End the Wait

By Janine Castillo, Intensive Recruiter

Two years ago, I showed a 12-year-old girl in foster care, Tiana, a picture of her biological father and asked her what questions she had about her birth family.  She responded, “What color are my mom’s eyes?”  In that moment, I didn’t have an answer and neither did anyone on her team of professionals, who are responsible for ensuring her care, safety, and services in foster care.

When she asked that question, the culmination of our two years together hit me.  Her experience without safe and healthy parents is directly linked to her daily interactions.  The reason why she soaks up one-on-one time with adults or falls asleep like a baby when a caregiver sings to her is because of her desire for nurturing and affection.  Developmental milestones were denied to her at a young age, as she entered the foster care system at three years old and grew up in treatment centers not experiencing a “typical” family structure.  How could she talk about a future with a new family when she remembers so little of her own story?

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Guest Blog Post: Addressing Difficult Behaviors

By Denise Rice, LCSW, ACSW, LAC

What are Behaviors?
All behavior meets a need and has a function. Let me say that again, there is a function and a purpose to every behavior! A behavior is an external expression (communication) of our internal emotions. Sometimes, we as adults forget that how we behave is our way of communicating how we feel, just as it is for our kids. It is how we often communicate our emotions, positive or negative. When children experience trauma, their most pressing need is survival. Many behaviors we would label as “bad,” “maladaptive,” or “inappropriate” were necessary at one point for the child’s survival; and let’s be honest, our children and teens are master survivors.

We need to reframe our thinking about behavior. Especially when it comes to understanding trauma. If you want to really practice a trauma sensitive or trauma responsive type of parenting it is critical that you see the behavior of your child or teen through a trauma informed lens. Rather than seeing the behavior as negative and hostile, we need to see it as a highly functional survival skill that kept our kids alive in their previous environments and now that behavior isn’t working as well in the current situation. What parents and caregivers are tasked with is how to decipher the message underneath the child’s behavior. What is your child telling you they need through their behavior?

If hiding, stealing, or stashing food away was the only way your child ate when their parent went on a drug or alcohol bender, that behavior has become a survival skill. However, if the same child is hiding, stealing, and hoarding food under their bed and in their closet in your home that same survival skill is now described as “inappropriate” or “disruptive.” This behavior is getting in the way of this child being successful in a different situation or connecting with you because it drives you crazy and is considered “disrespectful;” but, these behaviors that kept your kids alive before, will not simply disappear after a few days, weeks, or sometimes months or years after being placed in your home.

Keep reminding yourself that often the behavior isn’t about you. It may feel like the behavior is aimed at you, but remember that the child is behaving the only way they know how, and when our brains are stressed, we regress. We regress to previous behaviors that may have disappeared for some time. I know that it is extremely difficult to not take some of the behaviors personally. Especially if you are not taking care of yourself and your own stress is impacting the healing relationship with your child. Continue reading

A Whirlwind of Change and Possibilities: Embracing the Adoption Journey

By Ben Lusz, Director of Events and Volunteers

The world is your oyster, enjoy the possibilities.

Matt and I were in our late 20s and invited to a wedding. It gave Matt an opportunity to meet my childhood friends, and for me to catch up on their travels and see who was building a family. The nuptials happened, and everyone moved onto the important part…the reception. During this reception, instead of joining our friends on the dance floor doing the chicken dance, we found ourselves hanging out with their children. Then that moment happened when Matt I looked at each other and decided our life of freedom and no children may not be our long-term plan…parenthood was on the way; we were expecting.

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Making Connections for Youth in Foster Care

By Courtney Lake, Development and Communications Coordinator

Aging out of foster care is a terrifying reality that more than 20,000 youth face every year. Not only do these 18 year-olds lack a family, many enter the real world without the skills to make it on their own, and worse, without a single connection to look to for guidance and support.

In 2015, NPR shared Jasmine Uqdah’s story. A bright teen, Jasmine aged out of the foster care system with a plan. She was accepted to college and was motivated to succeed. But like so many youth who age out of the foster care system, the odds were stacked against her and there was no one around to guide her.

“Uqdah says that trying to balance school, a part-time job, money, and life all on her own became overwhelming. So she dropped out after two semesters — already more than $15,000 in debt — and took a second job as a meat slicer at a Detroit market.”

No young person should have to take on the world alone like Jasmine did. In her own words:

“Every 18- and 19-year-old thinks they’re ready, but you’re not. You’re not ready for shutoff notices. You’re not ready for eviction notices. You’re not ready for car repossessions.”

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It’s National Adoption Month! Do you want to adopt? This is how!

By Jessica Hartwig, Adoption Recruitment Specialist

Today more than 427,000 children are waiting in foster care in the United States; more than 111,000 of them are available to be adopted. Each year more than 20,000 of those waiting children will “age out” of care, putting them at greater risk of homelessness, underemployment, health challenges, and great emotional loss throughout their entire lives.

Because of these staggering numbers, November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month in the United States.  In 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded National Adoption Awareness Week to the entire month of November.  As of 2016, National Adoption Awareness Month has been celebrated for 21 years! Child welfare advocates and U.S. leaders celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month to pay tribute to the thousands of adoptive families who make sacrifices and open their homes to youth living in the nation’s foster care system.

Many people choose to begin pursuing adoption during National Adoption Awareness Month. If you are ready to begin your adoption journey, read on!

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Holiday Survival Tips

By Amanda Purvis, COPARC Project Director

If you are parenting children, you know that the holidays tend to be one of the most amazing times of the year, and one of the most difficult times of the year, all at once: the sugar, the cold, the lack of normalcy, the relatives, the travel. It’s all wonderful and terrible, sometimes in the same breath. Here are some great survival tips to make it through the holidays with both caregivers and children feeling celebrated and cherished.

Remember that what fires together wires together. Often when working with parents who are parenting kids from trauma, they explain what they think they alone have experienced – the phenomenon that their child creates, the child that “sabotages” the good days. Have you gone through this? Your child has been so excited about their birthday, or another special day, only to completely “ruin” the day with non-stop temper tantrums and meltdowns?

Remember that stress hormones are the same; whether it is “good” stress or “bad” stress, the body releases the same hormones. As a result, the brain does what it normally does when those are released (picture child in a puddle in the middle of all their presents, spent with excitatory neurotransmitters and the bliss of it all- but it looks like disrespect and manipulation). So if your child is acting more like the day they got in trouble at school, and it’s Christmas morning, remember that most often, they are not trying to sabotage the day, but that they just don’t know what else to do with their brains and bodies.

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Heading Back to School

By Amanda Purvis, COPARC Project Director

Well, it happened. Summer is almost over. School emails keep dinging in my inbox. School fees have been paid; boxed lunches, uniforms, all of the #2 sharpened pencils and Crayola 24-count crayons, they’ve been bought.

And now it’s time to make that decision that we as parents of kids from hard places struggle with making every single year at this time. What do we say to the new teacher? Anything? Everything? Some where in between? As a parent, I am looking for the right combination of words to fill this teacher with deep levels of understanding on developmental trauma and its effects on the brain, compassion that will carry them through some tough days, and huge levels of thanksgiving, because teachers are heroes.

So here is a note to all the teachers who will help us parent our children from trauma, from all of us parents, foster parents, kin parents, adoptive parents, and all of the other beautiful ways we find ourselves parenting these amazing kids. Here’s to you teachers!

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