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National Child Abuse Prevention Month: How You Can Get Involved Throughout The Year

While National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a great step toward creating awareness for abuse and neglect prevention, many more steps can be taken to ensure that all children are safe, loved and cherished. Here are five ways you can get involved, with resources included, so you can show your support year-round.

 

1. Spread the word

Change occurs when we raise awareness that change is needed. By bringing attention to situations of abuse and neglect and informing others of the harm it causes, we can display the need for change. Help raise public awareness in your community by posting a tip sheet on a public bulletin board or by sharing a message on your personal social media account.

 

2. Learn the signs

In order to help others, you must first learn the signs of abuse and neglect. Knowing the signs makes it possible for you to share the information with others and recognize situations of abuse in your community. If you suspect that a child is being abused, use the information you’ve learned to help make an informed decision about when to contact local authorities. By speaking up, you can make a difference in the lives of children who would otherwise have no one on their side.

 

3. Donate

One great way to get involved and show your support is by making a financial or in-kind contribution to an organization that serves children. Nonprofit organizations, like Upbring, use your donations to serve children who have been affected by abuse or neglect by placing them in loving foster homes, finding them forever homes through adoption or providing them with access to facilities where they can go to escape abuse and begin the healing process. Choose which program you want your gift to support by using our online donation form or by selecting an item through the Upbring Marketplace. Both options are 100% tax deductible.

 

4. Volunteer

Donating your time is another important way that you can support children who have suffered from abuse. Find a local organization where you can get involved and make a difference in the lives of those who need extra love and care. Your willingness to share your hobbies, talents and encouragement with children can make a tremendous impact on their lives. Upbring has many different opportunities to volunteer like mentoring, hosting group activities, academic tutoring and community garden maintenance.

 

5. Spend time together

Spending extra time with your children strengthens your family and promotes child and family well-being, which is one of the most important ways to counter the cycle of abuse. Taking time out of your day to focus fully on your child shows them that they are important to you. Create opportunities to spend more time together. For example, turn Friday nights into a family movie night; order pizza, rent a movie and build a blanket fort that you can all crawl in to watch together. Encourage other families to do the same by sharing your ideas with friends or even hosting a family game night.

 

With the help of the resources mentioned above and the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s 2019 Prevention Resource Guide, you can learn more about the best prevention practices. The more we talk about the reality of abuse and neglect and study the resources available to us, the more we will learn. Being informed will help us better recognize the signs so we can change the lives of those suffering around us. At Upbring, we strive to make sure that every child knows they are loved and important. By choosing to get involved and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, you are joining us on our mission to break the cycle of child abuse.

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month: The Effects of Childhood Trauma

Children who come into our care here at Upbring have often experienced significant trauma due to abuse and neglect. While there is no universal way trauma affects a child or presents its symptoms, it’s not to be discredited or ignored. As we continue to recognize April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we’ve asked Upbring Family Services Clinical Director, Frank Lopez to share his expertise on how to spot signs of trauma in children and how to provide the best support and care needed.

 

Is there a standard system or method to assess the effects of traumatic experiences during childhood?

Children coming into care have a CANS Assessment completed within 30 days. This assessment is completed by a qualified assessor or clinician and provides recommended treatment based on the responses given. This assessment serves as the standard system for children in foster care. Additionally, each child who receives behavioral health services may have more specific assessments completed by a mental health clinician. A comprehensive list of several additional instruments that assess for trauma can be found here.

 

Is it common for a child to experience more than one type of traumatic experience? And if yes, how are these experiences measured by trauma experts?

Yes, and multiple traumatic events are known as Complex Trauma. Complex Trauma can impact an individual in various ways that interfere with forming attachments, physical ailments and emotional responses to common situations. The ACE Study, developed by the CDC & Kaiser Permanente, includes the use of an adverse childhood experience questionnaire (ACE).  An ACE score is a point value score used to measure Adverse Childhood Experiences that include abuse, neglect and family challenges. The higher the score, the higher the probability of health and social-related problems as an adult.

 

What are the types of trauma measured in the ACE study?

The questions are tied to abuse, neglect, mental health, violence and criminal behavior. We can infer that traumatic events happen when the areas above are part of those experiences. Information about the ACE study can be found here.

 

What is considered a high ACE score?

The study indicates that those with a score of 4 or higher are at a higher risk of health-related problems as an adult such as obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, mental health concerns and engaging in high-risk behaviors such as using illicit drugs.

 

What are some of the effects a high ACE score can have on children?

The effects impact social, emotional and cognitive impairment as a child, which can result in engaging in high-risk behaviors and possibly an early death as an adult.  While this does not mean that every child with a high ACE score will engage in destructive behaviors or experience health issues later in life, success rates are higher when intervention occurs.

 

What resources are available for foster parents who care for children who have a high ACE score?

There are many trainings available to help caregivers understand how a high ACE score impacts all areas of one’s life. Upbring foster parents receive eight hours of Trauma Informed Care (TIC) training before caring for children. Additionally, foster parents are required to attend two hours of annual training in TIC. There are many treatment models for specific concerns such as substance abuse, health-related concerns, mental health diagnosis, etc. Children receiving behavioral health services can seek support/resources from a licensed mental health clinician to help manage symptoms of trauma. A list of additional resources can be found on our website.

 

What factors in a child’s life increase resilience?

Protective factors such as safety, nurturing, meeting basic needs and access to health care all increase resilience in children. These protective factors allow the child to form secure attachments which help meet developmental milestones, socialization skills, good decision-making and overall improve the quality of life. With training, foster parents can provide these protective factors to children under their care.

 

While trauma can have a significant impact on a child’s well-being, it doesn’t have to dictate the rest of his or her life. Intervention and trauma-informed care provide a chance for a child to heal from the wounds of his or her past and move toward a brighter future. For resources and information on child abuse awareness and prevention, visit https://www.upbring.org/research/resources/.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frank Lopez currently serves as the Family Services Clinical Director for Upbring. He has held several positions within the organization over the last several years. In his current role, he is responsible for the clinical, training and adoption programs of the foster care and adoption division of the organization. Frank is involved in identifying research-based interventions essential for children and families, leading family-team meetings, support groups and staff development. Additionally, he serves as a member of the child’s service plan team.

 

He is a social work practitioner in the areas of child welfare, mental health and higher education who graduated with a Master of Social Work degree from the Worden School of Social Service at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. He holds licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Child-Placing Agency Administrator and Certified Anger Resolution Therapist.

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Know the Signs

Thousands of children suffer silently from abuse and neglect every day. Imagine your home not being a place of comfort but instead, a place where you are frequently harmed, screamed at, anxious or fear for your life. Realizing that a child is suffering and reporting it to the proper authorities can make a significant impact on his or her life. Sometimes, it can even save a child’s life. However, you won’t be able to speak up for those who can’t if you don’t know the signs that suggest abuse is happening. While there are many different types of abuse and neglect, we’re sharing the signs of the five most common:

 

1. Neglect

Neglect is when a parent or guardian fails to take care of their child’s basic needs. Basic needs are those that the child needs for survival; for example, food, clothing, medical care, shelter and education. Some signs of neglect are easy to spot, while others may be a little harder. If the child is frequently seen in dirty clothes or wears clothes that are not seasonally appropriate such as sporting shorts and a t-shirt in 30-degree weather, has strong body odor or appears to be malnourished, they may be experiencing neglect.

 

2. Abandonment

Neglect and abandonment often go hand in hand. Some states do not list abandonment as a type of abuse or neglect, but in the state of Texas, it is recognized as such. Abandonment is when a child is left to fend for them-self without knowing where their parent is or whether or not the parent is returning. A situation is also considered abandonment if the child is seriously harmed while the parent or guardian is away. Take note if a child has had many absences from school, or if you spot a child stealing food from a store or restaurant. Make sure to listen carefully to the child. Sometimes they will tell you that they have been abandoned by mentioning that no one is home to take care of them.

 

3. Physical Abuse

This form of abuse can be easier to notice but it is tricky to confirm. Common signs of physical abuse are bruises, cuts or other physical injuries that the parent or child can’t explain; the child may frequently seem scared or cower in the presence of adults. The child may even try to tell you that they are being harmed. Watch the child’s reaction when it’s time for them to go home. Are they excited and ready to go, or do they cry and beg you not to make them go home? A child’s reluctance to go home may be their plea for help and safety.

 

4. Emotional Abuse

Also commonly referred to as psychological abuse, emotional abuse is the hardest form of abuse to identify and is even more difficult to prove. A child may be suffering from emotional abuse, or damage to their self-worth or emotional development, if they exhibit overly aggressive or passive behavior, if they are developmentally delayed, or if they act in a manner that doesn’t match their age – ex) adult-like or infant-like. An example of adult-like behavior could be taking on a parenting role toward younger children in the family. Infant-like behavior could be banging his or her head against the wall. Remember that all forms of abuse are not independent of one another. While emotional abuse can be difficult to identify, it often occurs in addition to some of the more identifiable forms of abuse.

 

5. Sexual Abuse

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines sexual abuse as “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.”

If you are concerned that a child is being sexually abused, listen carefully to see if the child talks about sex or seems to know things about sex they shouldn’t know at their age. A child may be a victim of sexual abuse if they wet the bed, have nightmares, frequently run away, have difficulty sitting or walking or display a lack of desire to change clothes for physical activity at school. A drastic change in appetite can also be a sign of sexual abuse.

 

Armed with this knowledge, you play an important role in protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Keep in mind that if a child exhibits one of these symptoms on its own, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is being abused or neglected. What appears to be a symptom of passive behavior could just be a personality trait, or what looks like an unexplainable bruise could just be a minor playground injury that they don’t remember receiving. Use your best judgment and make sure you’re trained in the signs so that you feel confident in your decision.

 

You don’t need to be a family member or close friend to report a situation of suspected abuse or neglect. If you suspect that a child is experiencing abuse or neglect, report it online to the Texas Abuse Hotline or call toll-free 24/7 at 1-800-252-5400.

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month: What Is It?

President Reagan first declared April “National Child Abuse Prevention Month” in 1983. What began as National Child Abuse Prevention Week in June just a year earlier, developed into an entire month dedicated to bringing attention to and advocating for a solution to child abuse in the US. But, that’s not where the movement for child abuse awareness and prevention began.

 

In 1974, President Nixon signed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The signing of this act formally acknowledged the issue of child abuse and neglect on a national level and called for citizens of the US to open their eyes to occurrences of abuse that might be right in front of them. As a result, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (currently recognized as the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect) was formed to act as the federal center for the CAPTA cause, and states were granted federal assistance to help identify instances of child abuse and provide opportunities and programs for treatment and change. This was only the beginning of many conferences and subsequent acts that led to the raised awareness and care that we give to this cause presently.

 

Today, we dedicate the month of April to child abuse prevention to raise awareness, but also to encourage others to report abuse and neglect if they suspect or witness it. If you suspect a child is being abused, speak up. Information on how to report suspected abuse or neglect can be found on the DFPS website. A wealth of support and information is available to families and communities to help put a stop to the abuse.

 

Here at Upbring, it’s our mission to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities. We each play a crucial role in ensuring that all children feel loved, cherished and cared for, and are free from abuse and neglect. This April, we encourage you to educate yourselves on the realities of child abuse and use your voice to advocate for those who can’t. Together, we’re creating a brighter future for the thousands of Texas children who experience abuse and neglect each year.

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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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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!

 

 

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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.