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

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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.