Giving Tuesday

December 11th

#GivingTuesday is Tuesday, November 28. Find out more about this 24-hour, special opportunity to make 2X impact, click here.



8 Last-Minute DIY Halloween Costumes

Fall is a busy time in households across the U.S. with school, extracurricular activities and the holiday season in full swing. Between navigating homework assignments and driving to soccer practice, meal planning and bedtime, some like-to-do list items are bound to fall through the cracks – like finding the perfect Halloween costumes for your family that won’t break the bank!

Halloween is a fun time for children to create lasting memories as they use their imaginations to become a fairy, a dragon or even a superhero! Invite your children to join you as you find creative ways to put together costumes from items easily found around the house or at the dollar store. Below you’ll find 8 DIY costumes that are sure to bring a smile to their faces:


1. An Emoji

Emojis are everywhere, from movies to pajamas! Cut a giant circle out of yellow poster board and have your child use markers to draw his or her favorite emoji face. Punch two holes at the top, attach string to both sides so they can wear it like a really big necklace and you’re ready to go!


2. A Train

Grab some empty boxes and help your children paint them to look like the engine of a train. You can use paper plates or leftover cardboard to create wheels and a battery-operated light to complete the look. Use string or rope to create two straps and you’re ready to send your children chugging along!


3. A Minion

Paint two paper plates to look like eyes, glue them onto a headband and dress your child in a yellow shirt for a look that’s sure to bring joy and laughs.


4. Salt and Pepper

If you’re taking two children trick-or-treating this year, grab a black t-shirt and a white t-shirt and use paint pens to draw an “S” on one and a “P” on the other. For an added bonus, you can make a shaker “lid” hat out of tin foil.


5. A Bunch of Grapes

Blow up purple balloons and glue or tape them to a black or green t-shirt. Just be careful not to sit down!


6. A Lego

Cut head and arm holes into a large cardboard box and attach paper bowls with glue for the “pegs” – then paint the whole thing your child’s favorite color. If you’re taking multiple children trick-or-treating, you can make a Lego in each color and have them “stick” together!


7. A Ghost

For a unique take on the classic “sheet ghost costume,” use layers of tulle (and ribbon to keep it together) to make a fluffy, spooky spirit! Use construction paper to make eyes and glue them to the tulle to complete the look.


8. A Donut

Glue construction paper sprinkles onto a round pool float for a simple and fun costume.


With a blank t-shirt or a cardboard box, the Halloween costume opportunities are endless. And spending time creating, making a mess, and maybe even a mistake or two will create memories that will keep your family smiling.


What are some of your favorite costumes from childhood? Let us know in the comments! Happy Halloween!




Dr. DeGarmo’s Classroom Tips

Education is one of five key markers of every child’s success. Sadly, only 50 percent of children in foster care graduate high school, and a mere 3 percent earn a college degree.

As a doctor in education, former teacher and longtime foster parent, Dr. John DeGarmo, director of The Foster Care Institute, knows that the trauma associated with abuse and neglect compromises children’s classroom success. He also knows foster parents can serve as powerful advocates for the children in their care, ensuring they get the best education possible.

As a primer for this week’s free Foster from the Heart conference, Dr. DeGarmo offers these five tips foster parents can follow to help their children build brighter futures through education.


Build positive relationships with school staff

It is essential that you remain up-to-date on your child’s progress, academically and behaviorally. Nowadays, there are so many ways to stay in touch, including phone calls, text messages, email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Make sure counselors, teachers and administrators know they can always contact you to discuss your child’s education. Similarly, reach out to them and ask for as much information and as many updates as possible.

Advocate for your child

The more interested and involved you are in your child’s academic life, the more likely they are to thrive. Consider volunteering as a classroom assistant, playground monitor or field trip chaperone. Or, perhaps you could leverage your talents by leading an art project, building theatrical production sets or speaking during career day.

At home, help your child complete their homework and study for tests

Remember that children in foster care, like all children, can never read too much. Take time every day to read to younger children or listen to older children read to you from a book they choose. Quite simply, be an advocate for your child’s education.

Encourage participation outside the classroom

You can help foster your child’s growth by encouraging her to participate in activities outside the classroom such as sports, music and clubs. Studies show that children who participate in extracurricular activities make better grades, maintain more positive attitudes toward school and aspire to greater academic heights. In addition, your child will have the opportunity to build self-esteem, make friends, discover new interests and develop life skills such as teamwork and time management.

Set goals, celebrate success

School work typically does not come easily for children in foster care, who tend to perform below grade-level behaviorally and academically, particularly in math and reading. Work with your child’s teachers to identify accommodations that need to be made and to set realistic goals for your child. In addition, talk to your child about setting their own goals. Perhaps most importantly, celebrate every success, no matter how small.


You’re invited!

Upbring invites you to meet Dr. DeGarmo and hear more about his experiences during the Foster from the Heart Conference in San Antonio on October 20. The conference is open to foster and adoptive parents, social workers, counselors, child protection staff, educators and anyone else interested in child welfare. Limited seats for the free event are still available, so register today. We hope to see you there!


7 Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy Reading

As a reader, I have traveled the world, met famous artists, explored space and solved mysteries – without ever leaving my living room. As an author, I have used stories to encourage and inspire women around the world. Books can take us on amazing adventures, teach us about new people and ways of life, and encourage us through some of life’s hardest moments.


Although I’ve always loved reading (and almost always had a book with me as a child), my daughter prefers math because it comes more easily to her. There is something about two plus two always equaling four that gives her confidence, and she spends as much time figuring out math facts as she does creating art projects.


So, we’ve been creating fun (and sometimes funny) math word problems for her to read and solve. As she draws silly pictures to figure out the equations, she’s learning how reading, math and art can all work together.


If you have a reluctant reader in your home, try these ideas to encourage him or her to become a lifelong lover of the written word.


Read aloud to your child every day. Whether you read together at bedtime or do story time in the morning, reading to your child, no matter their age, can help them enjoy reading.


When children listen to great stories, they’re exposed to new vocabulary and grammar principles. But even more importantly, they begin to see how words construct meaning in the world around us. Whether students arrive in the classroom unable to read the alphabet or already reading chapter books, reading aloud offers the opportunity to capture their imaginations and introduce them to quality fiction and nonfiction. – We Are Teachers


BONUS: Borrow audiobooks from the library to listen to in the car instead of watching shows on a mobile device. Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Library is one the whole family can enjoy – and it’s about books!


Think outside the book. Pick a kid-friendly cookbook or find a recipe online and work with your child to make the dish. They can practice reading (and math!) as they give you instructions and enjoy the delicious results. Traveling somewhere new on vacation? Why not head to the library or your local travel agency and find some books about your destination. Consider allowing your child to plan a small part of your trip so they can see how reading and planning can result in an amazing adventure.


Show them their progress. Create a fun sticker chart that shows your child how many minutes they’ve spent reading. Consider adding an incentive, like seeing the movie version of the book they’re reading, going to the park or taking a special trip to the bookstore.


Play games to encourage reading. I learned how to read by doing word searches with my grandfather. He read the word to me, and I matched the letters. Play games like “Swat a Sight Word” or “Sight Word Bingo” with younger readers to make learning to read fun. For older readers, consider “Boggle,” “Scrabble” or “Googly Eyes” to challenge their spelling, reading and creative skills.


Visit your local library. Librarians are incredible resources for communities, and they’re great at recommending the perfect books for young readers. Tell your librarian about the activities, books and movies your child enjoys. From graphic novels to non-fiction books and everything in between, your librarian can help readers fall in love with books by connecting reading with things they already love.


BONUS: If your reader enjoys non-fiction books, try the “Who Was” series. Then, go to Netflix and watch the episodes that match each book in the series when they’re done! Amelia Earhart is a favorite in our house.


Make screen time work for you. With more access to technology than any generation before them, today’s children are easily able to navigate computers, tablets and smartphones. Using apps like Epic, Bob Books, Mad Libs and Word Bingo gives parents a chance to connect reading with a tool their kids already love. Check out this list of other reading apps for kids of all ages.


Start a kid-friendly book club. Adults know how fun it can be to read a book with friends and then meet to talk about it. Why not include the kids? Invite 3 or 4 families with children of similar ages to read a book together and meet twice a month for a “Book Brunch.” Kids can snack on donut holes and fruit while they chat about their favorite parts of the book and their favorite characters. If a parent in the group enjoys crafts, consider doing a themed art project together. At the end of each meeting, choose a new book and decide on the next day/time/place to meet.


Finally, don’t forget to offer encouragement! Whether your child reads one page or an entire book, make sure they know you see the effort they’ve made and that you’re proud of them. A teacher’s praise gave me the dream to become an author. Your words today might offer the hope of a bright, exciting future your child has only just started to dream about.


Our mission at work

Upbring’s research has identified education as one of five key markers of every child’s well-being, and it is woven into all our programs.

Whether they are preparing to start kindergarten, making up lost ground in the classroom or taking their first steps toward independence, we believe in every child, and we give them every opportunity to shine.



About the Author: Crystal Stine has lived almost her entire life in a small town in PA and is married to her high school sweetheart. Her passion is encouraging, equipping and inspiring women of all ages to embrace a work hard, rest well lifestyle that honors God – so they can work without shame and rest without guilt. An author and speaker, her first book, “Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work Hard, Rest Well Lifestyle” released June 5, and her message has reached more than 20,000 people through her 10 Day devotional on YouVersion and countless others through podcasts, radio interviews, and national and international magazines. Crystal and Matt have a 6-year-old daughter, Madison, and when she’s not working as the communications director at her church, Crystal enjoys being a soccer mom – who only occasionally gets shushed for her sideline enthusiasm.


Q&A with International Foster Care Expert Dr. John DeGarmo

Over the past 16 years, Dr. John DeGarmo and his wife Kelly have welcomed 55 children in foster care into their home and hearts. While the children were in their care, the family provided them with much more than the basics of food, clothing and shelter. They gave them the unconditional love and support every child needs to grow into a healthy adult.

On September 22, Dr. DeGarmo, who has also devoted his professional life to serving children in foster care, will be the featured speaker at our Foster from the Heart conference. As a primer for the free event, Dr. DeGarmo graciously agreed to participate in this Q&A.


How has fostering changed you as a person?

Foster parenting has been the most difficult “job” I have ever done. But it is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done, as well. Without a doubt, I am a far better person for each experience and a far richer person for each child who has come to be a part of my life.


What is your single most memorable moment as a foster parent?

Oh, so many. I have watched children smile for the first time, heal from abuse and learn how to trust again. I have also adopted three children from foster care. So many wonderful memories!


What is the truth behind what you consider to be the most common misconception about fostering?

Despite what some people think, foster parents are NOT in it for the money. In truth, taking care of children in foster care can be financially straining and even stressful. To be sure, foster parents are reimbursed for many things. But we often spend our own money to give the children in our care the same opportunities other children have, whether that means a special birthday celebration, a memorable Christmas or a family trip.


Are there certain qualities every foster parent should have?

You don’t need to own a big house, have lots of money or even be married. You just need a heart for children and a passion for helping children in need.


You have three biological children. Has it been hard for them when you bring new children into your home? If so, how did you ease the transition?

We have been fostering for 16 years, and my oldest child is 21, so fostering is a lifestyle for us. Of course, that won’t be the case for everyone. As I wrote in The Foster Care Survival Guide, when you decide to become a foster family, you need to prepare yourself and your children. After all, their lives are going to change, too. Your children will not only be sharing their home, but they will be sharing you, their parents. This can be difficult for them to understand, and they will need your support more than ever. One way my wife and I show our support is by including our children in deciding whether to bring a new child into our home.


How has the opioid epidemic impacted the foster care system, and what can be done about it?

The opioid crisis is straining America’s foster care system. There are not enough foster homes for the approximately 450,000 children currently in care. Now, more children are entering the system every day because their parents are in jail or, tragically, deceased because of opioids. We have to work together as legislators, foster care agencies, health care providers and as a community to:

  • Deliver more resources and help to families before a child is removed and placed into foster care.
  • Increase awareness about the dangers of opioids, not only to those who take them, but to their unborn children.
  • Improve care to children who are born addicted to the drugs in their system.

There are thousands of teens in foster care and a common misconception is that fostering teens is more challenging than fostering younger kids. What are the rewards in fostering teens?

Oh, there are so many rewards. Just last year, I had three high school seniors living in my home, and two of them were homeless. There were certainly challenges, but there were also so many joys and adventures. It was a house full of laughter and discovery. I would not have changed a thing about it.


All children in foster care have suffered trauma. We know that trauma impacts education in many ways. As a doctor in education, a former teacher and a longtime foster parent, can you explain how foster parents can help ensure their children get the best education possible?

Well, as I write in the book Helping Foster Children in School, foster parents NEED to be advocates for their children’s education. Children in foster care are typically about 18 months behind academically. There are bound to be behavior challenges, as well. Here are five things you can do right now to help the children in your care succeed:

  1. Reach out to teachers and stay updated on your children’s progress.
  2. Volunteer in the school.
  3. Encourage children to become active in after-school activities.
  4. Take an interest in your children’s school work, and make sure they do it to the best of their ability each evening.
  5. Help your children study and praise them when they do well.
  6. If you have young children in the early years of school, help them with their spelling and writing skills, read to them each evening, or listen to them read to you.


What unique safety risks does today’s digital world expose children in foster care to, and how can we protect them?

Where do I start? As I note in the book Keeping Foster Children Safe Online, human trafficking, cyberbullying, and pro-suicide sites are just the beginning of these challenges. Quite simply, foster parents need to be vigilant in monitoring their child’s online access and use. Here are just a few ways to keep a child safe online: Know their passwords, monitor which sites they visit, know who their social media friends are and put protective filters and software in place.


You’re invited!

Upbring invites you to meet Dr. DeGarmo and hear more about his experiences during the Foster from the Heart Conference on September 22 in Flower Mound. The conference is open to foster and adoptive parents, social workers, counselors, child protection staff, educators and anyone else interested in child welfare. Limited seats for the free event are still available, so register today. We hope to see you there!


10 Easy, Nutritious School Lunches for Busy Parents

Back-to-school means back to early morning alarms, scrambling to find missing shoes, making sure all the homework and important papers are back in their folders and hurrying to drink a cup of coffee while asking your kids for the eighth time if they’ve brushed their teeth.


That doesn’t leave much time for packing a nutritious lunch your kids will love. If you want to make mornings run more smoothly and prepare your kids to tackle the day with plenty of energy and focus, try these 10 easy, nutritious, kid-friendly lunches.


1. Tortilla roll-ups

Fill a wheat tortilla with peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese or any filling your kids love. From there, roll the tortilla, slice it into pinwheels and secure it with toothpicks, and you have an easy lunch on-the-go. Grab some spinach or tomato wraps to add color – and to sneak a bit of veggie in there, too!


2. Pizza pieces

Instead of a foil-wrapped slice of leftover pizza, go the deconstructed route. Put turkey pepperoni, reduced-fat cheese slices and crackers into a container. Add a little sauce in a small, plastic to-go cup for dipping, and you have a fun, interactive lunch.


3. Simple sandwiches

Sometimes, simple is best, which means your child’s favorite sandwich might be exactly what they like best. Put a twist on it by cutting it into a fun shape like a star or butterfly for a surprise in your little one’s lunchbox. Add apple slices, a string cheese and a small bottle of water for a lunch that is sure to satisfy.


4. Turkey, apple and cheese roll-ups

Looking for an alternative to the simple sandwich? Take a piece of thick turkey and place a slice of apple and a slice of cheese in the middle. Fold it over like a burrito, and you’re ready to go!


5. Hummus & pita plate

Slice pita bread into triangles, add your child’s favorite veggies and some hummus (which comes in a huge variety of flavors) for a filling lunch that is packed full of protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins.


6. Chicken noodle soup

This classic, easy-to-make soup is a crowd favorite. Whether canned or homemade, it’s sure to be a hit with your little one. Pour it in a thermos so it’s served up warm at lunchtime. Include saltine crackers for extra flavor.


7. Apple & peanut butter sandwiches

Spread peanut butter on apple slices and stick them together for a yummy snack that’s high in protein and provides a serving of fruit.


8. Tortilla soup

A simple crock-pot recipe can provide lunch for the entire week. Add chicken, chicken broth, corn, black beans, salsa and seasoning, and you’ve got a tasty lunch alternative. Pour soup into a thermos to ensure it stays warm until lunchtime.


9. Veggie taco salad

Shred some lettuce, slice a tomato, add corn, black beans and avocado, and you’ve got a bold and delicious lunch that fits easily in a Tupperware container. Add corn chips and a cup of dressing for a touch of Southwestern flavor!


10. Don’t forget the snacks

A nutritious snack can be the best defense against the dreaded mid-afternoon slump. Stock up on pretzels, fruit, trail mix and small treats for kids’ lunchboxes.


Our mission at work

Upbring believes every child deserves the chance to shine through the power of education. We also know that children, like adults, have a difficult time concentrating when they’re not getting enough nourishment.

Through Upbring education programs, we ensure the children we serve receive nutritious meals every day. Without worrying about their growling stomachs, children can focus on learning English, math and science, as well as building important life skills.

Through our continuum of care, we surround children with services that meet their needs in five key areas.


How to Decorate on a Shoestring Budget

Leaving home and moving into their first apartment or house is an exciting time in a young adult’s life, but it also presents challenges. For example, how do you make your new place feel like home when your finances are stretched thin between rent, car insurance, groceries and other obligations that come with growing up?


Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to transform your new digs. Ready to get started? Our staff put their heads together and came up with 8 creative ways to decorate on a shoestring budget that we think you’ll love!


1.  Shop Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

It might take time to find what you want, as well as a little planning to pick it up, but both websites are great places to find low-cost items that need a new home.


2.  Paint an accent wall.

Painting makes a huge impact, but it can also be expensive. Instead of painting your entire home, choose just one wall and get a paint that includes primer so you can finish the job in one coat. If you are renting, talk to the owner or property manager before you paint.


3.  Add rolling casters to an inexpensive bookshelf to create a rolling storage system.

You could even create a small, mobile kitchen island by adding a cutting board to the top and storing your cooking utensils on the shelves below in canisters from the dollar section.


4.  Stock up on frames when your local craft store has a big sale.

Then, fill them with artwork from last year’s wall calendar, your favorite magazines or the thrift store to create a gallery wall.


5.  Hang decorative blankets on a wooden ladder, or stack wooden crates for a creative bookshelf.

Both the ladder and crates serve as decor and storage in one.


6.  Get even more for your money with multi-purpose pieces.

For example, find an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table and storage space.


7.  Mirrors are an easy way to add light to a space and make it feel larger.

They’re also practical. Consider hanging an inexpensive, full-length mirror horizontally behind your sofa for an instantly stylish look.


8.  Create an easy place to hang coats, hats and bags with decorative Command hooks.

They’ll keep everything neat, and you won’t have to worry about fixing holes in your walls later.


Our mission at work

Many young adults who age out of foster care have no home, no family and nowhere to turn. Sadly, 20 percent will become instantly homeless, and only 50 percent will be gainfully employed by the age of 24.

Continuum of Care


Through our continuum of care, we surround children and young adults with services that meet their needs in five key areas.


The Upbring BeREAL program walks alongside these young men and women as they take their first steps toward independence.


From identifying their education and career goals to moving into that first place of their own – and decorating it on a shoestring budget – we give young adults the guidance and encouragement they need to succeed.


“I came to BeREAL with nothing but a trash bag that had my clothes in it. Two vans pulled up to help me move into my apartment, and they were full of furniture. I told my BeREAL caseworker this wasn’t my stuff, and with a big smile on her face, she said, ‘Yes, it is.’ I didn’t even know these people, but they wanted to help me. That was such a powerful moment for me.”  – JoAnna, BeREAL participant


Want to help?

If you want to support a young person like JoAnna on their journey to adulthood, consider making a donation (Select BeREAL in the “Designate Your Gift” drop-down menu) or volunteering your time and talent.


Hurricane Harvey: The Road to Rebuilding

Tomorrow, as the sun rises on a new day, one can’t help but think back to this time a year ago when windows were boarded up and grocery store shelves were empty as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in South Texas. It’s hard to believe 365 days have passed since the destructive storm terrorized our state – shattering records, leaving 68 people dead and making a significant impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands. Homes and streets were flooded. People spent days lofted on their roofs waiting for rescue teams to alleviate them from increasingly high waters. Food and water supplies diminished too quickly. Several regions of our state were in chaos.

But as always, we as Americans showed our resilience and banded together to help impacted families. With support from generous friends, not only in Texas but across the country, Upbring stood with the community, helping families find food, clothing, medical assistance and safe, clean shelter. We also had the resources to provide our Foster In Texas families with stipends that helped cover essentials like travel costs, temporary housing, clothing and diapers. For those affected by this horrific storm, the generous support and donations that poured in helped ease their minds and allowed them to focus on rebuilding without the fear of where their next meal would come from, if they would have a roof over their heads and if their children would be comforted after days of living in fear.

Together, we stood strong in the face of tragedy and made an immediate difference in the lives of families who needed our help. Still, thousands more are continuously working to rebuild their lives, and Upbring will stand with them. Our Disaster Response Team is preparing to mobilize and take over case management for families in need in South Texas. We ask that you keep our team and the families they will serve in your prayers.


ICYMI: We shared six tips to help you prepare for a hurricane. Check them out here.


Are You Prepared for a Hurricane?

132 mph winds, 27 trillion gallons of rain and, tragically, 88 lives lost – Hurricane Harvey carved a destructive path across the Gulf Coast last fall. Harvey went down as the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Texas since 1961, and many families are still working to rebuild their lives.

Natural disasters can happen suddenly, with little to no warning. As Harvey’s 1-year anniversary approaches, the Upbring family encourages you to make a plan for protecting your family during hurricane season.


Here are 6 simple hurricane preparedness tips for the 2018 hurricane season:

1.  Stock an emergency preparedness kit with essentials such as food, water, medications, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries and cash. Be sure to include your pets’ essentials.


2.  Keep important documents in a safe place, or create password-protected, digital copies as part of your hurricane preparedness plan.


3.  Protect your property by decluttering drains and gutters to prevent flooding, installing check valves in plumbing to prevent backups, and considering hurricane shutters. Remember that homeowners’ and renters’ insurance do not typically cover flood damages, but flood insurance does.


4.  Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. During disasters, sending text messages is usually faster and more reliable than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded. The American Red Cross Safe & Well website allows you to tell family and friends you are safe during a disaster.


5.  You might have to leave home quickly, so prepare an evacuation plan. Review your evacuation zone and route, and learn where emergency shelters are located. Keep your car in good working condition and your gas tank full. Stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes for each member of your family. Finally, and most importantly, never ignore an evacuation order.


6.  Sign up for disaster alerts to stay up-to-date during a disaster. You can also download apps by the American Red Cross, the Weather Channel and FEMA.


More resources

For more information about protecting your home and family during hurricane season, visit these websites:


LSS Disaster Response – Here for the short and long haul

In Harvey’s wake, Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response was there to meet families’ immediate needs by providing emergency hardship grants and helping them find food, clothing, medical assistance and safe, clean shelter. Because of your support, we are also there for the long haul, offering assistance for future preparedness, emotional and spiritual care, volunteer coordination and long-term recovery.


On behalf of the many families impacted by Hurricane Harvey, thank you for your prayers, your donations and the gift of your volunteer efforts. Together, we are supporting families during difficult circumstances and allowing them to focus on creating safe, loving homes for their children.