Under the Umbrella – Daily Dangers: An Update on Drug Use

The idea of drug use is a scary thing for all parents. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things out there available for kids to come into contact with. With all of the needs and responsibilities of our daily lives, we know it’s not easy to stay up to date on new trends; so we are dedicating this issue of Under the Umbrella to help give you an overview. Some of these you may heard of, while others may be new to you.
  • Alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, and marijuana continue to be popular and easily accessible for youth. “K2″ or “Spice” is an herbal mixture and is sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana. It produces a similar effect to marijuana with claims of being “natural,” though their active ingredients are synthetic compounds.
  • Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are also very available, it has become popular to have “skittles” parties, where medicine cabinets are raided and the pills are put into a large bowl where they are party-goers have access to them throughout the night. The contents of “skittle bowls” can include everything from medications for ADHD to sleep aids and pain killers. Obviously, mixing medications (especially those not prescribed to someone by their physician) can be dangerous or produce negative side effects, especially if mixed with alcohol. Mixing prescription cough medicine, often those that contain codeine, with soda or hard candy has also become trendy among youth.
  • You may have heard about bath salts in the news recently, they have been getting some media attention of late. Bath salts contain a synthetic, concentrated version of the chemical found in the khat plant, an amphetamine-like stimulant. Note that these are not the same as your store-bought Epsom salts; rather they are typically packaged in plastic or foil and are marked “not for human consumption.”
  • Molly (slang for molecular) refers to MDMA or Ecstasy. The difference is, that Molly can contain toxic additives. Molly falls into the hallucinogen family like LSD, PCP (phencyclidine), and psilocybin (hallucinogenic mushrooms).
  • GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine are more commonly known as the “date rape” drugs. These are often slipped to someone’s drink without that person knowing. They cause memory loss and may even cause someone to lose consciousness. So, if a young person were to be sexually assaulted after ingesting this drug, they may have no memory of the event.
  • Inhalants are another way kids get high. Every day household items that can be found in many homes, such as oven cleaners, gasoline, spray paints, or glue, may be used in order for a person to get high. Teens also use nitrous oxide, generally referred to as “whippets,” from canned whip cream to get high. Inhalant abuse can cause heart failure or death.
  • Heroin has made a bit of a comeback lately. It is a powerful and highly addictive substance. Another highly addictive drug is cocaine, which can raise a user’s heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels. It is often used as a “binge” drug, where users consume the drug several times during a session.
  • Amphetamines/methamphetamine, often shortened and referred to as meth, is a stimulant. Regular use effects how the brain works.
  • Anabolic steroids are a synthetic variation of male hormones often used by athletes to increase muscle mass and improve physical performance and appearance. Long term use can have serious health consequences, including heart and liver problems.

Children and youth may use or try drugs for all sorts of reasons. Curiosity, peer pressure, rebellion, or looking for an escape. Prolonged use of substances can lead to addiction or serious health problems, and may even be fatal. Here are a few warning signs to look for if you suspect any kind of drug use:

danger warning sign

  • Change in sleep or appetite
  • Shakes, tremors, bloodshot eyes
  • Change in typical behavior, such as skipping class or getting into trouble a school
  • Sudden change in social or extracurricular activities
  • An unexplained change in personality or attitude

This can all sound very scary – and it is. However, knowledge is very powerful and being aware of the dangers, and communicating with the children and youth you care for, can help combat drug use. The list above is certainly not comprehensive; rather we hoped to provide you with some idea of what is circulating, as well as some information about what to be aware of. We encourage you to check out the resources below for further information on drug trends and ideas on how to talk to your kids about drugs.

If you need more support or additional resources or information, you can always call us for help . . . we are here to help. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-762-8063, or email us at info@coalitionforcyf.org.

Featured Tip Sheet

World Wide Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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

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

Inclusion in this post does not imply an endorsement by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. The Coalition is not responsible for the content of these resources.

Tip Sheet Tuesday – Life Books: A Creative and Fun Way to Express Yourself

This tip sheet is from our collection of tip sheets for children and youth in care. See what other tip sheets for youth are available on our website.

Everyone has a personal story to share. Life books give you the opportunity to tell your story (for your own sake) and share your story with others (if you want to) A life book is all about you, and life books help you express who you are by documenting your history. They connect you with your past.

Regardless of how much or how little information you have; the goal remains the same: document as much as you can about your life and your history in your own personal life book.Your story is important. You are important!Life Books: A Creative and Fun Way to Express Yourself

Getting Started
A life book can begin with just a few items and can expand as you continue to collect items. Gather as much information as you can. You will not need stacks of photo albums or piles of personal documents in order to start creating your life book.

Talk with your social worker, your foster or adoptive parents, your birth family, extended family, friends, neighbors, mentors, teachers, tutors, therapists, and anyone else who played a role in your life. Sometimes even people who only knew you casually might have some unexpected insight for you.

Let’s call this group of people your support network. We all need people to support and encourage us. Talking with your support network about your past and present situation is the perfect place to discover information about yourself. Creating a life book is a team project, so make sure to get as many people involved that you can.

Life Book Pages
Now that you are ready to start your life book, the next step is to decide what items that you would like to include in your life book. Remember, this is your life book and you get to decide what you would like to include. Be creative, be expressive, and be committed to starting and completing your life book. Below are some suggestions that you can consider.

  • Pictures, pictures, pictures! The old saying is, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is absolutely true. Gather as many pictures as you can. Ask your support network for pictures of you, your family, siblings, your extended family, your pet(s), your friends, your school, your house, and any other people or places that are important to you.
  • If you aren’t able to find a lot of pictures, ask your friends and family to start taking pictures of you. You, in turn, can take pictures of them for your book.
  • Continue reading on our website.

Win an iPad Mini!

DCF-2013-Vertical-ColorThe Department of Children & Families’ Office of Youth Services, in partnership with the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families, is hosting a Video Testimonial Contest and will be giving away an iPad Mini!

To enter, simply take a video of yourself telling us about one of the following:

  1. An achievement you’re proud of
  2. A positive work experience
  3. An inspirational mentor

A winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries to receive an iPad Mini (32GB | Wi-Fi).

Contest Guidelines:

  1. Participant must read, understand, and sign a release form.*
  2. Participant must be a foster youth or foster youth alumni graduate between the ages of 17 and 25.
  3. Video is between 30 second and 2 minutes in length.
  4. Submission is mailed to contest@coalitionforcyf.org with a signed release form*, and the participant’s name, school and degree earned, age, and mailing address.
  5. Deadline to enter: July 31, 2015 at 5PM.
  6. Winner announced: August 6, 2015.

*Electronic signatures will be accepted.

Any questions? Email contest@coalitionforcyf.org.

Under the Umbrella: Low Cost Summer Fun!

The April showers have tapered off and the May flowers are vividly blooming. School has been out for a little while already and, if we know kids, they are already telling you that they are bored and want something to do. Aside from assigning household chores, or settling the kiddos in front of the latest video game or mobile app, there are plenty of fun activities that you can all do for little or no cost.

When the sun is shining: Go outside! According to one study, children today are spending less than half of the time they spent outdoors 20 years ago. Wisconsin is a state that is filled with natural beauty, and adults as well as children can enjoy the great outdoors. Why not expose the entire family to all that Wisconsin has to offer? Check out your local and state parks. Many parks offer free activities and family activities. If you need a starting point: start with Wisconsin’s 7 Natural Wonders.

Travel the world while staying close to home.  Exposing children to vibrant beauty of other cultures can be difficult with a limited travel budget. But many Wisconsin communities offer ethnic festivals from all over the world. From the Northland Mardi Gras to Bastille Days in Milwaukee, the whole family will get to experience the food, dress and crafts of other cultures all while expanding their horizons by learning about the wider world around them. Check out this list for ethnic festivals in your area.

Enjoy a family movie outside. If you are having trouble getting the kids off the couch to enjoy the summer weather, why not compromise and enjoy a family movie outside. Besides boasting many classic and affordable drive-in movie theaters, many Wisconsin communities offer outdoor film nights, such as Baraboo’s Movies On The Square or Milwaukee’s “Family Flicks” in the parks. You might also check with your local Park & Recreation Department, as smaller communities often have similar offerings.

There is a festival for everyone! From the New Glarus Fire Fest to the Medford Strawberries & Cream Festival, there is festival for every taste and interest. Wisconsin is famous for its wide variety of street festivals. These festivals are fun and engaging and showcase local goods such as crafts and tasty treats. They also offer a wide variety of family activities that are sure get the whole into the festive atmosphere. Be sure to check out the statewide fairs and festival event calendar.

colorful-boats-header.jpgThe land of 15,000 lakes. Minnesota may be proud of the moniker “The land of 10,000 lakes,” but did you know that Wisconsin has over 15,000 lakes? And many of those lakes have beaches that are available to the public. Besides swimming, there are many water activities such as canoeing and fishing available. Check out the DNR’s lake website to find a lake near you.

But it’s raining outside! If the weather turns sour all of a sudden, there are many great activities you can do indoors. The local library has many activities for children during the week, and it is a great place for children and families to spend a rainy afternoon. You can also check out local museums, which not only offer fun activities but unique learning experiences to capture a child’s imagination.

These are just some of the many free and low cost activities available to families in Wisconsin. With a little planning, you can pack the long days of summer with enriching activities that will be sure to bring families together and build lasting memories.

World Wide Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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

  • Helping Your Child Heal: Parenting a Child Who Has Experiences Maltreatment. Parents whether birth, foster, and adoptive and other caregivers of children and youth who have experienced maltreatment may feel confused, concerned, and unsure of the impact of abuse. In order to help children heal, they need to understand the signs, symptoms, and effects of child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and trauma. Child Welfare Information Gateway has produced a series of factsheets for families that explores the many factors affecting how children react to maltreatment experiences and how parents can help children recover.
  • It’s Not “Just a Kid Thing” – Behaviors in Adopted and Foster Children. As parents of hurting children we hear this often, far too often. Our friends and family share their similar experiences on everything; picky eaters, criers, infants having difficulty weaning from the bottle, problems with potty training. We hear of teens who act out, use drugs and smoke to escape. Friends tell us of their teens who don’t listen, pre-teens who are promiscuous. But there’s a difference, our children didn’t get a healthy start in life with love, care, and affection. They were neglected, wondering when they’d be fed, never held, never soothed when they cried. They were abused, beat on, hit when they cried, yelled at when they asked questions, and heinous acts were laid upon them that we don’t even want to contemplate.
  • Social Media and Your Foster or Adopted Teens. In this new article, the AdoptUSKids social media manager describes the dangers of social media use among teens and offers parents tips on what they can do to help foster and adoptive teens use social media safely.

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

Inclusion in this post does not imply an endorsement by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. The Coalition is not responsible for the content of these resources.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Advocating for LGBTQ Youth

Picture1All youth rely on their parents for guidance, support, nurturing, and unconditional acceptance. Foster and adoptive parents are important allies and advocates for youth. If we provide guidance, support, nurturance, and advocacy for LGBTQ youth, we will be instrumental in their successful development.

Approximately 5% to 10% of the general population is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBTQ). LGBTQ adolescents are estimated to make up a disproportionate share of the youth who are in foster care according to the Child Welfare League of America and the Lambda Legal Joint Initiative.

Fear Factor
Many young people fear the negative reactions that come from revealing that they are LGBTQ. Many youth in care may not have acknowledged or “come out” to share that they identify as LGBTQ.

LGBTQ youth are also often victims of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse and often have a high rate of suicide attempts, binge alcohol use, and drug use. They often experience insecure feelings and emotional trauma due to being subjected to bullying.

Allies and Advocates
An important aspect of advocating for all youth is acceptance with an open heart and mind when a young person instills their trust by informing you of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Barbara Jones, an experienced Wisconsin foster parent, has had placement of LGBTQ children. She suggests that often we lack knowledge or exposure to LGBTQ issues, so we may shut down or have prejudice toward LGBTQ foster youth.

She goes on to suggest that we educate ourselves; we will be more open and accepting to work with children and adults of varying sexual orientations.

As a foster parent, it is important to be “open, accepting and a good listener,” according to Barbara. Create an atmosphere within your home that allows the child to feel safe and comfortable to speak to you about any subject, including sexuality. Continue Reading