from high school

●  Over 40% of school-aged children in foster care have educational difficulties

How can you help?

●  Donate school supplies so that students are well-prepared and have one less worry

●  Become a school volunteer to support and encourage youth in the classroom

●  Offer tutoring services for struggling students

●  Become a foster parent and advocate for the most vulnerable children every day

If you’d like to get involved and help promote the educational success of these children, please contact AGAPE today!

Facts from the National Foster Youth Institute: https://www.nfyi.org/issues/education/

Parental Substance Abuse and Its Effects on Foster Care

By Jordan Upton

Kimberly Scott, executive director of AGAPE, is a licensed clinical social worker. Her post graduate work focused on children, families, substance abuse and schizophrenia research. During her work in mental health hospitals, federal prisons, hospice clinics, and private practice she has gained considerable experience assessing children and adults with issues regarding substance abuse. Mrs. Scott said that the current national opioid crisis has definitely impacted her work at AGAPE.

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“We’ve probably had at least 20 opportunities to place babies that have been born addicted to opiates,” Mrs. Scott said in June 2018.

One of those babies, a little boy, was in the hospital detoxing from drugs for five weeks. “It’s so devastating that these little people have to start out like that,” Mrs. Scott said. Luckily, AGAPE was able to place this boy with a loving family to care for him after his release from the hospital.

39% of children entering foster care in North Carolina can attribute their entry to parental substance abuse. It is likely that AGAPE will have numerous other opportunities to place children who have been affected by opiate abuse. The need for caring foster families is greater than ever. If you want to learn more about how you can help, contact AGAPE today for more information.

How Teachers Can Help

By Jordan Upton

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With 70% of children in foster care being of school age, what can teachers do to help?

There is a chance that teachers will not know if any of their students are in foster care or have been adopted, but there are general steps they can take to ensure the safety and happiness of each student in their classroom, regardless of their home life.

  1. Normalize Foster Care and Adoption

    Teachers can incorporate books and lessons that talk about foster care and adoption. Making students aware of different family arrangements and living situations can help any potential foster or adopted children feel more comfortable talking to their teachers, peers, and school administration.

  2. Learn About Student Backgrounds

    Learning about each student in the classroom can help teachers better meet each student’s individual needs. Many students who have been in foster care will experience learning difficulties from shuffling schools and missing too many days. Understanding the reasons behind each child’s difficulties can help teachers create better plans to engage these students.

  3. Build Relationships

    Quickly building positive relationships with students can help them gain self-confidence and feel secure in your classroom. It will be helpful for students, especially those who have traumatic lives outside of school, to know that someone cares for them. Since teachers see their students five days a week, it is important for the students to have trust and respect for this important role model.

  4. Become an Advocate

    Some recommend that teachers become licensed foster parents to better understand what these students may be facing. Teachers who are licensed foster parents may be able to ease the transitions by fostering students from their school, so the students would not have to relocate and potentially fall behind. They could offer a sense of stability. If becoming a licensed foster parent is not possible, teachers could still advocate for training and education for all school personnel to be better equipped to deal with students in foster care and their specific needs.

5 Ways Teachers Can Help https://www.thornwell.org/5-ways-teachers-can-help-students-foster-care/

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Back to School Tips for Foster Parents

By Jordan Upton

With a new school year starting, foster parents may be asking themselves what they can do to help the kids in their care succeed at school. A few tips:

●  Communication is Key

Teachers will not know that a student is in foster care unless you or the student tell them. Disclosing this information can positively impact your child’s success. Many children in foster care experience learning difficulties, and notifying the teacher ahead of time can help them be better prepared to deal with your child’s specific needs.

●  Become Familiar with School Resources

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Many children in foster care also have difficulty navigating social situations appropriately. Misbehaving, even unintentionally, can land students in the principal or guidance counselor’s office. Meeting these school officials and making them aware of potential issues ahead of time will help them be better prepared in the moment if a situation occurs. They may be able to offer you information on after-school programs, tutoring or extracurriculars that could benefit your child.

●  Volunteer at the School

As their foster parent, you have observed this child’s behaviors at home and learned strategies for managing their stress and anxiety. If you volunteer in their classroom, you can help the teacher deal with these behaviors at school. Your presence may be calming to the student and decrease the chances of them misbehaving.

●  Ask for Help

If you are experiencing any trouble, stress, or anxiety about the back-to-school process with your foster child, contact AGAPE! Our social workers, counselors, and therapists are here to help you as well as the children. We care about the well-being of families and know that the better you feel, the better you can take care of others.