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November 13th

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Foster In Texas 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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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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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.

National Foster Care Month: The Wright’s Story

May is National Foster Care Month. Right now, there are more than 440,000 children in foster care across the United States with nearly 30,000 children in foster care in the state of Texas alone. The need for loving and compassionate foster parents is evident. Ash and Patty Wright heard the call and answered with open arms. They welcomed their now adopted son, Nathan, into their hearts and their home. We’re honored to share the Wright’s foster care journey.

 

There are thousands of children in Texas who need kindhearted people like Ash and Patty to provide a safe and loving home where they feel seen and encouraged. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can begin your own foster journey, fill out our Foster Inquiry Form at Upbring.org/FosterInfo. One of our Foster In Texas team members will reach out to you.

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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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