Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fostering Families Today looking for people to write articles on parenting teens

 Fostering Families Today is doing their March/April issue with a focus on parenting teens. Their having trouble getting articles together. If you or any fostering friends who are parenting teens would want to write something or be interviewed about their experiences you should contact them below. Here's a couple of the specific topics I'm looking to address:
* Parenting teens and their children -- how do you help foster teens learn to become parents and not repeat the cycle
* What is unique about parenting teens
* What works for disciplining teens
* How do you build a relationship with a teen when they come to you so much later
* Preparing teens for after care -- what do they need to know to live in the adult world...helping them get into college, find jobs, etc.
The deadline for articles if people would like to write is Jan. 6 and articles are typically 1,200 words in length. If you know someone who would be willing to do an interview please give me their contact information.
Also, if there are any foster teens/young adults who would like to share their perspective that would be great as well.

Kim Hansel, editor
Adoption Today
Fostering Families Today

Monday, October 31, 2011

New film on Youth Aging out of Care

Check out a new film on the struggles of 3 youth aging out of foster care

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Senate Education legislation for foster youth introduced

From CWLA:

Senate Considers Fostering Success in Education Amendment

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) continued markup of a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) today, otherwise known as the No Child Left Behind Act. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment addressing the educational stability of youth in care. Following up with the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Fostering Connections, P.L. 110-351), Senator Franken’s amendment requires that state and local education agencies will work with child welfare agencies to ensure children in care can remain in the school that is in their best interest or promptly transfer when that is in the child’s best interest.
The full committee debated the amendment for about a half an hour. Some committee members were interested in understanding how the new provision differed from what passed under Fostering Connections and how transportation would be provided for children in far away placements. Supporters of the amendment recalled the testimony from an earlier hearing of a young woman who moved several times while in foster care, causing her to switch schools more than ten times. Ultimately, the amendment passed by a vote of 13 to 9. The HELP Committee will continue to markup the bill in hopes of moving it to the Senate Floor soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Link to a good article on the challenges of fostering

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bill in US Senate to encourage State to keep kids out of foster care

A bill awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature would give new federal support to state programs  that help keep children out of foster care, according to the bill’s sponsors. Senate Bill 1542 would reform rules that now prohibit states from using federal foster care funding on programs that help keep children at home with their families. States that reduce the number of case- loads now lose federal dollars for foster care, called Title 4-E funds. Under the bill, those states could tap that stream of money for programs that help keep children at home or reduce the duration of their stay in foster care.

States that want to use the new option for spending the federal dollars have to apply for a “flexible funding waiver” from the federal government and may do so beginning in 2012. The application includes a plan and goals for reducing caseloads. Between 2012 and 2014, 30 states will be awarded the waiver, said Dan Ashby, chief of federal funding at the Children’s Administration. The waivers last for five years, he said. Link to the bill

Monday, September 19, 2011

Child Abuse rises with the Recession

CHICAGO (AP) - An increase in child abuse, mostly in infants, is linked with the recent recession in new research that raises fresh concerns about the impact of the nation's economic woes.
The results are in a study of 422 abused children from mostly lower-income families, known to face greater risks for being abused, and the research involved just 74 counties in four states. But lead author Dr. Rachel Berger of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh said the results confirm anecdotal reports from many pediatricians who've seen increasing numbers of shaken baby cases and other forms of brain-injuring abuse.

Berger decided to study this type of injury, known as abusive head trauma, after noticing an increase at her own hospital from late 2007 through June 2009. Her hospital averaged 30 cases per year during those recession years versus 17 yearly before 2007.Though this abuse is still uncommon, the number of cases in the counties studied increased sharply, rising from about 9 cases per 100,000 children in pre-recession years, to almost 15 per 100,000 kids during the recession - a 65 percent increase.By contrast, juvenile diabetes - a better-known condition - affects about 19 per 100,000 children younger than age 10.

Children studied were younger than 5, and most were infants. Most suffered brain damage and 69 died, though the death rate didn't rise during the recession.Unemployment rates in the 74 counties rose during the five-year study. The proportion of children on Medicaid in those counties also increased, from 77 percent before the recession to 83 percent. However, insurance and family employment information were not reported for the abused children in the study.Combine the stress of raising a young child with wage cuts or lost jobs and you get "a sort of toxic brew in terms of thinking about possible physical violence," said Mark Rank, a social welfare professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He said the study echoes sociological research linking violence with declines in economic well-being.

Along with U.S. Census data released last week indicating that a record 46 million Americans are poor, the study shows that "as poverty goes up and economic stagnation continues...there are really human costs involved," Rank said.The study was released online Monday in Pediatrics.
The counties studied included Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania; central and southern Ohio; and a handful of counties in northern Kentucky and in the Seattle area. The researchers examined medical records and national labor statistics for 2004 through November 2007 and compared them with data from the recession.Of the 422 children diagnosed with abusive head trauma during the study, roughly 65 cases occurred each year before the recession, versus about 108 yearly during the recession.Federal government data suggest that the recession did not affect child abuse rates. But the study authors said those numbers are based on reports from child protective services, not medical diagnoses, and did not address brain injuries specifically.

The research doesn't prove that the recession caused the abuse. Studying different regions and children from more middle-class families would help clarify if the recession really played a role, said Dr. Peter Sherman, director of the residency program in social pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.Sherman noted that most children studied were publicly insured even before the recession, suggesting that their families were already struggling financially.Still, the recession affected many lower-income families, and Sherman said the study highlights "a very important issue."

Many of his patients are from poor families and abuse is not uncommon, he said.
He said pediatricians could help with prevention by asking families about difficulties paying for food or shelter and referring those in need to social service agencies. Sometimes just asking parents about stresses in their lives and acknowledging their struggles can help, he said.
Most parents who abuse young children aren't "ill-intentioned," he said. "Most of it is kind of just snapping...maybe being sleep-deprived and just losing it. It's something that can happen to anyone. Economics is just another stress" that can increase the risks, Sherman said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is a group home better than a theraputic foster home?

This question is debated in foster care circles.  Thanks to Foster Care Central the following article by a former foster youth is an interesting read.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Combined Federal Campaign -- A New Way to Donate

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) affords federal employees and armed services members the opportunity to give to charities through payroll deductions. The funding that NFPA receives through CFC allows the organization to provide support, advocacy and educational opportunities for foster parents nationally. 

Please consider donating to NFPA through CFC. The NFPA organization number is: 11817.  

Thank you for your support.

Friday, September 2, 2011

NFPA supports Family Movie Night

The Walmart and P&G Family Movie Night initiative was launched as an effort to provide meaningful entertainment for the entire family. By providing this block of time, Walmart and P&G are striving to reconnect families across the country that are bombarded by busy schedules and the lack of programming that’s appealing to everyone. 

The upcoming original Family Movie Night movie, “Game Time: Tackling the Past” is a gripping sports drama about pro-football star Jake Walker and his journey back to his hometown. It’s a story that confirms that a person’s real value isn’t measured by what they accomplish, but by who they are to those who love them. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Story of foster care

Listen to a powerful story of foster care that was on NPR's Weekend Edition last weekend

Indiana goes to a "tiered" payment plan for foster care

Check out the story of a tiered payment arrangement for foster care payments.|head

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Generations United Grandrally

On September 15th on the US Capitol Lawn the 4th GrandRally will take place to advocate for support for grandparents raising their grandchildren.  I have attended the past 2 GrandRallies and have been impressed with the grandparents who have traveled from all over the country to attend this rally. The picture above is of the contingent of grandparents we brought from Baltimore that are members of the Baltimore Grandfamilies program.  Having spent the past 7 years working to develop programs for this population in Baltimore I have seen first hand how much of a struggle this is for grandparents.  Often raising grandchildren in neighborhoods with gangs, crime and drugs the grandparents are afraid of their ability to keep their grandchildren from the dangers of these communities.  Click on this link to learn more about the Rally.  Click on this link to see one of the award winners you might recognize at this years Generations United Conference.
Then Senator Clinton with Grandfamilies at 2006 GrandRally

The numbers of grandchildren being raised by their grandparents in this country is estimated at over 1.5 million children.  The number is triple the number of children in foster care.  Most of the grandparents are receiving minimal financial support to help with the cost of raising their grandchildren.  Many of these grandparents are single grandparents with only small checks from Social Security. 

This year's rally will focus on the implementation of the new federal legislation that permits states to use Title IV-E funds to fund subsidized guardianship for grandparents and other kin.  The amount of financial support can be considerably higher than the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families commonly called TANF.  This program is the replacement for the old Assistance to Dependent Families with Children or AFDC.  As Generations United explained on its website:

"On October 7, 2008, The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act) unanimously became federal law. This Act is the most significant child welfare law in the last ten years. Among its many provisions, for the first time, it gives all states the option to use funds through Federal Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (Title IV-E) to finance kinship guardianship assistance -- otherwise known as subsidized guardianship -- to enable children in the care of grandparents and other relatives to exit foster care into permanent homes. Prior to this new law, 38 states and the District of Columbia had some form of subsidized guardianship, primarily paid for using state or local funds, but in some states financed through federal Temporary Assistance for Needy families monies or Title XX Social Services block grant funds. Eleven states also had waivers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) specifically allowing them to use Title IV-E funds for their subsidized guardianship programs, but the waiver program ended in 2006.

The passage of the Fostering Connections Act was a huge victory for the kinship care community because, although there were many subsidized guardianship programs, most were underutilized. Case workers, judges, and lawyers were reluctant to move children from a reliable funding source -- Title IV-E foster care payments -- to funding that may not have continued to be available. Despite the many positive advances in this new law, the kinship community must be vigilant about ensuring that states do not constrict subsidized guardianship programs that used to be available to many more children than those who are Title IV-E eligible.
In general and under the new Title IV-E option, subsidized guardianships are designed for those children who have been in foster care, with a relative providing the care for at least six months. For those children for whom reunification with their parents and adoption are ruled out as permanency options, these subsidized guardianships give the existing caregiver the opportunity to become the legal guardian of the child, thereby replacing the state in that role. The court that considers the granting of guardianship reviews the appropriateness and permanence of the placement and, in cases of older children, often seeks the input of the child as well. If the court finds that the guardianship is in the “best interest” of the child and grants it, the state no longer has custody and there is little or no child welfare agency oversight. The caregiver now stands in the shoes of the parent and can make all routine decisions without government authority. The caregiver can consent to immunizations, sleepovers, school pictures, and sign report cards, all without asking social workers or judges for approval. The parent, moreover, retains certain rights and responsibilities, including the right to consent to adoption and the obligation of child support. The parent can also still visit with the child, unless the judge granting guardianship has limited that right due to the “best interest” of the child.

After guardianship is granted, the state issues a monthly subsidy check to the guardian for the care of the child. Under the new option, the subsidy cannot exceed the foster care rate, states must pay non-recurring costs of legal guardianship (e.g., legal fees) up to $2,000, and children are automatically eligible for Medicaid. The subsidy payments usually end when the guardianship terminates or when the child turns 18 (21 in some states).

Subsidized guardianship programs provide an important permanency option to many children. An option that is responsive to long and proud Native American, Latino, and African-American traditions of stepping in to care for relatives when parents have been unable to care for the children. These programs are also sensitive to many other types of family concerns that prevent a child from being adopted. For example, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings who are long-term foster parents may not want to initiate a legal adoption process. A process that must prove that that their own relative, the parent, is unfit, sever all of the birth’s parents legal ties to the child, and make the relative the “parent.” These caregivers are already family, and many wonder why should they be the “mother” or “father” when those people exist? These programs further provide an important option to older foster children who in particular often want to maintain a relationship with their parent and do not want to sever all legal ties, possibly making it impossible for them to even visit. Finally, for mentally or physically disabled parents who are unable to care for a child on a daily basis, subsidized guardianship programs allow these children in long-term foster care to exit the system, while allowing the birth parent to remain involved in the life of their child, share their estate, and allow their child to collect benefits, such as military or disability, which they are only entitled to as their child.

In addition to the benefits to grandfamilies, subsidized guardianship placements can be supported at less expense to all taxpayers because there are fewer administrative costs than with managing and overseeing an open foster care case.[3] Caseworkers, judges, and child welfare agencies have to be paid for their time and expenses doing frequent home visits and reviews that are not necessary for these safe and stable grandfamilies. These costs are well spent to protect other children placed in short-term living arrangements where success and safety must be monitored, but are not necessary in successful long-term living arrangements where other permanency options have been ruled out."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Should Foster Parents be Professionals?

The role of foster parents has been one that traditionally viewed foster parents as stipended volunteers.  Should foster parents play a role as a professional who is paid by an agency to foster children?  I came across just such a program

Friday, July 22, 2011

More Tips

In the previous post, we gave you five tips on how to become a better self-advocate. Here are five more you can use, starting immediately. 

1. Know your appeals rights.
Request clean, written information on your appeal rights, either within the agency or outside the agency. Know what the next step will be if you are dissatisfied with the outcome.

2. Be assertive and persistent.
Keep after what you want. Remember that effort moves bureaucracies. 

3. Use communication skills. 
Have a plan outlining your concerns. Stay calm and express yourself clearly. Be willing to listen because what you hear may be as important as what you say.

4. Ask for help.
Link up with an advocacy organization, such as your local foster parent association or the state foster parent association. Another source of help is the foster parent liaison with your local agency.

5. Follow up.
Don't give up without using your skill. Agencies are accountable for the decisions they make. You are entitled to know and exercise all your options to obtain the assistance you need. Remember to say "Thank You," a little gratitude and recognition goes a long way the next time you need assistance.

Parents, do you have any tips on how to be a better self-advocate? Please feel free to share...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tips on becoming an effective self-advocate

As foster and adoptive parents, we literally take on the role of champion for our children, aggressively and consistently fighting for their rights. So how do we advocate for ourselves? Many times, we're not sure. Following is a list of tips you can use to become a better self-advocate.

1. Believe in yourself
You are worth the effort it takes to protect your interests and your rights. YOU CAN DO IT!

2. Realize you have rights.
You are entitled to, equally under the law, inform yourself by asking questions and using resources. Insist that explanations are clear and understandable.

3. Discuss your concerns. 
Talk directly with your service provider either by telephone, writing a letter/email or in person. You may bring someone for support.

4. Get the facts.
Problem solve by gathering information. Get the facts in writing. Ask for the policies, rules or regulations being cited to you. People sometimes settle for a quick verbal decision that may not be accurate. Hold agencies accountable for the decisions they make.

5. Use the chain of command.
Use an agency's chain of command to make sure a supervisor or someone else with authority has an opportunity to work with you on the problem and the resolution.

Stay tuned tomorrow for five more tips.

-- T. LaShaun Wallace

Monday, July 11, 2011

Helping a child transition to foster care

As parents, preparing for a new placement can cause a roller coaster of emotions as we anticipate the child's needs before he/she even steps through the door. Will he be shy? Will she be talkative? What will she like to do? What will he like to eat? 
So imagine what it must be like for the child!
A great resource for helping with the transition has come to our attention through Family Strategies Publishing, which bills itself as "affordable resources for families in transition."
The company offers several books (available in hard copy and pdf download), including titles such as "Welcome to Your New Family," "Welcome to Your New School," "The Complete Lifebook Workbook," and "A Parent's Survival Guide," among others.
For a limited time, Family Strategies Publishing is offering free downloads to the following titles:
Welcome to Our Family (Foster Family Version): A great way to introduce a child to their foster family before the child moves to the foster home. 
Finding an Adoption Family: Describes some of the basic steps professionals take in recruiting and selecting an adoptive family for a child.
Going to our Adoption Finalization: Explains what an adoption finalization is and helps the adoptive child and family know what to expect.
I must say that the "Welcome to Our Family" download really impressed me. It's 37 pages but you don't have to give the child all the pages -- just the ones that pertain to your family, such as "hi, I'm the MOM in our family"; "this is our kitchen"; "this is our bathroom"; "this is YOUR bedroom"; "visits"; and my favorites: "important things about us"; "special activities/holidays"; and "special things about YOU."
As we come across other resources for you, we'll post them here. In the meantime, tell us how YOU prepare for a child's transition into your home. It just might help someone else.
-- T. LaShaun Wallace


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Emotional, Behavioral Issues Affect Many Kids in Foster Care

Last Updated: July 01, 2011.

Identifying such problems may lead to improved care for these children, researchers suggest

Comments: (0)


Identifying such problems may lead to improved care for these children, researchers suggest. FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Behavioral and emotional problems are common in children who live in long-term foster care, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.
"Better identifying and assisting children with, or at risk of developing such problems upon entry to foster care and throughout their out-of-home placement, may alleviate their needs and troubles and provide mechanisms for supporting them as they get older," Wendy Walsh, research associate at the Carsey Institute at the UNH and a colleague wrote in the report.
The authors looked at a nationally representative sample of children placed in out-of-home care between July 1998 and February 1999. After four years, 43 percent of the children were still in out-of-home care, including 22 percent in foster care, 13 percent who were living with other relatives, and 8 percent who were in a residential program, group home or other living arrangement.
About 27 percent of children aged 11 to 18 in out-of-home care had clinical levels of emotional problems and 41 percent had clinical levels of behavioral problems, the researchers found.
In the four-year follow-up, 32 percent of kids diagnosed with emotional problems and 35 percent of those diagnosed with behavioral problems were in foster care. Only 19 percent of children without these problems were still in foster care, according to a university news release.
The researchers also found that children with emotional and behavioral problems are less likely to rejoin their families. While 31 percent of children with no emotional problems rejoined their families, the figure was only 19 percent for those with emotional problems. One-third of children with no behavioral problems rejoined their families, compared with 18 percent of those with behavioral problems.
In addition, younger children (aged 3 to 5) were much more likely to be adopted than older children (aged 15 to 18). Only 5 percent of older teens are adopted, compared with 61 percent of the younger kids, the authors noted.
"In many states, foster care ceases at age 18, and the youth are on their own. Yet they are aging out of foster care at a time in life when many peers still require substantial guidance, structure, and support," the authors wrote.
They noted that "The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008," which encourages relative care, and allows states reimbursement for caring for eligible foster youth until age 21, may offer many benefits to vulnerable youth and society.
Research indicates that "the financial benefits of extending foster care -- both for individual youth and for society -- outweigh costs to government by a factor of approximately 2 to 1," the authors report. As of April 2011, the legislation has been adopted in 11 states.
"These findings suggest that it may be worthwhile for states to reconsider their policies for the sake of long-term success. This type of investment may be significantly less expensive than the costs of the increased burdens on the community in the form of lost potential and would be a positive investment in these young adults," the researchers concluded.
The data and conclusions of the research should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
More information
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has more about foster care.
SOURCE: University of New Hampshire, news release, June 21, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Questions to Ask if you are considering becoming a Foster Parent

 The Maryland Department of Human Resources has put together some good questions to ask if you are considering becoming a foster parent.  We want to share them with you.

There are some questions you should consider before you decide whether or not you want to be a foster parent. Taking a child into your home is a very important decision, and the following questions are designed to help you make a decision that is right for you

  1. How will my lifestyle change if I become a foster parent?
  2. What goals do I have for my life? What is important to me?
  3. Do I have the time and energy to care for a foster child?
  4. What age child will realistically be best for my family?
  5. Am I ready to give up some of my freedom, or arrange my lifestyle to include a child?
  6. Will I be willing to spend my time at home more and socialize less?
  7. Can I afford my own expenses, knowing that compensation for having a foster child will be only enough for the child's needs?
  8. How will a child fit into my neighborhood?
  9. How will being a foster parent change how I want to grow and develop?
  10. How much time am I willing to commit to a child?
  11. Am I willing and able to take a child to counseling sessions, doctor's appointments, court hearings and other regular appointments?
  12. Am I willing to attend counseling sessions with the child?

  1. Do I like doing things with children?
  2. Do I like activities that children could do also?
  3. Do I want a child to be "Like me?" Should he/she call me Mom or Dad?
  4. How will I view a child's different values and ideas? Will I attempt to get the child to accept my values?
  5. Do I want a boy or girl foster child?
  6. Do I want one, or more?
  7. How about siblings or teenagers?
  8. What ages?
  9. Do I want acceptance or gratitude from a foster child?
  10. Why do I really want to take a foster child into my home?

  1. Do I like children?
  2. Will I be able to put up with the noise and confusion?
  3. How do I deal with my own frustration and anger?
  4. How do I handle other people's anger and frustration?
  5. How easy is it for me to tell others what I want or need or what I expect from them?
  6. How will I set my rules and enforce them?
  7. Am I able to give a child the love he/she needs?
  8. Is it easy for me to show love?
  9. What is discipline to me?
  10. Am I open to new ideas?
  11. What will I do if a child doesn't cooperate with me, or refuses to follow my rules?
  12. Can I keep the information that I learn about a child confidential?

  1. Does my partner also want to share his/her life with a foster child?
  2. How about my own children?
  3. Have we discussed fostering as a family?
  4. Are we secure and stable enough to add a foster child to our family?
  5. Will this cause undue stress?
  6. Are we both ready to give the time and energy to a child?
  7. Will one of us invest more in a child than the other?
  8. Can we be a team?
  9. Could we share our love with a child without other family members becoming jealous?
  10. How will a child fit into our religious life?
  11. Are we willing to allow that child to pursue his/her own beliefs, or to choose not to attend church?
  12. How will my children accept another child into their lives?
  13. Do they want to share their rooms, toys, friends, and parents with another child?
  14. How will I feel about a child being removed from my home?
  15. How do I feel about the child's birth parents and the problems they may have?
  16. Am I able to understand that a child still loves his/her parents and that I should not interfere with this relationship?
  17. What does my family have to offer a child who needs a good, stable, loving home?
  18. Which of these questions do we need to discuss more thoroughly before making a decision?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

NFPA 2011 Conference in Mobile Alabama

  Our 2011 Conference was highlighted by an amazing Keynote Address by Derek Clark.  Derek told us about his amazing journey from foster youth to national motivational speaker.  Additionally he entertained us with his rap version of his life.
    Plan to join us next year in Chicago.