World Wide Wednesday, November 12, 2014

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

World Wide Wednesday

  • National Adoption Month Website: The Children’s Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, created the 2014 National Adoption Month website, created in partnership with AdoptUSKids.

    National Adoption Month (NAM) draws attention to the urgent need for permanent families for the more than 102,000 children and youth waiting for adoption in foster care. This year’s NAM theme, “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections,” emphasizes the critical role sibling relationships play in helping to promote permanency for children in care. The NAM website offers a variety of audience-specific resources.

    Professionals can find information to help them promote and support sibling connections, recruit adoptive families, and see examples of how other States are promoting permanency for siblings and youth. Adoptive parents can find information on adopting siblings from foster care, learn what permanency means, and view powerful videos from youth and other adoptive families. Adopted people can find information on openness in adoption and search and reunion. Birth parents can find information on kinship adoption/adoption by relatives, openness in adoption, and search and reunion. Youth can learn about how to get involved in their permanency plans, stay connected with adults and other teens through social media, find out about the benefits of being safe online, and more

  • New Law Passed:  H.R. 4980 Becomes LawOn September 29, 2014, President Obama signed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. Among other things, this bipartisan legislation will:
    • Require states to better track children at risk of being victims of sex trafficking (including children who run away from foster care) and report any children who are victims of trafficking;
    • Require states to develop a process by which foster parents and other caregivers have permission to grant children and youth in care the opportunity to participate in the normal activities of childhood;
    • Limit the use of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) for children under 16;
    • Provide children 14 and up the opportunity to participate in their case planning process;
    • Fund Family Connections Grants for one more year;
    • Renew and enhance the Adoption Incentive program, creating a guardianship incentive and, over time, transitioning to an incentive system based on the rate of adoptions, rather than a baseline number; and,
    • Require states to spend 30% of the funds they save as a result of the Fostering Connections Act’s expansion of federal adoption assistance eligibility on post-adoption, post-guardianship, and other family support services.

     

  • Adoption at the Movies: Guides to recently released movies including Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, ReMoved, and The Book of Life.

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

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World Wide Wednesday – October 15, 2014

It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

World Wide Wednesday

World Wide Wednesday – December 11, 2013

174337705It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • In October, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation announced the expansion of the highly successful All Children – All Families (ACAF) project. A partnership with the Dave Thomas Foundation and the National CASA Foundation, the ACAF expansion means the successful program will grow from helping agencies work with LGBT parents, to addressing agency competency in working with LGBT children and youth. The All Children – All Families project promotes LGBT cultural competency among child welfare agencies through an online agency self-assessment tool, comprehensive staff training, free technical assistance, and more. Learn more.
  • 25 Ways to Nurture Hurt Children: How do you nurture a child who repels nurturing? Start with these practical ideas. See more at: http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=424#sthash.uXDSY91U.dpuf
  • Adoptalk is a quarterly newsletter published by the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) which contains articles and stories on a variety of issues related to adoption and foster care. This issue of Adoptalk includes the following articles and features: “Members of Congress Propose Several Adoption-Related Bills,” “Helping Children Connect with their Birth Parents,” 25 States Receive More Than $32 Million for 2012 Adoptions,” “Bills Would Make Credit Refundable,” Achieving Permanence for Older Children Remains a Struggle,” “NACAC and Other Child Welfare Leaders Respond to Re-homing Reports,” “What My White Parents Didn’t Know and Why I Turned Out OK Anyway,” “NACACA Welcomes Board Members,” and “Adoption-Related Resources.”
  • Partnering With Youth for Permanency: In order to successfully partner with youth for permanency, it helps to speak their “language” and get to know their needs. Technology is an important part of the lives of youth and understanding how they use technology is especially essential for professionals since these technologies have impacted how youth communicate with each other and the world around them. Also, the youth themselves are often the best source to identify permanency options and often want their voices heard. These resources provide tips on working more effectively with youth to achieve permanency.

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

World Wide Wednesday – December 4, 2013

174337705It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • The UW-Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership has created some foster care- and adoption-related Pinterest boards with resources and information. You’ll find a variety of tools and tips on such topics as:
    • Child Development
    • Critical thinking
    • Adoption and Foster parenting
    • Stress relief
    • Healthy eating

    Family-friendly and accessible activities in Milwaukee
    …and much more.

  • Our Daughter’s Hair is an online community committed to teaching parents of African American and Biracial daughters simple steps to caring for and styling their daughters’ hair through step-by-step video lessons. Parents in the community have access to 18 video lessons on styling and maintaining wavy, curly, and kinky hair. Parents in the community also have the opportunity to ask questions and get advice from an expert Hair Coach!
  • Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Care: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in foster care face a number of unique challenges. Many LGBTQ youth in care have a history of family violence and rejection, as well as subsequent retraumatization by foster parents, peers, and child welfare staff. The New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is heavily invested in promoting innovative strategies to ensure a healthier and more nurturing environment for this youth population and recently launched its new webpage in support of LGBTQ children, youth, and families.
  • Talking About Sex With Youth in Care: For most parents and teens, talking about sex can be an uncomfortable but important conversation. For youth in foster care, it is a conversation that may never occur, leaving these young people to learn about sex from their peers. Fostering Media Connections has developed a webpage that includes information about why discussing sex with youth in foster care is important, as well as how to approach the topic.

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

The Healing Effects of Alumni in the Lives of Children in Foster Care

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is sharing some guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

By Helen Ramaglia, former youth in foster care

I had just returned from a conference in Orlando where I trained and empowered approximately 150 Florida foster/adoptive youth. As I sat back and digested the events that unexpectedly unfolded, I realized, it is I who learned the greatest lesson of all.

I was asking the children to give me their pain and they did, but it came with a very high price tag . . . my pain.

I’ve always felt a very strong need to return to help my brothers and sisters in care. The need was so strong that it would occasionally drive slight waves of depression. The task seemed so overwhelming that it merely became a far-fetched dream, or so I thought. However, this past year, I’ve come to believe in miracles and the vast impact of “someone who’s been there” on the lives of children in foster care.

There I was, setting up for day one of the conference with a colorful PowerPoint and a copy of “My Foster Success Journal” at the seat of every participant. I had them start with a chant – “I – Will – Succeed” – and the kids seem engaged, but in a ‘keep your distance’ sort of way. Regardless, they were having fun so far.

We continued to dissect the journal and the steps to success, but the further I went, the more I lost them. There was one point when I had to hush chatter at one table, and I starting to feel a little anxious.

I knew I had lost that moment of first impression, and was feeling a little beaten down. I was thankful when we got to the part where I was going to talk about my personal story. As I talked, I noticed the kids got quieter and quieter. They were finally listening to me again.

The kids were completely engaged, and as I spoke I saw tears well up in one girl’s eyes. I softened the blow, and that’s when the kids started questioning me.

I shared the part where I married three weeks before I aged out. One of the older guys piped up and said, “Oh, so you used him?”

I quickly responded with, “No, I was facing homelessness. In my eyes, it was either marriage, or homelessness.”

He replied back: “That doesn’t matter, you were still using him.” Of course I denied it and tried to redirect the path we were on by getting the kids to share their goals instead.

Only, they weren’t biting.

I hadn’t earned their trust, I hadn’t proven myself worthy yet, and they weren’t opening up no matter what I tried. Instead, they spent 20 minutes drilling me about my past. It felt as if I had just wandered into the middle of a cactus bush.

A foster child was holding me accountable for my actions, and I found myself offended and feeling a little attacked. Even though I could tell I had let the kids down, they proceeded to applaud loudly after I finished my session.

Afterwards, in the hallways, the kids didn’t even notice I was there. I was invisible to most of them.

I started asking the kids what they thought I could have done better. They seemed surprised that I asked their opinion, and I was surprised by what they had to say. I heard the same message over and over in several different ways.

But, the overall consensus was: Why share their pain with me if I wasn’t willing to share my pain with them? They said I had to earn their trust, their respect. They used the word “raw” and I started to get a little scared.

They were demanding I deliver the goods. They needed to know that I was going to be able to ‘understand’ their pain before they shared. Then, I remembered how I felt as a child in care. I could tell them all day how I felt, but I knew even if I did, they could never truly understand and I would just feel let down, again, and even more depressed because they wouldn’t be able to relate.

Then I would become afraid that if I did share, would I be able to add yet another piece of pain to my already heavy heart, or would that be the “one more” that might render me angry and dark for the rest of my life?

They had to know that sharing would be a healing moment and not just one more piece of devastation in their already traumatic lives.

So, the next day, the large conference room was split into two rooms and the youth were able to decide which session they wanted to participate in.

Their choices: more with Ms. Holding Back Helen, or Ms. Perky Merky with a fun cutesy title. Needless to say, most of the youth chose to go into Ms. Perky Merky’s classroom. I only had a handful in my class, but I was determined to deliver the goods and earn their respect and trust.

They had called me on the carpet and I was determined to give them everything I had. I asked them to huddle up, because we were going to get up close and personal.

I can tell you that I bled all over that room. I gave them all I had. We laughed together and we cried together. I watched as their eyes widened with horror as they looked at each other with open mouths. I even heard a few gasps off and on. At one point I opened my heart and they reached inside and took whatever they needed to to keep going. We danced the dance of pain together that day.

I noticed that the longer I talked, the bigger my class got. One left and I thought, oh great. But then he returned with another. This happened a few more times and my class got bigger and bigger. As the room filled, I felt stronger and stronger. I took their advice and I got real. I got raw and I shared everything I could in the time that we had.

When I finished there was no clap. What happened next will be forever ingrained in my heart. Every one of these wonderful, amazing kids came up and gave me a hug. I heard,

  • “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
  • “Thank you for sharing, now I know I can be someone special.”
  • “Thank you for getting real, I want to be you someday.”
  • “I needed that.”
  • “I promise you I will be that leader someday.”
  • “You give me hope.”

And the list goes on and on.

For the rest of the day I couldn’t walk down a hall without seeing the kids beaming and hearing “Hi Ms. Helen;” and they made sure I heard them.

They were full of pain, they knew it, and now they knew they need to get it out. They wanted to get it out. But they weren’t willing to share that pain with just anyone. How could they share their pain with me, if they didn’t think I could truly understand the depth of it?

Helen Ramaglia is a foster alumni who became a foster/adoptive parent. She is the founder and Director of Fostering Superstars, a Congressional Award Winner for her work with foster children and is the author of “From Foster to Fabulous,” She is a popular speaker, trainer, and advocate for foster children. www.fromfostertofabulous.com

 

World Wide Wednesday – November 27, 2013

174337705It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • The number of adoptions from foster care has nearly doubled since the Adoptions and Safe Families Act was passed in 1997. Click here to read more.
  • In the November 2013 issue of NCFA’s Adoption Advocate, Lucas Daniel Boyce shares his story of being adopted out of foster care by his mother, Dorothy Boyce. Lucas, the author of Living Proof: From Foster Care to the White House and the NBA (2011) and the current Director of Business Development and Legislative Affairs for the Orlando Magic, relates his experiences as a transracial African-American adoptee and shares how adoption positively impacted and shaped his life.
  • Consider being a respite foster parent – Jean Northway tells you why.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Violence Collaborative Group recently announced a new series of fact sheets created for parents whose children have been affected by domestic violence. The set of 10 fact sheets gets to the heart of the experiences and needs of these children and families, and offers education in support of their resilience and recovery.

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

Home is a Place in Your Heart

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is sharing some guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

By Patricia P.

When my daughter, Amara, was seven, she helped me understand what home meant to a child. She said “home is the place you most want to be in the whole world. It’s a place in your heart.”

Wow! For a seven-year-old that statement might seem pretty impressive, but, you see, Amara’s mom makes her living talking to people around the country. And, for most of her life, Amara has traveled with me and is usually in the audience. I am also an advocate of emotional literacy; therefore, we often talk about feelings in our house. Amara also happens to be quite bright! I’m sure I’m biased, but her explanation was a blessing to me in so many ways.

As a professional who facilitates adult learning, it gave me language to share with other professionals who seek to heal and empower families. Children don’t often have a voice when a family is having problems. It is their behavior that draws all the attention. Professionals sometimes mistakenly believe that if the parents land on their feet after a family disruption, the children will be fine just because their acting-out behavior ceases. But, about six months later, the storm that was brewing inside their hearts comes forth! Children often lack the language to express their insecurities, their sense of loss and confusion. They just feel and act out or act in. Amara’s explanation helped share with my professional audience to care for a child’s heart when their family is having problems; there is pain that words can’t express.

As an adult who cares for and loves children, it gave me insight into the world of a child. They are so dependent on us adults for all the important things in life. Not just food, shelter and clothing, but peace. What we call peace of mind. A blessed assurance that someone who cares for me is looking out for me, is thinking about me, loving me. That is something you feel, not just do. We adults are so focused on meeting our responsibilities, doing what is expected, providing for our families. We might forget to feel them and feel for them. That really does make us vulnerable and dependent on someone else’s emotions. We don’t like that so much, we adults. But that is the world that children live in. They live on the edge of their adult’s emotions. Whether it’s their parents, a caregiver, teacher, coach, pastor, or relative, they grope for adult emotions to communicate their security, their sense of connection and identity. Children need to feel at home as well as be at home.

As an adoptive parent, it gave me a goal to aim for in Amara’s life. I always wanted to share my life with my own child. Since I was a social worker and a minister, I felt prepared to share my life with a child who was in need of a home. So I decided to adopt. And I wanted a girl child so I could show her how to be a strong woman. Making a home for a child, I discovered, is more than providing a place in space. It is more than providing food and clothing, kisses and a cool hand for a little fever. It is being there – when she needs me to be and how she needs me to be. Parenting Amara has made me a better person. She has taught me that parenting means giving her a part of me, not just my life. I no longer want to provide a home for Amara; I want to be home for her.

As her parent, it gave me love. Amara has asked several times over the years we’ve been together to see and spend time with her biological parents. Although I adopted her as an infant, I agreed to have ongoing contact with her biological parents and siblings. I knew before I adopted her that knowing her biological roots would be very important to her one day so I facilitated an ongoing relationship with her biological mother. We have had some great times together. Especially significant was when we spent an afternoon with her biological father for the first time. The look of joy on Amara’s face was worth all the effort it took to find him. He was wonderful, too. He hugged and thanked me for taking such good care of her. Having this open arrangement has worked well so far for us. It has been worth working through all my feelings of insecurities and her biological parents’ feelings of guilt and regret. And at the end of every visit, Amara has wanted to come back home with me.

As Amara explained to me, that place she calls home is her place inside my heart.