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Foster In Texas | Upbring - Part 2


Foster Friday: Understanding Childhood Trauma

Traumatic experiences can have a long-lasting impact, especially on children. Children process trauma in countless ways. Some shut down while others act out. Some may openly talk about their emotions while others may bottle it up. There’s no rule book on how children should process a wide range of complicated emotions that follow dangerous or threatening circumstances. When deciding whether opening your home to a child who has experienced intense trauma, you might wonder how a decision like this could impact your life.

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3 Impactful Ways for Foster Families to Form Authentic Relationships

Authentic relationships are a key factor in ensuring children in foster care are given the emotional support needed to heal from the significant trauma they’ve often experienced. As a foster parent, you’re given the opportunity to serve as a mentor, guide and advocate for the children in your care. We’ve developed three recommendations to help you engage children that have come into your care after spending time in an institutional setting like a hospital or treatment center:

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5 Common Questions Asked About Foster Care

Becoming a foster parent is truly a life-changing decision. Considering whether to open your home and heart to children who have experienced hurt and trauma will likely leave you with some unanswered questions. At Upbring, we want you to feel comfortable asking whatever comes to mind. We are here to address any uncertainties you may have during your foster care journey.

Sometimes there are so many questions, you might not know where to start. We’ve found that it’s best to begin with the basics.  Here are answers to some common questions asked by people who are just beginning to learn about the foster care system.

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Foster Friday: What do I really need to foster?

Make no mistake about it, becoming a foster parent is a big step and isn’t always a decision one makes quickly. After all, it is no simple task to open your heart and home to a child you’ve never met and has no trace of your DNA.

There are thousands of extraordinary children across Texas who need a safe home with adults who will encourage their dreams, remind them of their importance and give them a chance to simply be a kid. Before you count yourself out of the running, let’s talk about six things you DON’T need to become a foster parent:

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9 Steps to Become a Foster Parent in Texas

Wondering how to become a foster parent in Texas? Foster In Texas (FIT) works with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to find loving families for thousands of children each year. We know that getting started as a new foster parent may seem overwhelming, so we’ve simplified the process into nine steps.

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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!


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!


Five Ways to Support a Recent Graduate

Recent graduates are entering an exciting time in their lives. Graduation and the months after open doors to so many new opportunities. Some graduates head off to college, some go to trade school and some enter the workforce.

At Upbring, we’re so proud of all the young adults in our programs who have graduated. Whether they attend high school while in our Foster In Texas Program or attend one of our Trinity Charter Schools through our RTCs, they are given support by staff, mentors and peers that, when ready, allows them to leave our program prepared to take on the task of independent living.

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