Welcome to all foster parents who give their homes and hearts to disadvantaged children! Mission to inform and promote adoption through foster care by documenting our fostering adventures. A blog by Penelope Webster.
Many times, children may immediately be removed from their parents if the situation is dangerous. What this means for a foster parent is that calls can happen at anytime of day or night.
One summer night, our phone rang at 11pm. As I groggily answered the call, a caseworker told me that she had a sibling group of 3 that needed a place to stay – a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant.
“Can you take all these foster kids?”
We only had 2 beds available, and I began feeling guilty, wondering where these children would wind up sleeping that night. But with quick thinking in my groggy state, I suddenly realized that the baby would need a crib and not a bed!
I SAID YES!
Because of the shortage of foster homes, these children were coming from two counties over – nearly two hours away. Because of the extensive travel involved, the twice weekly family visits were really difficult on these foster children.
After a week, the caseworker realized that the children desperately needed to be placed closer to family. The caseworker began looking for a foster home in their county that could take this sibling group. It took a few days, but she finally discovered a foster home in their home county through an outside agency. The kids left us a few days later.
As chaotic as our family life was those weeks, my heart rejoices in that these siblings didn’t have to be split from each other.
Sadly, this story is not unique, it is the reality for emergency placements in the foster system. There just aren’t enough foster homes, so unlike this sibling set, many siblings are split up.
WHAT IF children placed into foster care on an emergency basis could be placed in the best possible home for them and their needs?
WHAT IF social services have the time to identify that best possible family situation for these children?
WHAT IF children placed in foster care could stay in their community, and possibly their current school?
WHAT IF children placed in foster care could stay with siblings while the county finds a home for ALL the children?
WHAT IF children placed into foster care had a home to go to while the county conducts a background check on a family member?
A new short-term placement program in Adams County, Colorado is changing that for foster children in the area.
HOMES FOR HOPE is changing the “What-If’s” for children placed in foster care.
Adams County, which encompasses the Denver area, created the short-term placement program — called “HOMES FOR HOPE” — the first of its kind in the state, and perhaps the country, because this program is government-sponsored.
Adams County purchased and renovated two single-family homes that are now ready for foster families to move into. One home sits on 128 acres and the other on 17 acres. Because Adams County owns the HOMES FOR HOPE, host foster families will not have to pay mortgage or rent.
Now, when a traditional foster home is unavailable, children can go to a HOMES FOR HOPE instead. Caseworkers will have the time to search for the best permanent situation for the children – that could be with close relatives, a longer-term foster family or back with their parents.
Children can stay in HOMES FOR HOPE for up to 90 days until a longer-term placement can be found.
Siblings will be able to remain together because foster families will be certified for children 0-18 years of age.
Children can stay in their community and in their current school, lessening the number of disruptions to their life.
Caseworkers have more time to find the right foster home for these children instead of finding the first available bed.
One home is designated as a safe place for teen mothers and their children.
The HOMES FOR HOPE provide intensive care as the foster parents organize family, medical, and therapeutic appointments, and comfort children through early days of fear and uncertainty.
The children will be seen by medical professionals within 72-hours, so the child’s medical and developmental needs are met and addressed.
The right foster family best suited to meet the children’s needs can be found, should they need to remain in foster care on a long-term basis.
Nightlight is the certifying agency and supports the foster families upon placement. Nightlight is actively looking for interested families who are willing to become foster parents and live in the homes full-time. The ideal HOMES FOR HOPE foster parent is trauma-informed, has parenting experience, and is willing to move.
If you are interested in becoming a HOMES FOR HOPE foster parent: Complete this survey to be contacted with more information; or
Contact Meaghan Nally at firstname.lastname@example.org or (518) 369-2888.
We have all heard that “know it all” parent say under their breath, “If that were my child they wouldn’t act like that.” You may hear it at the park, at school functions, and even at church.
Every day, parents of children with behavior problems, may ask themselves, “Am I the right parent for this child? If my child were being raised in a different home, would their behavior be different?” As an adoptive parent, I must admit that I have asked myself that question hundreds of times. I’ve felt embarrassment and shame and wondered if I was good enough to parent my difficult child.
Americans spend millions of dollars each year on books and seminars trying to find answers for their child’s behavior. Most result in little or no change. To say that the debate over “Nature vs. Nurture” is convoluted is an understatement.
Psychologist John Watson had this to say on the issue:
“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select … regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors.”
Any parent who has raised more than one child should find this nurture theory laughable. Every day we see children raised in the same home, taught the same morels and beliefs, turn out with totally different beliefs and convictions than those they were taught and of those of their siblings.
Moreover, as foster and adoptive parents can attest, changing the environment of a child doesn’t just take away previous trauma and neglect. A foster/adoptive parent may wonder: “How much of a child’s behavior is a response from previous trauma and how much could be from some sort of possible disorder?”
The Nature theory asserts that nearly all traits such as intelligence, personality, aggression, and sexual orientation are encoded in an individual’s genes.
Genes and Environment
According to years of genetic research on twins, Dr. Danielle Posthuma of the Neuroscience Campus in Amsterdam found that although a child may have a high genetic predisposition for a characteristic, whether physical or psychological, environment can still play a part.
However, prenatal exposure in utero is the most powerful environmental factor for foster and adopted children. Poor nutrition, drug and alcohol exposure, stress hormones of the mother, all can affect a child’s development and neurophysiology even before birth or experiencing other trauma as a child.
Dr. Posthuma’s study reported that conditions such as ADHD is 68% inherited, but environment is a factor in only 6% of cases. Surprisingly, the predisposition for cocaine addiction is 64% inherited, but environment plays only a small role (7%). Schizophrenia is 77% is inherited and only 1% due to environment (this is due to the late adolescent/early adult onset of the disorder).
Although the predisposition for behavioral/mental disorders may be passed through genes, if you were to take this theory to the extreme, one could excuse all behavior as simply a product of their genes and conclude that no one is responsible for any of their behavior.
Despite the apparent flaws in both the Nature and Nurture theories, after raising 4 children, I find myself on a daily basis leaning more to the “Nature” side of the debate. Because of my experience and research, I lean less and less to the “Nurture” side.
Growing up in a Christian home, I believed that there was one God who controlled the universe. I believed that He was the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator of everything. I believed that He loved and cared for all human life and that through prayer, our lives could be made better.
If a person believes this is true, then that same person cannot also believe that environment plays a major role in a child’s outcome. If we believe that putting a child in different home, with different parents, would create a better outcome, then we must also believe that this same God we say is in control of everything, made a mistake.
If a child would be better off in a different home, then why wouldn’t that same God put him in a different home from the beginning?
It cannot be both ways. We must either believe that a child is born with a predisposition for his behaviors and would have those behaviors no matter what. Or we must believe that God makes mistakes.
If you are a person who believes that God is not capable of making mistakes, then you must believe that the child placed in your home is there for a purpose.
Although your child may have a high genetic predisposition for a psychological disorder, it’s not 100%. There are no guarantees that the end result will be different. (A child with sociopathic tendencies may still end up in jail). But by giving a child the medical attention, therapies, interventions, and other help they need, your influence will make a difference in a child’s life.
Tried everything and nothing is working?
Feel like your living in total chaos all the time?
Thinking about having a foster child moved or just closing your foster home?
I know exactly how you feel! I have been there!
I didn’t know what to do! I tried everything! I read all the books and websites about parenting these hurt children. I attended extra foster parent training and conferences. I knew all the things, but in the moment, I couldn’t remember anything… There’s so much information to remember – I couldn’t keep it all straight!
I was desperate! So I decided to go through every single bit of information I had — everything!
I got out all my books and notes I’ve taken through the years, and began scouring through all of it. I pulled out every tip and technique, and grouped them. After doing this for a while, I began to see a pattern! All this connected parenting guidance could be put into 3 categories:
CALM – Staying calm and using self-care were mentioned quite a bit, but there wasn’t much information in detail.
CONNECT – The tips and techniques all revolved around showing empathy for your child and using connection to build relationship.
CORRECT – Misbehavior has to be corrected, but sometimes this means coaching the child in the correct way to respond to situations.
When I began focusing on using this CALM-CONNECT-CORRECT process with my children, I began seeing amazing RESULTS!!!
After all these years, I finally was able to attune to my child’s emotions and understand what was really going on with my child, but most importantly, myself. I am finally able to feel amazing about the relationship of my attachment-challenged child. I am calmer; my children are happier.
That’s why I created CALM-CONNECT-CORRECT — a comprehensive course using a step-by-step process that will enable you to:
calmly respond to trauma,
discover the fear behind behavior,
connect with your child during the hardest times, and
The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family is a book I highly recommend for anyone who parents kids with troubled backgrounds, and should be required reading for all foster and adoptive parents. This book can be used as a continual parenting resource because it discusses just about any issue that a foster or adoptive parent may encounter. In this in-depth, comprehensive book summary, I outline the variety of topics that this book covers.
While The Connected Child examines behavior with a holistic approach; it discusses in detail how the trauma of your child’s past has affected brain chemistry, fear response, and sensory processing abilities of your child. Although the information in the book is based on research, it is presented in easy-to-understand language.
The Connected Child Book Summary
The Connected Child begins by showing the reader that there can be HOPE and HEALING in your child. By closely observing your child, showing compassion, and eliminating the traditional parenting techniques that can become obstacles to attachment, you can create a connected relationship with your child hurt by trauma. READ HOW HOPELESS I FELT
The Connected Child stresses the importance of a baby’s first years, and how the loss of a nurtured environment can affect a child for a lifetime. This even includes the baby’s environment prenatally, and not just exposure to drugs and alcohol. Even a pregnant mother’s stress can cause an influx of stress hormones into an unborn child that can cause changes in a baby’s brain development. The Connected Child dedicates a chapter on how stress affects the chemistry of the brain and the importance of nutrition. READ HOW EARLY NEGLECT STILL AFFECTS MY CHILD
The Connected Child includes solid, practical advice for a variety of behaviors that could be attributed to the trauma of a child’s past. The key is to decipher the behavior and the hidden message behind it. FEAR DRIVES A HURT CHILD’S BEHAVIOR. A parent can disarm this fear in order to meet the child’s need. READ HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR CHILD’S EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS
Children from hard places may not have learned appropriate social interactions. Due to their fear and survival instincts, a child may act out, throw tantrums, or try to manipulate or control others around them. The Connected Child discusses ways that a parent can teach life values, such as respect and accepting the word NO. The parent must consistently model these life values by staying calm, actively listening, and offering praise and encouragement. READ ABOUT MY STRUGGLE WITH CONNECTION
The Connected Child emphasizes how the traditional way of parenting with punishment, such as using time-outs, can be counterproductive to attachment by encouraging isolation and shame. This book provides a number of useful parenting strategies that you can put to use immediately, along with examples of dialog and phrases you can use. The emphasis is on providing a respectful environment which begins with the parent’s being mindful in their response to misbehavior. Parents can also build connection by staying close during the child’s tough times. The parenting techniques include offering choices and compromises, allowing re-do’s, and having a unified front with your partner to avoid triangulation. An entire chapter is devoted to dealing with defiance. READ HOW TO USE A TIME-IN FOR DISCIPLINE
The key to parenting children from hard places is to nurture at every opportunity with positive engagement and to be proactive in situations which may be difficult for your child. The Connected Child acknowledges that there will be setbacks, but encourages parents to look at the overall progress your child has made. READ WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I TREATED MY CHILD LIKE A BABY
The Connected Child concludes by discussing the importance of parents to heal their past emotional wounds.
“There are many wonderful, responsible, capable, and self-sacrificing people who carry around unresolved traumas and wounds inside them, and as a result they are unready to give the deep, nurturing care that an at-risk child requires.”
The Connected Child has become a reference book that I pick up and re-read over and over because I will always glean yet another great parenting strategy and understanding as I struggle to navigate through trauma behaviors.
With the large amount of parenting tools and advice given, this book may feel overwhelming for someone just beginning their foster/adoption journey. However, the book has a very thorough index in the back to help you find the topic you are needing help with.
I had been suffering with a cold for over a week, fortunately not the flu. I was waking up with a stuffy nose, but this January morning was different. I woke suddenly that morning with excruciating pain in my left ear. I had woken up with a sudden ear infection!
What’s this about? I hadn’t had an ear infection since I was a young child! I tried lifting my head but was overcome by dizziness, then I realized I couldn’t hear.
During my doctor visit, I was concerned about my hearing loss, but he assured me that antibiotics would clear up the infection. He said I would be better in a few days. However, after a few days of antibiotics, the pain had subsided, but I still couldn’t hear out of my left ear.
I called the doctor again; my stomach in knots. The doctor assured me again to not be alarmed. He even stated that my hearing may not return to normal for a month! I just had to have faith that the doctor was right.
So I began adjusting to life (and parenting) with a hearing impairment, and what I realized shocked me about my parenting style.
5 WAYS HEARING LOSS HAS MADE ME A BETTER PARENT:
1. NOT TALKING ACROSS ROOMS
I never realized how often our family talks to each other from across the room. By losing my hearing, I suddenly couldn’t hear what my family was saying to me. I realized that I had also been talking from a distance — Many times, it was me wanting my children to do something OR stop doing something. Then, when they didn’t comply, I would get irritated at them for “not listening to me.” How funny is that? Now I was the one not listening because I couldn’t hear. Do you find yourself talking across a room at your children?
2. GETTING CLOSE TO TALK TO EACH OTHER
This sudden hearing loss required that I be close to hear what my children were saying. Getting close didn’t just mean proximity though. Getting close also meant that I had to put aside what I was doing in order to hear my child. A parent’s one-on-one full attention to a child strengthens the parent-child connection that children from hard places desperately need.
3. LOOKING AT MY CHILDREN WHEN THEY SPEAK
This hearing loss was particularly hard for me as I grew up with a father that had a severe hearing loss. Would history be repeating itself? Wouldn’t that be ironic? Growing up, my dad was always asking his children to look at him when we spoke. My dad needed that face-to-face contact so he could read our lips. When I lost my hearing, I discovered how valuable looking into my child’s face was – both in understanding what my children were saying, and letting them know that I was completely tuned into them. Many times, children from hard places haven’t had an adult tune into them and meet their needs.
4. CREATING EYE CONTACT IN CONVERSATIONS
As the famous quote says: “Eyes are the windows of the soul.” Eye contact helps with attachment and your child’s ability to connect with people. That means getting down to eye level with your children so you can make that eye contact and truly listen to their needs. Eye contact shows your children that you are tuned into them.
5. STAYING CALM DURING A TANTRUM
Because I couldn’t hear, tantrums didn’t bother me as much. I was able to literally “tune them out” making it easier for me to stay calm. As a child throws a tantrum, not engaging in the tantrum helps parents stay calmer. A parent must not get caught up in a child’s dysregulation to be effective in bringing a child back down to calmness.
Over the last two months, my hearing has improved, but it still hasn’t been fully restored. However, having this hearing loss has taught me how to connect better with my children to avoid the confusion and frustration that can come with not being heard.
What happens when a family can’t be adopting siblings?Saying no is a guilt-ridden decision that can affect children long-term. Keeping the biological bond through adopting siblings can help children navigate their adoptee identity together. This biological connection can help minimize adoptee grief as the children get older.
The Smiths faced that decision. After nearly two years of being foster parents to a baby boy, the Smiths finally adopted the young boy. After his adoption, the Smith’s family felt complete.
However, nearly four years later, the Smiths received a phone call they weren’t prepared for. Their forever son had siblings that needed a home!
Their son’s sisters moved in and the Smith family had to adjust to a larger family. However, parenting a home full of traumatized children began to take its toll on the Smith family. Realizing their limitations in raising children with numerous special needs, the Smiths were distraught about disrupting the placement of the girls with their biological brother.
Mrs. Smith’s sister, Shanna, had grown extremely attached to her foster nieces, and although Shanna already had four children, she just couldn’t bare the thought of never seeing her foster nieces again. Shanna said to her husband: “Babe…..please don’t say that I’m crazy…..but I really am pretty smitten with those girls!” Shanna was shocked when her husband responded that he felt the same way!
Siblings Adopting Siblings
Shanna and her husband leaped into the foster licensing process in order to keep the girls in their family, and in constant contact with their biological brother.
The Yoder’s have now become foster parents to their foster nieces. They hope one day to become the forever home to two little girls that can grow up as cousins with their biological brother. By adopting siblings, the children will grow up with a biological connection.
“MOM! An elephant adopted an alligator! You have to see!” I am amused, walking toward the living room. Then I am amazed. There on the screen is an elephant in a car with an alligator.
We are watching NickJr’s new animated show Hey Duggee! The show is about a big dog named Duggee, a troop leader for the Squirrel Club. The Squirrel Club Members are Tag, a rhino, Norrie, a mouse, Roly, a hippo, Betty an octopus, and Happy the alligator, whose parent is indeed an elephant.
In each episode, the Squirrel Club engages in fun educational activities that help them earn badges. The animation and dialog is simple and easy to follow making it suitable for preschoolers to watch.
The most amazing aspect of this program is that while Happy is adopted, there is no focus on it. Happy’s elephant parent is an accepted fact. I’m still not sure if the parent is mom or dad, but it really doesn’t matter. Nothing in the dialog states why Happy’s family is different. The implication is that the family is just different, that’s all.
This understatement is a big loud shout that different families are relevant and part of everyday life. The other very subtle observation is that crocodiles have attacked elephants in the wild. So even though Happy is not a crocodile but an alligator, the nuance of an elephant embracing an alligator into its heart and home nails down the fact that LOVE DOES CONQUER ALL.
In the past, television has portrayed adoption as a problem to be solved, or the adoptee or child needing a home is the center of the plot, and at times portrayed in a negative light. The audience is constantly reminded that adoption is the premise of the story, as well as the unconventionality that goes with it.
Not so with Hey Duggee! All families are welcome, with no questions asked. What amazed me most is that my child instantly recognized that Happy was adopted, without having it pointed out in the dialog. That is no small feat for children’s’ programming.
This has not gone unnoticed. Hey Duggee! has earned Studio AKA a BAFTA award in 2016 as well as an International Emmy award in 2017. The show is already in its second season and gaining popularity with adopted and traditional families alike.
Hey Duggee! can be seen on NickJr weekdays at 1:30pm EST or on the NickJr website anytime.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I did not receive any compensation as NickJr doesn’t even know about this blog. This is simply a mom excited about a new children’s program with an adoption element.
Theresa Davis has been working with children and families for years, wearing different hats, mostly as an early childhood educator and now a teaching assistant. She writes for a local publication “The Parent Pages” as a columnist for the past two years, covering topics surrounding adoption, foster parenting and special needs families. She is also a former foster parent, now an adoptive mom of one daughter. She enjoys knitting, yoga, trying new recipes, and crafting with her little one.
As a former Houstonian, I have been grieving with my friends and family that have lost everything to Hurricane Harvey.
As the flood waters rose last week, panicked friends posted pleas for help on social media with their addresses.
“Can someone please get word out to come get me and my children? This is my address.”
“We have moved upstairs. The first floor is flooded and it’s still raining!”
“What do I do? Do I leave my dogs behind?”
I worried that it might be the last time I’d hear from some of them.
One family member lost long-time coworker Coach Jordan of Clear Creek High School – the school district I had lived in.
As I’ve sat high and dry in the Texas Hill Country while recovery efforts continue, I’ve asked myself over and over: “How can I make a difference?”
Then I realized that I can make a difference to the hurricane victims in Texas!
Hurricane Relief Fundraiser GOAL: 100,000 training pants
Right now, displaced families have a huge need for disposable training underwear. Potty training is next to impossible in the overcrowded emergency shelters. Plus, children that are stressed out such as this may revert back to wetting themselves.
The Texas Diaper Bank is a 501 c3 nonprofit established in 1997 to provide diapers for families in crisis. They have set up a special fund going directly to Hurricane Harvey victims.
We’ve set a goal of 100,000 training pants to help these weary families!!!
“Oh, I’m just a mom.” Those words can become the usual response if someone asks about occupation. However, as parents, we shouldn’t downplay our all-important role in raising a family. That’s especially true for foster parents whose role could possibly change the lives of children in their care. The skills and knowledge gained as a foster parent can be extremely valuable to an employer. Plus, foster parents must go through extensive training before becoming licensed by the government to care for children in State custody. I recently updated my resume, and here is a sample job description that a foster parent can use when writing a resume.
Foster Parent Job Description
Provide 24-hour care of foster children with various diagnoses such as RAD, ADD, ADHD, FASD, Bipolar, Conduct Disorder, Developmental Delays, and other emotional needs.
Encourage and reinforce appropriate behaviors through trauma-informed care using trust-based behavior management techniques.
Respond quickly and appropriately in emotional/behavioral crisis situations using the least restrictive intervention necessary to maintain safety of the child and others.
Attend court hearings and foster care review boards to ensure successful, clear communication of essential information. Provide mentoring in life skills as teens approach adulthood.
Acts as an educational advocate for children with regard to school placement, 504 accommodations,and Individual Education Plans for special education. Work with teachers and administrators to develop effective Behavior Intervention Plan based on child’s specific emotional needs.
Attend to health care needs, ensuring that regular medical, psychiatric, and dental checkups, hearing and vision exams, as well as other special medical needs assessments and appointments, as they arise.
Attend all therapies (physical, occupational, speech, equine, etc.) and implement therapy strategies recommended.
Consult with psychiatrists about efficacy of child medications.
Coordinate with social workers, ad litems, CASAs, and others involved in the case to ensure that all physical and emotional needs of the child is met.
Work with Community Resource Coordination Group (CRCG) to identify child’s needs and exploring resources and services to be executed in an Individual Service Plan.
Maintain records for child’s time in foster care; including medical/dental records, daily medication dosage records, developmental milestones, educational documentation, etc.