Tip Sheet Tuesday: Shared Parenting – Putting the Needs of Children First

Shared ParentingImagine your favorite potted plant. Now picture someone taking that plant and cutting it off where the plant meets the soil and sticking the remaining stem into a new pot of dirt. The plant doesn’t thrive and yet you gave it a great new pot with fresh soil, water, and organic fertilizer. Must be something wrong with that plant . . .

Or is it that we, as a system, have just cut the child off from the roots of his family and taken him out of his familiar soil? What if we can help him to retain his roots while we’re temporarily replanting him until the first pot is able to mend a few holes? (Thanks to the Institute of Human Services for the example.)

Shared parenting is the newest term for what some foster families have been doing all along—welcoming a relationship with the family of the child in care. It happens successfully when foster parents and parents work together to raise children.

Toni, an experienced Wisconsin foster parent, says that, “Shared parenting involves opening your home to a child’s family for visits, frequent communication, and making decisions together.”

Shared parenting is a philosophy that governs the way foster families and families involved with the system work together. It emphasizes the key role foster parents play in keeping children connected to their families, while at the same time allowing the children’s parents to remain the experts—the parents— on their children. Foster parents are key in helping to give the natural parents credibility and confidence.

When kids in care see two families working together and giving the okay to have a relationship with both families, they experience less stress and don’t have to worry as much about loyalty to either family. Shared parenting can result in kids having shorter placements and quicker returns home. Even in cases where kids can’t return home, shared parenting often helps kids put the pieces of their life together more easily.

Continue reading on our website.

Under the Umbrella: Successful Co-Parenting

Parenting is arguably one of the most rewarding yet challenging experiences of all time. It can be exhausting just thinking about some of the basics involved, such as establishing rules and boundaries, following through with discipline, learning to be patient with your child, and recognizing and understanding his or her age appropriate developmental milestones. As if that weren’t complicated enough, throw in having to work with another person (or multiple persons) who may provide caregiver responsibilities to your child, may or may not live in the same household as you, and boom – instant disaster, right? Perhaps that was a bit extreme. While differences among those who are co-parenting together has the potential to bring on more challenges, it certainly doesn’t have to end in disaster.

group of people connected by color linesHere are three simple yet helpful strategies to consider when parenting with others to increase mutual understanding and lessen the chance of disagreements:

  • Parenting styles can be different and consistency is key. Work together to establish a few basic ground rules for your child that are important to you and the individual or individuals who you may be co-parenting with. Learn to be comfortable and flexible with anything outside of those basic rules.
  • Model respect and appreciation for one other in the presence of your child. Avoid speaking ill of another co-parent in front of your child. In the event that you and a co-parent may become involved in a disagreement when your child is present, be cautious of the messages you may be sending through your non-verbals and the language you choose to use. If you are unable to come to a peaceful resolution, agree to table it for discussion at a later time. Follow up with your child afterwards to gauge his understanding of the conflict and to help him understand the outcome of the disagreement once it’s resolved. This will teach him that disputes can be handled in a respectful and healthy manner.
  • Sharing is caring. Communicate openly and regularly with one another regarding your child’s needs and behaviors. Put your child at the forefront and challenge yourself to think of a co-parent as a valuable resource. Be open to exchanging feedback with a co-parent; it will only help you become a better parent to your child.

As always, we welcome you to visit our website and contact us at the Coalition (414-475-1246, 800-762-8063, or info@coalitionforcyf.org) if you have any questions, concerns, or comments you would like to share. We are here to help you!

Featured Tip Sheets

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.

Guest Post: We do this because . . .

We Do This Because…..
by Jill Norton

ALL OF US GET INTO FOSTER CARE BECAUSE we feel that we have something to offer. We may say to ourselves, ” I have a great marriage, my kids are doing well, and I can offer another child predictability and structure. I can advocate, lovingly discipline, nurture and protect children that have been abused and neglected.” In the back of our mind, we are also thinking, “And what child won’t respond positively to me and the efforts being made on their behalf?” Eventually, if you provide foster care long enough, a child will enter your home, you will work tirelessly, and the child won’t respond positively to your efforts. You become frustrated and begin to wonder what you are doing wrong. You may even feel like you are failing as a foster parent.

I WANT TO REMIND ALL OF US that it is not our job to fix these children. We cannot measure our level of success or 2013-10-12 15.37.42failure based upon how the child responds to our efforts. It is our job to get up every day and be faithful with what we have been entrusted to do. That is: to teach, guide, love, discipline, nurture, protect, advocate for, and provide consistency, structure and predictability.

BEING A FOSTER PARENT WILL BE one of the most rewarding-and-difficult-things you will ever do in your life. There will be times when you’ll feel ignored and undervalued by those in the system. Even children themselves seldom offer thanks. Know how important you are to this child. Know that you are uniquely situated to have the most significant impact on their life.

YOU WILL IMPACT WHO THEY ARE, the relationships that they have with their families and future spouses, their own children, and their future successes. The impact will last forever. Provide them with the tools to be successful. Nothing you do in the life of a child is ever wasted. Nothing. As Neil Postman says in The Disappearance of Childhood (1982), “Children are the living message we send to a time we will not see.”

cover jill nortonA Leap of Faith (Jillnorton.net) 

Jill Norton’s life was not how she envisioned it. Instead of a calm, peaceful life of control, Jill and her husband opened their hearts and home to foster children. Over the course of six years, Tom and Jill gave eight of those children a forever family through the miracle of adoption. Jill looks at how the system works; how to manage birth family connections, and why those connections are vital; critical trips to make foster and adoptive parents’ journeys easier; and how she and her husband discipline. Jill also offers an intimate look at what this spiritual call on their life has cost them, and she answers the question, “Would they do it all over again?”

World Wide Wednesday, March 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:

  • “Faith in Family”When the social worker brought my new daughter to my house, she wasn’t the African-American girl I was expecting. And so we became a transracial family.
    by Tracy Clausell-Alexander

  • “Googling Her Birth Parents”: My daughter wanted to know more about her birth parents. Could the Internet have the answers she was looking for? by Annie Kassof
  • Black or White Movie Review – Guest Post by Lori Holden: Though Black or White earns its adoption stripes through simple kinship adoption (Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer vie for custody of the granddaughter they share, Eloise, played by the luminous Jillian Estell), the bigger message for adoptive families is the devastating split a person can experience when divided in two by color, race, biology and/or biography. And how not dealing with tough emotions such as anger and grief rarely means they resolve on their own.
  • Finding a Niche of their Own: A common rite of passage for youth is finding a niche, whether it’s with peers, co-workers or society. For some, it is a staggering obstacle to overcome.But the thousands who are too old for foster care and too young for complete independence are just as lost in their young adulthood as they were in their youth.

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

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Preparing the Kids in Your Home for Fostering

Not only do parents make adjustments in their lives when a child in care enters their home, the children in the house are in Preparing the Kids in Your Home for Fosteringfor changes too . . . big changes! It doesn’t matter if they are born or adopted into the family or are currently in foster care. Adjustments come easily for some—they move over at the table, know they will have to share your time and smile—while others are still processing the changes they had to make well into adulthood.

Humor and Insight
One Wisconsin dad, with humor and insight, tells a story about his nine-year-old son. On the evening that he and his wife were going to foster parenting classes, his son said, “Dad, so you and Mom are going to be gone all night and neglecting me all evening so that you can learn how to care for other kids you’re going to bring into our house?”

This wise father knows that his son anticipates making some big changes and is probably fearing it. It’s the savvy parent who knows that the whole family will be making changes.

On the other hand, some birth children take fostering and adopting for granted. They are in a position to appreciate what their parents are doing and feel part of it. They learn their new dances in the family circle.

One woman who grew up with biological, adopted and foster siblings says, “I think I lived in my own bubble all my life. The kids who came were almost all younger than me, so I didn’t have to compete with them for anything, other than the bathroom. But that was just normal.”

She goes on to say, “I was old enough to understand the basics of foster care, so the comings and goings weren’t a big deal either. Growing up in a foster home is what it is—it’s hard to describe unless you have lived another way to compare it to something.”

Both reactions are valid. Be open to any reactions your kids may have and have some tools ready to help the family expand.

Continue reading on our website.

Under the Umbrella: My Wish

Dominique Age 6 Calumet County_Page_1It’s been about a month since we kicked off our #100DaysOfWishes campaign on Facebook in an effort to help recruit foster families throughout Wisconsin. The response to date has been incredible. We have seen a huge increase in

  • the number of people who like our Facebook page
  • the number of comments on and shares of the #100DaysOfWishes posts
  • a 23% increase in the number of inquiries about how to become a foster parent
  • parents talking to other parents on Facebook, encouraging them to foster.

We’re thrilled with the results and we hope to keep these positive changes going. But we need your help in order to make that happen.

Bryson  Age 5  Racine CountyWe need foster parents to talk with the children and youth in their care and ask them about their wishes. Simple things like some of the examples in this newsletter. 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. You can help by working with the children you care for to create more wishes for us to feature. You can also help us share the campaign by liking our Facebook page and sharing the #100DaysOfWishes posts when they are up!

Nylah, age 6, Washington CountyIf 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.

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, March 18, 2015

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

  • In Your Best Interest: A Teen’s Guide to the Child Welfare System in Wisconsin is a legal guide that helps youth navigate their way through the foster care system in Wisconsin. This guide explains the function of child protective services, introduces the people involved from social workers to lawyers and judges, describes permanency plan options and foster youth rights. The guide includes an introduction to going to court, as well as questions that a judge might ask during court.

  • The Storyboard Projectusing story to empower and educate foster and homeless youth transitioning into adulthood.
  • You Might be a Foster Parent if . . . The author of this article asked several foster parents to fill in the blank to the phrase “You might be a foster parent if . . .”

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