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

Under the Umbrella: June is Pride Month

School is ending and summer is beginning, but there is another important event that may pass every year without your notice. June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month). Pride Month is celebrated at this time to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the LGBT movement in the United States. Pride isn’t all parades and festivals; it’s about LGBT people being visible and embraced in our communities. (To learn more about the history of LGBT Pride in Wisconsin please visit, mkelgbthist.org.)

You may have already parented a youth who identifies as LGBT, or you may not have done so yet. We know that one part of growing up is figuring out one’s identity. This includes sexual orientation and gender identity. These identities aren’t something many non-LGBT people think about. However, for a little over 10% of youth, that identity will fall into the LGBT spectrum. You can help the children and youth in your home by supporting them through the process of figuring out who they are. They may even come out to you and share more about their feelings about their identities. Regardless, your support and understanding can help increase the child or youth’s self-esteem and self-worth well into adulthood.

Whether you are LGBT, have an LGBT child in your home, or neither, everyone can celebrate pride. Here are some ideas for celebrating LGBT Pride Month:

  • Rent a movie or watch a television show featuring or including LGBT characters with your family.
  • Go to your local pride parade. (To find out when/where, contact the LGBT center nearest to you – see the Resources section below.)
  • Do research as a family on the history of LGBT rights in this country and others.
  • Visit your local LGBT center and ask what kinds of programming they offer.
  • Volunteer at the LGBT Pride event nearest you.
If you, a child or youth in your care, or another individual needs more information, support, and resources, please remember that we are always here to help and support you all. Reach out any time: 1-800-762-8063, 414-475-1246, or info@coalitionforcyf.org.
Featured Tip Sheets:

10 Ways Foster Parents Can Support Reunification

From the Summer 2015 Fostering Across Wisconsin Newsletter

  1. Build a relationship with the child’s biological parents while the child is in your care. Having a strong relationship during care encourages the family to reach out to you for support post-reunification. Because you are someone who is already familiar with and to the child and the family, you can be a source of comfort, support, and encouragement. Talk with your worker about this to see if it may be appropriate after reunification.
  2. Help the child prepare for reunification and understand the situation. Talk with the child about the process and help ease any fears and anxieties she might have.
  3. Talk with other foster parents who have supported reunification for children in their care. They’ll have a personal perspective to share and can help you to cope with the loss you may experience if/when a child is reunified and no longer in your care.
  4. Create a life book with the child as a way for him to explore his out-of-home care experiences, identity, cherished 10 Ways Foster Parents Can Support Reunificationmemories, important people who have influenced his life, achievements, losses, and important highlights he may want to communicate with his biological family, and others who have made an impact on his life.
  5. Talk with your worker about any extended family members who you might contact. Keeping those relation-ships open can encourage those family members to keep in touch and can also help you get to know more about the child in your care, too.
  6. When possible, provide transportation to and from family visits as a means to connect with the child’s family. This may not be required of you, but if you are able to manage it, you might find that it’s a good way to build a mutually trusting relationship.
  7. Empathize. Try to gain an empathetic understanding of how the family’s situation came to be. There may be complex intergenerational layers of personal and social issues that, if given the parenting tools and techniques, a parent can work towards creating a safe and nurturing home and family for the child in your care to return to.
  8. Document everything! As rigid as it may seem some-times, the record you can provide of the time a child is in your care can be helpful to his or her family of origin, caseworkers, and the child in the near or far future.
  9. Take a step back. If you feel in conflict with the child’s family or treatment team’s decisions about reunifica-tion, pause and try to focus on the progress his family has made. Ask the child’s worker to help you under-stand the case plan and permanency goals if you have questions.
  10. Call us! We’re here to provide resources and support so that you can provide what may be helpful for the child you care for. We’re here for you every step of the way.