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2014 Adoption

Excellence Award
U.S. Department of Health
& Human Services

2014 & 2003 Angels
in Adoption Honoree
Congressional Coalition
on Adoption Institute

2012 Media Award Winner
National Association of Social Workers

U.S. $5.95 • CANADA $6.95

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editorial

A BIMONTHLY RESOURCE MAGAZINE FOR FAMILIES AND PROFESSIONALS

Building Relationships that Positively
Impact the Children in Your Life

For foster parents, relationships can be more complicated. From parenting a child from a background of abuse
and neglect to working with a birth parent struggling
to overcome drug addiction, foster parents work within
some of the most challenging relationships in order to
help children. Within this realm, foster parents must
also build a relationship, not only with the agency for
which they provide foster care services for, but also with
individual caseworkers, CASAs, judges and others. Each
one of these relationships plays an important role in
supporting birth parents toward reunification or helping
a child overcome challenges caused by early childhood
traumas.
Often times we hear complaints from foster parents
about personality conflicts with caseworkers or frustrations with court orders. These frustrations can lead to
burn out and foster parents deciding that it is too difficult to navigate all the various relationships required to
be a foster parent. When this happens, the children are
the ones who are most hurt when good foster parents
walk away.
In this issue of Fostering Families Today, we’re tackling
the topic of relationships and the importance of foster
parents being a valued member of their child’s team. We
believe it’s important to provide the tools to help all the

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members of a child’s team successfully build a relationship that will ultimately help the child.
Understanding each person’s perspective and the challenges within their job description is one of the most
important areas to recognize. If a foster parent can
appreciate that a caseworker has 40 kids and 30 different
birth and foster families to work with, they can better
understand why the caseworker may be tired and short
tempered. If caseworkers can understand when a foster
parent has had three sick kids all week and 10 different medical and visitation appointments to work into
the weekly schedule, that the foster parent might not be
excited when the caseworker calls at the last minute to
change the visitation time. If people can navigate these
challenges and nuances of relationship with empathy
and understanding, a solid relationship of appreciation
can be built.

kim phagan-hansel

R

elationships make up an integral part of our
lives. From the close ties between children and
parents to the daily conversation with the owner
of the local coffee shop, relationships are the threads that
create the fabric of our lives. Some relationships hold
more value than others, but the way in which we interact
with all people is important to consider.

If relationships are consciously created by agency staff
with foster parents, the more foster parents will feel
valued. With this is in mind, if foster parents feel valued,
they are less likely to walk away from foster parents and
instead, more likely to feel fulfilled and appreciated in
the work they do. This type of relationship can easily be
encouraged by the foster parent as well, by appreciating
all the work the agency staff provides to keep children
safe and protected.
My hope is that the tips offered in this issue will help
all of our readers build a stronger relationship with the
other members of the child’s team. If we work together
on behalf of a child, much more can be achieved with
greater outcomes for the child.

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Kim

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Volume 15 Issue 1

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28

32

focus

features

Building a Healthy Working Relationship
with Your Caseworker and Agency. . . . . . 14

Doing Good Works. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Foster Children and Cruelty to Animals . . 45

By Kim Phagan-Hansel

By Charles Joyce, LCSW

Helping Parents Whose Teenagers
Engage in Self-Destructive Behaviors . . . . 24

Through Different Eyes! Reunification . . . . 46

By John DeGarmo, Ed.D.
In the Beginning . . .
Relationships Happen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

By Betsy DuKatz

By Lisa Ferentz
Managing Conflict in the Home Part II . . . 48

By Connie Clendenan
The Easter Moose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Keeping Good Records. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

By Bill Sutley

By Catherine Marshall
The Expendables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

By Deborah Southard

By Mark Coen, LCSW, CAMHS

Full Disclosure for Foster Parents . . . . . . . . 24

Foster Youth Falling
Prey to Sex Traffickers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

By Jake Terpstra

By Lauren Ferguson

The Elephant in the Room . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

By Michelle Bradley
Called to Adoption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

By Julie Myra

What Did You Know?
What Should You Have Known? . . . . . . . . . 56

Stay in Foster Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

By Rhonda Sciortino
and Mike Harding, WSO-CSE

By Jamie Schwandt, Ed.D.
Bedwetting Myths, Facts and Treatment . . 36

By Tal Sagie, MA

The Day Our Foster
Care World Shattered . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

By Melissa Bailey
Winning Plays for the Advocacy Game . . 42
UC Davis has First of its Kind
Program to Aid Former Foster Youth . . . . . 60

By June Bond, BA, M.Ed.

By Sarah Colwell
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Richard Fischer
Publisher
Kim Phagan-Hansel
Editor
Kim Phagan-Hansel
Art Director

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60

columns

in every issue

The Washington Beat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

By Nicole Dobbins
News & Views . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The Early Years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

By Noelle Hause, Ed.D., LPC

Everyday Heroes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

By Kim Phagan-Hansel
Fostering Families. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

By Mark Anthony Garrett

Must Reads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

By Kim Phagan-Hansel and Richard Fischer
NFPA: The Diagnosis of Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder . . . . . . . . . . . 39

CEU Quiz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

By Dr. William Holmes
Fostering Attachment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

By Lark Eshelman, Ph.D.
Family Talk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

By Drs. James and Mary Kenny

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Advisory Board
Lisa Albers, M.D. M.P.H.
Harvard Medical School
June Bond, M.Ed.
Adoption Advocacy of South Carolina
Irene Clements
National Foster Parent Association
M. Kim Combes, LBSW, M.Ed.
Adoptive Parent, Therapist, Presenter
Nicole Dobbins
Voice for Adoption
Marcine Fernandes
Massachusetts Foster Care School Liaison
Maureen K. Flatley
adoption advocate
Jerry Foxhoven
Executive Director, Drake Legal Clinic
Drake University Law
Sarah Gerstenzang
New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children
Linda Grillo
Adoptive Families Together
James Kenny, Ph.D.
Psychologist and Founder of Adoption
in Child Time, Inc.
Peter Kenny, JD
Lawyer and Founder of Adoption
in Child Time, Inc.
Pat O’Brien
You Gotta Believe!
Eileen Mayers Pasztor, DSW
California State University at Long Beach
Joyce Maguire Pavao, Ph.D.
Pavao Consulting and Coaching (PCC)
Pre/Post Adoption Consulting and Training (PACT)
Raynard Price
Therapeutic Foster and Adoptive Parent
Debbie Riley, M.S.
C.A.S.E. of Maryland
Adam Robe
Foster Care Alumni of America
Debra Schell-Frank, Ed.D.
Educator
Barbara Tremitiere, Ph.D.
One Another Adoption Program
Fostering Families TODAY is published bimonthly by
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allow six to eight weeks for delivery. Subscriptions
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All Rights Reserved
On the Cover
Rojelio, 11, needs
forever family that
will be there for him,
always. He is a sweet
young man, who likes
being helpful. Rojelio
enjoys skateboarding,
roller skating and
going to the movies.
He also likes being
active and going outside. Rojelio is easy
to get along with and
enjoys time with his peers. He would do best in a
family that can provide a structured environment
and is patient, nurturing and loving. To learn more
about adoption visit www.adoptkskids.org or call
877-457-5430. Rojelio’s case number is CH-5860.

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news views
COMMENTS ON DATA COLLECTION
IN CHILD WELFARE (AFCARS) REQUESTED
The U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services is seeking comment on updates to the
AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis
and Reporting System). In the announcement, it
states that AFCARS needs updating to incorporate statutory requirements added since 1993; to
implement statutory authority to assess penalties
for noncompliant data submissions; to enhance
the type and quality of information reported to
the Administration for Children and Families
by modifying and expanding data elements and
requiring agencies to submit historical data; and
to remove outdated requirements that will allow
title IV-E agencies and the Administration for
Children and Families to keep the pace with new
technology.
In order to be considered, the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services must receive written
comments on the proposed rules before April
10. Written comments can be sent to: Kathleen
McHugh, Division of Policy, Children’s Bureau,
Administration on Children, Youth and Families,
Administration for Children and Families, 1250
Maryland Avenue, SW, 8th Floor, Washington,
D.C. 20024. Comments can also be submitted
electronically at http://www.regulations.gov.
REPORT AND BRIEFING FINDS RECESSION
IMPACT ON CHILD WELL BEING
Recently First Focus and Policy Lab of Children’s
Hospital of Philadelphia sponsored a Capitol
Hill briefing and discussion on “the Effect of the
Great Recession on Child Well-Being.” The report
is a follow up from a report released in 2010. In
regard to child abuse (child maltreatment) the
report said, “that recent child welfare data suggests that overall maltreatment rates continued
to fall despite the recession, though rates of neglect increased and have accounted for a greater
share of all maltreatment cases nationwide. To
read the report, visit http://bit.ly/1MjrWXT.

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CWLA HOSTS 2015 NATIONAL
CONFERENCE IN APRIL
The foundation and framework for Excellence in
Child Welfare is achieving the vision that all children will grow up safely, in loving families and
supportive communities, with everything they
need to flourish — and with connections to their
culture, ethnicity, race, language and sexual identity. CWLA encourages and supports innovative
approaches and multi-system collaborations
that have improved the well-being and success
of children, youth and families who are most
vulnerable. CWLA advocates for best policies and
practices, and encourages building strategic alliances that result in improved outcomes.
The 2015 CWLA national conference will
engage stakeholders and partners whose efforts,
contributions and standards improve outcomes
for children, youth and families. The conference
will take place April 27-29 at the Crystal Gateway
Marriott in Arlington, Va. For more information,
write to 2015NationalConference@cwla.org.
ADOPTION SUPPORT AND PRESERVATION,
A NATIONAL POST-ADOPTION CONFERENCE
TO TAKE PLACE IN JUNE
A national conference is being created to give
professionals, policymakers and leaders in the
fields of adoption, foster care and child welfare
the opportunity to learn about and share effective practices and policies. The unique event will
not only provide knowledge, but also tools and
inspiration to enhance adoption preparation and
post-adoption services and thereby achieve tangible and lasting results. The conference will take
place June 1-2 at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in
Nashville, Tenn. The conference is being created
by Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services,
Harmony Family Center, Myriad NCAP, Dave
Thomas Foundation for Adoption, The Theraplay
Institute®, C.A.S.E., NACAC, and Spaulding for
Children and many others who want to energize
our community to concretely address the critical
need for comprehensive adoption support and
preservation services. For more information,
visit Facebook at ASAP National Conference or
contact Nicole Coning at nicole@harmonyfamilycenter.

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NATIONAL FOSTER PARENT ASSOCIATION
HOSTS ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN JUNE
The National Foster Parent Association annual
conference will take place June 25-28 at the
Sheraton Waterfront in Norfolk, Va. The conference will focus on the latest in brain research,
and include sessions on advocacy, health,
systems, education and so much more. This
year’s event will feature the organization’s first
National Walk and Grand Gala event showcasing youth talent to celebrate children in foster
care. For more information, visit http://nfpaonline.org/convention2015.
FFTA CONFERENCE TO TAKE
PLACE IN DENVER THIS AUGUST
The Foster Family Treatment Association
will host its annual conference at the Denver
Marriott in Denver August 2-5. More than 600
foster care professionals will attend the event
focusing on a wide variety of foster care trends
and policies. This conference focuses on best

practices in treatment foster care each year.
For more information, call the FFTA office at
800-414-3382, ext 122 or 113 or send an email
to ffta@ffta.org.
NATIONAL FOSTER PARENT ASSOCIATION
ANNOUNCES ‘PLAY IT FORWARD’ CONTEST
CedarWorks, a Maine-based, award winning play
set maker, has once again partnered with the National Foster Parent Association to bring NFPA
members the “Play It Forward” contest. This contest was the brain child of CedarWorks President
and Founder Barrett Brown who is passionate
about quality, safe and memorable childhood
play time. Thanks to the generosity of CedarWorks, several lucky winners (actual number of
winners will be determined by CedarWorks) will
become the recipients of a customized indoor
or outdoor play set! Last year, the premiere year,
five lucky winners received dream play sets.
Complete application packets for the “Play It

Forward” contest are being accepted until March
16. Applicants must be NFPA members and current foster parents, and a letter of reference from
the applicant’s licensing authority is required for
application.
Two rounds of winners chosen. The first round
winners will be announced no later than May
11, while the second round winners will be
announced no later than September 14. Both
rounds will allow winning families to have their
play sets installed in time for either summertime fun or holiday surprises.
No gift is as precious as the gift of play. Children
who have been abused or neglected many times
shut down verbally or socially. Play is therapeutic and helps abused children to find healing as
they slowly bring their defenses down and allow
themselves to fall into an unabandoned world of
play. Bring this gift to your foster family… apply
today! To apply, visit www.nfpaonline.org.

A Foster Child’s
Wish Come True
Malysha is a fashionable and brave
young lady who likes to dye her hair to
match her mood. She’s in 10th grade, and
loves hip hop dancing and hanging out
with her friends. Malysha’s been making
many positive changes in her life, despite
challenges. She had been climbing at a
local climbing gym, and said she wants
to keep going so she can build some
muscle. Malysha was getting some
bouldering pointers from a friend who is
on a competitive climbing team. Malysha
was admiring her friend's climbing pants and said she’d love to have a
pair. One Simple Wish posted her wish and it was granted by a thoughtful
donor this fall. She’s on top of the world and loves her new pants!
One Simple Wish enables everyone to make a difference in the lives of
foster children and at-risk youth by allowing them to grant their wishes
through One Simple Wish’s website at www.onesimplewish.org. If you
are interested in granting a wish or have a foster child who would like to
submit a wish, write to info@onesimplewish.org.

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Founder of Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio Dies;
Leaves Legacy of Support for Struggling Children and Families
BY KIM PHAGAN-HANSEL

everyday heroes

Dr. Gregory Keck
B

and families. He co-write “Parenting the
Hurt Child” and “Adopting the Hurt Child”
with Regina Kupecky and was the sole
author of “Parenting Adopted Adolescents.”
Throughout the years he has also shared
his expertise and insight with readers of
Adoption Today and Fostering Families
Today magazines.

efore “attachment” and “bonding”
were even buzz words in the adoption and foster care community,
Gregory Keck was looking for ways to help
families struggling to make connection with
the adopted and fostered children. A clinical
psychologist and social worker, Keck spent
his life helping families understand the early
impacts of neglect, abuse, maltreatment,
malnutrition on children.
Keck founded the Attachment and Bonding
Center of Ohio that specializes in helping
children who have experienced developmental interruptions because of their early
traumatic history. As a member of the
Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio,
Arleta James, PCC, worked with Keck for 15
years and witnessed firsthand Keck’s professional passion and personal commitment.

“Greg Keck was
a compassionate,
dedicated, funloving and occasionally irreverent
man who gave
his all to children
and families . . .”

“He was big on doing little things for
people,” James said. “He always sent people
notes, little gifts — when something good
happened in your life, and when something
was going wrong. The people could be anyone — it might be someone he knew. But,
it might also be a family he had talked to
that day — a family he thought was really
struggling.”
On the receiving end of this kindness many
times, James said she felt it was one of the
unique ways Keck reached out to people
to let them know someone cared, that they
mattered.
“This quality was something I thought
made him very special,” James said. “He
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In the 2012 article, “Trauma and Its Impact
on Child Development,” that appeared in
Fostering Families Today, Keck wrote, “I
find that many families experience trauma
fatigue from living with hurt children. In all
probability, having fun and enjoying what
you can, will help immunize you from the
psychological toll which occurs when people,
yes, foster parents, live with the residual
trauma that child has brought into the family. If you think trauma before thinking
of the specific behavioral problem begin
exhibited, you will probably find a more sensitive, developmentally appropriate response.
New parental responses often result in new
behavioral responsiveness from the child.”

really cared about people on a personal level
and on a larger scale.”

In 1993, Keck received the Adoption Triad
Advocate Award from the Adoption Network
Cleveland and in 2012 was honored with
the Lifetime Achievement Award from the
National Association of Social Workers. For
those who have worked alongside him for
years, his presence and dedication to helping
others is unmatched.

Throughout the years Keck has presented
at numerous conferences and served on a
number of professional boards to ultimately
provide supports to thousands of children

“Greg Keck was a compassionate, dedicated,
fun-loving and occasionally irreverent man
who gave his all to children and families,
and who could really liven up a party,” said

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In the March 2012 issue of Fostering
Families Today, Keck and his sons, James
and Brian, shared their personal perspectives.
Brian, who was 16 when he was adopted
by Keck, wrote “When I moved in, things
were great at first. Then just like every other
home I lived in, things started to go bad. So
I expected that I would leave this home just
like I left the 27 homes before. The thing
was, my new father was nothing like any
parent I had before. No matter what happened, he did not throw me out. He was so
stubborn. I remember testing him so much
to see if he would kick me out just like
everyone else did before. He never did…
Being adopted has meant everything to me.”

Dr. Gregory Keck, center with his sons, James, left, and Brian, right.

know how things were going to turn out, and
chances are he was probably more scared
than I was. But no matter what I did at the
start of my adoption, he wouldn’t give up. My
father showed me the love I deserved on the
first day I was living with him. He showed
me the way to be a part of a real family.”
Unfortunately, Keck work was brought to an

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abrupt halt Jan. 21 at the age of 66 when he
died of a heart attack. He leaves behind his
two sons and a grandson.
His legacy will live on through the families
he helped, but his presence will be missed
among the adoption and foster community.
As Spoolstra said, “He will leave large shoes
to fill in the attachment community.”

Do you have an Everyday Hero in your life?

James, who was adopted at age 13, shared,
“Being adopted was one of the hardest
things that I had to go through in my life…
the only person who knew that everything
was going to be OK was my father. He didn’t

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BY KIM PHAGAN-HANSEL

Not only was Keck committed to helping
children and families professionally, but also
personally. He adopted two sons through the
foster care system.

everyday heroes

Nancy Spoolstra, founder of the Attachment
and Trauma Network. “I often think of him
encouraging me to ‘adopt a teenager, they
leave home much sooner!’ Greg was a fixture
at so many conferences, and he attracted
parents like a magnet.”

Consider sharing their inspirational story with us!
Write to editor@adoptinfo.net for more information.

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NEICE is a cloud-based system that translates data between states using NIEM
standards. NIEM stands for: National
Information Exchange Model. These standards were developed so that diverse communities could collectively share data and
improve local and government challenges in
exchanging information across states and
various systems. These standards were created between a collaborative effort by the

February, the American Public
Human Services Association, the
Association of Administrators of
the Interstate Compact on the Placement of
Children and Voice for Adoption, together
with the federal Children’s Bureau hosted a
congressional briefing to highlight the progress seen among six pilot states participating
in the National Electronic Interstate Compact
Enterprise project. This project was designed

BY NICOLE DOBBINS

column: washington beat

Innovative Child Welfare Pilot Project
Streamlines Process for Interstate
Placements & Saves Money

The NEICE pilot is an innovative child welfare development; it is a project that holds
great potential for various data sharing
elements, both across state borders, but
also potentially across other state systems.
Project administrators are imagining the
possibilities for interoperability.
Department of Justice and the Department
of Homeland Security. The NEICE pilot is
the first of its kind to implement the use
of the NIEM standards within the child
welfare community. The idea of the NEICE
project stemmed from the web-based
Interstate Compact System developed in
Florida. The Interstate Compact System system in Florida has significantly shortened
processing times and reduced administrative costs for the state. It is the hope that
NEICE, once fully implemented, will replicate these accomplishments for all states
that participate.

to revolutionize permanency outcomes for
children and families by creating an electronic method for the current outdated Interstate
Compact of the Placement of Children process.
The current method involves paper mailing
and faxing between social workers whenever
an interstate placement is needed. Delayed,
lost or misplaced mail could mean that children removed from unstable environments
are not placed as quickly as desired with
more permanent caregivers that happen to
live in another state. The innovative NEICE
pilot was created to improve efficiency and
decrease delays, to ensure that ICPC cases are
processed at a much faster rate.

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The six states involved in the pilot include:
Florida, Indiana, Nevada, South Carolina,

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Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. The
NEICE project was launched in November
and went live in these states in August 2014.
The funding for the project exists through
February 2015, with evaluation results
expected in early May 2015. The project
is funded under the Partnership Fund for
Program Integrity Innovation through a
cooperative agreement to American Public
Human Services Association from the
federal Administration for Children and
Families. The Partnerships Fund provides
grant dollars to evaluate projects that test
ideas for improving federal assistance
programs. The six states mentioned have
been testing the “electronic information
exchange” for processing ICPC cases with an
interest to expand the platform to include
national application, so that in the near
future all states can electronically share files
when needed. However, implementation of a
national expansion is dependent upon new
funding to scale the project. Project administrators estimate the national expansion to
cost between $3 and $4 million.
In just the short six months that these
states have been testing the new system,
there have been outstanding improvements.
The NEICE project has already shown significant achievement in efficiency in the
interstate placement of children involved in
the project evaluation. Preliminary results
indicate that the average number of days
between “date of order” and “package sent”
dropped from 44 to 21 days. The normal
process that took 20 days has dropped to 11
days. Preliminary evaluation results showed
that, of the six pilot states involved, the
average number of business days between
sending and receiving states receiving the

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national dialogue about NEICE’s interoperability potential and what expansion could
mean for protecting and serving more children and families through the utilization of
technology tools. As mentioned, for now the
project currently exists for only six states
and extends only through the beginning of
this year. However, program administrators
are dedicated to finding ways to take the
project to scale, so that more children will
benefit from this development that has lead
to a more efficient ICPC process. ❁

The Congressional briefing focused on the
NEICE pilot was an opportunity to highlight
something that is working well for children
and families and also saving money and
improving efficiency within child welfare.
Opportunities for finding ways to scale
NEICE nationally could have a significant
impact on already strained child welfare
budgets. This project also sets forward a

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nicole Dobbins is
executive director of Voice for Adoption in
Washington, D.C., a national advocacy organization with a mission to speak in a single
voice with policy-makers, representing the
interests of foster children awaiting adoption and the families who adopt them. For
more information, visit http://www.voicefor-adoption.org.

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These reductions are not only good for
the children and families involved, but the
government as well. These improvements
have significant implications for cost savings, both in the dollars spent on mailing
and copying, but also on staff time and the
number of days a child spends in foster
care. The preliminary evaluation results
have shown that, on average states spend
roughly $25 per case on printing and copying alone. These figures suggest that on
average states spend approximately $1.7
million nationally just on copying and mailing of ICPC cases. Again, these figures do
not include the labor savings for staff time
involved in the production of copying and
mailing case files, nor do they account for
improved child placement rates.

The NEICE pilot is an innovative child
welfare development; it is a project that
holds great potential for various data sharing elements, both across state borders,
but also potentially across other state systems. Project administrators are imagining
the possibilities for interoperability. For
example, the impact of data sharing across
systems involved with serving children, such
as multiple system providers being able to
communicate about youth who are involved
in juvenile justice and child welfare, or
youth at-risk of sex trafficking.

column: washington beat

case files is cut nearly in half. These results
are preliminary, yet promising, as they
show noteworthy efficiency in placement
improvements.

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Doing Good Works
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BY KIM PHAGAN-HANSEL

The Doing Good Works team, from
left, Morris Wentworth, Ashley Nguyen,
Scott Henderson and Jordan Barlett.

Jordan Barlett launches promotional materials business to help former
foster kids find success in a career, overcome adversities in life

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shley Nyugen first entered foster
care when she was 12 before being
reunited with her biological father
in California at age 14. While for some that
would have been considered a happily-everafter-moment, for Nyugen, it just led to more
abuse and her eventually being returned
to the foster care system a few years later.

But Nyugen wasn’t alone. Her independent
living coach Kahnhi Nyugen helped guide
her through some of the more tumultuous
years, encouraging Nyugen to go onto college
and strive for success.
“She gave me so much positive advice,”
Nyugen said. “She was the support I needed.

“A lot of solutions to big world problems
can be fixed by children in foster care,”
Bartlett said. “We want to be that first
opportunity — it can be a springboard to
what they’re going to do.”

opportunity to find a way to do just that
when she stumbled into a presentation at
Orangewood Children’s Foundation. Nyugen
often visits the center to use their resources,
and on that particular day, Jordan Bartlett,
founder of Doing Good Works was presenting to a group of current and former foster
youth.
“I started doing workshops at Orangewood,”
Bartlett said. “It was supposed to be a onetime thing. We have them bring a resume in
and help them showcase their skills.”

Nyugen continued to bounce through different foster and group homes before aging out.

Me being successful right now is because of
one caring person.”

Nyugen’s experience and background
intrigued Bartlett and he enlisted her in
starting his new business, Doing Good
Works, that focuses on providing an avenue
of employment for former foster kids, single
mothers and other underprivileged people.

“At age 18, a lot of kids have support from
parents,” Nyugen said. “Being in foster care I
didn’t have choices.”

Because of the support Kahnhi provided,
Nyugen has always wanted to give back in
some way. A few months ago she got the

“She was a perfect fit,” Bartlett said. “It’s been
amazing to watch her flourish and come out
of her shell.”

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“The promotional products industry was
sitting there waiting for a new model,”
Bartlett said. “It’s changing and redirecting
proven business models to focus on profits
and people in the same business model.”
So while the goal is to maintain a profit,
selling promotional materials from pens
and mugs to banners and other items,
Bartlett hopes to accomplish much more by
providing solid employment for people who
typically struggle to get and maintain a job.

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With Scott Henderson, Bartlett launched
the business in September to sell promotional materials to businesses. With a background in insurance, Bartlett wanted to
utilize his customer service skills and find a
way to help others in the process.

“We’re past proof of concept, we just need
to ramp up the outreach,” Bartlett said.
Doing Good Works is now reaching out to
businesses to use its services to not only
purchase promotional products for their
businesses, but to also give back by helping
former foster kids and single mothers.

Doing Good Works Founder Jordan Bartlett, right, meets with his development
team, Ashley Nyugen and Morris Wentworth. Both aged out of foster care and are
now helping other former foster youth gain employment through Doing Good Works.

system, Barlett said he believes he can build
a strong support team for his work and
he’s already begun by hiring Nyugen and
another former foster child.

“It gives us the opportunity to engage businesses in how to give back in a different
way,” Bartlett said. “Employment factor is
such a big part of breaking that cycle.”

“There’s so much opportunity to create
some amazing kids,” Bartlett said. “It’s
exciting to be in that environment.”

Once sales pick up, more employees will
be added and Bartlett will be able to get
the training and development program for
employees up and running.

Hiring former foster youth and single
mothers is something Bartlett said he
believes can serve as a solution to larger
problems, such as reducing homelessness
and incarceration rates, helping single
mothers avoid going on welfare and many
other societal issues today.

“The training we go through teaches them
how to be courteous. How to engage the
client and we show them how to read
analytics,” Bartlett said. “We’ll be teaching
them how to smile and deliver that good
experience.”

“A lot of solutions to big world problems
can be fixed by children in foster care,”
Bartlett said. “We want to be that first
opportunity — it can be a springboard to
what they’re going to do.”

By providing solid training and having
an understanding of the experiences of
children who come from the foster care

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For Nyugen, Doing Good Works was an
answer to her desire to give back to other
kids in the foster care system. As director of
Super Good News, Nyugen helps to spread
the word about Doing Good Works and all
the company has to offer. She speaks to
entrepreneurs regularly about how their
support can impact others.
“I basically tell my story to other companies and tell them how they can help other
kids in care,” Nyugen said. “It’s been a
blessing to work with Jordan and be able to
give back and see his passion. If everybody
could have a heart like him, the world could
be amazing. There are other kids like me, it
doesn’t matter what we’ve been through, we
can be successful.”
For more information on Doing Good
Works, visit http://doinggood.works or call
949-397-2959. ❁

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BY JOHN DeGARMO, ED.D.

Building a Healthy Working Relationship
with your Caseworker and Agency

In

order to be a truly successful
foster parent, you will need to
work closely with your foster
child’s caseworker and your child welfare
agency. It is important for the well-being of
your foster child that you work alongside the
caseworker and the agency, and help to build
an effective partnership and strong working
relationship with both. With this strong
relationship, all of you will have a much
better chance of guiding your foster child
through the many difficulties and challenges
he or she will face, as well as work together
to see that the child’s future is as bright and
successful as possible. Remember, you are a
team, and teamwork is important. Keep in
mind, your caseworker and your agency want
what is best for your foster child, as well as
what is best for you. After all, without foster
parents, agencies and caseworkers would not
be able to place children into foster homes.
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Caseworkers have a most difficult job,
as they work in what is a difficult and
stressful environment. While your foster
child is your main focus in regards to the
child welfare agency, caseworkers have a
large amount of children in their caseload.
They will see, on a daily basis, children who
have been abused and neglected. They will
have the responsibility of taking a child out
of a home, against the strong wishes, and
sometimes hostile conditions, of both child
and parent. They will be required to work
with the birth parents, instructing them
how they can be reunited with their child.
At times, caseworkers will sit in a
courtroom, as attorneys and birth parents
battle over the custody of a child. The
amount of paperwork that corresponds
with each caseload can be daunting, as
well.

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This is a new age in foster care, and it is an
age where resources and finances are tight.
As government agencies suffering from
decreases in government spending, child
welfare agencies have suffered immensely.
Budgets have been slashed, caseworker
positions are not being filled, and are in
fact, being cut, and many states have seen
the reduction of work days, again due to
budgetary reasons. Along with that, the
burnout rate for caseworkers is high, and
retention of good caseworkers in any agency
is challenging. All of this simply means more
work with less money and time to do it in.
With more and more children coming into
foster care each year across the nation, and
with the shortage of caseworkers available,
those caseworkers who are employed
by child welfare agencies are finding
themselves with more and more children
to look after. Not only do the caseworkers

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FOCUS: Building Agency, Caseworker Connections to Help Children

You probably have a great relationship with
your foster child’s caseworker, and your
child welfare agency. To be sure, many times
the relationships between foster parents and
caseworkers are healthy and pleasant. Yet,
there are also times when the relationship
between the two is difficult and strained.
Some foster parents may feel that their
foster child’s caseworker is not concerned
with their needs, as phone calls and emails
are not answered right away. Remember,
your child’s caseworker may also be the
caseworker for up to 60 other foster children.
Time is something that caseworkers, and
often times agencies, do not have in large
amounts. As the two of you will work
closely together, for the sake of your foster
child, there are a number of strategies you
can employ in order to strengthen this
partnership.

MEETING WITH YOUR CASEWORKER
You will most likely have a monthly meeting
with your foster child’s caseworker. These
meetings often are held in the home of the
foster parents, as the caseworkers like to
view the foster child where he or she has
been placed, your home. Other times, you
may be required to drive your foster child to

a meeting with his or her biological family.
Before you meet with your caseworker,
whether at home or another setting, make
sure you are prepared beforehand. Have all
proper forms and information gathered
together which you might need for the
caseworker. This includes any school
progress, and report cards, names and
contact information for teachers, calendar of
upcoming events in your household, medical
paperwork, receipts and invoices, and any
other personal observations you may have
noted for your foster child. Also have with
you your foster child’s medical information,
such as doctor’s name, address and phone
number, primary health care information,
as well as any dates for future medical and
dental appointments.

Take steps to develop lines of
communication with the caseworker. Make
sure the both of you have current telephone
numbers and email addresses, for both

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Your caseworker has the responsibility of
ensuring the foster child’s health, safety and
well-being. Your caseworker is going to want

Like any healthy relationship, it is important
that your relationship with your foster
child’s caseworker is an open one, and
is built on trust and mutual respect. It is
important that you share all information
with the caseworker and the agency
about your foster child.

OPEN AND HONEST COMMUNICATION
Like any healthy relationship, it is important
that your relationship with your foster child’s
caseworker is an open one, and is built on
trust and mutual respect. It is important
that you share all information with the
caseworker and the agency about your foster
child. Caseworkers have the responsibility of
documenting everything when it comes to
each of the foster children in their caseload.
Do not be afraid of holding any information
or concerns. Instead, the more you share
with the caseworker, and the more honest
you are, the stronger your partnership will
become, which only benefits the well-being
of your child.

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might wish to have the birth family
accompany the child to an appointment,
and some planning by you beforehand
will help this to go more smoothly for all
involved. If you should travel to meet at a
predetermined location, make sure that you
arrive on time, and that both you and your
foster child are dressed nicely. You surely do
not wish to give the impression that your
foster child is living in a dirty environment,
and that he or she is not living in a safe and
loving home.

BY JOHN DeGARMO, ED.D.

home and work. Plan ahead, if possible,
for home visitations, as well as visitations
with the birth parents. If you work from
the beginning in establishing a strong
partnership, these requests will be easier
to make, and have a better chance of being
met.

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look after foster parents and foster children,
they are responsible for working alongside
the biological parents, as well. Furthermore,
caseworkers have to ensure that all legalities
in conjunction with your foster child are up
to date.

There are times when your caseworker

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to take some time to talk with your foster
child. It is important that you give your
foster child and caseworker privacy and
space. Encourage your foster child to open
up to the caseworker. Help your foster child
to develop a strong and positive relationship
with his or her caseworker. When your
foster child leaves your home, whether it be
through reunification or some other means,
he or she will likely still remain in contact
with the caseworker.
BE AN ADVOCATE
Foster children often have no one to fight for
them, stand up for them, or even look out for
what is best for their future. In other words,
they frequently have no advocate. Your foster
children will need you fighting for them, as
an advocate. Yet, it can be difficult being an
effective advocate, while still maintaining

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BY JOHN DeGARMO, ED.D.

family, and is emotionally confused, the
child will need you to inform the caseworker
about the turmoil he or she is facing when
visitation occurs. If your foster child is in
need of some kind of therapy, he or she
will need you to insist that a therapist is
assigned.

boundaries and remaining professional
in regards to your relationship with your
agency and caseworker. Some foster parents
become so emotionally involved with
their foster child that they become overly
defensive or protective when they do not
agree with the caseworker or child welfare
agency’s policies. Others may take personal
offense while working with a caseworker,
and as a result, no longer cooperate or
offer information with their foster child’s
caseworker. What many foster parents forget
is that they are not in control of their foster
child’s situation, nor control the outcome of
where their foster child may end up living
when leaving their home. It is therefore
important, for all involved, that you remain
professional as you advocate for your child.

As caseworkers are often times overworked,
your foster child’s needs may not be met
right away. In fact, you may find that his
or her needs are not being met at all. Your
foster child will need you to persevere,
and not give up. Your foster child will also
require you to remain optimistic, even in
the most difficult of times. At times, it will
require you being unwilling to take “no” for
an answer, and not settle for second best. It
may require you to “think outside the box,”
as you and your caseworker work together to
create other ways to solve problems that he
or she faces.

As an advocate, you have the right to be
heard in your role as a foster parent. Your
foster child needs someone standing in his
or her corner, so to speak. When the child is
enrolled in a new school system in your area,
he or she will need you to work alongside
the child’s caseworker, ensuring that he or
she is in the right classes. If the child has
learning disabilities, he or she will need you
to make sure that the right phone calls are
made, the right teachers are informed, and
the right testing is administered to him or
her in order to determine how best to meet
his or her learning needs. If the child comes
back to your house after meeting with birth

Your foster child’s caseworker has a great
deal on his or her plate. Caseworkers have
to look after the concerns and needs of not
only your foster child, but many others.
There are also the other foster parents
that the caseworker has to meet with each
month, too. Along with that, they have to
work with the birth parents, as well as
attend countless court hearings. With a
little preparation on your behalf, as well
as organization and a positive attitude, the

working relationship between you and your
foster child’s caseworker and your agency
will be a pleasant and productive one.
For much more, purchase “The Foster
Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to
Creating a Loving, Safe, and Stable Home”
by Dr. John DeGarmo from Jessica Kingsley
Publishers. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John DeGarmo,
Ed.D., has been a foster parent for 13 years,
and he and his wife have had more than
45 children come through their home. He
is a speaker and trainer on many topics
about the foster care system, and travels
around the nation delivering passionate,
dynamic, energetic and informative
presentations. DeGarmo is the author of
several books, including the new book,
“Love and Mayhem: One Big Happy Family’s
Uplifting Story of Fostering and Adoption,”
“The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical
Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable
Home,” and the foster care children’s book
“A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s
Story.” DeGarmo is the host of the weekly
radio program Foster Talk with Dr. John,
He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@
gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John
DeGarmo, Twitter @drjohndegarmo or at
his website, http://drjohndegarmofostercare.
weebly.com.

[ kids in waiting
Eddie, 16, is a bright eyed and interesting young man. He loves to attend
church and assists in the sound board at his church. He loves all types
of music. Eddie is not interested in any sports except for basketball. He
loves to play his video games. Eddie wants to have a two parent forever
home with no other children in the home. Eddie needs a patient couple to
ensure he has structure and stays on task. Eddie loves attention and will
thrive in a loving home.
For more information, visit www.HeartGalleryAlabama.com or call 205445-1293.

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BY CONNIE CLENDENAN

In the Beginning...

The Sheppard Family

...Relationships Happen!
V

alley Teen Ranch, located in Central
California, has served more than
1,800 children and youth from
approximately 25 counties throughout
California in group homes, foster care, adoption and transitional living homes, since
1987.
The key to our effectiveness as an organization is our core values which include people,
truth, integrity and excellence. We integrate
those core values into all of our relationships
which begin with our first contact whether
that be face-to-face, over the phone or on the
Internet. Our relationships with our board
members, staff, volunteers, donors and foster
and adoptive parents, as well as all of the
young people we serve are significant. We
do our best to implement the “Golden Rule”
in words and actions. We are a faith-based
organization, but do not discriminate against
any religion.

The Walker Family

The way we relate to one another is intended
to build trust, respect and confidence in our
relationships. When we have trust it is easier
to relate to one another on the good days and
those that are challenging as well.

A Valley Teen Ranch Family
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We start our relationships with our foster and
adoptive parents at the first contact. We then
set up an orientation with our potential foster
parents. We do our best to give them straight
and honest information and let them know
that we are not perfect and don’t expect them
to be perfect, but we will be there for and with
them 24-7 to help learn, share, work, pray and
grow together with the children we place in
their homes. We also encourage them to contact other agencies to see what they are about
before deciding to get certified with us.
We have an open-handed working relationship with our families. We don’t have a “we
own you” attitude toward them. We don’t
pressure them to come with us, stay with us,
take the first child that comes along or keep
that child if it doesn’t work out. We know that
becoming a foster parent is a big step and
there is no way we can prepare them for every
type of situation that comes along. We let
them know as much about our organization
as possible and give them resources to check
us out, like community care licensing, school
districts, judges, social workers and other
information. As we go through the process of
certification with interviews, homestudies,

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they can prepare for a new person who will
come into their home.

Our communication goals include being
available 24-7, returning all phone calls within 24 hours, if not sooner, and being available
for in-person contact to solve and/or prevent
problems. If and when licensing has to come
to investigate a complaint we cannot inform
them prior to the visit and often we are not
allowed to participate with them, but we are
always there for support. We also go over this
whole process in our initial training so they
will not be surprised if it happens. We believe
more information up front is helpful in preventing problems in the future.

When we have an adoption finalization we
have a big party for our families. We are in
the courtroom with them with our cameras,
presents and a lot of cheering. Then we have
a pizza party, complete with gifts, food, cake
and a lot of pictures.

We also do many things to encourage and
appreciate our foster parents during the year,
such as a foster parent appreciation dinner, a
summer water park picnic, trips to the aquarium, season passes to the zoo, field trips, tickets to many local athletic, arts, concerts and
entertaining events. A Christmas party is a
huge event for us. We have MANY Christmas
angels who provide wrapped gifts for all of
our children, biological as well as foster and
adopted kids. We participate in a “Good 360
Program” where Bye Bye Baby, Pottery Barn
and William Sonoma give us many incredible
items from their stores on a monthly basis
and we pass them on to our foster/adoptive
families for FREE!

Since we have been providing foster care
and adoptive services for 25 years, we have
established a positive reputation with the
counties we serve, with our families, staff and
volunteers. Much of the recruitment comes
from word of mouth of our current foster and
adoptive families.

“Communication builds respect and knowledge of each other’s cultural differences is
part of that respect. We also share our faith
and belief in God. This is where the blessings
come from.”
“Even though there are guidelines that we
have to comply with, I have the freedom to
treat the children in my home as my own. I
take pride in parenting these children not as
‘foster children’ but as my own children.”

We have little turnover with our staff, which
contributes to continuity, stability and consistency. When we do have turnover, we let our
families know of the changes in advance so

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“Valley Teen Ranch really cares about the
kids, understands the system and is honest
with us and available to us whenever we need
them.”
Our mission is “to assist vulnerable young
people and their families in rebuilding their
lives through caring relationships and opportunities to grow mentally, physically, socially
and spiritually by living in a safe and healthy
home.”
For more information, contact Connie at
www.valleyteenranch.org. ❁

Here are some comments from some of our
foster and adoptive families:

We publish a monthly newsletter to all of our
foster/adoptive families which includes training tips, anniversaries, birthdays, receipts, pictures of them and words of encouragement.

F O S T E R I N G

“It helps us to know that you all pray for us at
your weekly staff meetings. I’m also thankful
that you are available to help us with transportation if we are in a crunch. It helps when
we are going through communication problems with our kids and our Valley Teen Ranch
social worker comes to intervene and help us
get through the difficulty or take them out of
our home for a little while. I feel that Valley
Teen Ranch is ‘for us’ and will defend us if
there are problems within the county social
services agency.”

BY C O N N I E C L E N D E N A N

We have support groups, trainings and special events monthly so there are a lot of times
for us to be together with our families and
they can be a support to one another as well.
We make many resources available to our
families so when they need something we are
not reacting in an emergency situation. We
have many local experts that we introduce to
our families who can help them with things
from dealing with teenagers and the Internet,
to special needs children, to disciplining our
children, marriage seminars/retreats, how to
manage the special education system, where
to locate physicians that take Medi-Cal in
their area, summer camps for kids and much
more.

“No matter what types of biological parents
these children come from, I don’t talk negatively about them to these children. I tell
them that I open my heart to you first and
then my home after that, then it becomes ‘our
home.’ Our agency shares that same feeling
and promotes it within all of our homes.”

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paperwork, training and more, we get to
know them and what types of children they
think they would like to have placed in their
homes. We then do our best to find that type
of child when placements become available.
We take our time when working with them so
they feel comfortable with the process, with
our staff, the system and our culture.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie R. Clendenan,
MSW, has been the CEO Valley Teen Ranch
in Fresno, Calif., since 1988. Clendenan has a
bachelor’s degree in psychology from Spring
Arbor University and a master’s degree in
social work from California State University
in Fresno. She is a member of California
Alliance of Child & Family Services,
Northwest Church & The Well, Fresno &
Madera Chamber of Commerce, Fresno/
Madera Continuum of Care and Fellowship of
Christian Athletes Advisory Board.

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BY DEBORAH SOUTHARD

The Importance
of Keeping Good Records

As

be printed into book format to keep the information and memories from being lost.

parents it is always hard to find
the time to keep good records. I
know at one point I considered
giving up and telling my youngest birth child
that his baby book was destroyed in a fire. —
a fire that mysteriously only consumed his
baby book and nothing else. All joking aside,
foster parents need to keep good records.
A lifebook is one of the records you should
keep for your foster child. A lifebook is the
child’s story. It should contain such vital information as date, time and place of birth. A copy
of the birth certificate and Social Security
number should be included if available) Also,
birth parent information as well as any information on siblings should be put in the book.
Pictures, school information and immunization records are also good things to include.
I would encourage you to take pictures of
your foster child as early in the placement as
possible and to send an inexpensive point and
shot camera on any parental or sibling visits
to capture those memories for your child. I
recently had a foster parent tell me that she
regretted not doing this because the birth
mother disappeared after a few visits and her
daughter now has no pictures to remember
her birth mother by. This is especially important at sibling visits. Siblings are frequently
separated in different foster or adoptive
homes.

Now for the concerns and problems part my
answer is e-mail. If you have a concern email
your caseworker. It takes less time than playing phone tag and you can send an email at
two in the morning, you don’t have to wait
for office hours. The written word is far more
likely to be taken seriously. You have time to
review what you have written. You don’t get
that option when you make “hysterical foster
parent” calls. You also can send a copy to the
caseworker’s supervisor if you desire. Save a
copy of the email on your computer or cloud
and print a copy for your files. Anyone who

A lifebook should travel from home to home
with a child but make a copy for your records,
in case the original is lost. The caseworker
may also like a copy for the records. This may
sound like a lot of work, but this information
sometimes gets lost when a child has multiple
placements or is adopted by a different family than their foster parents. Lifebooks can be
done digitally or scrapbook style but should
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The second record I would encourage you
to keep is a journal. A separate one for each
child would be a good idea. In this journal
you would record and date concerns and
problems, behaviors, child’s reactions to visits,
milestones, changes in visits and other important information. I personally have never been
great at this but recently learned my lesson
when I had to count on my foster children’s
caseworker to recall information I had provided to him more than a year before. For those
of us who are journalizing challenged I have
a recommendation. Keep a good calendar. If
a visit is cancelled, record it. If your child has
a visitor, write it down. If your foster child is
sick, record it. Save your calendar. Pretty basic
right? You probably already do this. I personally keep two paper calendars; one that travels
with me and a family calendar posted on the
refrigerator. I tried to make the calendar on
my phone (synced to my computer) work for
this but I am a bit old fashioned and it just
didn’t work well for me. If you do use a phone/
computer calendar I would recommend that
you keep a separate calendar containing each
foster child’s information and print monthly.

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has ever fried their computer and lost all their
information knows you have to have a backup.
Also save and print any responses from the
caseworker. I would encourage you to also ask
your caseworker to put any changes in visits,
instructions and other information in email
form, not just verbal instructions, so you can
print and file that. If the caseworker doesn’t
feel they have time for this I suggest that you
summarize your phone conversations in email
and ask them to merely acknowledge what
you have written. If you keep a file of your
correspondence you will have a pretty good
record of your interactions with the department and will be able to pinpoint exactly
when the visit schedule changed or when a
visit went bad.
Photographs are the third records I am going
to ask you to keep and print. I always get double prints to give to the birth family, an older
foster child, or save for a younger child who
has no family contact. I know of one adoptive
mother who was thrilled to have a complete
photo record of her daughter’s life before she
joined their family.
I know that record keeping takes time, something we have little of, but these records will
mean a lot to your foster children as they
wonder about their past and may protect you
later down the road if there are ever any questions. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Southard
is a mother of five, including three who were
adopted. She has been a foster parent for 14
years. She formed the now defunct Onondaga
County foster parent support group, and has
lobbied for increased rates, mileage and more
open communication between foster families
and county agency.

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relief, protection of the eye from infection)
and some psychological (a necessary step
to progress through the grief process or an
effort to solicit comfort).

ake a deep breath, close your eyes
and think of a time that you cried
involuntarily as a result of some
kind of irritant, such as an onion, dry eyes
or a result of an allergic response. How did
you feel? How did you respond? Were you
disappointed in yourself? Were you embarrassed? Or did you attribute it to an irritant,
a transient situation, in which everyone
cries so it’s “no big deal?”
Now take a deeper breath, close your eyes
and think about a time that you cried as
a result of a strong emotion — what happened before you cried? Did your tears
flow immediately after you experienced
a loss? Physical pain? Hurt feelings? Joy?
Pride? Being overwhelmed? Were your
tears a delayed response, i.e. triggered later
by a memory such as a smell? A song? A
holiday? How did you feel after you cried?
Relaxed? Silly? Embarrassed? Relieved?
Peaceful? Calm? Free? Tired? Or a combination of these emotions? Did you feel judged?
Or out of control?

Finally, there are tears that result from emotions and are produced when our bodies are
under stress. These tears have been found
to have a different chemical make-up than
other tears with a higher level of proteinbased hormones, according to “Crying: The
Mystery of Tears” by by William H. Frey,
Ph.D., and Muriel Langseth. Furthermore,
they elicit emotional responses from others
which are rooted in the history, experiences, culture, practices and values of the
observer.

Now take an even deeper breath, close your
eyes and think about how you feel when
someone close to you cries as a result of a
strong emotion — no wait — sit with that
for a moment. What is your first reaction?
Do you feel a wave of emotion? Do you
feel unsettled? Helpless? Are you irritated?
How do you respond? Do you want to stop
the crying? Do you want to fix the emotional situation so that the person does not
hurt? Do you go so far as to tell the person
“everything will be OK” or “you need to
stop because crying won’t fix the situation?”
What if the person is a child? Do you react
differently?

As an observer, these are the tears that can
catch us off guard, bringing up our old
injuries and memories, evoking uncontrollable push and pulls from the depths of
our soul, revealing to the world our own
hurts, sensitivities and weaknesses. That is
normal — that is empathy. Yet, because of
these strong personal responses, we may
react in such a way that denies the crier’s
personal experience in the moment —
making it more about ourselves. That is
when we are likely to want to fix a situation,
discount, minimize, retreat or get angry —
we have all been there.

There are multiple explanations of the
benefits of crying, some physiological
(shedding built up toxins, cleansing, stress

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So, the next time someone you know begins
to cry, take a deep breath, be open, be present and remember that crying serves a purpose — crying brings relief. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noelle Hause,
Ed.D., LPC, IMH-E® (IV), is the young child
wellness coordinator for Project Launch
and Infant Mental Health Mentor-Clinical at
North Range Behavioral Health in Greeley,
Colo.

BY NOELLE HAUSE, ED.D., LPC, IMH-IV

Three different kinds of tears work to keep
us healthy. First, there are tears that keep
our eyes moist, lubricated and provide
protection against bacterial and viral infections on a daily basis. They flow steadily
and quietly and are hardly noticed. Second,
there are tears that flush out irritants such
as dust and fumes. They can start suddenly
and flow freely, but dissipate when the irritant is removed. While slightly embarrassing, this type of tear is readily understood
by others.

column: the early years

April Showers Bring...Relief

WE WANT TO
HEAR FROM YOU!
Send us your personal foster care
story to editor@adoptinfo.net.

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BY JAKE TERPSTRA

Full Disclosure for Foster Parents

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ow much do you need to know
about a child or children before
you agree to accept a child(ren) for
foster care?

Placing a child is a cooperative, informed
decision by both parties. Teamwork, which
is basic to good child welfare, begins when
a caseworker contacts a foster parent about
placing a child in their home. Sometimes
there is a tendency to withhold negative
information for fear that the foster parent
will not accept a child. Then foster parents
are unprepared for what is ahead, and it can
lead to disruption and another placement for
the child. It causes distrust and sometimes
loss of a foster home, when retention is
critically needed. It also is unnecessary. The
general principle is that the foster parents
need to know everything the worker knows.
In other words, if possible, there should be
no surprises after the child is accepted.

The answer is simple, isn’t it? You need to
know everything the caseworker knows.
There may be occasional exceptions, but generally foster parents need to know as much
as possible about the child and the child’s
parents if they are in the picture. There
shouldn’t be any surprises for foster parents.
It can be assumed that foster parents have
been informed about confidentially requirements. Then it can be assumed that they will
keep confidence as well as agency staff. If
they can be entrusted with a child they also
must be trusted with information about the
child.
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In genuine partnership, each party keeps
the other informed as new information or

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changes are known. That builds trust and
enables each of them to work effectively.
Should foster parents be told what the case
plan is? Of course they should. How else can
they support the goals the agency has for the
child?
The principle also applies in the opposite
direction. Caseworkers and judges also need
to know what foster parents know about the
child. When they participate in court hearings, it contributes to sound court decisions.
There are things judges need to know that
only foster parents know in order to make
sound decisions.
When parents are involved, the need for
clear, open discussion is especially great.
Foster parents may be asked to be involved
with birth parents. Their role is different

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Occasionally, foster parents compete with
birth parents, especially if they become
attached to a child and would like to adopt
or they believe that reunification is not best
for the child. Then there is extraordinary
need for the caseworker to be completely
candid about what is expected. Foster parents can be in a position to sabotage agency
efforts to reunify a child. Candid, open
discussion is critically important when that
happens.

Permanency planning (“…the process of
helping a child to live in a home that offers
the hope of establishing lifetime family relationships”) normally is the preferred goal for
every child. When reunification is planned,
foster parents must be supportive of the
agency case plan. Sometimes this can be
difficult. Open discussion helps to promote
cooperation.
When permanence with the foster parent is
planned, both parties must be involved in
planning, as well as a new third party, the
child. With older children it is essential that
the worker discuss it thoroughly with the
child alone. All three must be comfortable
with it, at least be prepared for it. The agency
also must be prepared to provide postadoptive services.

Foster parenting is hard work at best, and
can be difficult. If the foster parent shares
concerns about herself or the child, the
caseworker may be able to mobilize other
resources of the agency or other community services. Disclosure must work in both
directions. Frank discussions also lead to
creative ideas.

What recourse do foster parents have when
agency staff fails to carry out these responsibilities? Sometimes it cannot be resolved
in talking with the worker. Talking with the
supervisor or administrator might help,
but also may intimidate foster parents. This
points to the need for local foster parent
associations, as well as state and national
associations. With a local association, it is
possible to determine if this is a pattern
with the agency or a characteristic of only
a certain worker. If it is a pattern, representatives of the association need to meet
with the agency administrator to learn the
agency policy and if necessary, ask that it be
changed.

Who decides that a child should leave a
foster home? Either party can. It is unacceptable for foster parents to demand abrupt
removal. The worker needs time to make
other arrangements for the child. A two week
notice should be minimal, but if there has
been open discussion it usually can be much
longer. The reverse also is true. Normally
foster parents and the child need sufficient
time to process the separation in their feelings. The child also needs to be carefully
prepared for what is ahead. Separation is
more complex than just physical separation
because the feelings each has for the other
are involved. Feelings of separation and loss
can be painful for the child, all members
of the foster family and others who were
important to the child such as their teachers
and classmates.

When foster parents are accused of mistreatment of a child, agency staff do not talk with
them or answer phone calls. This can be
terrifying for foster parents, even though it
is standard procedure done for legal reasons.
The shock of this is less if the caseworker
told the foster parents in advance that it is
policy and not personal.

When a child is expected to leave a foster
home, not only the child needs to be prepared for it, but also the child’s possessions.
It may be necessary to launder and iron the

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Foster parents are not told who submitted
a report about them, but they need to know
what the accusation was to be able to prepare
an explanation of the circumstances.
The Children’s Bureau’s statements on rights
for foster parents from more than 30 years ago
are still applicable now. A few of them are:
• Respect, consideration, trust and valuation
as an agency employee or volunteer who is
making an important contribution to the
agency’s objective;
• Involvement in all the agency’s crucial decisions regarding the foster child as team
members;
• Opportunity to be listened to regarding
agency practices they may question; and
• All rights accorded the agency’s personnel,
including a procedure for a fair hearing and
liability insurance.

BY J A K E T E R P S T R A

child’s clothing. Any toys belonging to the
child also must be assembled so they will
not be forgotten.

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than the caseworker’s role, but for both to
be effective, each of them needs to be clear
about the part each of them has to play.

These rights are as basic for provision of
quality foster care today as they were decades
ago. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jake Terpstra is a
social worker who began his career in child
welfare as a caseworker in rural Michigan.
Then he administered three programs,
a juvenile detention home, a residential
treatment institution and the Michigan
division of child welfare licensing that
included 9,000 family foster homes. From
there he went to the U.S. Children’s Bureau
for 20 years, first as a specialist in licensing;
specialties in group care and family foster
care also were added. He worked with
agencies throughout the country, and initiated
the National Association of Foster Care
Managers. Although he worked with people
in all levels of child welfare, he believed that
what he learned in his first job needed to be
understood at every level. He wrote a book
on child welfare, “Because Kids Are Worth It,”
that is available on Amazon. His daughter is
a foster parent and he is the grandfather of
five adopted children. He also is an honorary
lifetime member of NFPA.

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BY LISA FERENTZ

Helping Parents Whose Teenagers
Engage in Self-Destructive Behaviors

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he quickest way for a teenager to
capture a parent’s attention is to cut
or starve the body or sexually act
out. These self-destructive behaviors evoke
parental anxiety, fear, anger, confusion and
guilt. It’s understandable that concerned
parents may feel overwhelmed and completely
at a loss in terms of how to best deal with
their self-harming teenager. Parents try to do
the right thing but often misunderstand the
root causes of self-harm, and therefore don’t
know how to respond in ways that are truly
effective and helpful. The issue can become
even more complicated for kids who have
been adopted or spent time in foster care.

self-destructive behaviors one response is to
inadvertently minimize the acts by saying,
“She’s just looking for attention,” or “He’s
doing it to be manipulative.” The reality is,
teenagers who engage in eating disorders,
alcohol and substance abuse, acts of selfmutilation, or sexual acting out are in need
of attention and it is critically important that
attention is paid so their deeper pain can
be uncovered and addressed. Well-meaning
parents often mistakenly think that if they
ignore these behaviors they will eventually
go away. In fact, the opposite occurs: when
teens don’t get the support, comfort and
professional guidance they need, the ante is
upped and their acting out becomes more
provocative and potentially dangerous.

When parents discover their adolescent’s
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Adopted kids may turn to self-harming
behaviors to test the ongoing love and loyalty
of their adoptive parents, and the strength of
the family bond.
Conversely, parents who aggressively and
relentlessly shine a spotlight on the behaviors
can leave their kids feeling embarrassed,
self-conscious and ashamed. If the
emphasis is solely on self-harm, then the
teenager’s strengths and accomplishments
are ignored. It’s understandable that scary
behaviors create feelings of desperation and
helplessness in parents. This increases when
a child promises to stop but doesn’t, or when
parents demand to know why their teens
self-harm and no answers are forthcoming.

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Connecting teenagers to resources including
therapy, a support group, or a nonjudgmental
self-help book that can de-pathologize the
behavior, helps teens “make sense” out of
their destructive actions. They may also need
support to move beyond an inaccurate sense
of responsibility about trauma that has been
inflicted upon them, which can eventually
help them let go of their guilt or shame. In
the case of kids who have been adopted, they
need the ongoing opportunity to express all
feelings that accompany the reality of being
adopted as well as the confused, ambivalent
feelings they may have about their adoptive
parents. Some teenagers feel protective of
their adoptive families and don’t to want to
rock the boat, or hurt the feelings of people
who love them. But when these complicated
thoughts and feelings aren’t expressed, there
is an increased vulnerability to use selfdestructive behaviors to either suppress,
distract away from, or cope with these
complicated issues. In addition, adopted kids
often need help in rebuilding a sense of egostrength and self-worth in order to embrace
feelings of empathy. When they re-claim a
positive sense of self, it no longer resonates
to engage in behaviors that are harmful and
destructive. ❁

It’s also important for parents to understand
and accept the notion that you can’t make
someone stop these behaviors by either
loving them or shaming them. What helps
them begin the process of letting go includes:
non-judgmental, hopeful and compassionate
support from family and well-trained
professionals; insight about why they engage
in the behaviors and what they get from
them; new, safer ways to communicate

Although being adopted is something that
is typically openly discussed and can be a
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As these stressors occur, teenagers need
tools to manage their thoughts so they don’t
get stuck in negative, self-blaming, black/
white or disempowered thinking. And they
need ways to comfort the intense feelings
that take hold and hijack their emotional
stability. They also require effective strategies
to communicate their experiences to people
who can provide appropriate guidance so
issues can be identified, processed and
resolved. In most cases, when a teenager
resorts to self-destructive acts it means that
they have no other effective communication
or coping skills in their repertoire.
For kids who spent a lot of time in different
foster homes and didn’t get adopted until
they were older, the critically important
experience of secure attachment in early
childhood is compromised. This means
they didn’t get the repeated experience of
being appropriately soothed by a consistent
caretaker, had nothing to internalize, and,
therefore, lack the ability to engage in
self-soothing when they are stressed or
overwhelmed. The ability to regulate one’s
emotions is deeply connected to one’s earliest
experiences with attachment. The teenager
who doesn’t have the tools to effectively selfsoothe is more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol,
food or the endorphin rush that comes from
self-mutilation in order to feel better in the
short-term.

Despite the fact that adopted kids are so
fortunate to have the love and life-long
commitment of their adoptive parents, there
can be lingering, unresolved feelings of loss,
grief, anger, confusion and abandonment.
It’s extremely difficult for them to reconcile
the fact that their birth parent “gave them
up,” and this can create long-term distorted
thinking about their fundamental worth.
Thoughts such as, “I guess I wasn’t good
enough for her to keep me,” can fuel the
already painful insecurities of adolescence.
Some adopted teens fantasize about reuniting
with their birth parents and this can create
an intense, unrequited longing, potential
disappointment or feelings of guilt about
being disloyal to their adoptive parents. Other
teens fear that their birth parents will attempt
to seek them out, even when they don’t want
to reconnect, and that can evoke intense
anxiety.

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their painful experiences; healthier ways
to self-soothe; and a newfound sense of
self-compassion. As long as a teenager hates
himself it resonates to hurt himself.

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BY LISA FERENTZ

It’s helpful for parents to know that first
and foremost, deliberate acts of self-harm
are attempts to feel better: to self-soothe or
numb thoughts, feelings, or life events that
are overwhelmingly painful or unresolved.
This can include prior experiences of
trauma, abuse, neglect or the developmental
challenges and stressors of adolescence
including: peer exclusion or cyber-bullying,
insecurities about body image or sexuality:
pressure to excel academically or in after
school activities: fear about the future; or
attempts to navigate dysfunctional family
dynamics. For the teenager who has been
adopted there are additional factors to
consider.

kids feel “different.” For teenagers, “fitting in”
is one of the most important developmental
milestones and that is usually accomplished
by not being different from their peers.

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It can profoundly affect trust in what might
already be a tenuous or troubled parent-child
relationship, adds stress to marriages, and
becomes the family’s primary preoccupation,
overshadowing the needs and feelings of
other family members.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Ferentz is
a nationally recognized psychotherapist,
clinical consultant and educator, specializing
in the treatment of adolescent and adult
trauma, abuse and neglect. She is the founder
and president of The Institute for Advanced
Psychotherapy Training and Education, Inc.
She is the author of “Treating Self-Destructive
Behaviors in Trauma Survivors: A Clinician’s
Guide,” now in its second edition, and
“Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors: A
Workbook of Hope and Healing.” For more
information visit www.lisaferentz.com.

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B Y C AT H E R I N E M A R S H A L L

The Easter Moose
“See,

brother, Robert, had been our foster children for almost two years. Michael and I
had hoped to adopt them right away from
the county’s foster-adopt program, but we
discovered shortly after the children were
placed with us that the birth parents were
fighting the adoption. Parental rights had
not been removed as we were promised.
Robert and Jenny had been through seven
foster homes in the two-and-half years
before they came to us. Their birth parents
had disappeared or were incarcerated during most of that time, only re-appearing
occasionally to disrupt their foster placements. We tried to keep our legal woes from
affecting our kids, but it was a struggle to
maintain a sense of normalcy while the
attorneys haggled in family court. Having
traditional holiday experiences was my way
of anchoring our new little family in spite
of this confusion.

Mommy?” Jenny was so
proud of her Easter egg
dipped in pink dye and covered in glitter.
“Oh, nice job, Honey. Tell me, whatcha got
there?” I could see she’d drawn a face on the
egg, but I needed a clue.
“It’s a bunny,” Robert said.
“Let’s let Jenny tell us, OK?”
“A bunny,” she said. She climbed back onto
her step stool at the kitchen table, tangling
her chubby legs in the apron I had tied
under her arms.
Robert and my husband, Michael, sat
together on the other side of the table,
intent on their own creations. Michael was
an art teacher at the local middle school
and treated the food decorating like one of
his arts and crafts projects. He cut tiny hats
and bunny ears out of construction paper
while Robert drew designs on his eggs with
the precision of an engineer.

So, last Thanksgiving did not turn out the
way I’d planned. The children grew bored
with the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and
asked to watch cartoons. I had the fixings
for a traditional dinner with a stuffed bird,
green bean casserole, candied yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, just like my
mother used to make, but no one would
give me a hand. Even Michael, who was a
whiz in the kitchen, mumbled something
about not wanting to step on my toes and
disappeared to his studio until dinner time.

I pulled out my camera to capture the
moment. “Say, Happy Easter,” I said.
Everyone humored me by holding up their
creations and flashing smiles. It was my job
to document holidays and birthdays and
keep the family photo album up-to-date.
These Easter photos would go next to the
ones we took at Thanksgiving with all of us
seated around a hefty turkey dinner. The
captions rarely described what was really
going on. Everyone had been so grumpy
and unhelpful last Thanksgiving I’d almost
left the house in a huff.

Christmas was not much better. It started
off with a gift exchange with the birth parents on Christmas Eve. Birth family visits
were supervised now by a social worker
because a couple of earlier unsupervised
visits, allowed by an uninformed new judge,
resulted in the children returning with blistering sunburn, dehydration and bruises.

My frustration came from my struggle to
re-create the holidays of my childhood.
Five-year-old Jenny and her 8-year-old

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On Christmas morning the children seemed
disappointed with our modest gifts of
books, clothes and art supplies and preferred to play with what they got from their
birth parents, a gaudy Barbie for Jenny and
a remote-control monster car that needed
six D batteries for Robert. That toy made a
revving noise that set my teeth on edge.
I was hoping Easter would be different. The
egg decorating was going well and the kids
were excited about the Easter bunny coming. My family’s tradition had included my
mother’s special Easter cake, a confection
shaped like a bunny and decorated with
coconut and jelly beans. Robert hopped
from his chair when the kitchen timer went
off. I had promised he could test the doneness of the white cake with a toothpick.
He’d been showing an interest in baking and it seemed to relieve his anxieties
around food. Robert was still a picky eater,
not willing to try anything that resembled a
vegetable or a fruit and Jenny continued to
hoard food in her room.
After getting his go-ahead, I pulled the
rounds from the oven and placed them on
racks to cool. Robert wanted to mix the
icing, but the egg decorating was too much
of a draw. He seemed appeased when I
promised to let him lick the bowl. While
I mixed the powdered sugar, margarine
and vanilla, I pondered my next move. I
stared at the two round pans of white cake
and tried to recall what came next. I knew
the original directions for the bunny cake
came from a women’s magazine, probably
Redbook or Good Housekeeping, and the
page was folded in Mom’s recipe box in
Wichita. My parents were on one of their
car trips and unreachable, so I was out of
luck there.

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Robert and Jenny were ready to decorate the
Easter bunny cake. Since the kitchen table
was full of their egg creations, they pulled
their chairs up to the counter. I covered
a large cookie sheet with foil, slid a knife
around one of the cake rounds, and plopped
it onto the sheet. I was relieved it landed in
one piece. Within the second cake, I carved
out two ear shapes. Using spatulas, I lifted
them from the cake pan and gingerly placed
them on the cookie sheet above what was
going to be the head. The ears, carved in the
curve of the pan, pointed inward like devil’s
horns. This couldn’t be right. I used the
spatulas and switched them around. Robert
frowned as he watched me rearrange the
pieces and then looked at me like I’d lost my
mind. Jenny peered around me, squealed,
and pointed. “Oooh, a moose,” she said.

B Y C AT H E R I N E M A R S H A L L

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Marshall
is the author of “The Easter Moose: One
Family’s Journey Adopting through Foster
Care,” which will be published later this year.
Her foster-adopt children are grown and she
is now a grandmother of four, as well as a
consultant to nonprofit organizations.

This can’t be that hard, I thought. I pulled
out some scratch paper and drew two
circles. One round had to be for the face and
I needed ears for sure. I’d cut those from the
second cake round. What should I do with
the leftover? Was that the body? The shape
that remained after I drew the ears did not
look anything like a bunny body.

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Family’s Journey Adopting Through Foster Care

She was right. Our Easter bunny ears looked
more like antlers. Close enough. We slathered on the white icing, sprinkled on coconut, and added jelly beans for the eyes, nose
and mouth. Michael took our picture while
I tilted the cake and the kids pointed and
smiled. Thanks to Jenny, we had a caption
for our photo: The Easter Moose. There was
a section of the cake left over, so we covered
it with icing and coconut and ate it as a
snack, polishing off the extra jelly beans.
I’m sure our Easter bunny cake did not
resemble the one in the women’s magazine,
but it was good enough for us. ❁

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column: children’s rights news

BY L A U R E N K I D D F E R G U S O N

Eighteen-yearold Crystal
advocates for
others who
have experienced sex
trafficking.
Photo courtesy
of Patrick Michels/
Texas Observer.

Foster Youth Falling Prey

to Sex Traffickers
At

18, Crystal had already experienced a
lifetime of pain.

and told me that I was his.” He made her work
in a strip club, sold her to other men, and kept
the money for himself, she said.

She was molested by her mother’s boyfriend
and spent the rest of her childhood being
moved between foster homes, enduring more
sexual abuse, beatings, a failed adoption and
a stint in a residential treatment center. She
had just escaped a violent boyfriend when
someone recommended a woman who would
take her in.

NEWS

please do this? Can you please do this?’ And
I did it,” Crystal recalled in an interview with
Children’s Rights. “After that, she expected it.
She told me if I didn’t contribute to her in that
way, I was out. I had no place else to live.”

That woman, Crystal said, was the first person
to sell her for sex. She gave Crystal drugs and
used Crystal’s body to pay the rent, she said. “A
guy offered her $1,500 and she said, ‘Crystal,
we are going to be out on the streets. Can you
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A few months after moving into the house,
Crystal said she went to a party with a man
who slipped her a pill, then “had sex with me

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“There were times when I knew if I wasn’t
going to do it, I would get beaten, if I wasn’t
going to do it, I would go hungry,” she said.
Crystal is one of the countless young people in
the United States swept into the foster-care-tosex-trafficking pipeline every year.
“Unlike a drug, which is sold once, a person
can be sold for sex thousands of times a year,
with little risk since sex traffickers are rarely
prosecuted,” said human rights activist Molly
Gochman, who received the 2014 Children’s

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According to the National
Human Trafficking Resource
Center, sex trafficking is
defined as: “the recruitment,
harboring, transportation,
provision or obtaining of a
person for the purposes of
a commercial sex act, in
which the commercial sex
act is induced by force,
fraud or coercion, or in
which the person induced to
perform such an act has not
attained 18 years of age.”

In 2012, according to the National Center for
Missing & Exploited Children, 67 percent of
young people reported missing and likely
trafficked were in the care of social services
or foster care at the time. And in 2013, 60
percent of the more than 100 child sex trafficking victims recovered in an FBI raid of
more than 70 cities had been in foster care or
group homes at some point.
Experts point to several reasons young people
who spend time in foster care are susceptible
to traffickers — such as their histories of
abuse, neglect and trauma, and the lack of
people to rely on when they age out of care
without families.
“Any child may be vulnerable to someone
who promises to meet their emotional or
physical needs, but children with no permanent home are particularly vulnerable,”
John D. Ryan, CEO of the National Center for
Missing & Exploited Children, said when he
testified before a Congressional committee on
the issue. “Children in foster care are easy targets for pimps. These children are the most
susceptible to the manipulation and false
promises that traffickers use to secure their
trust and dependency. These children have
fractured safety nets and few alternatives.

“When children are placed in foster care, at
the very least states must ensure they are
safe,” Santana said. “If young people can’t be
returned home, or linked with permanent,
loving families, it is crucial that they leave
care with supportive networks of people they
can turn to, and the skills to survive so they
won’t be lured into dangerous situations.”

EFFECTING CHANGE
“Most people don’t realize the strong connection between the deep flaws in the foster care
system and human trafficking in the United
States,” said Sandy Santana, interim executive
director of Children’s Rights. “This epidemic
of foster youth being lured into the sex trade
is devastating our kids, and reforming child
welfare is one of the most effective ways to
prevent it.”

Lawmakers are also recognizing the need
to stem the flow of foster youth into sex
trafficking. In September, President Obama
signed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and

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“He kept saying, ‘You’re too beautiful, you’re
too smart, you need to make something of
yourself.’ It made me cry,” Crystal said. “I had
already given up on myself. I didn’t think
anybody would care about me.”
Crystal is now working to raise awareness
about trafficking and wants to help other
victims. She shared some of her story at
Children’s Rights’ Ninth Annual Benefit in
October.
“This happens to so many young women
right under our noses,” she told the crowd.
“No young lady plans to be a sex slave.” ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Kidd
Ferguson is communications manager for
Children’s Rights, a national advocacy group
working to reform failing child welfare systems on behalf of the hundreds of thousands
of abused and neglected children who depend
on them for protection and care. For more
information, visit www.childrensrights.org.

Share Your Foster Parenting Stories with

Children’s Rights is combating sex trafficking through comprehensive legal campaigns
that compel states to vigilantly screen foster
homes, reduce caseloads so caseworkers can

F O S T E R I N G

GETTING OUT
Crystal, now 23, said she managed to escape
the sex trade after a man who already paid
for time with her couldn’t follow through
with it, and gave her extra money to get out.

BY L A U R E N K I D D F E R G U S O N

give children the attention they need, provide
kids essential mental health care to heal from
trauma and move children between homes
less often. The organization is also fighting
for youth to be safely reunited with their
families or adopted in a timely manner, and
if they must age out of care, to have skills to
make it on their own and connections they
can rely on.

Strengthening Families Act. Among other
provisions, the law requires states to develop
policies to identify foster youth who are at
risk of or already have been trafficked and
provide them appropriate services. It also
calls for states to quickly locate and assess
kids who run from care, and report to the
federal government statistics on the number
of youth trafficked each year.

column: children’s rights news

Rights Champion Award for her work to fight
sex trafficking.

Send your submissions to editor@adoptinfo.net or visit us online at www.adoptinfo.net.

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BY JULIE MYRA

Called to Adoption
A

pril 29, 2011 at 11:15 a.m. my phone
rang. Child Protective Services was
on the phone, a sweet voice says
to me, we have a baby boy, he is 4 months
old and just arrived via law enforcement.
She tells me he was found in a known drug
house, no one there knew where his parents
were or much about him. He had an obvious
eye infection and was “super adorable.”

She asks if we can pick him up at the CPS
office. We drop everything and excitedly
head home to grab a carseat and some
clothes. We had been licensed foster parents
for less than 24 hours. Our license arrived
just the night before. After many hours of
training, home inspections, background
checks and several months of waiting for it
all to come together, we finally were realizing
a dream — to be foster parents, help, rescue
and love. We had somewhat Pollyanna views
that we would “save” a child, this child.
We arrived at the office around 1:30 that
afternoon. I’ll never forget seeing my son for
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the first time. He was sleeping in a carseat,
dressed in red Christmas pjs. The social
worker said his clothes he was found in were
so dirty they had to throw them away. He
was so big, blonde hair and startled blue
eyes. With each little noise he cried and
twitched. Many thoughts raced through my
mind. How could someone just leave him?
What had he been through? Who had been
caring for him? We knew so little. The social
worker handed us a bag prepared by volunteers. It contained a knitted blanket, a few
diapers, a bottle and a pair of pajamas and
some paperwork. We knew his name and
birthdate and we walked out guardians to
this baby.
We headed straight to the doctor’s office
because his eye was swollen shut with infection. He was weighed and measured, given
vaccinations because he had not been seen
in three months. He was big for his age and
so jumpy. After a stop for medicine, formula
and some clothes we headed home. It was
not nine months of pregnancy and hours of

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You see, the state’s number one goal after
removing a child from his or her biological
family is reunification. Reunification. That
word is repeated continuously in training.
Reunification. As foster parents we pledge
to care for children, bring them in and love
them and watch them hit their milestones
and grow up. You bond to them and them
to you, all the while knowing that at any
moment the call could come saying this
child will be returned. Back to who knows
what or who knows where? It’s a slippery
slope. Your heart is on the line every day.
The risk is great, the potential for loss real,
but at the heart is this child who may be
with you for a few days or for their entire
life. You never know.

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What do I want people to know? According
to AdoptUSKids.org there are more than
104,000 children in foster care in the United
States, of these kids more than 20,000 children age out of foster care without ever being
adopted. Sit on that number for a moment
— 20,000. Being taken away from your family and moved from place to place can leave
children with a feeling that they cannot count
on anyone. These kids want one thing, a family. Studies show that even a short time in a

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loving, safe environment can impact a child’s
entire life. It’s risky, no doubt about it. Messy
too. Your heart is at-risk 24 hours a day, but
imagine the difference that one person can
make. For our family, it’s been the greatest
miracle. We started this journey thinking we
would “save” a child, little did we know that
the child, our child, saved us.
For more information about becoming a
foster or foster parent, visit http://www.adoptuskids.org/for-families/how-to-adopt. ❁

BY JULIE MYRA

For our family, this little boy became our
forever son — 425 days later he was ours, a
Myra. The road was filled with moments of
pure joy and moments of pure terror. I imagine much as it would have been if we had
given birth to him. William S. Burroughs said
it best, “There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling
hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and
feel without defense or reserve.” To me, this
illustrates fostering perfectly. There are risks,
but also great rewards.

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labor that brought this baby to us, the journey was longer and more arduous for him
and us, but none-the-less we were a family.
We instantly loved this little being. We would
protect him and call him our own as long as
we were lucky enough to have him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris and Julie Myra
have been foster parents for four years. Their
first two placements, a son and daughter,
were adopted on the same day, June 27, 2012
in Washington state. They currently reside in
Montana where they are also licensed foster
parents.
This article first appeared in visitnwmontana.
com.

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In

To help illustrate this point, let us examine
a study I conducted in 2013, “Exiting Foster
Care: A Case Study of Former Foster Children
Enrolled in Higher Education in Kansas.” For
the study, I interviewed 15 college students
who aged out of the foster care system in
Kansas. The purpose of the study was to
explore what aspects of the foster care system
contributed to their success. Essentially, I
wanted to answer the questions, “What did
the system do right?” and “How can this be
repeated?” Ten themes were identified from
the study, but the most alarming theme was
that these former, and now successful, foster
children adamantly opposed reintegration
with their biological families. If there was a
legitimate reason for removing a child from
his or her family, why then would it make
sense to reintegrate the child into the same
home that was once deemed unsafe?

my recently published book,
“Succeeding as a Foster Child: A
Roadmap to Overcoming Obstacles
and Achieving Success,” I wrote about the
impressive opportunities that the foster care
system provides. Yes, you read that correctly; I
used opportunity and foster care in the same
sentence. As I discuss in my book, being a
foster child is an opportunity for a better life
— a life of countless possibilities and abundant resources that may only be accessible to
a child because of foster care. Even though
a primary focus of the foster care system is
reunification with parents, this idealized conclusion may not be in the best interest of the
child based on three powerful assessments.
First and foremost, there was an obvious
reason the child was removed from his or her
home, and that dangerous situation may not
have changed. Second, because of the foster
care system, the child now has a significant
amount of resources and advantages at his or
her disposal. Lastly, the child has a chance to
thrive and develop in a foster family, a chance
that simply may not be available if the child
returned to the biological family.

their children. We may want these parents to
change and give their children a better life,
but the truth is, most of them won’t.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, the purpose of the foster care
program is to prevent maltreatment and abuse
of children in distressed families by providing a
temporary home and a foster care family until
the children can safely return to their home or
a permanent home is found. One of the top priorities of the foster care system is reunification
with the family. The U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services needs to assess the longterm implications of reunification as this may
not always be in the best interest of the child.
Ironically, this well-intentioned directive — to
return a child to his or her home — may be as
damaging to a child as the very situation from
which the child was first rescued.

Let us start with two example questions. 1)
Will a drug addict, who lacked care or concern for his or her children before they were
placed in foster care, change his or her ways?
2) Will an abusive parent change his or her
ways once a child is removed from the home
and placed in foster care? History tells us
these parents will not change. Our criminal
justice system is overwhelmed with repeat
offenders. This pattern is also present in child
welfare cases. A majority of these parents
will continue to make poor decisions which
compromise the care and development of

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Less Emphasi s on Reunif icat ion

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in Foster Care

One of the participants in my study was
abused both physically and emotionally by
her parents. She was placed in foster care only
to be brought back to her parents. Five different times she went back and forth between
her parents and foster families. She made a
comment that her mother did not know how
to take care of her and her sibling. It appears
foster care administrators assumed that her
mother would somehow figure out how to
raise a child when she continued to demonstrate otherwise. Sadly, so much emphasis
was placed on reunification that the biological
family unit took precedence over a child’s
well-being.
Instead of focusing efforts on reunification,
why not examine the best way to help a foster
child succeed? Staying with a foster fam-

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ily or being adopted gives a foster child that
chance at success that he or she might not
have with a biological family. My book details
the vast resources that foster children have
at their disposal, including the opportunity
to receive education benefits for college, life
skills training, support services and so much
more. Foster children receive money for college
and can graduate debt free. Researchers from
CNN conducted a study in 2013 that found
the average student loan debt to be $29,400; in
contrast, foster children are eligible to receive
tuition fee waivers and the Education and
Training Voucher, which has the potential to
completely fund a foster child’s education.
Even improvements in academic grades can be
attributed to the benefits of foster care.

that almost certainly cannot be matched by
reunification. One of the themes in my 2013
research was the following: participants would
not be where they are today if they would not
have been placed in foster care. One participant speculated that she would be dead or
drug-addicted and living on the streets had
she not been placed in foster care. Another
participant remained in foster care even as
his older brothers were reintegrated with his
biological family. His older brothers have made
numerous poor life decisions and lack the
ambition to do any better. When asked where
he would be if he would not have remained
in foster care, he simply stated that he would
be in the same situation as his older brothers
— making poor choices and facing continual
legal trouble. He is now a college graduate and
is looking forward to his future. The foster care
system enabled these foster children to be successful, and being removed from their families
was instrumental in their journey to becoming
a success story.

In my 2013 study, participants informed me
that their grades significantly improved after
being placed into foster care. One participant
informed me that she would not have graduated from high school had she not been placed
into the foster care system. They were able
to focus on improving their lives rather than
being frightened or concerned about returning
home after school. This is Maslow’s hierarchy
in its truest form; when basic needs are met,
personal growth becomes a real possibility.

Additionally, removing children from the home
and placing them with a foster family allows
them to break the cycle of failure that plagues
so many families. Children in abusive families
are more likely to be abusive themselves; the
same goes for children in families where drugs
and alcohol are prevalent. By simply being
placed in foster care, a child can finally have
some semblance of a normal life. They no longer have to worry about being abused by their
parents or concerned about where they will get
their next meal. These children can now focus
on improving themselves and maturing into
productive, independent adults.

In addition to educational advantages, federal
law requires that a foster child is provided a
personalized transition plan prior to leaving
foster care. What benefits, mentorship or transition plan would a child receive from the biological family, particularly a “distressed” family
from which the child had to be removed?
Participants in my study identified that they
would not have attended college had it not
been for the foster care system. They received
benefits and mentorship that they clearly
would not have had access to had they been
reunified with their family. As a result, these
students are well on their way to becoming
self-sufficient, tax-paying adults instead of tax
consumers.

This idea of moving away from focusing on
reunification may be unorthodox or even controversial, but the primary goal of the foster
care system should be to create a self-sufficient
adult, not to return a child to a home of questionable safety. Creating self-sufficient adults
means these foster children have a chance to
break the familial cycle of failure and reach
their full potential. If we want these children
to have access to the future they deserve, then

Foster care also offers a child opportunities to
thrive within a foster family — opportunities
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we need to be willing to develop more effective
policies. Reunification doesn’t always make the
most sense.
Every single child deserves the opportunity
for success. Oftentimes it can only be found
within the loving and nurturing arms of a
foster family. We owe it to foster children to
place them where they have the greatest safety
and the most opportunity, not where they have
the closest DNA match. Let me close with this
scenario. A 3-year-old child is removed from
abusive, drug-using biological parents and
is placed in a loving foster home with foster
parents who are open to adoption. Is reintegration into the biological family in the child’s
best interest? Or would the child’s greatest
chance for a normal childhood and eventual
self-sufficiency come from the foster/adoptive
home? I’m certain we both know the answer to
these questions. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamie Schwandt,
Ed.D., is a former foster child who understands
how to succeed in life. Schwandt had a difficult childhood and overcame significant
obstacles to get where he is today. He was born
in a small town in Kansas where his parents
abused drugs and alcohol. Both parents battled
depression while suffering from other mental
health issues. His father committed suicide
when Schwandt was 18 years old. As a child,
Schwandt witnessed many dangerous and
poor decisions made by his parents. His mother suffered from severe drug addiction and
alcoholism. He watched his mother use drugs
in their home and was often left to take care
of her and his younger brother. He has vivid
memories of seeing needles in the bathroom,
witnessing domestic violence, and preventing
his mother from multiple suicide attempts. In
May 2013, Schwandt completed a doctor of
education degree from Kansas State University.
Schwandt is a United States Army Captain and
served in the Middle East during Operation
Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. His new book,
“Succeeding as a Foster Child” can be found at
http://bit.ly/schwandt.

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E

It’s truly admirable to provide
a loving home for children who
have just survived the most
traumatic experience of their
lives. These children didn’t choose
their past and many of them
face challenging physical and
emotional obstacles. Your love
and faith can help them regain
their self-esteem and build a solid
foundation of self-worth while
they try to accept and process
their new lives. You hold in your
hands the rare opportunity to
encourage and support these
children in their most vulnerable
state. Through your hard work,
patience, love and belief in them,
they will become stronger and
more prepared for the future that
lies ahead.
It is no secret that as foster parents
you will have challenging days.
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We all have challenging days.
Expect them. There will be days
when we lose sight of what we
are doing and why. For every step
we take forward, it will seem we
are moving backward. When you
find yourself in this situation and
dwelling on the negative, stop,
focus and remember that you have
the power to change your thoughts
and therefore change the situation
for the better. Remember that you
are more than foster parents —
you are life savers. Saving children
one child at a time is the business
you’re in. It will not always be easy,
but it will always be worth it.
Never stop telling your foster kids
that you love them and you’re
proud of them. A hug, a smile, or
simple words of encouragement
all affect the spirit of these
wonderful children in invaluable
ways. Teach them the importance
of loving themselves, and how
to let go of the hate and anger
that haunts them from the past.
If foster children receive enough
love, nurturing, guidance and
kindness, they will develop the
strength needed to conquer all
that has come against them, thus,
becoming powerful and resilient
for the rest of their lives.
Can you imagine receiving a
phone call from the child in your
care on their college graduation
day, thanking you for your
positive influence, love and faith
in their abilities? Think about
how that would make you feel
and the joy and excitement you
would have in your heart. This
kind of experience is something
that every foster parent truly
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deserves. It’s the just reward for
doing everything in your power
to make their lives better in every
way possible.
Rejoice in the moments of your
child’s growth know matter how
small. Don’t let the problems
and challenges of being a foster
parent become bigger than the
child. When you realize the
conflicts these kids face are
just the symptoms of a larger
problem and their overall feeling
of helplessness, you free them of
their own guilt and despair and
allow them to see how special
they truly are. Remind them that
their rebellion is against things
that cannot be changed, and they
are stronger than the problems
they left behind. Listen to them
when they share their joy and
fear and praise the moments
when their true light shines
through. Give them a voice and an
opportunity to be heard, just as
you would want to be given one
in their situation. Knowing that
your positive actions are giving
children hope, will equip you with
the strength needed to keep on
fighting the good fight. The fight
for happiness for all kids in care.
Every time you open your home
for a new child, you are changing
a life for the better. You instantly
become parent, counselor and
advocate for the children you
foster. Being a foster parent gives
you the ability and power to
make a difference in the world
while providing a loving home
to a child. Through your positive
influence and leadership, you
are guiding, empowering and
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equipping the next generation for
ultimate success.
Continue to reflect on the reasons
of WHY you became a foster
parent. Don’t put yourself down
when you make mistakes. Foster
parenting in not an easy job, but
it is a rewarding one. Look at your
mistakes as teaching moments,
learn from them and move on.
Remember how you felt when
you saw them for the first time.
Remember the look on their faces
when you saw them smile for
the first time. Remember the joy
when you first laughed together or
the moment when they finally let
their guard down to let you into
their heart. This is why you do
what you do. This is what makes
you the Ultimate Lifesaver. ❁

BY M A R K A N T H O N Y G A R R E T T

very day, thousands of
children are pulled out of
homes of violence, poverty
and crime. Scared and alone, they
are carted by complete strangers
across towns, cities and even
countries in search of shelter. In
shock and unsure of their future,
they wait for answers. They
know that their lives are forever
changed. Scared and confused,
many wonder if their new lives
will be worse than the ones they
have lived. When they finally reach
their destination, many with only
the clothes on their back, they are
delivered into the safe and loving
hands of caring individuals, such
as yourself, who have made the
decision to be of ultimate service
to children in need by becoming
foster parents.

column: fostering families

Saving the Lives of our Foster Youth

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark
Anthony Garrett is a former
foster and adopted child. As a
professional speaker, master
trainer and author, Garrett is
America’s leading expert on
empowering foster children and
individuals that serve and work
within the child welfare industry.
To contact Garrett, visit www.
FosterCareExpert.com or call 614732-3568.

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B Y TA L S A G I E , M A

Bedwetting
As
parents,we
parents,
we live forr the milestones
in our child’s development. First
steps, first words and for all of us,
we breathe a sigh of emotional (and financial)
relief when we say goodbye to diapers and pullups. For many, however, an end to diapers and
pull-ups never really arrives due to bedwetting,
which affects an estimated 5-7 million children
between the ages of 7 and 12 years old.
To provide a sense of scale, between 10 and
15 percent of 7-year-olds struggle with bed
wetting. It’s a far-too-common disorder that
is often improperly diagnosed and treated. A
doctor who advises a parent to merely “live
with it” and wait until the child “grows out of
it” simply isn’t current with regard to modern
treatments.
In the months or even years that it could take
a child to grow out of it, he or she will likely
experience heightened anxiety, stress and
embarrassment, making the endless loads
of extra laundry and costly pull-up products
seem trivial. After countless nights of midnight
housekeeping, parents oftentimes try anything
to attain a sense of normalcy.
Some doctors will order blood, urine tests and
more. Some will advise parents to restrict fluid
intake after dinner. Others will direct parents
to take their children to the bathroom themselves, which takes responsibility away from
the child and trains the child’s brain to recognize the wrong signals. In my experience, the
saddest treatment is when some exasperated
parents punish their child by forcing them to
change the wet linens to “teach a lesson” with
the intent of forcing the child to learn to wake
up and go to the bathroom.
Confronting this ignorance requires that parents become educated and effectively assist
their child in overcoming this condition. As
a practitioner, I see an overwhelming lack of

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tion and more. One-on-one coaching is a key
to creating awareness within the child, rewarding him or her for every success and helping
the child to reprogram the reflex system while
sleeping. In many cases Behavioral Treatment
is a learning process for the child as well as the
parent since the child often discovers a previously unrealized control over his or her body.

So what makes a child wet the bed at night
when he or she is able to be accident-free
during the day? In 99 percent of the cases, the
bedwetting is not a result of a medical condition. We know this because our bodies use the
same urinary system for daytime as nighttime
— therefore if one can remain dry during the
day, physiologically, they should be able to do
so at night.

Contrary to popular belief, Behavioral
Treatment does involve a nighttime alarm to
alert the child when wetting the bed. Contrary
to popular belief, the goal of the alarm
isn’t always to teach the child to wake up at
night, but rather to condition restraint with
Behavioral Treatment. The alarm is designed
to act on the child’s subconscious reflex
mechanism and exercise the reflex response. It
is an important element in a larger treatment
regimen.

The prevailing issue is usually due to a learning fault that stems from deep sleep, whereby
the child does not recognize the signals to
wake up to urinate or be able to hold the
muscles tight enough to wait until morning.
It’s a simple problem that requires a complex
solution.

Finally, as a parent myself, I’ve come to realize
the importance of full parental involvement in
a child’s journey out of bedwetting. The process can be bonding and — as unpleasant as it
may seem — can set the stage for the child to
overcome other inevitable hurdles in life. Here’s
where a parent needs to begin:
• Educate. Knowledge is power, and it will help
guide whatever decision you make.
• Do not ignore the problem. The condition
exists, and your child needs to feel that
there’s a support system.

In my experience, medication has a limited
success rate. Bedwetting alarms — when used
alone — simply interrupt sleep and rarely
condition the child to alter his or her patterns.
By far, Behavioral Treatment is the most
effective therapy. A comprehensive treatment
involves a tailor-made process that considers
the child’s age, day control, frequency, motiva-

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• Be available to your child. The child is the
primary sufferer of this ordeal and needs to
know that he or she is not alone.
• Show your child information available online
about other kids who have been dealing with
this problem. Let your child see that there is
nothing wrong, and that bedwetting can be
overcome.
• Don’t compare your children. Highlighting
that a younger sibling is not having accidents
just makes the affected child feel worse.
• Seek professional help when your child shows
concern for the condition. Dedicated bedwetting clinics and online resources are available
for exactly this purpose and have safe and
proven treatment options.

B Y TA L S A G I E , M A

credible information and resources available
to parents who are desperate to do something.
Commonly repeated “helpful hints” are often
wrong and can even be detrimental to the
child.

feature

Myths, Facts and Treatment

One of the greatest rewards of my work has
been bearing witness to thousands of children
who have worked to overcome bedwetting. The
process brings about an immense pride and
instills a newfound confidence. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tal Sagie, MA, is
a Enuresis therapist and a doctoral student, specializes in children’s behavioral problems and has practiced bedwetting treatments
since 1999 with more than 8,000 patients.
Sagie developed THERAPEE™, the first interactive Enuresis web-based software in the
treatment of bedwetting. For more information, visit www.bedwettingtherapy.com.

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climbing; inability to play quietly; often “on the
go” as if “driven by a motor” (this implies an
involuntary quality to the level of motor activity); excessive talking or blurting out answers
inappropriately; significant problems with
taking turns; and frequently interrupting or
intruding upon others.

The description of ADHD focuses on two main
problem areas: difficulties with inattention
and a separate group of problems related to
hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is possible to
have difficulties in only one of these areas —
either inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity.
However, it is not enough to simply say that a
child “can’t pay attention” or is “too hyper.” The
diagnosis of either of these areas requires that
several symptoms be present for an extended
period of time (at least six months) and across
multiple settings (school, home, other activities). In addition, these symptoms must be
present before age 12.

You may think, “Don’t all kids do these things?”
The simple answer is, “For many kids, yes,
some of the time,” but in order to make the
diagnosis these problems must be present
most of the time at a level that exceeds what
is normally seen for the child’s developmental
level. Also, the average child will often respond
to efforts at training or redirection, while the
child with ADHD will usually struggle and
have difficulty responding to attempts at training. In addition, in order to make the diagnosis, there must be clear evidence that the
symptoms of ADHD interfere with the child’s
daily functioning. For example, everyone may
agree that a child displays inattention, but
there may not be a negative impact on school
performance. The key idea is that the diagnosis requires the presence of symptoms that are
clearly in excess of what would be expected,
and that there must be a negative impact on
functioning.

For example, to qualify for difficulties in the
area of inattention, several possible concerns
must be seen at the same time, such as: inattention or careless mistakes; trouble sustaining attention or a strong dislike of tasks that
require sustained focus; trouble listening; difficulty completing tasks; problems with organization; frequent misplacing or losing items that
are necessary to complete tasks; a high level of
distractibility; and often forgetting what needs
to be done to complete daily activities.

Several good studies of large populations
suggest that ADHD occurs in about 5 percent
of children, with a gradually decreasing frequency among adolescents. This suggests that
over time, the symptoms of ADHD become
less severe for at least some children. At the
same time, not all children will “grow out” of
these symptoms. Also, ADHD occurs about

Likewise, problems with hyperactivity and
impulsivity require the presence of multiple
symptoms. Examples include: fidgeting; trouble remaining seated; inappropriate running or

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twice as often in males, although females with
ADHD are more likely to have only the symptoms related to inattention. This means that
the diagnosis might be missed in girls because
there is a decreased frequency of the severe
hyperactivity that tends to be seen in males.
There are several issues related to the diagnosis of ADHD in the foster care population.
This will be a discussion for the next article.
For now, remember that ADHD is a legitimate
problem that can cause severe disruption at
home, school and in social settings. If you are
caring for a child who has many of the symptoms of ADHD, it is important to obtain an
evaluation. At the same time, remember that
children in foster care can display behavioral
problems for many different reasons, and
ADHD will not always be the best explanation.
Stay tuned for the next installment! ❁

BY DR. WILLIAM HOLMES

T

here are several controversial issues
surrounding the diagnosis of ADHD.
However, despite disagreements about
the assessment, diagnosis, frequency and
treatment of ADHD, it is important to keep in
mind that ADHD is a real problem with serious consequences. Today’s article will focus
on the features and characteristic symptoms
of ADHD. Future articles will go into detail
concerning the assessment and treatment of
this diagnosis.

column

The Diagnosis of AttentionDeficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. William D. Holmes
is the senior medical director for Cenpatico
Behavioral Health, and he also serves as
medical director for Cenpatico’s foster care
services. As part of his work, Holmes presents
to a variety of professional and community
groups on many topics. His past clinical work
includes several years of experience in providing clinical care and supervision of treatment
to children and adolescents in the Texas foster
care system. Holmes earned an undergraduate degree from Baylor University, and then
completed a medical degree at the University
of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.
He remained in Galveston for his training in
general psychiatry as well as child and adolescent psychiatry, eventually becoming board
certified in both. He also earned a Master
of Divinity degree from Truett Theological
Seminary, and in the past he has served in
various ministerial staff and positions.

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BY KIM PHAGAN-HANSEL AND RICHARD FISCHER

column: must reads
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must reads
ZOEY TO THE MAX
Directed by Jim Valdez
Brand Inc. Entertainment,
2015, 126 minutes
Zoey (played by Cassidy Mack, the
2014 Adoption Day spokesperson)
is a young teen growing up in foster
care. She’s bounced through multiple
homes and struggled to fit in at
school and with her foster families.
After an incident with some kids
from school, Zoey ends up inadvertently running away. When she ends
up in a small California town, her life begins to change for the better
when she meets Sheriff Tom Jenkins (Grant Bowler) and his wife,
Samantha (Amy Smart), and their black lab Max. After Max is kidnapped by a couple of thugs, Zoey’s issues with her foster care past
come to the forefront. But after helping apprehend the culprits, Zoey
finds herself not only fitting into Tom and Samantha’s family, but also
with other kids in the community.
Zoey to the Max is a kid-friendly adventure of a young teen girl.
While there are many positive messages that come out in the movie,
the film leans too far toward the fairy tale, happily-ever-after story
to be truly believable about children in foster care. After staying with
Tom and Samantha for just one night, the couple decides they want
to adopt her. It does not realistically portray the process to foster
and adopt a child. And while kids in foster care certainly can have
good manners, Zoey seems a little too polite for a kid who has moved
through multiple foster homes. For a child who would have abandonment issues, she gets over her difficult feelings far too easily. However,
overlooking all of the inaccuracies in portraying the foster care
experience, Zoey to the Max is a feel-good film about a little girl who
overcomes much, finds a family and falls in love with a dog. Cassidy
Mack is a great role model for kids, especially those in the foster care
system because she was adopted from foster care herself. Ultimately,
Zoey to the Max is a good family-friendly movie with a happy ending, which my 10- and 6-year-olds loved. Because it’s pretty light on
portraying the real traumas of the foster care system, it might be an
easy lead-in to discuss foster care with kids currently in your home.
— Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel

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WELCOME TO THE
ROLLER COASTER
Real Life Stories of the Ups
and Downs of Foster Care
By D.D. Foster
CreateSpace, 2014, ISBN13: 978-1500249731, 238
pages, $16.99
When 14 foster moms
team up to share their
fostering stories, you get a
roller coaster of emotions
provided throughout the
pages of “Welcome to the
Roller Coaster.” This new
book shares a variety of
foster perspectives from
happily-ever-after tales of foster care adoption to the yo-yo process of
reunification. One foster mom shares how the heart break of letting
go of one foster sons led to the creation of a larger extended family
that included her former foster son. Another shares the frustrating
story of successfully reunifying her foster child with his birth parents
only to have him return to her after the birth parents make drastic
mistakes and then the child moved out-of-state into a relative placement. One author writes: “Foster parents often hear, ‘I don’t know
how you do it.’ What I have learned is that foster care is hard. It is an
unbelievable roller coaster of events and emotions that is completely
unpredictable. It breaks our hearts and makes us grow. We live our
lives never really being able to know what will happen next. Even
when it seems the story has been written, and the chapter closed,
we have been taught to expect the unexpected. We have also learned
that it is completely worth it. We can confidently say our lives are better for having known David, having known his parents, and having
walked this road.”
“Welcome to the Roller Coaster” weaves together the stories of happiness, sadness, heartbreak, exultation and everything in between.
The stories provide a real glimpse into the realities of fostering, both
the good and the bad. “Welcome to the Roller Coaster” does not sugar
coat the realities of fostering. This book serves as an eye-opening
and honest perspective of what foster parents experience and what
it takes to give your heart to children without ever knowing what the
outcome will be. “Welcome to the Roller Coaster” is a great read that
all prospective foster parents should read through before starting the
foster parenting journey. If during the training process, stories similar to these were shared, we might have more prepared foster parents
ready to tackle the roller coaster called foster care.
— Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel

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The study described in this book was undertaken in order to provide
information about what helps to make adolescent foster placements
succeed. The aim was to discover how far foster carers’ parenting
strategies and the supports they receive relate to the outcomes of
placements for adolescents and what other factors within the placed
child or the foster family relate to the stability and effectiveness of
placements. Key findings identify a number of ways in which the
chances of placement success can be increased. Some of these involve
decisions that are taken before a placement is made. The research
showed that practitioners should avoid making placements when the
foster carers are reluctant to take a young person or have expressed a
general preference for an adolescent of the opposite sex. The authors
also identified that much more attention is needed when giving the
foster carers full and honest information about the young person
who is to be placed. A strong finding in this study was that when the
foster young person had a negative impact on the other children in
the foster family, the placement was more likely to disrupt.
“Fostering Adolescents” is a thorough source of recommendations for
social workers, policymakers and carers. This book will be invaluable
to anyone involved in the fields of child welfare and child protection.
— Reviewed by Richard Fischer

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Look no further than the pages
ges
of Fostering Familiess
TODAY. Written for the
foster and adoptive parent
community, by experienced
foster and adoptive parents,
along with professionals in
the fields of child welfare,
medicine, legal, mental
health and education.
Do you know the difference between private
domestic adoption and adoption
tion from the
U.S. foster care system? The differences may surprise you! Domestic
adoption in the U.S. has frequently been the subject of incorrect information and sensationalized media responses. You now have a forum to
set the re
record straight. Fostering
Families TODAY is your guide
to the isissues and answers that
contribute
contrib to the nurturing
well-being of our most
and w
vulnerable children.
vulne

BY KIM PHAGAN-HANSEL AND RICHARD FISCHER

Most caregivers will agree
that adolescents are the most
difficult group to foster and
therefore have high rates of
placement breakdown. Elaine
Farmer and her colleagues
examined what helps to make
their placements work. Key
issues for this age group
are explored, including peer relationships, sexual health and
relationships, the impact of the adolescent on the foster family
and balancing their need for safety and autonomy. Based upon a
government commissioned research and part of the Supporting
Parents Initiative, this book addresses each stage of the care
process, from placement selection to leaving foster care. The authors
consider which kinds of professional support at which stages make a
difference, the foster carer parenting skills that are critical and how
foster carers can draw on professional support to manage adolescents
behavior, maintain their educational attainments and negotiate
ongoing contact with their birth parents.

Considering foster parenting or adoption from foster care? Confused by all
the media hype surrounding adoption
from the U.S. foster care system? Who
qualifies? What can you expect? Where
can you get honest answers to your
domestic adoption questions?

column: must reads

FOSTERING ADOLESCENTS
By Elaine farmer, Sue Moyers
and Jo Lipscombe
Jessica Kingsley Publishers,
2004, ISBN: 1-84310-227-7,
256 pages, $39.95 paperback

Open the door to communiOpe
cation and understanding
cat
by sharing our fostering experiences with
in
FFostering Families TODAY.

Subscribe today!

1-888-924-6736
1-888-9
24-6736
www.fosteringfamiliestoday.com

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hen foster parents are asked what
is the most rewarding aspect
of being a foster parent, most
reflect on the joy and love that a child brings
into the home and the privilege of making
a tangible difference in the life of a child.
When asked what is the most difficult part
of being a foster parent, many foster parents will focus on their seeming inability to
advocate to the “systems” on behalf of their
foster child. Being an advocate for children
in care is critical to navigating the systems
that can make or break a child’s chance for
a forever home and the ability to access the
tools needed to become a productive adult.
Becoming an effective advocate for court
hearings, school issues and medical meetings is a key factor in securing services for
your foster child. There are several proactive
things that a foster parent can do to be an
advocate for a foster child.

BY JUNE BOND, BA, M.ED.

feature

Winning
W

When preparing for a court hearing or
assisting to prepare the case manager for a
court hearing with written documentation
is helpful. As one former foster parent joked,
“Ye who died with the most documents
WINS!”
COURT AND CASE
PLANNING ADVOCACY
1. Keep a daily written journal about your
foster child. Before heading to bed each
night, record three to five good and bad
events that have happened that day.
Specific details of the child’s behaviors
are valuable in making decisions about
the child’s future placement and can be a
hidden clue to past abuses. Note recurring
issues such as behaviors after family visits,
night terrors, food hoarding and spoiling. Be careful about noting information
that a child may reveal about a former
foster parent or other caregiver that may
lend credence to abuse issues. While your
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EDUCATIONAL ADVOCACY
Children who come into care that are school
age must have an advocate in the school.

2. Attend all conferences and hearings. Case
plans can take new directions in conferences and YOU MUST BE THE VOICE OF
YOUR FOSTER CHILD in these conferences. As the foster parent, you should be
notified of conferences and hearings that
pertain to the overall plan for your child.

1. Talk with your foster child’s teacher and
the school guidance counselor about the
child’s educational needs and behavioral
challenges. Prepare them to anticipate
triggers that may affect the child’s behaviors that are related to loss and grief
issues.

3. Be aware of your rights as a foster parent.
If you are not aware of your rights as a
foster parent to disagree with the plan for
care, you cannot properly advocate for
your foster child. Some states allow for
foster parent intervention as early as four
to six months after the child is placed in
your home. While some review boards
make it an obligation to tell foster parents
about their rights, including the right to
secure outside private legal counsel, many
review boards do not address this issue.

2. Give the teachers and guidance counselors
reading material that outline some of the
issues that are inherent in many children
who have been removed from their home
due to abuse and neglect. Do not assume
that the teacher is familiar with the issues
of loss and grief that follow the removal
from the family home.
3. Be proactive about timely educational
testing and securing added services that
make a difference in the success of your
foster child. In today’s world, the child’s
advocate must be a moving force to access
the educational services that the child
needs to be successful.

4. Secure outside private legal counsel when
you need one. You can increase the likelihood that your voice is heard in court
with your own attorney. If you want to
pursue adoption with your foster child,
securing your own attorney is critical. An
important fact to note is that the rights of
the birth parents do not have to be terminated in order for you, as a foster parent,
to secure legal counsel.

MEDICAL AND MENTAL
HEALTH ADVOCACY
Breaking through the medical and mental
health system can be difficult. Many times
a child will come into the foster care system
without a history of medical care and proper
immunizations.

5. Work closely with your foster child’s GAL
or CASA. More than likely, you have the
opportunity to interact with the GAL on
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1. Finding the RIGHT doctor and mental
health care professional is the key in getting the treatment and services that are
needed. Ask other foster parents who
they have used and which doctor and
mental health professional they feel advocates for their foster child. You may need
to look at finding a different health care
setting for your foster child than the one
that you use. Ease and convenience may
not be the best practice if your current
medical team does not seem to have the
experience and practical knowledge of
the special needs that a foster child may
have.

BY JUNE BOND, BA, M.ED.

a monthly basis. Use your written journal
to help the GAL document issues to the
court. Make certain that you voice your
concerns and thoughts to the child’s
CASA/GAL. The GAL is a neutral party
that has legal party status in court and
can make some of your concerns have a
louder voice in court.

foster child may no longer have contact
with that person, another child may be
suffering abuse that you can shed light
about. Use your written journal to assist
the case manager to make future plans for
your foster child. Also note that keeping a
written journal can be tangible evidence
in court of your own bonding with your
foster child.

feature

Plays for the Advocacy Game

2. Do not be afraid to bring materials to
educate your medical team on the special
health care needs that are common to
foster children. Also make certain that
your health care specialist has some
social history in the file on why the child
came into care. The information can help
guide the medical team in a more comprehensive treatment approach.
3. Make certain that the medical file follows
the child when the child is moved, so
continuity of care is in effect. If you know
in advance that the child is being moved
to another home, make certain that a
month’s supply of medication goes with
the child.
4. If you are having difficulty in securing
appointments for counseling referrals or
other medical referrals, ask your medical care provider to make the call. It is
amazing how fast an appointment can be
made when a doctor’s office calls, rather
than a patient.
ADVOCATING GLOBALLY
FOR ALL FOSTER CHILDREN
Recruiting more GALs, CASAs and foster

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BY JUNE BOND, BA, M.ED.

parents is a critical key in helping the growing number of children who enter the foster
care system each year.

2. Put a GAL and foster parent application
in the retirement packets of teachers. Who
knows when September comes around,
the retiree may be tired of sand between
their toes and are ready to start a new
path to helping a child outside the classroom.

Unfortunately, there are not enough GALs,
CASAs and foster parents for every child.
As the chairman of the Foster Care Review
Board in my county, I always thanked each
Guardian Ad Litem, CASA and foster parent
for their service and to be a “walking, talking mantra for foster children, to make sure
that every child has a voice through caring
adults.” As a foster parent and proactive
child advocate, what can you do to recruit
wonderful people like yourself?

3. Speak to local retirement communities
about the need for GALs and foster parents.
4. Talk to the area law schools and professional schools of social work to see if the
GAL volunteer program satisfies the community volunteer requirement.

1. Ask your television station for the same
amount of air time for the foster children
that are donated to animal rescue efforts.
You may be shocked that an abused
dog garners more air time and ink than
abused and neglected children. Showcase
how the average person can help through
the GAL program.

5. Volunteer to speak at churches and civic
groups about the need for GALs, CASAs
and foster parents.
Each year thousands of children come into
foster care, reaching out their hands and
hearts to anyone who can or will offer to

help them. Most of these children will return
home. But all of them will remember the
time of their childhood that was spent in
foster care.
Let each of us be the effective hands that
reach out with kindness, activism and advocacy. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: June Bond, BA,
M.Ed., earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Converse College. She
has published more than 40 articles that
relate to adoption, education and family
issues and speaks nationwide on adoptionrelated issues. She is the 2006 Congressional
Angel of Adoption recipient. She serves as a
member of the Spartanburg County Foster
Care Review Board. Bond is currently the
executive director of Adoption Advocacy of
South Carolina. Bond has been a certified
adoption investigator for more than 26 years.

[ kids in waiting ]
Tanisha, 18, is the oldest of the sibling group and is a responsible young lady. She
likes to sing, dance, experiment with hair and she likes basketball and running
track. She has a desire of becoming a beautician and a surgeon. Family means a
lot to her and she loves spending time with her siblings.
LaDerrick, 16, is an intelligent young man who loves his sisters dearly and is protective of them. LaDerrick is an all around sports guy as he likes football, basketball, soccer and baseball. He is a good listener and is helpful. He also likes to be listened to, which is one of his listed characteristics
for adoptive parent(s). LaDerrick has high hopes for his future and desires to go to college to be an occupational therapist and go into
the Coastguard. LaDerrick worries about he and his siblings’ futures not knowing where the next move will be. It means a lot to him
for them to have a stable, permanent home together.
Quindericca, 15, is assertive and expresses herself well. Quinn is a talker but appreciates being listened to. Quinn has a clear understanding of what adoption means, but she does not think an adoptive home will be sought. She wants nothing more than to be with
her siblings which she states “is all I have.” Quinn desires a parent(s) who will be willing to provide a stable, caring and nurturing
environment for her and her siblings.
They desire a family who will accept them as a package deal. They want a family to show them that despite life changing events and
their past behaviors they will be loved regardless. They request no pets because Quinn is afraid of dogs and dislikes cats. For more
information, visit www.HeartGalleryAlabama.com or call 205-445-1293.

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an animal’s safety, pain and life. Additionally, the
psychological process of re-enactment can be
a dynamic in cruelty to animals. For example,
I once consulted in regard to a youth, who at a
young age, was forced to be sexual with dogs.
Past the point of her removal from her home
where she was being sexually abused, she
continued to display this behavior with dogs.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP FOSTER
CHILDREN WHO ARE CRUEL TO ANIMALS?
Unfortunately, intentional childhood cruelty to
animals can be linked to a lack of conscience
development. It is essential that youth who
display intentional cruelty to animals receive
psychological assessment and treatment. A
comprehensive treatment model should include:

WHY WOULD A FOSTER
CHILD BE CRUEL TO ANIMALS?
We know that a common reason that children
are in foster care is because of child abuse and
neglect. The feelings of being abused physically,
sexually or neglected can cause a mixture of
complex hurt and angry feelings in the child
that has been victimized. These feelings often
become overwhelming for the child and can be
acted-out through a combination of internalized
and externalized behavior. As a result, a child
who has been abused and is angry might
displace anger onto a vulnerable animal. The
cruelty can become a way to release internalized
aggression that the child cannot express in
appropriate ways. There might also be an
emotional gratification for the child in being
able to be in complete control and dominance of

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• Establishing clear boundaries for the child’s
contact with animals. Adult supervision is
recommended whenever the child has contact
with animals. In extreme cases, animals may
need to be removed to a setting where the
child does not have access to them.
• Within the limit of confidentiality, information
should be provided to other settings where the
child might have contact with animals such as
day care, relative’s homes and other places.
• Observed, appropriate contact with animals
should be positively reinforced.
• If the youth is a victim of abuse and/or neglect,
the child should be involved in therapy that
helps the youth heal from these experiences.

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• Therapy that is focused on teaching skills for
effective anger recognition and expression is
an important component.
• A therapy component that focuses on empathy
development is recommended.
• Parental consultation and/or involvement in
the child’s therapy is essential.

B Y C H A R L E Y J O Y C E , M S W, L I C S W

INNOCENT OR PROBLEMATIC?
childhood behavior that deserves
attention from parents, and others
involved in the care of children, is
childhood cruelty to animals. The initial step in
assessing the seriousness of a child’s strikingout toward animals begins by reviewing the
intent, frequency and pattern of the child’s
behavior. At times, children will innocently
mistreat an animal. As an example, a young
child may pull a cat’s tail not understanding that
it is hurtful to the cat. In this innocent example,
the cat would generally react to the child,
resulting in the child becoming startled and
also causing the child to feel a sense of regret
for hurting the cat. Ideally, a parent would also
explain to the child that this is hurtful to the
cat, reinforcing that animals need to be treated
with care. Generally, if the mistreatment was an
innocent act by the child, the type of behavior
described in the example will extinguish as
a result of the child learning from the cat’s
response, coupled with parental input and their
own internal emotional response. Unfortunately
if a child consistently hurts animals, seeks
animals to hurt, and does not respond to
parental interventions, a problem could exist.

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Foster Children and Cruelty of Animals

In closing, I want to return to the scenario of the
youth I mentioned earlier who would become
sexual with dogs. That youth experienced
a comprehensive treatment approach such
as described above. She responded well to
treatment and responded extremely well to
the foster family’s care and structure. When I
discontinued my involvement, her sexualized
behavior with dogs had discontinued and the
foster family that she had been placed with was
considering adoption on her behalf. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charley Joyce, MSW,
LICSW, is on the faculty of FosterParentCollege.
com and is the co-author of the book,“Behavior
with a Purpose: Thoughtful Solutions to
Common Problems of Adoptive, Foster and
Kinship Youth.” For more information, visit
www.charleyjoyce.com. Excerpts taken from
“Behavior with a Purpose: Thoughtful Solutions
to Common Problems of Adoptive, Foster and
Kinship Youth,” by Charley Joyce, LICSW, and
Richard Delaney, Ph.D. Cannot be reproduced
without permission.

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Gracie with Cooper just after he came to live with the family.

Reunification

Through
Different
Eyes!
R

eunification, it’s a noun, it’s an act of
coming together, a uniting, a union or a
homecoming.

B Y B E T S Y D U K AT Z

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The Dukatz children include, from left, 18-year-old Sam, 6-year-old Lucy,
14-year-old Gracie and 4-year-old Cooper.

write about reunification, a process that is
the most challenging event in a foster family’s
life. It has taken a little time to heal and
process through but I think I have found the
message.

On November 9,1989 the Berlin Wall fell
and an unprecedented historical process,
the end of division and the unity of East
and West Germany took place. We turn on
the TV and see heartwarming stories about
people searching and finding long lost family
members.

“Look through different eyes!”
When you change the way you look at things,
the things you look at change. Maybe the plan
here all along was an opportunity, for a mom
to grow up, heal, do the right thing and get
her son back. It wasn’t about adopting Lucy’s
brother or expanding our family. It may have
been a chance for redemption on the part of
a mom who had already lost a child to the
system.

Yet to a foster parent, reunification is not
the tearing down of a wall or the happy
celebratory reunion after years of searching.
It is a difficult day that doesn’t feel much like
a celebration at all.
It is the reason so many people tell you that
they could never foster . . . “I just could not
give them back.”
This past November our family went through
the reunification process. Unlike all the times
before, on this day, the child leaving was the
biological brother of our adopted daughter.
We had been a family for one-and-a-half
years and now it was time to say goodbye.
Since that day, I have wanted to find a way to
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with photos of those events and our hearts
will hold on to the memories forever!
We realize and accept a fundamental truth
that reunification can contribute positively
to our life or we can allow it to contaminate
it negatively. As we move forward, we hold
tightly to the positive. We will not passively
allow the world to assign us the roles of
“victims” who ask, “Why did we only get a
year-and-a-half?” “Why couldn’t we adopt
him?” or “Why did we have to go through this
pain?”

You ultimately have to be OK with what you
cannot change, because there is still so much
you can change. Our family chooses to look
at this last year-and-a-half as an amazing
blessing that allowed Lucy to know and love
her brother.

Instead, in the words of John Wesley, “Do all
the good you can. By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can. In all the places you
can. To all the people you can. As long as
ever you can.” The message is simple, “DO!
Not ‘do’ if you can get the outcome you want.
Not ‘do’ if it’s easy or pain-free.” To me that
quote encompasses all that fostering and
reunification is about. For me that is what my
eyes will remain focused on.

We are thankful to have been able to celebrate
a first and second birthday together, to break
bread at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and
many family celebrations. Our home is filled

Difficult events happen throughout our
entire lives. The team you didn’t make, the
accident that happened, the job you lost or
the child that left. Everything shapes us and

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...

The Dukatz family, includes, from left, 18-year-old Sam, Gene and Betsy, 6-year-old
Lucy, 4-year-old Cooper and 14-year-old Gracie.

if we choose, makes us stronger and wiser
because of it. I will not take ownership of
the difficult. I cannot control all the difficult
events but I can control how I react, how I see
them and how I move forward after them! ❁

old Gracie, 6-year-old Lucy
and 4-year-old Cooper.
Throughout the years
Dukatz has spoken as an
ambassador for Children’s
Celebrating Easter in 2014 are Lucy and Cooper.
Hospital Community
Services in Milwaukee
and Dukatz currently writes blogs for their
mentoring program for teenagers aging out
KidHero website. Dukatz also serves on
of the system and currently does the training
the Foster Parent Advisory Council for
seminars for the youth coaches. Dukatz also
Children’s Hospital Community Services.
works full-time as a sixth grade teacher. She
This past year Dukatz helped to pilot a youth has been teaching for 24 years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy DuKatz’s
family has been fostering for more than
seven years. The couple has been blessed
to love 15 children and adopt two. Her
children include 18-year-old Sam, 14-year-

[ kids in waiting ]
Eric, 17, has a great personality. He is outgoing and talkative. He is always smiling and playful. He asks a lot of questions about things that he is interested in. He makes A’s and B’s in
school and occasionally needs help with homework, reading, math and social studies. He likes
to draw, play video games, and enjoys playing football and basketball in the neighborhood.
Alabama is his favorite football team. He says that he wants a family to know that he is kind
and nice to be around.
For more information, visit www.HeartGalleryAlabama.com or call 205-445-1293.

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BY BILL SUTLEY

Managing Conflict in the Home
Part II: Understanding Emotions and Choosing Behaviors

L

tive reaction. Learn to respond, not react, to
a situation.

earning to understand the “why”
behind a conflict is key to maintaining
peace and control in a household. In
Part 1 of this series, general tips were provided
for identifying the driving factors that lead to
conflict, such as differing values and fears. This
article is designed to provide practical steps for
avoiding dinnertime drama and public meltdowns by building a pre-emptory relationship
of trust and understanding.

Consider this scenario. Gwen arrives home
after a long day of work to find her teenage
son, Sam, has made a mess of the house.
Dirty dishes litter the counter, there’s a hole
punched through the wall and clothes are
strewn everywhere. Sam ignores Gwen’s
entrance and continues playing video
games; he seems disinterested in her and
the effort she is making to provide a safe
and comfortable home for him.

Managing conflict has much more to do with
how the parent leads and responds than with
the child’s behavior. The following are five ways
parents can effectively, compassionately manage conflict in the home.
1. HOW

At this point, Gwen has two choices: engage
with the wizard brain or the lizard brain.
She can respond calmly or allow her anxiety
and anger to get the better of her. If Gwen
proceeds to raise her voice, stomp over,
grab the controller out of Sam’s hand and
say, “I’ve worked all day and you don’t even
care!” any chance Gwen has of resolving the
conflict calmly is lost.

YOU ENGAGE DETERMINES

HOW YOUR CHILD WILL RESPOND.

Over time, children will learn to mirror the
behavior of their parent. Nowhere is this
more prevalent than in times of conflict.
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Instead, Gwen must learn to stop, step out of
the situation momentarily and make decisions that are not based on emotion — she
must use her wizard brain. First, she must
seek to understand before pointing fingers.
She can still address the situation with Sam
by asking him why he chose to do what he did
and explain why she is frustrated, utilizing the
“I” statements covered in Part 1 of this series.
She can then lay out choices for Sam and
communicate if there will be consequences
based on Sam’s behavior.
2. ANALYZE BEHAVIORS AND BELIEFS
It is easy to imagine boiling over, especially
if Gwen’s experience occurs on a daily basis.
But it is critical to maintain emotional control.
In order to remain calm in conflict, parents
must do the hard work of assessing their own
behaviors and beliefs before, during and after
the conflict. Why? Because each parent must
analyze why they are allowing a child to drive
the conflict before they can lead the situation.

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Regardless of a child’s behavior, a parent
must remain calm and consistent. Yelling
back will not only escalate a conflict, it will
guarantee more explosive clashes in the
future. When a child begins to recognize
that pitching a fit will not incite a parent to
lose control and that good behavior leads to
greater privileges, that family will be on the
way to managing conflict in the home.

3. AFFIRM YOUR EMOTIONS
AND CHOOSE YOUR BEHAVIORS
As a parent of a child with FASD or RAD, it
is normal to struggle with anger, frustration,
doubt and rejection on a regular basis; the
path to establishing better boundaries and
communication patterns is challenging and
often painful. It is important for parents to
be honest with themselves first in addressing
subjective emotions. They must next develop
an objective approach.

4. REDIRECT BEHAVIOR
BY OFFERING OPTIONS
One of the most practical tools for managing conflict is for parents to offer their child
options when conflict crops up. This isn’t
a new method but it has proven extremely
effective for children with FASD and RAD.

Once a parent has assessed what they are
feeling, they can then choose how to proceed.
Often, it is easy to shift blame to the child —
“They are making me crazy!” or “I just can’t
do this anymore,” but those are not thoughts
that will breathe life into the relationship.

The strategy is for parents to offer options
they find perfectly acceptable, regardless
of what the child chooses. It works because
it eliminates the struggle and gives the
child the power of “choice” in a controlled
scenario. This method also helps change up
the situation and forces the child to think
instead of simply resisting. They now have a
choice to make!

Instead, the first behavior a parent must
choose is to speak words of encouragement
and logical thought to themselves — “This
is not personal, even though it feels that way
right now” or “Firm, loving consistency will
lead to progress.”

Sometimes, a child will refuse the options
offered or choose not to choose. At that
point, a parent must calmly explain that the
child can either pick one of the options or
that there is a third choice, which is a consequence. If necessary, the consequence must
be enforced immediately with kindness and
calmness.

Next comes the opportunity to choose
verbal and physical behaviors, being particularly aware of body posture. Pointing,
arms crossed, hands on hips or scowling

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BY BILL SUTLEY

For a parent, taking time to think things
through logically and assess emotions is critical, even in the midst of a crisis. The parent
must recognize the limitations of a child
with FASD or RAD and then prepare an environment for response instead of reaction.

5. DECIDE ON OPTIONS
OUTSIDE THE CONFLICT
Making the options offered in a conflict more
effective requires strategic thinking. Parents
should find a time when their child is calm
and determine possible options before a crisis
occurs. This is also an opportunity to ask children what helps them feel calm when they are
upset — maybe it is coloring, playing in the
yard or listening to a certain song.

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all indicate to a child that there’s a battle to
be fought. The child will respond in battle
mode. Instead, the parent must consciously
take a breath and relax the body posture.
While doing this, the parent must think
about what to say and how it can be presented in a constructive way. One possible
response might be, “I am so sorry you’ve
chosen this because now you have to spend
time in your room and I know you don’t
enjoy that. I hope you can calm down quickly so you can come back out and play.”

For Gwen, this means recognizing that her
son, Sam has FASD and is not capable of
expressing or even feeling the emotions that
would be expressed as appreciation, either
verbally or behaviorally. She must choose to
resist feelings of resentment and rejection
in order to stabilize her own behavior. If she
carries these feelings into a conflict, she will
be unstable and volatile. If she is unstable,
Sam will react in kind, and a negative, downward spiral of emotion will ensue.

Parents can then strategize to include the
child’s suggestions into the options if there
is an argument. This simple act both builds
trust in the relationship and helps identify
what the child values. It is a treasured insight
into how to control and best diffuse a crisis.
When executed consistently and calmly, these
five methods can be instrumental in managing conflict by establishing healthy communication. While not fully exhaustive, these methods are central to developing trust with a child
who has FASD or RAD. And trust, coupled
with hope, can be a bridge of encouragement
and healing for hurting families. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Sutley is the
managing director of The Ranch for Kids, an
innovative therapy program based in Eureka,
Montana that serves adopted children with
attachment disorders such as Fetal Alcohol
Spectrum Disorder and Reactive Attachment
Disorder. In this role, Sutley oversees all
operations, staff and treatment at the ranch.
He also plays an integral role in the program’s
education curriculum, teaching financial
literacy and a morals and manners course for
program participants. Prior to his work with
The Ranch for Kids, Sutley worked as an electrical engineer for six years. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of
Wyoming and is certified as a Mandt System
Instructor. Sutley has also benefited from personal experience of having five adopted siblings, three of whom are from Russia. Sutley
lives at The Ranch for Kids with his wife,
Elena, where they enjoy time with family.

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B Y M A R K C O E N , L C S W, C A M H S

The Expendables
T

his past week I had a young foster client on the verge of disruption due to
his behavior, and though the parents
took great care not to disclose that he and
his sister were moving, he had that “foster
kid sixth sense” that something was up. A
week before his disruption, his foster father
emailed me and wrote:

caseworker that they were looking to adopt;
however, they also stated that they were not
equipped to handle high level needs children. They further specified that they didn’t
have the skills to deal with highly sexualized,
aggressive children — and certainly none
who have killed animals in the past. The
caseworker assured them that these kids
would be a perfect fit, and didn’t inform
them completely of the reality of their
behaviors.

“After a long week in which my son was
openly mocking and disrespectful, throwing tantrums and chewing up furniture,
we braved leaving the house and went to a
movie. At the wishing well in the mall, I gave
him a penny to throw. He said his wish was
for new parents. Then he grinned at us ear to
ear. Not sure if he wanted to hear us reassure
him, if he was being sincere, or if it was an
attempt to torment us.”

The fit was in actuality far from perfect,
and all of the behaviors the couple specified
appeared about a month into the placement. Ultimately when I entered the picture
it was clear that this couple was over their
heads and the children needed a higher level
of care. The couple was burned out, post
traumatic, felt like failures and depressed
because they were blindsided and had no
idea how to parent such “system savvy” kids.
And so, after six months of living with a stable and loving family, the kids are once again

The siblings had been placed in a home
six months prior by the state after being
moved countless times. The couple who took
them in was clear when speaking with their
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on their journey toward finding permanency
in their lives. But the damage of one more
failed placement was done.
The saddest part of this story is that it could
have been avoided if the parents had been
prepared. If families are trained about attachment issues, taught about what to expect from
children who have been through the system,
and the reality of raising a child with deep
emotional damage and trust issues, countless
moves could probably be avoided. The majority of clients who have come into my office in
bewilderment over their children’s behaviors,
stating that nobody told them “life would be
like this.” They often stumble on my services
through a lot of research and frustration that
there is little help out there.
Unfortunately, in the business of fostering
and adopting from private or state agencies,
children’s behaviors are often sugar coated for
fear of foster/adoptive parents running for the
hills. I remember sitting in my pre-adoptive

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A foster child who testified in the suit commented then, “Growing up, I just wanted to go home, and I just kept moving
around. It was really hard, I had different
religions, different schools, different friends,
different parents, different rules — different everything.”

A foster child who testified in the suit commented then, “Growing up, I just wanted to go
home, and I just kept moving around. It was
really hard, I had different religions, different
schools, different friends, different parents,
different rules — different everything. There
are kids out there today going through the
same thing.” Her foster parents usually didn’t
know she had been abused and were ill-prepared to handle her problems, she said. Her
learning disabilities weren’t discovered until
she was 15, and her attachment disorder was
diagnosed even later. “I had some behavioral
problems, and they’d say, ‘Oh, this child is
disturbed.’ Instead of addressing them, they’d
just kick me out of the home.”

three hours, as another couple is looking to
adopt the child. Tired, out of sorts and feeling
pressured, they adopt the child and fly home
— only to discover eventually that the child
has severe mental health/emotional and often
organic issues like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Disorder.
Thankfully in this country we are more
ethical in our adoption process, but I would
argue that there is room for great improvement. It’s not enough to place a child into a
home and expect it to work without a huge
amount of support, disclosure of behaviors,
proper screening of parents and thorough
preparation. The fallout of not doing this can
be seen in the many failed foster placements,
disrupted adoptions or even the large number
of adopted children in residential settings.
Even in the best of circumstances, raising

The extreme version of misrepresentation
often happens in Russian adoptions. Many
clients I have who adopted from Russia retell
virtually the exact story. They flew over to

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Coen, LCSW,
CAMHS, is a founder of the Attachment and
Trauma Specialists, an internationally recognized agency specializing in the treatment of
youth and adults with attachment and trauma
related issues. Coen has worked with foster,
adopted and at-risk youth for more than 22

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B Y M A R K C O E N , L C S W, C A M H S

In 2004, a class action lawsuit filed six years
earlier was won against the Washington
Department of Children and Family Services
by a large group of foster parents. The lawsuit
began with the belief that children deserve
better than a pinball-type existence, which
described a system that bounced foster children from home to home. The class action
sought systemic changes, not monetary damages. The lawsuit accused the state of violating
foster children’s constitutional rights to safe
and stable homes.

these children is a difficult task; let alone ones
who have had multiple placements and have
come to expect disruption. We must change
our approach and educate foster and adoptive
families to minimize multiple placements for
children and reduce their “expendability.” ❁

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Russia to meet their potential child in an
orphanage. A well-behaved and charismatic
child is brought out, and the director comments that the child is the “star” of the
orphanage. The parents agree to the adoption
and plans are made to come back in a month
to pick up their child. During that time they
are encouraged to write and send pictures of
themselves to the child. When they return in
a month however, the director of the orphanage tells the parents that the child became
sick and is not adoptable, but there’s another
child who would be perfect for them. At that
point, another child is brought out and the
director says the parents must decide within

training classes in a state of euphoria thinking
that the only thing my son really needed was a
loving home. The classes, literature and media
were designed to tug at our heart strings and
reinforced the romantic idea of fulfilling the
dream of a permanent home. There was little
mention of the severe behaviors one might
encounter when said child is actually in your
home, let alone how to handle such a situation. Although many agencies have greatly
improved their education of parents since
then and have even added attachment training, things are still far from where they need
to be.

years; much of this time involved working
with severely neglected and abused children
in various group homes and residential facilities. Coen has also worked for the Washington
State Department of Children and Family
Services as a Child Protective Services and
Child Welfare Services social worker. Coen
currently serves on multiple boards and
teams addressing child welfare issues, including a Child Protection Team through the
Department of Children and Family Services
and various Wraparound teams. He has
earned a master’s degree from the University
of Washington, Seattle, with a specialization
degree in child and adolescent mental health.
Coen and his wife Monica are adoptive parents of a child from the foster care system
who is now 21, and fully appreciate the difficulties and rewards of raising a child from an
unstable background.

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Also Known as, “Share the News”

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he more I work in the area of
foster care, the more I am strongly
optimistic and pessimistic. What?
How can this be? I often ask myself that same
question.

learning how their healthy brain development
was interrupted early on, and needs a lot of
new training and “catch-up” before behaviors
can start looking healthier.
And there is a lot of great new information
about how hard it is to learn self-control
when you weren’t taught self-control as a
young child. Well, I know how hard selfcontrol is for me when I really, really want
that cookie — then to think of what it must
be like if my brain didn’t even have the
chance to learn it at all when other kids were
learning, practicing and being supported by
loving parents.

OPTIMISM IS STRONG
More and more I see child care workers,
mental health professionals, school personnel
and YOU, foster families, learning about your
child.

BY LARK ESHLEMAN, PH.D.

column: fostering attachment

Supporting the Child Through
Integrated Team Support

We are all learning why children who have
rocky starts and traumatic beginnings
OFTEN (of course, not always) have trouble
controlling behavior, regulating moods, and
have problems with sensory integration.
We’re “getting it” that they so often need extra
help in school, but push away help at home,
why it seems so hard for them to learn how
to change behavior, even though they don’t
like the consequences of doing it “wrong,” and
how it is that when they lash out at those who
are trying the hardest to help them, what’s
really happening is that they are acting out
of fear — that they aren’t good enough, that
they will fail so why should they try, that no
matter how many times you tell them that
things will be all right, they cannot believe it.

So, knowing and seeing that we are learning
all of this gives me great hope and a full
heart!
PESSIMISM GETS ME DOWN
But, now for the “bad” part.
We are learning, we know more than ever, we
have more services available than any time in
the past.
But, we are not yet working together to
support your child in a way that uses this
new knowledge and these better services, on
behalf of your child and you!

We’re starting to learn — and accept — that
change for them takes SO MUCH MORE
time and SO MANY MORE repeats than for
most kids. As frustrating as it is, we’re finally
learning.

Here’s an Example:
I recently was asked to provide attachment
consultation for a child (I’ll call her Nina)
in a group foster home (there were 10 girls
and usually three staff members at the home
at all times). Nina was creating all kinds of
problems with the other girls, and the poor
staff was up to their necks in frustration and
had run out of consequences to try, although

We are finally beginning to figure out why
children and teens in foster care so often end
up making poor choices, even when we know
that they “know better.” Because, really, they
have little choice in the matter, since we are
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none of which made any difference to this
14-year-old girl, anyway.
At school Nina was seen as “spacing out” a lot,
and hardly ever got her work done unless she
was in a one-to-one situation with a resource
room teacher.
She was seeing an occupational therapist
at school, and she and Nina worked on
hand-writing, which was atrocious. But
the occupational therapist had never seen
the girl’s history, nor had she had much
interaction with the girl’s teachers. When
the occupational therapist asked Nina to
practice writing a story, which happened to
be about families, Nina threw her pen at the
occupational therapist. Nina got in trouble,
and sessions stopped.
The staff at Nina’s group foster home went to
parent-teacher meetings, but these meetings
focused on Nina’s progress (or lack of
progress, really), in school, not on what might
be causing the problems she was having.
Nina’s psychotherapist did not include staff
in on sessions, and communication between
therapist and foster home staff was minimal,
mainly consisting of staff telling the therapist
about bad behaviors that had happened that
week. Staff wanted the therapist to address
these behaviors and “make her stop.” The
therapist was hearing about how “awful”
the staff at the group foster home and her
teachers were to Nina. The therapist never
got to work with Nina about the real, root
problems that were creating some of her
negative behaviors because she felt so sorry
for Nina, listening to Nina’s story about
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things in the resource room were quiet and
there wasn’t much commotion.
Once the reporting had come to this point,
the occupational therapist said (1) Nina
scared her by throwing things and she didn’t
know why, but that now, hearing the other
professionals she had some ideas. Maybe
Nina threw the pencil because she couldn’t
handle the emotional upset of talking about
families to a professional who didn’t know
or understand Nina’s own experiences. And
(2) Nina did her best handwriting when she
was alone with the occupational therapist
rather than being in a small group. Now
the occupational therapist had the idea that
perhaps Nina had a sensory processing
disorder and too much noise or movement
around her sent her into an unstable place,
where she couldn’t be in charge of her
behavior.

This is a depressingly sad picture. No adult
on Nina’s team was working on helping the
other members of the team to do what was
necessary for Nina’s success.
• Each member of Nina’s team needed to
share what they knew about what made
Nina do what she did (space out, throw
pencils, act out at home, fall farther behind
in school work).
• And each member of Nina’s team needed
to share what they knew was successful —
what worked.

Hmmm, people were beginning to look at
each other with amazement on their faces!

Instead, each participant was asked to share
(1) at least one thing they saw about Nina
that was troubling to them, and (2) one thing
they knew worked with Nina to help her.

Then the psychotherapist, who had been
quiet to that point, said (1) she worried that
Nina always had bad things to say about
the staff and her teachers, but now that she
was talking with them and listening to them
all, she was wondering if Nina told “stories”
about them all so that she wouldn’t have to
talk about the deep-down hurts and fears
that she had been carrying around with her
since she was a little baby.

The group home staff said that (1) Nina
would put her hands over her ears and
scream when the girls at the home had “free
time,” and (2) she often was helpful to other
girls when she could work individually with
them to help them clean their room or finish
a project.

I was interested to hear what the therapist
was going to report as (2) one thing that they
knew worked with Nina to help her. “Well,”
said the therapist who had been believing
many untrue things that Nina had been
telling her, and who did not communicate
with staff or teachers to find out what was
really going on, “this young lady is strong and
smart, and she surely knows how to tell a
good story, even if it’s not true. Maybe we can
use that to help us get to the real feelings and
thoughts she has about her own life, starting
from way back when she was a baby.”

The homeroom teacher said (1) she noticed
Nina acted out more when it was time to
change classes, but (2) that Nina really liked
going to the resource room and was more in
control when it was time to go there.
The resource room teacher said (1) Nina
was upset when any reading or writing
assignments had to do with family; Nina told
her that those stories or assignments always
made her sad and feel different, but (2) Nina
could always get more work done when

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I was excited when the occupational therapist
started talking about providing a sensory
assessment, which could then offer more
practical, on-the-spot and long-term help for
Nina’s overall development.
It is often said that there is no “I” in TEAM.
But I think there are many “eyes” in each
team, including the “eyes” that see from the
heart.

BY LARK ESHLEMAN, PH.D.

A VERY DIFFERENT SCENARIO:
I asked all of these professionals in Nina’s life
to come together. Unlike other meetings these
professionals had attended, no one was asked
to “give us an update on how Nina is doing.”

THIS WAS A GREAT START!
After this meeting, the staff, teachers and
other professionals in Nina’s life started to
talk with each other more about what was
going on with Nina and what could help her
— it was so exciting!

column: fostering attachment

“hollered at” by teachers — Nina and her
therapist spent their whole time together
talking about what life would be like when
Nina was 18 and could move out!

If we keep looking for — and sharing — the
GOOD things we know about our children,
and we keep asking others “what works?” and
“what is behind the behavior” and “what does
your field have to offer the discussion,” we
WILL help these children, and so, so many
more to come. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lark Eshleman,
Ph.D., is the author of “Becoming a Family:
Promoting Health Attachments with Your
Adopted Child” and other works. She developed and teaches the STAT (Synergistic
Trauma and Attachment Model) of therapeutic treatment.

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BY MICHELLE BRADLEY

What’s in a Name?

“What’s

in a name?” he
wondered, thin and
frightened, looking at his caseworker,
avoiding the eyes of these people the
Fosters.

“What’s in a name?” he asked the family
court lawyer, looking at his squirming foster family while they waited for the adoption hearing to begin.

See! It IS my fault, I did tell you to change
my name!

Everyone was there! They were excited. He
was excited. And he was so happy, but…

In fact, I shouldn’t be here. It would make
my mama cry.

What’s in a name? “I know I told you I want
this name,” he panicked,” But, my REAL
mama — what if she finds out? She named
me first. And now I left her. I left her —
alone.” He looked up, pleading, “Will she
find out?”

No, I don’t know where she is, do you? But
I know it would make her cry. And she’d
be so mad. Really mad. And I shouldn’t do
that, I’m supposed to make her happy.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? I tried not to, but then
I said it. And now I say it…Sister, Brother,
Mom and Dad…like all the time. I forget,
— no, I know I do it, and I just say it —
and they say it, too, about Me!

And now that judge is saying my name —
is that my name? The judge is saying that
they’re my mom, dad, brothers and sister,
that they’re my real … my family … my
real family … and I can’t stop smiling, and
I’m scared and so happy … and am I really
terrible?

Maybe my real mama doesn’t know…I’m
not going to think about it. I can’t think
about it.

What if Mama finds out? Will she find out?
I know I said I wanted this but maybe I
shouldn’t have.

He lowered his hand, deep into the chair, as
the teacher cleared his throat and moved
back to reading down the class list.

To call them Mama or Papa, or not to call
them at all?
Is he my “brother” and do I say my “sister”
teases me, or just that “that kid” is picking
me up — ‘Cause I have a real brother and
sister, right? And they’re not these.
And I can’t make my real mama mad.
That would be bad. I would be bad.

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Can we stop now? She’ll be so mad.

But…I…can’t I just be “I?”

“What’s in a name?” he thought, as he
answered the new teacher’s roll call, getting
a puzzled look in reply — seeing that the
teacher couldn’t believe his hair and skin
belonged to that family name.

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We call her Meg.
He burst out of the car and ran into the
house greeting dogs, his sister coming in
after, tossing her coat on top of his. They
were leaving to visit cousins, to eat with
their grandparents and to argue over pizza
toppings and games. He ran upstairs to
HIS room, to pack HIS hand-me-downs of
too big college hoodies, and to grab from
the floor HIS brothers’ adventure books
borrowed in the dark of night to read with
THEIR flashlight under warm covers.

A simple name. Short. Relaxed.
One syllable. One syllable in a continuous dialogue.

BY MICHELLE BRADLEY

The Elephant
in the Room

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“What’s in a name?” His mother thought,
this child who is so a part of us, whom
we love and support, this child who needs
a home and an identity just as we now
embrace him, this child who is another
strand in God’s web of love. What’s in a
name, but permanence and hope?

Three letters — three letters that give nod, then step aside. 
For so long, we did not know how to tend the elephant. We wanted the
elephant to be and to prosper, and to ride easy in conversation and memory. 

What’s in a name? Not a lot, but maybe it
carries the amazing tussle of identity, family,
safety and belonging.

But an elephant cannot live in a family room. An elephant where it does
not belong crushes growth, stagnates air and thrashes harmony. 

And, maybe, when the heart allows, it carries
the grace of eternal love. ❁

Meg. Our son’s birth mother. It was first “mom,” then “bio mom,” and now,
I think we’ve got it. One syllable, three letters. Mom to Meg. Explosive to
defused.
We call her Meg. It is easy to roll in conversation. It does not stoke the coals
of misplaced guilt. It does not probe the labyrinth of “mom” and betrayal.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Bradley is
a foster parent in St. Louis, Mo. She can be
reached at michelle.bradleystl@gmail.com.

Meg. One syllable. Three letters. Three letters that connote and name
the elephant, the elephant we need to respect as now a part of our
alphabet. The elephant we need to prod to a habitat outside of our living
room.

SHARE YOUR STORY!
Send us your personal foster care story
to editor@adoptinfo.net.

[ kids in waiting ]
Acacia, 17, is an outgoing and personable young lady. She enjoys attention she receives
from others and takes pride in her appearance. She enjoys making new friends and
adjusts to new situations easily. Acacia is artistic and enjoys working on arts and crafts
projects. Acacia has a bubbly personality and desires to have a family of her own.
For more information, visit www.HeartGalleryAlabama.com or call 205-445-1293.

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Risk Management Strategies Every Child Welfare Professional Should Implement
BY RHONDA SCIORTINO AND MIKE HARDING, WSO-CSE

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What did you know? What should you have known?

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hen a child
in foster care
is injured,
questions
abound and accusations fly.
People who don’t understand the
demands of caring for wounded
children can have unrealistic
expectations or draw ugly
conclusions about negligence
without taking the time to
gather the facts and understand
the circumstances. For these
reasons and more, it’s important
to do foster care as a team.
Most people have no idea of
the multiple state and federal
regulations child welfare
organizations are responsible to
meet. Most people are unaware
of the standard quality of care
for children that child welfare
organizations are required to
maintain, or of the contractual
obligations for which they are
responsible. Plaintiff ’s lawyers
try to assert that foster families
and the foster family agencies
that oversee them are liable for
anything and everything that
could wrong.
Despite the misunderstandings
of the public and the unfair
assertions of plaintiff ’s lawyers,
the true liability of child welfare
agencies exists in the gap
between what they’ve agreed
to do (according to regulations,
contractual obligations, and
standard of care) and what they
actually do.

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No one person should be
responsible for the enormous
tasks of knowing and
maintaining the level of care
the organization is responsible
to provide. The best way to
achieve and maintain excellence
in the care of children is to
establish a multi-disciplinary
team of people who are jointly
responsible for understanding
the responsibilities, making sure
that policies and procedures
accurately reflect those
responsibilities, and for training
and holding accountable all
employees, foster families and
contract staff.

sound daunting, but technology
makes it easier today than ever
before to create and maintain
an effective team. When every
team member knows the
objectives, it’s easier to deal
with the inevitable challenges,
meet specific objectives, and
celebrate successes. Setting
and measuring objectives and
celebrating successes serves
to keep everyone focused on
purpose, which helps dissuade
families from quitting or foster
kids from sabotaging or running
during the exceptionally difficult
times.

It sounds like a lot of extra work
in already demanding schedules,
but it’s not! Good child welfare
organizations are already doing
the work of keeping kids safe.
The following suggestions
are designed to ease the load
while maintaining excellence in
professional practice of caring
for kids and families.

If the worst happens — a foster
child is injured or killed — the
family team can figuratively
circle the wagons. The more
people who’ve interacted
with the child and who have
worked to accomplish specific,
measurable objectives, the more
people who can attest to the
efforts made to help the child
heal and thrive.

ESTABLISHING A FAMILY TEAM
The most effective family team
includes every member of the
foster family, the foster child,
social workers, medical and
mental health workers, CASA,
teachers, coaches, advocates and
mentors, where applicable. The
foster family agency treatment
team and foster family team
must communicate easily and
work together toward clearly
defined objectives. This may

ESTABLISHING A QUALITY
ASSURANCE TEAM IN THE FFA
One significant step to managing
risk is the establishment of
a multidisciplinary quality
assurance team. This Quality
Assurance function should
include members from different
departments and different levels
of authority from within the
organization. This approach is
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or foster parents will have a
different perspective than that
of the mental health worker
who only sees the child during
limited, prescribed meetings. It’s
a blended team approach that
can provide a balanced quality
assurance perspective to the
organization. Every member of
the team should be encouraged
to provide honest assessment
and recommendations without
fear of retribution.
This quality assurance operation
can centralize a number of
functions in order to: (1)
provide quality of care oversight
; (2) standardize care of children
through the use of guidelines,
policies and procedures that
conform to the law; (3) provide
coordination and interaction
with government oversight
agencies by a person identified
by the agency; (4) coordinate
response to subpoenas for
documents and testimony; (5)
develop systems to provide
better outcomes and provide
care to children more effectively;
and (6) interface and respond to
accreditation bodies regarding
serious incidents.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF QA TEAM
The child welfare agency
Quality Assurance team should
be responsible to monitor
compliance with the laws and
regulations the organization
is required to follow, as well as
the quality of care provided to

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IN CONCLUSION
Tragedy can happen even in
the best run child welfare
organizations. Regulators can
issue citations for violations
of privacy, unsafe conditions
and failure to meet the
appropriate standards of care,
among other things. Children
can return years after leaving

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the organization to make an
allegation of wrongdoing in
years prior. Biological families
or guardians can bring lawsuits
for allegations of negligence or
failure to comply with quality
of care expectations or with the
required laws and regulations.
Having a Quality Assurance
team doesn’t guarantee that
injuries won’t happen or
allegations won’t be made, but
it exponentially increases your
ability to effectively defend
yourself against wrongful or
exaggerated allegations. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Rhonda Sciortino, author
of “Succeed Because of What

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You’ve Been Through,” is a foster
alum who is the national child
welfare specialist for Markel
Insurance Company. Her weekly
radio show can be found on
iTunes at http://bit.ly/1cazCZo.
Sciortino can be reached at
804-339-0534 or by emailing
rhonda@rhonda.org.
Mike Harding, WSO-CSE, is
a senior loss control and risk
management specialist for
Markel Insurance Company.
He provides loss control and
risk management support and
educational services for Markel
clients and related industry
trade associations. Harding can
be reached at 804-527-7627
or by emailing mharding@
markelcorp.com.

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BY R H O N D A S C I O R T I N O A N D M I K E H A R D I N G , W S O - C S E

The Quality Assurance team
should review every special
incident report. In that review,
they should look for trends
involving specific kids, staff,
locations, times of day, days of
week and other information.
These kinds of trends can help
you anticipate future incidences
and deal with them proactively.
The Quality Assurance team
should have the authority and
responsibility [without fear of
retribution] of recommending
action to remediate serious
incidents that involve child

safety and welfare for systemic
issues within the agency that
compromise quality of care.
Importantly, knowing that one’s
co-workers and superiors who
serve on the Quality Assurance
team WILL review every
incident report can serve as a
strong deterrent to someone
who might willfully harm a
child.

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the children in placement. Put
simply, there should be a team
in place that assures that the
organization is doing what it
says it will do.

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BY MELISSA BAILEY

The Day Our Foster
Care World Shattered
I am a foster parent who has had my heart ripped out of my chest and now find
myself in an empty home with my husband who wants to be strong for me, but
is just as broken on the inside as me. At separate times we will each disappear
into a room and drop to our knees and talk out loud to God. I can hear him say,
“I have to be strong. I have to remain strong…for her. I can’t break down. Keep
me strong Lord.” I walk into a room and I cry out loud, “Just one more moment;
get me through just one more moment God. I am crushed to my soul. My mind,
will and emotions are not in a good place right now. I cannot contain the feeling
of death. I feel like my heart has been taken from me. Take all of my money, all
of my material possessions, because if I do not have my babies I have nothing.

Our

foster parent journey
began a little more than
three years ago in the
amazing state of Texas. My husband and I
both felt led to this ministry to work with
children. We prayed and went to a foster
parent information meeting. The lady who
taught the class was amazing, so we knew
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right away we wanted to sign on with whichever agency she worked for. The staff was
terrific in the little satellite office we became
a part of. The licensing process was long, but
the very day we received our license from
this agency we were called and told a sibling
group of four children needed a home. Our
journey went into full swing!

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For more than three years we took in a
variety of children. We survived surprise
inspections from CPS, major turnover at
our agency, and children who had suffered
unimaginable trauma in their lives. We
received accolades from lawyers, CASAs,
our agency and CPS for the loving home we
provided.
One day we found out our 20-year-old
daughter had left our 6-year-old and
22-month-old home on our bed watching cartoons while she went to pick up our
4-year-old from the bus stop after school.
The bus stop was only 4/10ths of a mile from
our home and she was gone no longer than
five minutes. She had taken the 13-monthold with her and when she arrived back
home both children were still on the bed
watching cartoons. Nothing negative happened, but we became aware of the incident

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dering if we would be called
to testify or if the judge would
want to speak with us. Some of
us prayed as a group for favor
upon our family and children.
After a while some folks came
out of the courtroom and
walked over by us. All I remember is hearing the CPS lawyer
talking and I made out, “and
the judge stated that the Bailey
children should be returned to
Before the Residential Child
the Bailey household immeDavid and Melissa Bailey with their children they adopted after this
Care Licensing division of the
diately.” My breath left me,
incident occurred.
Department of Family and
my left hand rose to the air,
her report and submitting it to her superProtective Services in Texas had
I bent over in my chair, tears
visor, the investigator phoned all parties
a chance to investigate, all of our children
ran down my face, and I was not able to
involved and explained that she was closing
were removed. We did not know where they
function. I heard the lawyers saying get her
were taken and we were told they would not her investigation and would only recomsome water; make her breathe. My husband
mend that our daughter take some classes
be returned to us. Our agency placed them
and I embraced; our children were coming
in childcare. It was her recommendation
all with other families. The two babies we
home to us. Our family was now whole and
that our children be returned to us because
were going to adopt and had cared for since
restored.
they were each 2 weeks old were placed with the removal was not only traumatic for us as
parents, but detrimental to the well-being of Three hours later I heard screaming at my
a family who wanted to adopt them. Our
our toddlers.
lives were shattered in an instant. We could
front door, “Mommy, Mommy.” In the end,
not think, eat, sleep or function. Our house
we received two letters from the investigaEach day was like a roller coaster ride. Good tor stating that we “were not responsible for
went from chaos to complete silence. CPS
news would come and then no one was
and our agency were each pointing fingers
the allegation of Supervision. The case was
at one another as to who was the bad guy in willing to step up and make the decision to
ruled out.” Today we have become the forevreturn our children. They remained with
this situation. My husband and I each fell
er parents of two wonderful children. We felt
strangers. The investigator informed us that led to be foster parents and now it is a bitto our knees and prayed. It was all we knew
our daughter screamed each time the male
to do; our children were not going to be
tersweet ending to a wonderful ministry. We
in the new home came close to her, so the
returned to us without divine intervention.
are thankful God gave us our children. ❁
It was evident that something had happened investigator had to explain that her daddy
stayed home and took care of her and this
to sour our relationship with our agency,
man simply was not her daddy. Finally the
although neither of us knew what that was.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David and Missy
lawyers for our two toddlers stepped in and
Bailey were high school sweethearts. They
asked for an emergency hearing in court.
The investigator was shocked when she
loved each other through the years, but
They filed motions for our children to be
arrived and there were no children in our
circumstances put them on separate paths
returned to us. My husband and I were like
home. She recorded our statements and
until 2011. In 2011, they married and
walking zombies at this point. Each moment became foster parents as their two biological
expressed her sympathy for our situation,
was difficult to get through. Our extended
but told us that it seemed the decision was
children were grown and out of the home.
already made and her investigation probably family was deeply affected by this trauma.
David was a drug and alcohol counselor who
was not going to mean much. The agony
left his job to become a stay-at-home foster
Exactly seven days after our children were
that we felt was indescribable. I began to
parent. Missy has a master’s degree in busiremoved we found ourselves in a courthouse ness and works for an aerospace defense
reach out to anyone who would listen; our
lawyer, the children’s lawyers, CPS, our agen- waiting area with members of our agency,
contractor. Their faith in God brought them
cy, foster agencies, news media, anyone who CPS, friends and lawyers of all parties presand kept them together. David and Missy
ent. Time passed slowly as we waited, wonwould give me their time. Prior to writing
teach teenage Sunday school.

feature

and were obligated to report it.
We were not prepared for what
would happen next. When we
were just a few weeks shy of
adopting two amazing toddlers
ALL of our foster children were
removed from our home in an
instant. Our 22-month-old and
13-month-old who had never
spent one night away from us
were taken to another home.

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feature

B Y S A R A H C O LW E L L

UC Davis Guardian Professions students, from left to right, Eden Haven-Martinez, Michelle
Dean, Destiny Garcia and Cindy Preto.(Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

UC Davis has
First-of-its-kind Program
to Aid Former Foster Youth
UC

Davis student Hen Werner was
in the financial aid office filling
out paperwork when she got to a field that
stopped her short: “Parent Information.”
“I had to leave this part blank,” Werner said
to the financial aid officer as she handed in
the paperwork. “I don’t have anyone.”
Werner is a former foster youth.
The financial aid officer told Werner about
UC Davis’ Guardian Scholars Program, which
is a UC Davis scholarship and mentorship
program that helps former foster youth
in receiving undergraduate degrees at UC
Davis. Werner enrolled in the program and
received financial and other assistance that
allowed her to graduate from UC Davis with
a 3.4 grade point average. Now, in addition to
being a teacher at Laguna Creek High School
in Elk Grove, Calif., Werner is pursuing a
master’s degree in education at UC Davis and
is among the first cohort of UC Davis’ new
Guardian Professions Program.
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The UC Davis Guardian Professions Program
is the country’s first program dedicated to
helping former foster youth earn graduate
and professional degrees. The program,
which launched at UC Davis this fall,
provides students with access to a support
network of UC Davis staff members who
help students as they apply for and pursue
their graduate degrees in any of the 94
graduate programs or professional schools at
UC Davis, including education, law, business
and medicine. The lack of a parental support
network and financial support are the
primary challenges facing former foster
youths during their college careers.

Moskovitz, Tiedmann & Girard Law Firm.
The university is still raising funds for the
program.

The Guardian Professions Program was
made possible because of more than
$450,000 in private support from the Stuart
Foundation, which seeks to transform
education systems and improve the lives
of youth in foster care. Other donors to the
program include Sleep Train, The California
Wellness Foundation, the May and Stanley
Smith Charitable Trust, and Kronick,

According to research from the Stuart
Foundation, 70 percent of foster youth
express an interest in college, but only 10
percent enroll. Of that 10 percent, only 3
percent graduate from college. Preliminary
research suggests there are currently no
statistics on the number of former foster
youth who have enrolled in or completed
graduate and professional degrees.

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In addition to the support network, the
program provides crucial financial support
— recruitment awards start at $1,000,
and fellowships for the teacher credential/
master’s degree program cover tuition.
Other graduate programs provide varying
levels of financial support. In addition, the
program provides funding to help students
with the costs of applying to graduate school.
Applying to UC Davis is free for students
who have been in foster care.

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B Y S A R A H C O LW E L L

feature

Destiny Garcia in the engineering lab in Bainer Hall at UC
Davis. Garcia earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical
engineering from UC Davis and recently started a doctorate program in mechanical engineering with a focus on
Composites Materials. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

In addition to Werner, other members
of the inaugural cohort in the Guardian
Professions Program, all from California,
include:

Education’s successful Guardian Teachers
Program, which provided former foster
youth with an opportunity to pursue a
master’s degree and teaching credential
at UC Davis. The UC Davis Guardian
Scholars Program provides support solely
to undergraduates. UC Davis also supports
children and youth in foster care through
Cal Aggie Camp, which is hosted by the
Associated Students of UC Davis, or ASUCD,
and has brought more than 150 children
from the foster care system and underserved
communities to summer camp since its
founding in 1961. This is provided at no cost
to parents, agencies or foster parents. All
of these programs are funded primarily by
philanthropic donations.

• Michelle Dean of Santa Barbara, who
is pursuing a master’s in community
development
• Cindy Preto of Los Angeles, who is
pursuing a master’s in entomology
• Destiny Garcia of Vacaville, who is pursuing
a doctorate in mechanical engineering
• Eden Haven-Martinez of Santa Maria, who
is pursuing a teaching credential in English
and a master’s in education
“The financial help was a godsend, but they
also helped me with test preparation, were
there if I had questions, or even if I just
needed someone to cheer me on,” Werner
said. “It made all the difference.”

“When we can give them the support they
need,” said Sylvia Sensiper, director of the
Guardian Professions Program at UC Davis.
“It’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

The Guardian Professions Program is
housed in the Office of Graduate Studies and
is an expansion of the UC Davis School of
F O S T E R I N G

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Read more about Hen’s story at http://bit.
ly/1GeG40s. For more information, visit
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http://success.ucdavis.edu/programs/gsp/
index.html. ❁

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Colwell
oversees marketing and communications
for the development and alumni relations
office at UC Davis — one of the top 10 public
universities in the country. She successfully
led the communications strategy for UC Davis’
first comprehensive fundraising campaign,
The Campaign for UC Davis, which surpassed
its fundraising goal more than one year ahead
of schedule raising $1.1 billion from nearly
110,000 donors. In addition, she oversees
the communications strategy for UC Davis’
225,000-plus alumni and parents around the
world. She has won international and regional
awards for her work in higher education
marketing and communications and has
years of experience in print and broadcast
journalism. She is an alumna of the University
of San Francisco and Loyola of Chicago Rome
Center, a former semi-professional women’s
soccer player and the mother of two children.

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column: family talk

BY DRS. JAMES AND MARY KENNY

Family Talk

Teaching Responsibility
Tackling the tough task
of teaching responsibility can be made easier
with a few tips from
the parenting experts

Despite the effort required by the parent,
assigning chores with the goal of teaching responsibility is an excellent parenting
choice.
To be successful in getting children to do
chores, three practices must be observed:
1. Parents must realize that instituting a
chore program will take time.
2. Parents must teach the task at hand.
3. Parents must follow through.

As

children grow, parents can
make a conscious effort to
shift responsibility to the children. An allowance demands more responsibility and allows more independence than
the “gimme” system.

Room cleaning is a classic example. Most
parents want children to keep their rooms
clean and neat. First, schedule a regular
weekly time. Second, teach the task in every
detail. No motel or hotel owner would hire
an employee and simply say, clean those
rooms. Businesses teach employees exactly
how to do a job. Parents must do the same.

As a child grows older an allowance can
be expanded to cover more areas and thus
demand more judgment and responsibility.
However, an allowance must be respected
as the child’s source of spending money. If
an allowance is supplemented when a child
asks for more money, the learning experience is lost.

Before the child begins to work, the parent
needs to provide a checklist of each step in
cleaning the room. Usually the parent will
be challenged to draw up such a list and
will be surprised at how many steps are
involved.

Assigning jobs around the home is another
way parents can help their children develop
a sense of responsibility. Admittedly, getting children to do chores is often more
consuming of time and emotion than doing
them oneself. For that reason, many parents
avoid assigning chores or quickly give up.
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Family Talk is adapted from Dr. Jim and Mary Kenny’s book
Parenting Tomorrow’s Child, which is available on Amazon.com.

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Next clean the room along with the child

following the checklist. Both workers may
discover that some items have been missed
and the checklist needs to be revised. Elementary school children may even become
interested in checking off each item as they
finish the task.
Should the child fail to do the task, some
consequence must follow. Denial of another
activity is a possibility. Allowing a natural
consequence may be even better. Helping
with food preparation is a task where consequences can be effective. If the child is
responsible for one part of a meal and fails
to do the job, no one fills in and the meal
lacks that course. Following through should
develop the child’s sense of responsibility.
Doing the job for the child is not following
through, nor is giving the child endless second chances.
Older children can take on greater responsibility. For the older child, a problem with
a teacher is the child’s problem, not the
parent’s. A traffic ticket for a young driver
is the driver’s problem, not the parent’s.
Parents can sympathize, even give advice if
asked, but solving the problem is the child’s
task. ❁

Family Talk is a regular column in Fostering Families TODAY. We invite your
questions on family living and childcare. Address your questions to the Kennys
at jimkenny12@hotmail.com.

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W W W . F O S T E R I N G F A M I L I E S T O D A Y . C O M

This is an “open-book” exam. As you read the articles identified below you should be able to answer the questions.
Either photocopy or tear out this page and mail it with a processing fee of $1 made out to FFT to:
Fostering Families TODAY CEU Quiz Monitor, 541 E. Garden Dr. Unit N • Windsor, CO 80550
Be sure to check with your placement agency to see if they will credit you for completing the CEU Quiz.
All responses must be returned by May 31, 2015 to receive your Certificate of Credit for this issue.
PRIVATE

NAME

OR

STATE AGENCY CONTACT

ceu quiz

Fostering Families TODAY CEU Quiz – March/April 2015

ADDRESS
OFFICE ADDRESS/PO BOX

CITY
STATE

ZIP

CEU Processing Fee $1 payable to FFT enclosed.

CITY
STATE

ZIP

Learning Objective: to increase foster and/or adoptive parents’ ability to apply and respond to new information and conceptual frameworks to their work with children in their care.
Please rate the following on a scale of 1-4 (1 is poor, 4 is excellent):
The information was informative: ( 1-2-3-4 )
The information was useful / helpful in my role as a foster or adoptive parent: ( 1-2-3-4 )
The information was thought-provoking, ( 1-2-3-4 ) especially to story on page(s) _______________________________
Would you read FFT if it helped you meet your state’s licensing objectives? ( 1-2-3-4 )
I would be interested in reading more on the topic(s) of: ______________________________________________________
1. According to the article, “Building a Healthy Working
Relationship with Your Caseworker and Agency,” on page 14,
which of the following statements is TRUE? (Choose all that apply)
a. Demand caseworkers meet with you when convenient for
you.
b. It is important that your relationship with your foster child’s
caseworker is an open one and is built on trust and mutual
respect.
c. Give your caseworker gifts frequently.
d. As an advocate, you have the right to be heard in your
role as a foster parent.
2. According to the article, “Full Disclosure for Foster Parents,”
on page 22, which of the following are among the rights of
foster parents? (Choose all that apply)
a. Involvement in all the agency’s crucial decisions regarding
the foster child as team members.
b. Opportunity to be listened to regarding an agency
practice they may question.
c. The right to be heard in court.
d. The opportunity to parent children without involvement
from social services.
3. According to the article, “Bedwetting Myths, Facts and
Treatment,” on page 36, what can a parent do to help a child
overcome bedwetting issues? (Choose all that apply)
a. Make children clean up after themselves when they wet
the bed.
b. Don’t compare your children.
c. Seek professional help when your child shows concern for
the condition.
d. Yell and belittle your child.
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4. According to the article, “Foster Children and Cruelty
to Animals,” on page 45, what can be done to help foster
children who are cruel to animals? (Choose all that apply)
a. Observed, appropriate contact with animals should be
positively reinforced.
b. Parental consultation and/or involvement in the child’s
therapy is essential.
c. They should be given a pet as a gift.
d. The child should be solely responsible for the care of a pet.
5. According to the article, “Managing Conflict in the Home,”
on page 48, which of the following are among the five ways
parents can effectively, compassionately manage conflict in
the home? (Choose all that apply)
a. Affirm your emotions and choose your behaviors.
b. Use time out frequently.
c. Create a chore chart to keep children in line.
d. Decide on options outside the conflict.
6. According to the column, “Family Talk” on page 62, which
of the following are among the three practices that must be
observed to be successful in getting children to do chores?
(Choose all that apply)
a. Parents must punish children if chores aren’t completed.
b. Parents must teach the tasks at hand.
c. Parents must realized that instituting a chore program will
take time.
d. Parents must hound children to complete chores.
7. What do you do to help build a positive relationship with
caseworkers, judges, CASAs and others you work with to
support the children you care for?
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We explore the issues that profoundly affect families
and children, through articles and stories reflecting professional
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