Giving Tuesday

August 24th

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

Stories

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BeREAL: Layla’s Story

From as early as age three, Layla remembers being on her own. She was raised by a single mother who was addicted to drugs. Layla spent most of her childhood looking after her mom, feeding and taking care of herself and tending to the household responsibilities.

 

As Layla grew older, circumstances got even tougher. At thirteen, her mother became violent, and Layla left home to seek help from her best friend’s parents who then became her foster parents. She spent the next several years in their care until she graduated from high school.

 

Like all high schoolers who walk the graduation stage, Layla thought about her future and what she needed to do to succeed in life. While she had the love and encouragement of her foster family, Layla needed extra support to attend college and move into her own apartment.

 

Hope came to Layla when she was accepted into Upbring’s BeREAL program. Through the generosity of friends of Upbring, the apartments participants live in come fully furnished! The BeREAL program also pays for Layla’s rent and utilities while she studies anthropology at Texas State University. After being in the program for more than a year, she continues to work hard to achieve her goal of graduating from college. “I know that I wouldn’t have been able to come to college and succeed at college without all the assistance that BeREAL and everyone involved has given me,” Layla said.

 

Layla hopes that her story encourages others who age out of foster care to believe that college is an option for them. Now, with big dreams and a bright future on the horizon, Layla knows she can lead a much different life than she had as a child

 

To learn more about BeREAL and how you can make a difference in the lives of young adults like Layla, visit Upbring.org/BeREAL.

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Waiting Children – Bulgaria | August

Upbring International Adoption – the primary provider facilitating adoptions from Bulgaria – partners with New Beginning Association, a foundation accredited by the Bulgarian government, to find loving and compassionate adoptive families for children living in Bulgarian orphanages.

 

Meet the children currently waiting to find their forever homes:

 

AIDEN, PENELOPE AND ZOEY

 

 

AMARA

 

 

AVA

 

 

CORA

 

 

ISLA

 

 

JASPER

 

 

JULIAN

 

LUCY

 

 

MADELINE

 

 

MEGAN

 

 

POSIE

 

 

SILAS

 

 

STACEY

 

 

VINNY

 

If you would like to find out more about children available for adoption in Bulgaria, contact Upbring International Adoption by emailing [email protected]. You may also call 800-396-4611 and ask to speak to our International Adoption team.

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18 Books To Read With Your Child As Summer Comes To An End

As summer begins to fade and the school year quickly approaches, now is the time to begin refreshing the skills your child learned in the classroom last year. Chances are, the summers days were filled with picnics, trips to the water park, cookouts and memories to last a lifetime, but as fewer days stand between now and the first day of school, it’s important to exercise the brain and get your child back into “school mode” little by little. An engaging and creative way to prepare your little one for another year of learning is to simply read! Reading a book allows your child to go on an adventure, explore new lands, learn about new people and create worlds beyond anything he or she could imagine. You can keep your child engaged and make reading even more fun by using voices, acting out the scenes or watching a movie based on the book you’ve just read. There are millions of books out there for your child to discover, but to make it a bit easier we’ve created this list of recommendations, separated by age group, that we think you should add to their reading list:

(BONUS: Books in bold italics are recommendations for children in foster care from our Foster In Texas team.)

 

Infant/Preschool

  • Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
    • Beautiful illustrations in Vashti Harrison’s book showcase women of color who changed the world and accomplished extraordinary things
  • Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
    • This comedic picture book features a grumpy little bird who learns to how to giggle his grumpies away
  • Giraffe Problems by Jory John
    • Edward the giraffe discovers how to accept and celebrate one of the physical features he previously tried so hard to hide, his extremely long neck
  • I Need A Hug by Aaron Blabey
    • This sweet story about a tiny porcupine who is looking for a cuddle is sure to warm your heart
  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
    • Alexandra Penfold’s story follows a diverse group of children during an average school day who, although they are very different from one another, are welcomed with open arms
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
    • The Kissing Hand tells the story of a young raccoon who is hesitant to leave his mother as he attends his first day of school. His mother shares a family secret that helps the raccoon feel loved even when they’re apart

 

Elementary School

  • The Sun Is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
    • Nick Seluk’s comic-style artwork demonstrates all the amazing things that the sun does for our solar system
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
    • Originally published in 1970, this classic story features best friends Frog and Toad who learn vital lessons about friendship
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
    • This imaginative classic follows Stuart, a little mouse on a big quest to find a lost friend. The story would be an excellent choice for readers somewhere between chapter books and full-length novels
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
    • In this collection of hilarious poems, Shel Silverstein provides a charming introduction to poetry with detailed drawings that will captivate your child
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    • If your young reader is looking for a fantasy series, this would be a great choice as it is the first of seven novels in Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia collection
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
    • Love You Forever is a beloved children’s book that shares the story of a mother’s love for her child as he grows each and every day

 

Middle School

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
    • Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake to serve his juvenile detention sentence after he is mistakenly accused of stealing. He soon finds that his job of digging holes each day may not actually be for “building character”
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    • This story of resilience features Karana, who learns to survive on her own when she is left on a deserted island off the coast of California for eighteen years
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
    • Auggie, about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, has never attended a mainstream school before due to a facial deformity. In addition to the hardships that come with being “the new kid,” Auggie must also learn how to make friends and show others that even though he looks a little different, he is just like them
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
    • Leo, the main character in this novel, struggles with peer pressure and must decide whether he will shun Stargirl like the rest of the students at his high school
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
    • Naima, a Bangladeshi girl whose family has fallen on hard times, challenges the traditional role of women in her village and uses her artistic talents to help provide for her family
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
    • Far from the Tree tells the heartwarming story of three siblings separated within the foster care system and their journey to discovering the true meaning of family

 

By crossing a few of these books off your child’s list, he or she will surely be ready to dive back into learning and all the excitement the new school year will bring. Reading is a great way to spend time together, encourage learning all year long and have fun. Providing opportunities for your child to learn and grow will build a firm foundation of success for years to come. What are some of your favorite books to read with your child? Let us know below in the comments!

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3 Tips for Foster Parents from the Texas Youth Permanency Study

Youth in foster care need love, support and guidance from the important adults in their lives including caseworkers, foster parents and family members. Children in foster care have often experienced significant trauma from abuse and neglect, and foster parents, in particular, play a critical role in creating a safe, loving environment where they can begin to heal and grow.

 

Upbring has partnered with the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing (TXICFW) at The University of Texas at Austin to determine how we can support and encourage youth to successfully transition out of the foster care system and thrive in adulthood. Currently, researchers are following a cohort of youth across the state for the Texas Youth Permanency Study (TYPS). Learn more at Upbring.org/TYPS and start integrating these early findings into your home!

 

3 recommendations for foster parents include:

 

Help youth build and maintain authentic relationships.

Youth, especially those who come from unstable backgrounds, crave attachment to adults who make them feel safe. As a foster parent, you’re given the opportunity to create an important bond and encourage stability and normalcy that a child in foster care may have lacked in the past. Think about ways in which you can include youth in family activities and gatherings to nurture a sense of belonging. By making the child in your home feel welcome and like part of your family, you’re building the strong and authentic relationships they need to succeed.

 

Support youth’s personal growth.

Self-confidence is key when envisioning a brighter future for one’s self. Encourage children to try new things and discover what’s important to them and what they’re passionate about. Support them as they try on new roles and challenge them gently. Remind them that it’s okay to make mistakes and forgive them for making mistakes.  By focusing on the “good” in them rather than their challenges you can help them build self-confidence. In a safe environment, children can learn more about themselves and the world around them and discover who they truly want to be.

 

Help youth have a normal childhood.

As a foster parent, you have the opportunity to bridge the gap between a traumatic past and a “normal” childhood. Day to day activities that you may consider to be commonplace could be novel for a child in foster care. Going to an amusement park, shopping for new clothes and even participating in chores around the house all create a feeling of normalcy and belonging. Additionally, assisting a teen in your care with tasks such as getting a driver’s license or learning how to file taxes will create a smoother transition into adulthood when he or she leaves the foster care system.

 

We all play a vital role in ensuring foster youth are given the tools and resources needed to successfully transition into adulthood and break the cycle of child abuse. To learn more about how foster parents and other stakeholders (judges, mental health professionals, adoptive parents, birth parents and institutional staff) can help create brighter futures for youth transitioning out of foster care, visit Upbring.org/TYPS.

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What You Can Expect When Creating an Adoption Plan with Upbring

Facing an unplanned pregnancy can be an emotional and scary time. Upbring’s caring and supportive Adoption Specialists can help you take control by assisting you in creating a unique adoption plan made just for you and your baby. Here’s what you can expect after you’ve contacted an Adoption Specialist at Upbring.

 

Confidentiality and around the clock personal support

Our warm and welcoming Adoption Specialists are here for you around the clock and will work one-on-one with you to give you the personal support that you need. You can also expect to work with the same Adoption Specialist throughout the entire adoption process. Together, you will complete the initial paperwork in order to identify your immediate needs. In many situations, Upbring is able to assist with medical and living assistance or with any other resources that have been identified as a need for you and your baby.

We know that every woman seeking adoption for their child is unique and deserves to be treated with respect. Together, we can explore what you think is best for yourself and your child. Feel confident that the things we discuss, along with your information, are 100% confidential. Again, you are in control and can change your mind at any time during this process.

 

Speak with other mothers that have made an adoption plan with Upbring

You are not alone. Not only do you have 24/7 support from your Upbring Adoption Specialist, but you will also be able to connect with mothers who have walked in your shoes. Choose as much contact as you would like with an expectant mother that has created an adoption plan with Upbring.

 

Decide the level of communication you would like with the adoptive family

Your Adoption Specialist will help you explore how much contact you would like to have with an adoptive family both before and after the birth of your baby. Determining the amount and types (exchange of pictures and emails, phone conversations, face to face visits, etc.) of communication you would like with an adoptive family will help determine the type of family you may choose for your child.

Would you like to begin forming a relationship with the adoptive family before your child is born? Would you like the adoptive family to be present at the hospital? Do you want pictures of your child once a year or would you prefer face to face visits once a month? We will help you explore your thoughts on all of these questions in order to decide the amount and types of communication you are comfortable with.

 

Choose an adoptive family

Once you’ve decided the amount of contact you want, you can decide whether you would like to choose a waiting adoptive family. You will be presented with photobooks containing pictures and information about our approved Upbring adoptive families that best match your wants and needs. All of Upbring’s waiting adoptive families have gone through a rigorous screening and training process. Our amazing adoptive families are often unable to have biological children of their own and are eager to shower a child with love.

If you decide you would like no communication with the adoptive family of your choice, that is absolutely okay. If you would like for your Adoption Specialist to select an adoptive family for you, we can do that as well. Every adoption plan is unique, and YOU are in control.

 

Create a birth/hospital plan

Your Adoption Specialist will help you explore what you would like your hospital experience to look like. Discussing the hospital stay in advance will also help you be better prepared for what will take place during your stay at the hospital. Would you like to spend time bonding with your baby after birth? Would you like the adoptive family to be there in order to bond with the baby as well? Would you like to spend time with the adoptive family and baby together? The Adoption Specialist will be present at the hospital to make sure your wishes are respected and to offer you 24/7 support during your hospital stay.

 

Legal help

For expectant parents deciding on whether to choose adoption for their child, the legal process may seem scary and confusing. Upbring’s Adoption Specialists and experienced Adoption Attorneys will be with you every step of the way. In the state of Texas, the paperwork that terminates your parental rights cannot be signed until 48 hours after birth. After this paperwork is signed and all parties have been discharged from the hospital, the adoptive family will be ready to take the baby home. Upbring will supervise the adoptive family and child for 6 months until the adoption is finalized in court. You will never need to worry about appearing in court.

 

Ongoing support and assistance with setting post-adoption goals

Upbring will continue to support you after the birth of your child and can assist with communication between yourself and the adoptive family if needed. This can mean passing letters, photos and videos between both parties and/or setting up visits with your child.

Before and after birth, you and your Adoption Specialist will continually explore your future aspirations. You can achieve your goals and dreams, and we are here to support you.

 

Meet your Adoption Team

Erin Patterson, LMSW

Director of Adoption 

Erin Patterson is the Director of Adoption at Upbring where she supervises international adoption, domestic infant adoption and post-adoption support services. Erin graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Masters of Social Work with a concentration on Community Administration and Leadership and holds the certification of Licensed Master of Social Work. An Upbring employee of nearly 10 years, Erin has a background in disaster relief and adoption services in their various forms.  Erin has been fortunate enough to work and travel in countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Haiti, granting a deeper understanding of the realities of adoption in developing countries. Erin now lives in Austin with her husband and two children and spends her free time cooking for a crowd.

 

 

Kelly Keen, LMSW

Domestic Adoption Specialist

As a Licensed Master Social Worker with a background in foster care and adoption, Kelly Keen has a wealth of experience working directly with children and families. Kelly graduated from Texas State University with her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and received her Master of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. As a Domestic Adoption Specialist at Upbring, Kelly has a passion for serving all members of the adoption triad; expectant parents, adoptive parents and children. She is committed to creating meaningful connections with expectant mothers and strives to provide the counsel and support they need throughout the adoption process and beyond. Kelly and her husband have three amazing children and reside in the Austin area.

 

To reach an Upbring Adoption Specialist for more information, support or to begin creating an adoption plan, please call 1-833-80ADOPT or visit our domestic adoption page. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911.

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Reflections From A Graduate

For high school seniors, the arrival of spring often means that one chapter of their lives is ending. In late May and early June, eager teenagers don silk gowns and tasseled caps as they are awarded their diplomas at ceremonies across the country, but on the campus of New Life Children’s Center – graduation day takes on a deeper meaning.

 

New Life is a residential treatment center tucked among the trees in the Texas hill country. Much like the landscape it’s built on, the girls at New Life have often encountered numerous valleys in their own lives, such as years of neglect and abuse that have led to significant trauma. New Life serves as a place to be encouraged through the physical, emotional and spiritual care needed to truly heal. And, perhaps one of the most defining cornerstones of the healing process at New Life is the opportunity for girls to continue their education through the on-site Trinity Charter School. The teachers and staff at New Life and TCS work each and every day to build a foundation for girls to stand upon as they prepare for the bright futures they will live beyond treatment. This May, two seniors took their spots on the stage to graduate from TCS, yes, but also to reflect on their time spent at New Life – what they learned in the classroom and beyond and what they will take with them as they set out to achieve their dreams. Below is the graduation speech of one of those seniors.

 

This day I reflect on my true dedication to success. Today I am standing here a year early based on my determination to continue to improve my life no matter the circumstances.

 

When I first got into CPS, I remember telling my mom that I would end up getting behind in school and that I was just going to drop out since the placements I was being sent to had no schooling. I remember being angry at the world and on the verge of giving up on everything. Until one day, it hit me that what I am going through right now is not forever – that every setback is not negative. My setback has brought more good than it has bad. I jumped from placement after placement losing more and more hope throughout each move. I was wondering what I would do with my life now. Who am I going to run to now since everyone isn’t a tap away?

 

Before this happened, things were pretty normal. When CPS started, I was afraid of being alone and doing this all by myself. It was hard not having my mom to look up to anymore. It was hard to switch from making my own choices to being told when I can shower, when to use the bathroom, when to eat and when to sleep. But without getting a taste of what other worlds feel like and what the pain of others around you feels like to let me know that I’m not alone has shaped me into the person that I am today. It has made me realize that setbacks are not the end of the world. When you have so much time to yourself and you are away from all of the things that got you into trouble, you start to think. And when you start to think, you think of ways to change and become a better person. That is what I had to come to terms with.

 

I am thankful for everything that has happened to me this past year along with everything that I have learned along the way. I am thankful for all the teachers in my life that have wanted the best for me and wanted to see me grow, to use all my knowledge to make a change. I am thankful for my family and friends for staying true to me no matter the distance and not forgetting me. I am thankful for choosing to stop being against change and experiencing the other things that life has for me. I am thankful for deciding to stop being against help from others because without help I would have not made it this far.

 

Everything that happens always happens for a reason, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the doors that have opened for me. When you truly decide to set your mind to something, beyond the sky becomes your limit. I learned to never let anyone, no matter how much they mean to me, get in the way of my success. People aren’t forever, but your goals are.

 

And last, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has gotten to know me and has been by my side to this very day. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.

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Waiting Children – Bulgaria | May

Upbring International Adoption – the primary provider facilitating adoptions from Bulgaria – partners with New Beginning Association, a foundation accredited by the Bulgarian government, to find loving and compassionate adoptive families for children living in Bulgarian orphanages.

 

Meet the children currently waiting to find their forever homes:

 

ADAM

 

 

DYLAN

 

 

EMMA

 

 

HARMONY

 

 

LISA

 

 

MARK

 

 

MAVERICK

 

 

ROBBY

 

 

SALLY

 

 

SOPHIA

 

 

VINCENT

 

If you would like to find out more about children available for adoption in Bulgaria, contact Upbring International Adoption by emailing [email protected]. You may also call 800-396-4611 and ask to speak to our International Adoption team.

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Foster Care FAQ: Disproving the Myths

If you’re thinking about becoming a foster parent, you probably have a lot of questions about what the process looks like. At Upbring, we strive to be honest with potential foster parents and give them the information they need to make a knowledgeable decision about whether or not fostering is right for them. Fostering a child comes with its challenges, but none that cannot be managed with proper training and support. There are many common myths and misconceptions about foster care. Here’s the truth about the five most commonly heard:

 

1. I have no choice about the child that is placed in my home

Foster parents are given the freedom to help create the kind of environment they want for their home. This process involves evaluating the type of child(ren) that you think will best fit in with your family. You can choose a child’s age range and gender as well as the range of behaviors that you feel comfortable parenting. Keep in mind that the smaller the age range you give, the longer it will likely take for you to be matched with a child.

 

2. I must be wealthy

If worrying that you don’t have enough money to provide for a child is the only thing holding you back from becoming a foster parent, don’t let that stop you. While foster care is not an experience that you can financially profit from (you must have a regular source of income that is not government assistance), help is offered through a daily reimbursement rate. This predetermined dollar amount is provided for each day a child resides in your home to assist with purchasing his or her basic need items like clothing and food. The daily reimbursement rate is disbursed on a monthly basis and can also be used to offer your child opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities like dance class, music lessons or playing on a sports team.

 

3. I’m too old to be a foster parent

While the minimum age is 21, there is no maximum age to welcome a child in foster care into your home. As long as you are emotionally and physically healthy, have a regular source of income and have no criminal history or history of abusing a child or another adult, you are eligible to care for a child in foster care. Foster parents range in age and represent a variety of different family structures. Some have other children in their home already and others do not. Retirees who are nostalgic for the joy and busyness of having a child at home often make excellent foster parents.

 

4. I’ll be on my own without any help

At Upbring, we work to make sure that each child placed into a foster home is well cared for and that each family providing for them has the support and resources needed to be successful. When you foster through Foster In Texas (FIT), you are assigned a family services worker who is on call at all times. If you have a question, are feeling overwhelmed or need to report an incident, simply pick up the phone and call our 24/7 local support line. FIT also provides foster parents with 30 hours of training per year, monthly support groups, quarterly events such as a day at the zoo or an appreciation dinner, respite care and wraparound health care for children. Our goal is to make sure that every foster parent knows that they are not in this alone.

 

5. I have to be married and own a home

Both single people and married couples (if you have been married for at least two years) can welcome a child in foster care into their home. While a home screening and a safety inspection of your place of residence are both required before a child can enter your care, passing is not at all contingent on whether you own or rent your home.

 

Fostering through Upbring means that you are joining a community of caring staff and like-minded parents who all have the same goal of caring for children who need loving, supportive families. While fostering a child can be challenging at times, our foster families are supported throughout their entire journey and are given all the resources they need to feel comfortable. If you think you are interested in becoming a foster parent, we want to hear from you! Please take a minute to fill out our Foster Inquiry Form so that we can connect you with a FIT representative who will give you additional information and answer any questions you may have.