World Wide Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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

  • Adoption at the Movies review: Monkey Kingdom.
  • The Secrets of Bullying: 5 Signs We Can’t Afford to Miss: Bullying is one of the most misunderstood crises of our time. Bullies are created by a specific life-path we can reroute at any stage when we know the road signs to look for along the way. Are you ready to help transform both bullies and victims into contributing, connected members of society? Then take a walk down the life-path of both with Dr. Becky Bailey, a renowned developmental psychology and early childhood expert, and the founder of Conscious Discipline. View the video. (NOTE: This video is not appropriate viewing for children.)
  • International Adoption: Adopting from Poland.
  • Blog Post: There’s No Such Thing as Giving Too Much in Foster Care.

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

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Your Voice Matters – Speaking Out by Speaking Up

This tip sheet is part of our collection of tip sheets specifically for youth. 

Your voice matters and you deserve to be heard. Hopefully your experiences of being in the foster care system were good experiences. But the child welfare system is constantly changing and always needs change. Speaking out and speaking up about foster care and adoption issues are key steps in advocating for changes you want to see. You have the power to make changes in your life and the lives of others.

175783790What is advocacy and how do I do it?
Advocacy is about having the courage to speak out about something that motivates you. Often just in telling your story (through speeches, poems, writing, etc.) you will be a powerful influence to social workers, foster parents, law makers, and others. Doing research and educating others is key to strong advocacy.

Advocating can occur on a local, state or national level. In 2009, three of Wisconsin’s Youth Advisory Council members (YAC) traveled to Washington State and Washington, D.C. to help improve lives of other youth in care. These three young adults have also advocated for child welfare changes at the local and state level, as well. You can choose what is most important to you and which issues you would like to address.

Building Connections
We all need help from others. This is especially true when you are advocating for something you believe in, which is something the YAC members have experienced over the last year. They began their group—with help from staff from child welfare agencies—in January of 2008 and have grown considerably in just a year and a half because they work as a group. Advocating with others is a powerful mechanism to have your voices heard.

Joining together for a common cause can be a rewarding experience, and there is definitely strength in numbers. Following are some suggestions as to how to go about finding others who might have similar beliefs or situations as you. Visit our website to continue reading.

Under the Umbrella: Advocating with Government Officials

As a foster or adoptive parent, you have likely had some experience advocating on behalf of a child. Maybe you were able to get him or her an IEP at school or secure an appointment with a specialist sooner than you were originally told. If so, you have already seen what a big impact advocacy can have on your child and/or family. On a larger scale, advocacy is key to developing statewide policies that positively impact children and families throughout Wisconsin. Public policies are established by government officials, but YOU can help with this process.

Your local legislators can influence the creation and passage of bills and therefore are important contacts when it comes to sharing your thoughts on policies. To find out who your state senator and/or representative is, visit http://legis.wisconsin.gov and use the “Find My Legislators” feature. This website also provides information about yours legislators’ background, bills they have sponsored, committees they are involved with, and party affiliations, as well as their stance on certain issues.

When considering making contact with your legislator about a bill, you may want to think about the best way to communicate your concerns. Although some might feel intimidated by scheduling a meeting face-to-face, these meetings are the best way for you to engage a legislator on a more personal level.  To set up a personal meeting, you will need to call your local senator and/or representative’s office to request an appointment. If your legislator is agreeable to a meeting and if their schedule allows, you can expect to have a brief amount of time with him or her – perhaps 15-20 minutes. Having this limited amount of time means that you might want to plan ahead and prepare a few key points to guide your discussion. Think of the meeting as you would think of a job interview: arrive on time, dress professionally, and send a follow-up letter to reiterate your views and thank your legislator for their time.

If your legislator is unable to meet you in person, consider a phone conversation instead. Writing a letter or email can also be an effective way to advocate. Legislators receive a lot of communication this way, so be sure to keep your letter concise (no more than one page), and state the bill number and issue in the first sentence. Be sure to include your thoughts on this issue, as well as personal examples and/or any pertinent articles or materials you have to support your view. Don’t forget to include your contact information so that your legislator can reach you if they would like to discuss your concerns further.

No matter what way you choose to communicate with your legislator, be sure to do your homework ahead of time so that you have a good grasp of the topic you would like to discuss. You do not need to be an expert in a particular field to voice your thoughts or concerns; in fact, hearing from constituents who have direct knowledge of an issue or concern is valuable to legislators. For example, having personal experience as a foster or adoptive parent can give your legislator a good idea of how a particular child welfare policy will affect children and families firsthand. Be sure that your story and experience directly relates to the policy that you are supporting or opposing.

For more information on the structure of state government as well as how you can influence legislation, please view the Legislative Advocacy Guide. This guide is provided by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) – you can also contact them at (608) 284-0580 for additional guidance on this topic. We encourage you to keep up-to-date on decisions being made in the legislature that affect children and families. And please remember that we are here to help and support you and your family along your fostering or adoption journey. You can call us at 800-762-8063 or 414-475-1246 or send us an email anytime to info@coalitionforcyf.org.

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.

World Wide Wednesday, May 20, 2015

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

  • Respite Angels are Truly Award-worthy: Every quarterback has a backup, many computers are backed up because of viruses, and every lead actor has supporting roles alongside them.So what do foster parents do when they need to rest, recharge or deal with a virus? They reach out to the wonderful people who do RESPITE.
  • I Don’t Want You to Fail: An Open Letter to Foster Children – I don’t know all of you. But I wish I did. When I started my journey into foster care and adoption nearly 9 years ago I had no idea that I would fall in love with thousands of children I would never meet. That might sound cheesy, hard to believe and maybe even a little ridiculous, but it’s true. I think about all of you — as a group, as individuals — every single day of my life.I want you to know that you matter. I want you to see past the simplicity and perhaps the overuse of that statement to the heart of what it means. You matter. Your ideas, your talents, your dreams, your wishes…they all matter.
  • Is Adoption Sad? Our children deserve to hear their whole adoption story–even when it isn’t happy. An article from Adoptive Families by Robert Barnett.
  • What Is Life Like for Birth Mothers After Placement? Supporting Birth Mothers: Before, During, and After Adoption On Your Feet Foundation’s national survey provides insight into birth mothers’ emotional experiences after placement and what can help them heal.

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

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Fostering a Child Whose Sibling(s) Live Elsewhere

HiResWhen siblings enter foster care, the goal is to keep the children together whenever possible. Sometimes, however, this cannot happen for a variety of reasons. We know from research, that sibling relationships are important for a child’s development and emotional wellbeing. Sibling connections can provide a sense of family identity even if a child is not connected with other birth family members.

If you find yourself fostering a child whose siblings are living somewhere else, there are ways you can support, connect, and assist that child through the emotions and confusion that may come up.

Though you cannot control what happens in their sibling’s placement, you can use this tip sheet to gather ideas about connecting with their family, facilitating visitations, and supporting the children in their feelings and struggles given their unique circumstances.

Supporting the child in your home
In most situations, the relationship a child has with his sibling is and will be the longest one he will have in his life. Being separated can feel isolating – and can be devastating. Siblings who are separated from one another may suffer from grief as a result of the losses they have experienced. Signs of grief could include:

  • Crying
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Withdrawing from others

Most of us are aware of the five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The child in your care may go through some or all of these stages, once or multiple times. If you notice a dramatic change in her appetite, sleep schedule, or school performance, it may be time to consider seeking out professional assistance or support.

When siblings are separated, it doesn’t always mean that they have to be disconnected from one another. Here are some possibilities for helping keep siblings connected: [Continue reading on our website]

Under the Umbrella: I Miss My Sibling

Boy comforts his younger brotherWhile the importance of continuing sibling relationships is rather widely understood today, missing siblings can be all too common for children in out-of-home care. It’s hard to watch your kids grieve the loss of these connections. So what’s the best thing to do about it? Talk! Helping someone, young or old, to grieve by offering a supportive, understanding, and judgment-free ear can help to ease that sense of loss, and clear up misconceptions that children or youth might have formed during confusing transitions. As a foster or adoptive parent, helping your child understand and grieve is one of the most healing supports you can offer.

Whether the child no longer has any contact with his sibling(s), less contact than they once had, or if the siblings are step-siblings, half-siblings, full siblings, or siblings born later that they never met, a lot of questions and tensions tend to arise from the children and youth in our care. Siblings offer a natural support. They share a similar point of view, as well as a unique bond filled with memories, trust, and shared experiences (regardless of the inevitable rivalry that exists between most siblings). If that sibling dynamic is suddenly or gradually made unavailable, we may see the child or youth in our care struggling behaviorally, emotionally, or even physically.

Two young mixed race children in bathtubIt’s important to recognize the loss they are experiencing and answer their questions honestly (keeping the details shared at a level that matches the child’s age and developmental stage). Talk openly with the child and ask him to share his feelings and thoughts with you, as well. Sometimes it can help to have a therapist who can support this process. Creating a life book may also help the child better understand his relationships, past, and identity, as well. You might also check in periodically with social workers and foster/adoptive parents of the sibling(s) to find out if more sibling contact is possible.

Later in life, you may find yourself supporting your child as he searches forthe sibling(s) he lost contact with. Wherever you may find yourself along this journey, we hope you’ll reach out to us if you are looking for resources, have any doubts, or need to know what your next step is. Give us a call at 1-800-762-8063 or 414-475-1246. You can also reach us via email at info@coalitionforcyf.org.

 Featured Tip Sheets

World Wide Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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

  • Uncovering, Discovering and Creating Connections for Your Foster and Adoptive Children: Children and youth of all ages, regardless of their needs and circumstances, long for loving lifelong connections to others. When children are placed into foster care, they all too often have lost not only their parents but also brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and others who are important in their lives. Children and adolescents who move from foster home to foster home are frequently lost and in crisis. They are young, alone, and lonely for a family, a home, a school with friends, and a neighborhood.
    Without the stability of lifelong connections, children and youth are missing the needed guidance to prepare them for adulthood. Unfortunately, many youth in foster care grow up and leave the system without any permanent, lifelong connections. They have neither the security of a family, nor the resources necessary for adulthood. For some young adults, they become part of the disproportionate number of former foster youth who end up in jail, lack job skills, face early pregnancy, and/or become homeless.
    As a foster and/or adoptive parent, one of your top priorities is to help the children in your care have the tools necessary to form healthy connections and supports. IFAPA has developed this free booklet to help you identify, locate, and engage caring individuals to support the child in your care over his or her lifetime. VIEW BOOKLET

  • Adoption at the Movies: Home Adoption Movie Review

  • Sleep and Adoption: Helping children get enough sleep can be an ongoing challenge for many families. In this issue of NCFA’s Adoption Advocate, Dr. Julian Davies of the University of Washington’s Center for Adoption Medicine offers some helpful hints for adoptive families who might be struggling in this area.

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