Tip Sheet Tuesday: Effective Management of Crisis Behavior

Youth who have been in foster care or who have been adopted are often an especially vulnerable group of people. Their life Effective Management of Crisis Behaviorexperiences are different from those people who have known love, understanding, and consistency. Kids in care have unmet needs and have often experienced multiple losses and stress.

Behavior is an expression of a feeling or an attempt to meet a need. Crisis is a time of social, emotional, and physical distress that temporarily impairs a child’s ability to cope.

Our response to crisis should be to help develop the child or youth’s self-control, self-worth, independence, and responsibility for his or her behavior. This tip sheet includes guidelines for what to do before, during, and after a crisis.

Under the Umbrella: Crisis De-escalation

SadWe all want to have our homes be a peaceful environment. But we all know that even the best laid plans can sometimes go amiss. Many parents, whether seasoned or brand new, have found themselves with a child in crisis at one point or another. When that happens, it can be a very tense, sometimes scary, situation. So, how do you handle a crisis situation? Below are some tips that may help you de-escalate the situation and bring a feeling of calm back into the home.

  • Stay calm. Any escalation in your emotional state has the chance to heighten the emotional state of the child in crisis. If you are co-parenting, you can try to “tag team” in to and out of the situation. For those who are not parenting with another person, you might want to have someone in your support system who can be “on call” if a crisis situation arises. Having trouble staying calm? It can be helpful to remember to breathe deeply and talk slowly to the child in crisis.
  • One step at a time. The middle of a crisis is usually not the best time to try to solve the issue that caused the crisis in the first place. In most cases, each party involved needs some time to return to feeling calm before they can address whatever brought the crisis on. Later, you might sit down with the child and ask, “Can we talk about what upset you?”You may also want to come up with a plan for what to do the next time he or she is feeling the same way.
  • Stay focused. Try to help the child focus on his or her feelings. As things begin to return to a state of calm, keep asking him or her how he or she is feeling. Do your best to stay focused on the situation and try to not let the child lead the conversation elsewhere. You might clarify any statements the child makes about feelings or their perception of what just happened by summarizing and restating what he said back to him. (“I hear that you are feeling very angry.” “I understand that you feel frustrated right now.”)
  • Plan ahead. You may want to keep track of what works and what does not when your family encounters a crisis situation. Those notes might be helpful in developing a plan for your family to use in similar situations int he future. A different plan may be needed to fit the specific needs of the different children in your care. What will you say? What will you do? Are there any phrases or items that can help the child feel more calm more quickly? Planning both what you, as a parent, can do and helping the child plan for future situations can help to mitigate any feelings of anxiety – and might help bring a crisis situation back to calm more quickly.

Do you have any tips that you and your family use in crisis situations? Please visit our Facebook page and share your knowledge with other families! After a crisis, it can be helpful to process with someone; perhaps a co-parent, a friend, or a therapist. Please know that you can also call us at the Coalition if you need to process afterwards or if you would like some support in planning ahead. Our Resource Specialists can help by simply listening or making some referrals for additional support or services. Our toll-free number is 1-800-762-8063 or you can reach us via email at info@coalitionforcyf.org.

Featured Tip Sheets

Effective Management of Crisis Behavior

Helping Children in Care Build Trusting Relationships

The Journey of Forgiveness

Under the Umbrella is the weekly enewsletter from the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. If you would like to sign up to receive this newsletter in your in box, please do so here.

Journey of the Heart Gala Award Recipients

At last November’s gala, Journey of the Heart, we were privileged to recognize two outstanding Friend of Children award recipients and an inspiring Family of the Year. Here’s more information about them all:

2014 Friend of Children: Glenda Woosley
Glenda WoosleyGlenda is the Owner/Operator of Culver’s of Darboy and Little Chute. Glenda has been a true champion of the Coalition over the course of the past seven years. Beginning in 2007, Glenda has been making a donation to the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families each and every month. She and Culver’s have played an instrumental role in the past foster care recruitment campaigns as well, starting with the Turn a Life Around campaign a few years ago.

Glenda Woosley and her Culver’s crew have been the recipients of numerous awards and recognitions both on the corporate and local levels due to their dedication and commitment to their guests and the community. Those awards include the Commitment to Excellence Award, the Ruth Award, the Culver’s Crew Challenge, and the Green Thumb/Pride Award.

In addition, last year, Glenda supported the foster care recruitment efforts of Outagamie and Calumet Counties by inviting social workers and foster parents to her Culver’s restaurant for a foster parent recruitment and awareness event on Valentine’s Day. Culver’s guests were provided with information about foster parenting in the form of table tents.

Each Christmas Eve, the store closes and hosts a Christmas dinner for less fortunate families. Culver’s crew members donate their time to participate in this family event. Glenda is not only a Champion of the Coalition, but it’s clear that she is also a Champion in her Community.

2014 Friend of Children: Bruce Miller, National Insurance Services
Bruce Miller, National Insurance ServicesBruce Miller came to the Coalition’s door in April 2003. We always ask people who want to be on our board why they are attracted to us when there are so many organizations and needs in our community. Bruce said, “Adoption has brought great richness to my wife Marianne’s and my life. We adopted three boys and I would like to help others share the same joy.”

Bruce joined our organization at a critical time – when we were starting to grow. In the first few years that he was on the board, we received a five year federal grant, started our wonderful relationship with Jockey International and its Jockey Being Family® project, and began implementing our resource center work for foster care statewide.

Bruce has always understood the richness of adoption, and also its challenges. He has been a steadfast champion of the expansion of our post-adoption support for adoptive families and our advocacy around this needed service.

Bruce’s leadership as a board member and as Board President from 2008 to 2012 helped us immeasurably. We faced a substantial increase in staff, funding, and all the complexities connected to these rich opportunities. Bruce is a strategist – from the work he does with National Insurance Services to his church, and other nonprofits in this community. His wisdom and knowledge have helped us grow and think towards the big picture of where, what, and how we can continue to impact the lives of children and their families.

Bruce didn’t just help us out. He enlisted his wife Marianne, who has been on our special event committee – and past chair of it – for many years. National Insurance Services has been a strong supporter – from its corporate side but also from all the wonderful people connected to it who have helped us in so many ways.

We salute Bruce Miller for his dedication to our organization and thank National Insurance Services for their support for families.

2014 Family of the Year: The Cadd Family
Peg & Rick CaddFor some families, a small compact car is sufficient to transport their children to school and other extracurricular activities. A mini-van is necessary for other larger families that require extra space in order to transport everyone to where they need to go. For the Cadd family, nothing short of a shuttle bus will do.

Rick and Peg Cadd have been fostering for over 30 years. When asked how many children they have fostered over that time span, they responded, “We lost count after a hundred children, but we remember each child by name.”

In addition to being foster parents, the Cadds have adopted 10 children from foster care and their family also includes four birth children. So what are the most rewarding aspects of fostering and adopting? In Peg’s words, “There are so many rewards, but the best reward would have to be the children. It’s rewarding when children and youth can be successfully reunited with their birth families or adopted by loving families.” She added, “[We have been] blessed to be a part of our children’s lives and watch them grow and become successful and happy.”

When Peg is not busy with all of the responsibilities of parenting, she somehow finds time to be a trainer for foster parents, social workers, and other child welfare staff. Peg is able to share the wisdom that she and her husband, Rick, have learned over the past three decades with others as an additional way to assist other parents and child welfare staff with their collective pearls of wisdom.

The Cadd family is an absolute inspiration because of their commitment to enriching the lives of countless children and families. Rick and Peg Cadd truly have an everlasting supply of love for their children.

“We feel very blessed to have been able to be foster, adoptive, and birth parents. Each of the sweet angels has a very special spot in our hearts.”

World Wide Wednesday, February 25, 2015

iStock_000003621765_LargeIt’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s news in the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • You CAN Help: a video for non-foster parents who want to lend a hand in another way.
  • Adoption Advocate: Avoiding the Perils and Pitfalls of Intercountry Adoption from Non-Hague Countries. In the February 2015 issue of NCFA’s Adoption Advocate, Christine Lockhart Poarch and McLane Layton present Part I of a two-part series that will provide an overview of the most common perils and pitfalls involved in designating a child as an orphan under U.S. law and emphasize best practices for agencies and adoptive families. Download the PDF of Adoption Advocate No. 80 or view the web version.
  • Generations United Provides Snapshot of “Grandfamilies”: In December, Generations United released The State of Grandfamilies in America: 2014, finding that over one-quarter (27%) of foster children are being raised by grandparents and other relatives. Of the 7.8 million children living in households headed by grandparents or other relatives, for about one-third, their parents do not live with them and 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for the children living with them. Generations United offers policy recommendations including empowering youth and caregivers to advocate for themselves 
and preparing caregivers to meet the specific needs of their children.
  • New Publication Provides Overview of Common Adoption Expenses and Availability of Financial Assistance: The Adoption Exchange, in collaboration with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the National Endowment for Financial Education, has developed a booklet entitled “How to Make Adoption an Affordable Option”. The publication reviews typical adoption expenses, both pre and post adoption, and also reviews resources pertaining to available financial assistance programs.

Have news you’d like to share? Please post in our comments!

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Building the Bonds of Attachment

164208044It’s unbelievable how quickly our hearts sing when a child comes into our lives. From a child’s perspective, however, it can take some time to hear the song our hearts are trying to share.

Attaching to a new caregiver can be hard for some children who enter foster care or who have been adopted. This may be because of past hurtful or traumatic experiences; or perhaps there was some disconnect with a primary caregiver. At times attachment simply comes slowly. At other times attachment issues can become so intense or attachment is so lacking that there is cause for concern. Understanding attachment can also provide your family with a roadmap toward a stronger relationship and positive solutions.

What Is Attachment?
Children who are securely attached want to be near the people they’re attached to, typically their parents or primary caregiver, and they go to those people when they feel afraid or threatened. They see these attachment figures as a “secure base” from which they feel safe enough to branch out and explore their environment.

Furthermore, they show some anxiety when the person or people they’re attached to are absent. A child who is not securely attached might also seem distressed when separated from a parent or caregiver but, when the parent returns, the child doesn’t seem to be reassured. The child might refuse comfort or even be aggressive toward the parent.

The lack of secure attachment can look different for every child and can be caused by many factors, such as:

  • Abuse and/or neglect
  • A prolonged absence (e.g., prison, hospital stay)
  • Medical conditions for either parent or child
  • Mental health issues (e.g., postpartum depression)
  • Environmental factors (e.g., poverty, violence, lack of support, multiple moves).

The effects can follow a child no matter how loving and secure the home is that the child is entering. It’s important to remember that underlying the child’s behaviors is the child’s need to feel safe and to protect himself at all costs, even if that means initially rejecting love and support. A better understanding of attachment can help you understand a child’s challenging behaviors, and can help you decide when it may be time to seek help from a professional.

Read the full tip sheet.

My Wish

“My wish is for someone to help me with my homework.”

“My wish is to have a family that loves me and believes in me.”

“I wish I could go to the aquarium with my sister.”

These are just a few of the wishes from some of the children and youth currently in foster care in Wisconsin. We know that all children have wishes and, for those who are in foster care, their wishes can be for more than a new music download or going to a movie with a friend.

The Coalition, along with Serve Marketing, has just launched a social media campaign, #100DaysOfWishes. The social media campaign is connected to our larger foster parent recruitment campaign entitled My Wish.

And we need your help.

We’re looking for foster parents to talk with the children and youth in their care and ask them what their wishes are. Simple things like the examples above or what you see in the image at right. Here’s how you can help:

  • Ask the child or youth to write down his or her wish in one sentence starting with “I wish . . .” or “My wish is . . .” Each child can submit as many wishes as he or she would like! But please submit only one wish per page.
  • Artwork is strongly encouraged to be included with the child’s wish!
  • All submissions should be handwritten or hand drawn or painted.
  • Wishes can be scanned and sent via email or mailed to
    • Coalition for Children, Youth & Families
      Attn: Jenna Czaplewski
      6682 W Greenfield Ave., Ste 310
      Milwaukee WI 53214

We are looking to share as many wishes as we can; not only during the #100DaysOfWishes campaign, but continuing through the year, as well. Please help us share the wishes of children and youth in foster care as we continue to share the need for more foster families throughout Wisconsin.

If you have any questions about the campaign or how to submit a wish, please call Jenna at 414-475-1246 or 1-800-762-8063. You may also send an email to mywish@coalitionforcyf.org.

The My Wish campaign is a collaborative effort with SERVE Marketing, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, and the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families.

Parenting Strategies for Teens and Tweens that Enhance Development

Adolescence doesn’t discriminate between birth children, youth in foster care, or someone who was adopted. When it comes to adolescence, it simply does not matter how a young person came to join his family. The changing hormones and shifting attitudes that characterize this time of life affects all tweens and teens in similar ways. Not only do they experience a lot of physical changes during adolescence, they also experience a variety of social, emotional, and cognitive changes.

The increase in hormones that all tweens and teens experience as they go through puberty means that, more often than not, they begin to feel more self-conscious about everything, especially their image. Emotions tend to run high during adolescence and young people are more susceptible to making decisions based on how they are feeling or the influence from their peers. Tweens and teens rely heavily on their peers for information, guidance, and acceptance. As a result, they have a tendency to adjust what they do based on the reactions, opinions, and expectations of others.

Group of tweens/teensAdolescence is also when young people begin to develop their sense of self and desire for independence. They want to explore different things that might help them to better fit in with certain peer groups, as well as to grow their own self-confidence. Very often teens and tweens do this through trial and error and testing boundaries to see how those around them will react. Sometimes their behavior will gain approval; other times the results won’t be quite as favorable. As they push and pull and learn about the positive and negative consequences of their actions, many tweens and teens will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Teens can often seem moody, defiant, irresponsible, indecisive, unpredictable, impulsive, stubborn, and a whole lot more! Many of these behaviors and attitudes are a very typical part of a child’s development. And yet, for parents, it’s often easy to misinterpret those irrational and non-compliant behaviors to be anything but typical.

You might find yourself feeling that the child you once knew is gone, replaced by a young adult who appears to want nothing to do with you or who will only listen if his friends are nowhere to be seen. You may even begin to feel like parenting a tween or teen is more difficult than you had anticipated. The teen years can sometimes mean more conflict between parent and child. (Your feelings get hurt and he feels as though you aren’t on his side.) You may face more frustrating and challenging days as a parent, but the behavior you may be seeing doesn’t and shouldn’t define the child who you love and care about.

The vast majority of tweens and teens are energetic and caring individuals who have a profound interest in what they think is fair and right. The tween and teen years are full of experiences and learning moments that are significant in shaping who they will become as adults. As a parent, the goal is to not give up; to continue to love them unconditionally; to keep believing in your child in order to see him transition to adulthood. Flexibility and adaptability can be two of the most beneficial tools in your parenting tool box.

In order to help with this mission, following are eight ideas for you to consider with your tween or teen. Perhaps some of these suggestions can help you feel more empowered as the parent of a tween or teen:

1. Agree on and establish reasonable household rules and limits by incorporating some of your tween or teen’s ideas and help her work within those boundaries. This will show her that you value her input and help encourage her to “get on board” with not only following the rules, but accepting the consequences of breaking them.

2. Put expectations in writing and display them in your home where they are visible and can be quickly referenced if needed. The use of visuals, such as a flowchart, can help with clearly identifying rules, consequences, chores, allowed activities, goals, etc.

3. Be specific and consistent. Explain things by breaking details down to the basics and asking your child if she has any questions. This will help you both determine if there is mutual understanding of whatever is being discussed.

4. Find a healthy balance between being firm and consistent, but also nurturing and loving towards your tweens and tweens. You can achieve this by demonstrating a willingness to be understanding and flexible, while maintaining structure and consistency in the home setting.

5. Give praise and encouragement often and consistently to help your tween or teen build up his self-confidence and self-esteem. He will learn to believe in himself and his abilities, if you show him how to exercise his potential in a positive way.

6. Model positive behavior. Help your tween or teen set realistic and attainable short-term and long-term goals for herself and teach her how to be independent through independent living and life skills training.

7. Be relatable and open to having personal conversations with your child, without forcing conversation if he is not ready. Speak with him at his level, using language he understands. This will help to create a comfortable environment that allows your child to feel safe enough to open up and be honest about what’s driving his behaviors.

8. When you feel like you are frustrated or overwhelmed, try to remember that what works for one child might not work for another. Be prepared for numerous periods of trial and error. When all else fails, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and try new things. Talking with other parents who have teenagers can provide you with additional ideas or approaches to situations that arise.

From the Spring 2015 edition of Partners newsletter, published by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. You can read the full issue on our website.