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November 13th

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foster friday Archives • Upbring

Foster Friday: Establishing Routines for a New School Year

The start of the school year can be overwhelming, especially for a child in foster care who’s adjusting to a new environment. As a foster parent, it’s important that you establish routines that allow the child in your care to feel happy, confident and supported as they navigate through these changes. From starting the morning with a healthy breakfast to ending the night with a bedtime story, each moment throughout the school day has an impact on your child’s emotions. To ensure that the school year is one that creates lasting memories for the child in your care, we recommend establishing these four routines in your household:

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Introduce yourself to your child’s teachers and the school administration

Whether you have several children in the same school, or the child in your care is your first in the district – it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers and the school administration. Most schools will host a “meet the teacher” night before school begins. This is a great opportunity for both you and your child to meet school staff. When you introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, explain that the child in your care is in the foster system. Share contact information and create an open channel of communication so that both you and school staff feel comfortable contacting the other should a situation (positive or negative) arise. Not only will this make you feel more comfortable, but it will also allow your child to get acclimated to the adults that will inevitably make a lasting impact while they’re in your care.

 

Enroll your child in after school activities

During the school day, your child is engaged in learning. Aside from lunch and recess, there usually isn’t a lot of time for socialization. Your child will inevitably have pent up energy to release at the end of a school day. Take time to get to know the child in your care and enroll them in an after-school activity that aligns with their interests. Dance classes, gymnastics and youth sports leagues are all great ways to burn energy. Art classes, piano lessons or computer coding classes are good for getting creative juices flowing. There are after school activities to fit every family’s budget – you can pay one time or monthly fees for reoccurring classes or sports leagues or find free after school activities in your neighborhood. Talk to parents at your child’s school or in your area to find fun, safe and affordable options.

 

Set aside 10-15 minutes each night to review your child’s homework and answer questions

School can be difficult and overwhelming, especially for a child who is getting used to a new environment and new routine after their world has been shaken up. Set aside time each night to sit down and help your child with their homework. Answer questions, go over notes from class, sign any papers that need to be returned and talk about upcoming tests or projects that require at-home prep. By doing this, you’re creating a meaningful bond that will help the child in your care feel confident when coming to you with problems or questions. It also allows you to feel more prepared and knowledgeable about what’s going on in your child’s school life.

 

Establish a weekly emotional check-in

Most likely, the child in your care has gone through a lot of emotional challenges. Being placed in the foster care system is a lot to process for a child. Adding in a new school, new routine, new friends and new adults to look to for protection and guidance can often be a lot to handle. Sit down weekly with your child to check in on how they’re doing emotionally. It’s important to communicate in a way that is age-appropriate and that works best for them. These check-ins may take time to become fully effective. For the first few weeks, take time to build trust. From there, conversations can become deeper. Throughout each check-in, reassure your child that you see them, you hear them and you’re there to love and care for them.

 

Grade school years are some of the most formative in a child’s life. By creating and implementing these routines, you’re letting the child in your care know that the past hardships and traumas they’ve experienced don’t have to be the norm. Healthy habits, especially those that involve learning, can make a lasting impact on the child in your care. Have you implemented any of these routines? Let us know in the comments below.

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To learn more about how you can become a foster parent, visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo.

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Foster Friday: Building Bridges Between Foster and Biological Parents

Editor’s Note: Today on Foster Friday, we are honored to share a true story from a friend of Upbring, Jami Amerine. Jami is a loving mother and a passionate advocate for foster care and adoption. With years of experience under her belt, she lends support and advice to those interested in becoming foster parents. The following story is told by Jami in her own words and from her personal experience with foster care.

 

As I sat in the waiting room of the local Child Protection Services office, the little girl lying in my lap never stirred. I watched her sleep and wondered if her mother, now three minutes late to the visit, was as heartbroken.

 

She was.

 

Moments later, the mother bolted through the door with her caseworker walking closely behind her. She dropped to her knees in front of me and snatched the sleeping child from my arms. She buried her face in the child’s curls, rocked her back and forth and sobbed.

 

She looked at me with fury.

 

“Don’t you dare cut her hair!”

 

“I wouldn’t,” I promised. “I would never do that.”

 

She barked, “Is she eating?”

 

“Yes, she ate two pancakes for breakfast, a few bites of bacon, and she slept through the night, both nights.”

 

The child opened her eyes, examined the face of her mother, smiled and dozed off again.

 

She softened, just a little, “I heard that you have sons. Teenage sons?” Her voice cracked. “No offense to you, but I don’t want her in a house with boys. I am sure you’re nice, but I was molested.” A tear escaped her, “I don’t want that for her. I don’t want her to be hurt anymore because of me.”

 

This was not the first time I was aware of the turmoil faced by parents whose children were removed from their care.

 

The little girl in this story? Well, I was able to have a decent relationship with her mother. Unfortunately, this was not the case with her birth father.

 

However, I learned a few things in my fostering journey. One thing that has helped me in every situation is to recognize the humanity of the birth parent.

 

Believe me – I understand the frustration and outrage we as foster parents encounter. I have had two injured children placed in my care. One child’s family was indignant, they were never sorry, and they were furious with me. In their minds, I took their child. The bottom line, in that case, was this: I cannot control what other people think or feel. I was available and kind to them. Everyone is capable of anything. This is paramount in exuding a spirit of compassion and empathy.

 

In the second case, the mother who had, in fact, hurt her child was sorry. That is the first thing she said at the post-72-hour meeting. “I am so sorry. I am so sorry.” This was vital to me in the months that proceeded. She blamed no one else, and she wanted to do whatever it took to get her baby back and be the stability her child needed.

 

For me, looking at the birth parents with an open mind helps advance reunification (when possible) and progress in exponential ways.

 

In the moments upon meeting each parent for the first time, I would remind myself that the situation was not about me. Except in incidents of sexual abuse or severe neglect and physical abuse, I tried to remember that I had made mistakes in my parenting. And, personally, I can think of nothing more terrifying than being away from my children, knowing they are with someone neither of us knows.

 

Most certainly, with parents who have suffered abuse, like the mom who did not want her little girl around teenage boys, being a good listener is critical. In that case, the birth mother was not only separated from her daughter, but her fears were tangible based on her own childhood abuse. Identifying with those fears and communicating with respect and compassion took the mother from a place where she wasn’t just wandering through the motions of reunification but was fully invested in progress.

 

Once she realized my commitment to her daughter and to her, she got very serious about making the changes needed.

 

I have found that when foster families can convey compassion and a non-judgmental stance with birth families, we alleviate the terror and replace it with sanctuary. Indeed, this is not always possible. However, as much as I love children, I was richly blessed by the restoration stories I partook in.

 

Disclaimer: Jami did not foster through Upbring Foster In Texas.

At Upbring, we put the safety and well-being of the children in our care first. Relationships with biological families are encouraged as long as it is safe for the child or children involved. The primary goal for CPS is to reunite children with their biological families after the families can correct the issues that resulted in the removal. What this means is that while the child is in foster care, CPS offers services and creates plans for the biological family to regain custody of their children. Ultimately, if the biological family complies with all terms of the plan and is involved in regaining full custody, the children will be returned. Maintaining healthy relationships and supporting the biological family while in this process can create a smoother transition if and when the child is reunited.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jami Amerine is an author, speaker, blogger and artist. She has two books, Stolen Jesus, an Unconventional Search for the Real Savior and Sacred Ground Sticky Floors: How Less than Perfect Parents Can Raise (Kind of) Great Kids. She and her husband, Justin, have six children and live in North Houston. Jami holds an undergraduate degree in Family Consumer Sciences and a master’s degree in Education, Counseling and Human Development. She and her husband are advocates for foster care, adoption and foster care reform.

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Foster Friday: 5 Guidelines for Establishing a Healthy Household

So, you’ve decided to foster a child what now? Now is the time to start imagining the kind of family environment you want to create. One essential part of thinking this through and setting your family up for success as you welcome in a new member is to determine house rules. While setting appropriate house rules depends on factors like the age of the child you are welcoming into your family, here are five guidelines to help you get started:
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Foster Friday: Justin’s Story

Being a teenager comes with its fair share of difficulties. You’re still a kid, but you’re taking on more freedom and responsibility with each passing year. The pressure is on to maintain good grades, be active in extracurriculars and begin to plan for your future. Imagine balancing all of that while bouncing from foster home to foster home.

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What You Need to Know About Fostering Siblings

Each day, children who have experienced abuse and neglect enter the foster care system. The need for loving, compassionate and patient foster parents is evident. But, what might not be so obvious is the need for foster parents who provide for a specific population of children in foster care, such as sibling groups. Research has shown that siblings placed in foster homes together often feel more secure and can help each other adjust to their new family and community. We sat down with foster parent Hannah* to discuss the rewards and complexities that come with fostering sibling groups.

 

Hannah has worked for Upbring for almost five years, several of which she spent as a caseworker for Foster In Texas. After much thoughtful consideration and prayer, Hannah and her husband decided to begin their foster journey. Not too long after their training was complete, and licensing was approved, they received a call and chose to accept not one child, but two young sisters into their home.

 

Why is it important to keep siblings together?

There are so many reasons why we should all focus on keeping siblings together. I can’t imagine the trauma of being removed from your home and everyone you know. That alone is a significant event for any child. Beyond that, imagine getting into a car with a stranger and watching your sibling get into a different car. You both drive off, and you have no idea where either of you is headed. The security of knowing where one of your loved ones is has a profound impact when experiencing hard things. My girls have a significant connection. In the beginning, as they were getting to know us, they found comfort in each other. The older sister would watch her little sister fall asleep each night refusing to sleep herself until she knew her sister was safe and sleeping. To this day, after living with us for seven months, if they are ever apart, they constantly ask about each other. They comfort and teach each other daily.

 

Are there any additional requirements to be approved to foster siblings?

Not at all. Just let your agency or caseworker know you are interested in more than one child and they will make sure your license reflects that.

 

What if we don’t have the ability to foster a sibling group? What will happen to the other siblings?

It is my understanding that keeping siblings together will always be a top priority for Child Protective Services and foster care placement agencies. If all options are exhausted and that is not possible, then the children might be placed in separate homes. Again, this only happens after all other options have been exhausted. Even after placing them in separate homes, if a home that will accommodate all siblings is later found, then the children could be moved to that home instead.

 

How can we help siblings stay connected if they are in different foster families?

If a sibling set is separated, it’s not a matter of how you can help but more of a requirement of the state. CPS will likely require sibling visits. Creating positive relationships with the biological family and the other foster families is helpful. Sometimes the use of technology is available depending on the age of the child and circumstances of the case. Facetime, texting and phone calls can be a great aid to maintaining connection.

 

Will fostering siblings mean extra meetings, appointments and family visits?

Typically, the siblings will share family visits with their bio family. Most of the time CPS can make sure that meetings and appointments required in their services apply to all siblings. When it comes to medical appointments or appointments with schools or teachers, each child will have their own scheduled times, although many doctors will make sure you can do the appointments back to back or even all together at the same time!

 

What are the rewards and challenges that come with fostering siblings?

They are each individuals and have different needs. They require different parenting methods or redirections. They each have different motivators, personalities and schedules. It’s a challenge to get to know more than one child and learn the things that make them tick. The transition can be stark. Our family went from a family of two to a family of four overnight. There was a season where we were all figuring it out, learning each other, and setting boundaries, those things were hard; but, they were such a blessing too. The rewards of having our girls together are endless. There’s not much I wouldn’t do to preserve their love for each other and the connection they have. Their relationship helps me to understand who they are. When one can’t articulate an emotion, feeling or memory, the other can help. They are also able to comfort and bring each other joy in a way that I’m not sure anyone else could. They feel safer knowing their sibling is also safe. I earn the trust of one child when they watch me with the other. They make each other feel safer, and together they make me a better parent.

 

Every child is a gift, and you can be a warrior who fights for the dreams of children in your community as a foster family. If foster care is something you’ve been considering, or you’ve experienced firsthand what a difference a supportive, loving home can make in the life of a child in foster care, why not consider saying “yes” to siblings? Your “yes” can help us break the cycle of child abuse. To request more information about how you can begin your foster journey, visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo where you can fill out our Foster Inquiry Form.

 

*While Hannah’s story is true, we used a pseudonym to protect her identity.
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Foster Friday: Welcoming Teens Into Your Home

Whether it’s reading a romantic novel, flipping through the pages of a family scrapbook or watching a breath-taking sunset, we all have something that tugs at our emotions.

Mark*—an amazing foster parent who has welcomed several children into his home throughout the years— gets a little choked up over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “One of the kids I fostered loved that cartoon, so every time I see it, happy memories come to mind,” Mark said.

Mark has adopted three children and opened his home to others as a foster parent. While some families prefer to foster younger children, Mark has a heart for helping teens and tweens. Equal parts mentor and parent to the kids in his care, Mark stresses the importance of going to school, working hard for what they want and raising the bar for their future.

“Many of the kids I have fostered have experienced abuse or have seen the consequences drug addiction and violence can have on a family,” Mark said. “At first, it can be difficult for them to envision anything different. But when kids have someone who believes in them, they open their minds to other possibilities like a job, trade school or college.” Mark said it is at those times when he feels just as excited as the kids do!

Mark knows that the children he fosters will eventually move on to the next phase in their lives. But they always have a place in his heart. When asked to name his greatest wish for the kids he fosters, Mark said, “For them to believe in themselves and work toward their dreams.”

Right now there are hundreds of teens in Texas who need someone like Mark to provide a safe and loving home where they can learn, prepare for the future, and simply enjoy a typical high school experience. To learn more about what it is really like to foster a teenager, please complete the short inquiry form at www.upbring.org/fosterinfo and one of our knowledgeable Foster In Texas team members will be happy to answer your questions.

*Mark’s story is true, but his name and identifying information have been changed to protect the privacy of the children in his care.

 

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent yourself, we’d love to hear from you! Visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo to submit our Foster Inquiry Form.

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Foster Friday: Building a Community of Support for Foster Families

Families face challenges. That’s a universal and unavoidable truth. It’s also why a healthy support system is vital to all families, especially those in need of extra love and support — like foster families. In fact, research shows that parents who foster for an extended period have a community standing alongside them.

 

Babysitters are often an essential part of the fostering community. In addition to the usual scheduling, chauffeuring, and shuffling required to raise children, foster parents often have additional responsibilities like extra doctor’s appointments, therapy, home visits, and court hearings. Burnout is a real possibility without babysitters offering to step in to give parents a much-needed break. As one amazing foster mom told us, “The energy to keep doing hard things is dependent on maintaining connections with my spouse and friends and participating in self-care.”

 

Unlike most families, foster families can’t just reach out to the high school student down the street when they need a babysitter for date night. Child care providers for foster families must complete a certified background check. This added step can often make finding appropriate child care difficult for foster families.

 

Becoming a certified child care provider is one of the most beneficial ways you can provide support to foster families as they embark on this rewarding, but exhausting, journey. Did you know that there are four different types of care you can provide for foster families? Each kind is characterized by the length and frequency of the care provided. Requirements can vary between foster placing agencies. The information below is based on the requirements of Upbring Foster In Texas.

 

Babysitting is short-term childcare which infrequently occurs and is under 12 consecutive hours. Babysitting is perfect for a date night, company outing or other adults-only events.

 

Overnight Care is temporary care provided for a child in foster care by someone other than the foster parents with whom the child is placed for more than 12 consecutive hours, but no more than 72 straight hours.

 

Long-term Respite Care providers can be used for longer-term placements and are defined as infrequent but planned round-the-clock caregivers who can be with the child for more than 72 consecutive hours and no more than 14 days with the intention to provide relief to the foster parents.

 

Regular Alternate Care is care provided for the child (such as by other adult household members or a daycare provider) at least four hours a day, three or more times a week and for more than nine consecutive weeks when the foster parent is not available. Regular Alternate Care is ideal for parents who work full time and need daily childcare for the children in their care.

 

Providing childcare for foster families in your community is a generous way to support those who have opened their homes to children in need. And, if you’re considering becoming a foster parent yourself, but aren’t sure if you’re ready to take the step, providing childcare gives you the opportunity to become familiar with the fostering process, the resources available and to see firsthand the difference you could make in a child’s life.

 

If you’d like to begin providing childcare for a foster family you know in your community, the best place to start is to simply ask! If a good fit, the foster parents can provide you with information on how to submit your background check or receive training through their foster agency. If you do not know a foster family and would still like to help or just learn more, please contact [email protected] and one of our knowledgeable Foster In Texas team members will be happy to give you more information.

 

There are also one-day trainings available in which you can receive your certification to babysit for multiple agencies at once. Age requirements for providing childcare for foster families vary by agency and type of care provided. Please check with your local certification program to learn more about specific requirements.

 

Fostering takes a village, and your compassion and generosity makes an enormous impact on the lives of those served through agencies like Upbring. Together, we’re working toward our mission of ending the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities.

 

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent yourself, we’d love to hear from you! Visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo to submit our Foster Inquiry Form.

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