Helping Your Birth and Other Children Get Along

By Mellicent Blythe , Fostering Perspectives

https://fosteringperspectives.org/fp_v11n2/blythe.htm

One aspect of fostering that does not get much study is how best to integrate the children in foster care into a family’s rhythm of life and just how crucial this is for the well-being of everyone in the home. This article reveals findings from a study along with some implications that can be used in practical ways.

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Kings Dominion Amusement Park!

By Fay Evans

Our first field trip last July was a big success! We invited young ladies and young men from several small organizations –All Things New (sponsored by Patricia Holland); AGAPE of NC’s Young Adult Foster Home in Raleigh (where I’m the Foster Parent); PEACH Outreach (also sponsored by me); and Center Piece (sponsored by Sherita Taylor, my Goddaughter and a resident of GA).

When asked if they wanted to go to the Gospel Joy Fest to partake in a Christian concert, all our young people jumped at the opportunity! The teenagers also spent hours in the water park (we were sure they had grown fish gills). My daughter, Shalita (a resident of VA), is still a kid at heart; so she hung with them on most of the rides. How exciting it was when they would rush back to us after a ride to share their experiences!

~ Looking at all their joyful expressions reminded me why we do this. I like to call it fuel for the heart. ~

One young lady told us how she felt like she would faint on each roller coaster and then demonstrated how she looked. What a performance she put on -- we were weak from laughter! Watching all our teens show & tell how loud the others screamed on a ride was priceless! Even the quietest one in our group opened up from her shyness to express how much fun she was having . . . such memories created!

Some of the girls chose to spend time exploring the park in different areas but, for the most part, they all stayed together as a group. Now that also spoke volumes to me. As we all know, most teenagers just want to do their own thing or hang out with their own cliques. (They may have chosen to stay together because the park was so large and could have been a little overwhelming or because they actually bonded together. I choose to think it’s the latter!)

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Wonderfully, there were only a few disagreements that day -- like differences on where we should eat or what time we would go to the next ride. You can just imagine hearing any teenager declare, “But we stood in line for your ride last time.” So, we must admit that life is not perfect every moment -- but we can always use the opportunity to share God’s love.

Overall, the girls and guys did love their time together -- laughing and joking, as young people do! We enjoyed the park until about 10 PM that evening. Only two or three of the youth in our group had ever experienced an amusement park of this caliber. So, this trip was truly something to remember! I thank all who helped make this awesome trip possible!

How Will I Remember My Life When Moving From One Home To Another?

By Donna Foster

FosteringPerspectives.org

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“A life book is essential in helping a child who has experienced trauma. And all children in foster care have experienced trauma. We need good, warm stories to balance the difficult times in our lives. And when we forget, we need those who were there to remind us of them.” Read more about life books, how they help a foster child and how to make them at http://fosteringperspectives.org/?p=1656.

Helpful Books for Foster Children

Leah Tripp

Children who are in foster care often experience confusion and fear regarding the process of care, the trauma they have experienced, and the often temporary nature of the homes they are living in.

There are a wide variety of resources that help foster parents and mentors tackle the difficult topics of foster care. Below are three books that may be helpful for foster children of different age groups.

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Riley the Brave- Jess Sinarski (Ages 3-7)
Riley the Brave f ollows the story of brave bear cub, Riley, as he learns to understand complicated feelings like fear, shame, and sadness. Riley spends time with many different animal friends, and reflects on how to process anger in a healthy way by using his words. The book also addresses tough topics that are specific to foster children, such as trusting adults, food insecurity, and how to talk about trauma.

The book’s colorful illustrations paired with fun animal characters will allow children to talk about fear and courage in a way that still allows them to feel safe and comfortable.

Locomotion- Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 8-12)
Woodson’s Locomotion follows is the story of eleven-year-old Lonnie, who is living in a foster home after the death of his parents. With the help of his foster mother, Miss Edna, and his teacher, Ms. Marcus, Lonnie learns to express his feelings through poetry. The book is told entirely through Lonnie’s poems, and covers complex topics such as loss, fear, separation from siblings, and the experiences of older boys in foster care.

Far from the Tree- Robin Benway (Ages 13+)
Benway’s 2017 novel explores the meaning of family through the lives of biological siblings Grace, Maya, and Joaquin, who, through foster care and adoption experiences, are living very different lives.

When Grace places her own daughter up for adoption, she starts looking for her biological family, and begins to form relationships with her younger sister, Maya and her older brother Joaquin. Maya, who has been adopted into a family that has its own set of problems, struggles to find her own identity and the family in which she feels she belongs. Joaquin, who has spent seventeen years in foster care, is skeptical of his sisters and of the world in general. Throughout the book, the three siblings learn about the different shapes that family can take, and how to love despite difficult circumstances.

These three books are a small sample of the wide array of literature available for foster children of all ages. For a more complete list of books with foster care themes, visit the link below:

https://bookriot.com/2016/05/27/childrens-books-foster-care-themes/

Understanding Trauma

Leah Tripp

Terms like “trauma” often conjure up images of terrible accidents, violence, or war in our minds. We tend to associate the concept of trauma with a singular event that inflicts deep psychological pain.

However, trauma can often be a product of ongoing negative experiences, and many children who have been adopted or are in foster care have experienced trauma of some kind. In order to love and care for these children in the healthiest way possible, it is important to understand the way trauma impacts emotional and psychological well-being.

Childhood trauma can be caused by a variety of situations, but most often hinges on experiences of abuse (verbal or physical) and neglect. Abuse and neglect have a long lasting impact on children due to the fact that these traumas occur while they are still cognitively developing.

Children who experience neglect and abuse during their formative years are receiving mixed messages regarding who to trust, what behavior is appropriate, and how to interact with people as a whole. The people they naturally trust (parents), have put them in danger in one way or another, thus making it difficult for them to identify what is safe and what is not.

In some instances, this instability can cause changes in a child’s brain structure. According to Counseling Today, children that are exposed to chronic neglect and abuse begin perceiving everything as a threat in order to defend themselves, which alters the prefrontal cortex. Their brain is constantly in “survival mode” rather than “learning mode,” which sometimes makes it more difficult for them to develop cognitive skills at a normal rate.

It is vital to understand that any child who has been removed from their biological parents has experienced trauma in some way. The severity of this trauma ranges based on situation, but it is there nonetheless.

Recent studies have shown that even infants, who are often deemed “too young to remember,” experience trauma.

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According to the Center for Youth and Family Solutions, unborn babies are capable of auditory processing as early as the second trimester. This means that when a child is born and then removed from the voice that they heard in utero, their brain experiences confusion and depravity.

While it is important to understand the instances and effects of trauma, it is also important to realize that the symptoms of emotional trauma can be decreased through coping strategies and interventions by the child’s caretakers.

While counseling and other professional interventions are highly recommended, emotional support on behalf of family members, foster parents, and adoptive parents is vital to helping a child who has experienced trauma.

Often, childhood trauma is a result of repeated patterns of instability. Therefore, showing a child who has experienced trauma that they are in a safe, secure environment with people who love and care for them is integral to the process of growth and healing. If you’d like to be a part of providing a child with stability and safety, consider reaching out to AGAPE of North Carolina regarding foster care, adoption, or respite care.

For more information regarding childhood trauma and parenting, visit the U.S. Children’s Bureau for resources.

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

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/

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

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/

10 Ways Teachers Can Help http://redtri.com/10-ways-teachers-can-help-students-from-foster-care/slide/1

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.

North Carolina Foster Youth and School

By Jordan Upton

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Children entering foster care are dealing with drastic changes in their home lives. They are usually removed quickly and have experienced some sort of trauma. 70% of children in care are of school age. In his article, Foster Youth & School: The Ongoing Struggles, Dr. John DeGarmo explains that these children “often miss a great deal of school, as their foster parents and case workers attend to duties such as enrolling the child into school, meeting with counselors and psychologists, and giving the child time to adequately adjust to the new living situation.”

On the UNC School of Government blog, assistant professor Sara DePasquale writes about the impact of school mobility: “Children in care who transfer schools lose four to six months of academic progress with each change in school placement. Children in foster care are more likely to be retained, suspended, and/or expelled; drop out; and perform poorly on standardized tests. In addition to the academic disruption, children who move schools also lose natural supports that exist in their original school, such as siblings, peers, or trusted adults like teachers, counselors, and/or coaches.”

In April 2017, the North Carolina DHHS Division of Social Services implemented an educational stability policy for children in foster care. It requires that every child in the custody of NC welfare agencies must have a plan for educational stability that addresses school stability, school enrollment, educational needs and services, and documentation regarding educational stability. The family services manual explains:

“Educational stability promotes educational success so children in agency custody continue their education without disruption, maintain important relationships, and have the opportunity to achieve college and career readiness. The emphasis of this policy is to minimize the number of school changes for each child and when a school change is unavoidable ensure each child is enrolled in a timely manner. Decisions regarding educational stabilitymust be based on what is in each child’s best interest.”

While there are always improvements to be made, this policy is a step in the right direction for caring for North Carolina’s youth in foster care and their educational needs.

https://www.fosterfocusmag.com/articles/foster-youth-school-ongoing-struggles https://civil.sog.unc.edu/school-stability-for-children-in-foster-care/ https://www2.ncdhhs.gov/info/olm/manuals/dss/csm-10/man/1201sXIII.pdf

Maintaining Relationships Between Past Foster Parents and Foster Children

by Carrie Craft

liveabout.com
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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...