Supporting and Encouraging Your Foster Children Beyond Aging Out

Over 23,000 children age out of foster care each year, but many struggle to adapt to independent living as an adult. As part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, 25 states now offer extended foster care, and help such as financial support for young adults in work or participating in education programs. This and other schemes go some way to helping them get a good start in their adult life, but a more personal touch is also very important. As a foster parent you will most likely already have faced many transitional phases with your foster children, and, at each stage, supported them to ensure a smooth changeover. Now, whether you have stayed in touch with former foster children who are becoming adults, or you are saying goodbye to your current foster child as they leave for college, your continuing help and advice is still invaluable.

Graduating to Independence

Encouragement to stay in school and gain a high school diploma is perhaps one of the most important gifts you can give your foster children. Although only 58% of foster children graduate high school, those who continue to receive support as they become independent are twice as likely to finish at least one year of college by the time they reach 21. Leaving for college can be daunting for any young adult, so if you can offer advice and emotional support to your foster children at this challenging time, and throughout their education, it can help them stay positive and focused. Something as simple as a care package for when they move into their dorm can ease the transition to living on their own and help them settle in. Once they have finished their studies, their job options are broadened and they are more likely to find somewhere to live independently and support themselves successfully. However, they may still need help managing their finances for the first time and adjusting to their new life, and will be pleased to know that you are still there for them.

Recognizing Achievements

Many foster children often have low expectations, however, those who have mentors to guide and advise them tend to attain higher levels of economic and social success. By remaining a part of their lives as a positive role model, you can offer advice on a range of topics from interview techniques to asking someone out. As your foster children move on in life, recognizing milestones such as graduation and landing a first job can help nurture a sense of achievement, so building confidence and self-esteem. A celebratory meal or hosting a party will mark each occasion, consolidate their success and help them believe in themselves.

If you have fostered a child until they leave home, or been able to keep in touch with former foster children, just like any parent you will want to see them do well in life. With your continuing support and advice, they are more likely to attain their goals, and you can then enjoy celebrating their achievements together.

National Foster Care Month

Since 1988, May has been established as National Foster Care month by President Reagan. This is an important time to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, professionals, and more who work hard to find loving homes for children and youth in the foster care system. Along with, of course, supporting the foster children themselves! There are many ways to support foster youth this May and everyday. 

Volunteer

There are many opportunities to volunteer through organizations such as A Family For Every Child. Find organizations near you and sign up!

Become a Mentor 

This can be through an organization, a school, or even a business. There are many ways to mentor foster youth and it’s a great way to make a difference in an individual child’s life.

Provide Services

If you are a therapist or lawyer, provide pro bono services for foster youth.

Donate

Instead of throwing away clothes you no longer wear or electronics you upgraded from, donate them! 

Become A Parent

Provide a child with a loving home by becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent. 

Recommended Books for Adoptive Parents

So, you are considering adopting. You have probably already filed your adoption request, and you are waiting to be matched with a child. Perhaps your little one has arrived home, and you are trying to figure things out. Whichever stage you are in the adoption process, it is essential to learn everything you can. Luckily, there are plenty of reading materials regarding adoption that you can use to gather as much knowledge as you can. Here are some fantastic suggestions.

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

This book remains a classic favorite of adoptive books of all times. Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born is an exciting story about a loving family and small child coming together to discuss the night she was born. The tone of this children’s book is fun and educational and is a great story to read with little ones.

The Eye of Adoption by Jody Dyer

If you are looking for a true adoption story, this one will demand your attention. You will love the way Jody writes about her infertility struggles and how she ended up choosing to adopt. You will also love the part where Jody interviews the birth mother. Her story has an exclusive touch of humor that will makes it a real page turner. The letters she wrote to her future child are out of this world, the book opens with “No one just adopts.”

Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms by Dr. Susan Golombok

This adoption book highlights the various modern families such as same-sex, single parenting, surrogacy, and IVF donors. Dr. Susan is a leading researcher who explores modern family forms. The author's perspective is that they are thriving, and so are the kids in these family structures. The book is a way of making her research exciting and easy to read. If you are wondering whether your modern family will work, this book will give you the inspiration you need.




No Biking in The House Without A Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene

The mother of nine (four that are biological), talks about the beauty of raising children in a family in a way that no other writer has. She doesn't sugar coat the challenges that come with raising kids. Melisa admits that while there are many reasons for adopting children, the most important of them all is that children are fun and lovable. She also talks about how adoption has changed since ancient times to how we perceive it today.

An Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption by Lori Holden

Most adoptions in the modern world encourage openness, which means that there is increased contact between the birth family and the adopted family. However, do we understand how open adoption should be approached? The author speaks about the challenges that open adoptions face and gives an insight into the proper way of handling them. You will find real-life stories and experiences that can help guide you through open adoptions.  By the time you'll be done, you will be educated on the best ways to approach open adoption.

Be My Baby: Parents and Children Speak About Adoption by Gail Kinn

Be My Baby is a photo-essay book featuring reflections of several stories from various perspectives, such as adopted children, birth mothers, and adoptive parents. Although the author seems to be a little biased towards traditional families, the book gives voice to the parties involved in adoption. The experiences that are enlisted in the book are heart-wrenching. This is a thought-provoking book that encourages dialogue around adoption.

Attaching in Adoption by Deborah D. Gray

The book highlights how trauma and grief can affect children. Deborah Gray gives helpful tips on how adoptive parents can create trust and improve attachment. You will learn about the challenges that may result such as learning disabilities and fetal alcohol syndrome. Deborah gives amazing parenting techniques that will come in handy irrespective of your child's age.

Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Story by Karen Salyer McElmurray

The author, Karen, gave birth to a son and put him up for adoption in the '70s. At the time, Karen was a teenager and was living with her mother. She didn't have much of a choice but to surrender her child with the hope that he would have a better future. While the decision was painful, McElmurray felt that it was for the best. The book is a great read for both birth and adoptive parents as it speaks about the birth mother's side of the story. The journey of Karen re-uniting with her adult son is priceless.

From parenting tips to children's stories and adoption tips, you will gain valuable insight from reading these adoption books. By the end of each book, you will be a step closer to enjoying your adoption journey more and comprehending what everything is all about.

Brittany Waddell is a contributing writer and media specialist for Youth Villages. She often produces content for a variety of fostering blogs.

Supporting a Foster Child who was Born into a Home with Addicted Parents

The opioid epidemic is pushing more and more children into foster care, as their parents are unfit to care for them while they are bound tightly by the grips of addiction. Foster children who were born into a family with addicted parents have likely seen the unthinkable, have been forced to mature far too quickly, and have unique experiences that set them apart from other foster children.

The Washington Post reports that nearly every state in the nation has seen a rise in the number of children being put into foster care directly related to opioid addiction as their parents are deemed unfit to care for their children. Perhaps the child you are fostering is an infant who was born addicted to opioids or they are an older child who has seen first hand the detrimental effects opioids can reap upon a family. Regardless of the circumstances, there are important things to know and practice when fostering a child who was born into an addicted home.

Children of Addicted Parents

A study published by the National Institutes of Health examines the fact that children who are exposed to opioid drugs during a mother’s pregnancy are susceptible to behavioral and cognitive issues. In addition, children that have grown up in an unhealthy environment where drugs were involved were more likely to develop learning and behavioral problems.

However, the study found that children who were removed from the home at an early age and raised in nurturing foster or adoption homes adapted to their new environments and developed normal intellectual abilities.

Before fostering a child who has addicted parents, it is important to recognize that addiction is a family disease. It affects not only the parents, but it has likely strongly affected the child as well. Due to both nature and nurture, children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction of their own at some point in their life. Fortunately, with the appropriate support and care, the cycle can be broken.

Supporting your Foster Child

Children who have been exposed to substance abuse in the home are likely to suffer from anxiety, have a lack of coping skills, and may be afraid to communicate their feelings. It is imperative that your home maintains a safe, stable environment while fostering a child who comes from a family with addiction. Here are some ways to support your foster child.

  • Encourage open communication: Talk to your foster child openly about your experience with drugs and alcohol. Even if you don’t suffer from addiction, you can communicate clear messages about the dangers of substance abuse. If you are open and honest with them in a nonjudgemental manner, they will be more likely to confide in you.

  • Introduce them to hobbies or extracurricular activities: Kids absorb and take on the actions of their role models, so it is important to encourage them to participate in sports, arts, music, or any other type of healthy activity.

  • Promote a healthy lifestyle: Educate them about healthy living through your own practices. This includes cooking meals together, spending time in nature, and teaching them healthy ways to cope with their emotions.

  • Build their confidence: Many children who come from addicted homes may have suffered neglect or have a low sense of self-esteem. Acknowledge when he or she does something well or accomplishes a goal. Encourage them to work hard and overcome any obstacles they may face.

  • Be available: Parents who are addicted to drugs likely placed their drugs of higher importance than their child, causing a diminished sense of self-worth. Provide consistent support to build trust and a sense of safety with your foster child. Let them know that they matter.

  • Be patient: It may take time for your foster child to feel comfortable in your home and with opening up to you. They may feel as though their opinions and thoughts are irrelevant, so don’t give up on treating them with love, compassion, and kindness.

Taking these steps will help create a supportive, compassionate, and nurturing environment for the child you foster. No child is destined to addiction merely because their parents were. It may not be easy, but a stable environment like this can help set up a foster child for success. Watching a child grow and flourish will be a miraculous gift for you to experience and will benefit them for a lifetime. Instilling a stable life can help teach them the coping mechanisms and healthy habits they need to break the cycle of addiction.

Cassidy Webb is an avid writer who advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.




Celebrate The Earth Today and Every Day

For the last 49 years, April 22nd has become a day of celebrating our planet and bringing awareness to ways of preserving it. This year’s Earth Day theme is Protect Our Species. Some of the species that are being focused on are bees, giraffes, whales, elephants, trees, sea turtles, and great apes, which are all at risk of going instinct. The good news is that these threatened species are able to recover with help from you.  

More good news is that there are so many other ways to take action and some are easy to incorporate into your daily life.

Tips For An Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

  1. Turn off the lights when leaving the room and when there is enough natural sunlight.
  2. Reduce your use of plastic by using reusable bags at stores and reusable water bottles.
  3. Shop local! This is a win-win as it supports the planet and your local economy. 
  4. Plant a garden
  5. Replace regular lightbulbs for LED
  6. Unplug appliances you aren’t using them
  7. Buy a reusable straw 
  8. Plant trees
  9. Start a compost
  10. Recycle 
  11. Take shorter showers
  12. Turn off the sink while brushing your teeth
  13. Limit grocery shopping to just what you know you’ll eat
  14. Eat less meat and when you do, choose grass fed, free range, and organic
  15. Fix it before you throw it away
  16. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
  17. Walk or ride a bike when you don’t have to drive 
  18. Donate old clothes and other items instead of throwing them away
  19. Cook your meals instead of eating out
  20. Use a reusable to-go mug while getting your morning coffee at your favorite coffee shop

Creative Ways To Dye Easter Eggs

Easter is a fun way to bond and let creativity shine. Step it up even more this year with these crazy egg decorating techniques that will make this the most memorable holiday yet!

Shaving Cream

Get an effect that is similar to tie-dye, but even easier to create. Roll your egg around the shaving cream and dye mix and get a beautiful surprise.

Supplies:
Hard-boiled eggs
Shaving cream
Food dye
Glass dish

Nail Polish

Gather your old nail polish that’s sitting around to create this totally unique look. Roll your egg on the surface of the water (where the nail polish is floating) and voilá!

Supplies:
Nail Polish
Room temperature water
Bowl
Tooth pick
Plastic glove
Eggs (hard boiled or plastic)

Melted Crayons

This isn’t technically dying your eggs, but it’s still a great way to decorate them. Melting the crayons will make the colors more vibrant and your drawings will pop like never before.

Supplies:
Eggs (hard boiled, still hot)
Crayons

Dinosaur Eggs

Who says Easter has to be all about bunnies and chicks?! These dinosaurs eggs are an awesome way to branch out and have a unique holiday. Plus, they’re so easy to make!

Supplies:
Hard boiled eggs
Food coloring

Glow-In-The-Dark

I bet the Easter Bunny has never seen eggs like these before and will leave extra candy for creativity. And how fun would it be to have a glow-in-the-dark egg hunt?!

Supplies:
Fluorescent paint
White vinegar
Hot water
Bowls
Blacklight

Mosaic

These aren’t just Easter eggs but pieces of art! Have fun mixing and matching colors and sizes to creating beautiful designs.

Supplies:
Eggs (hard boiled)
Dye
Glue
Paintbrush

Galaxy

These eggs are out of this world! They may look complex like our solar system, but they’re actually quite simple to create. Paint and layer the colors on top that you want, then use a toothbrush to splatter white on top. 

Supplies:
Dyeable plastic eggs (black or white)
Acrylic paints
Paintbrush
Sponges
Toothbrush

Help Your Foster Child Handle Their Phobias

It may seem strange that children have to deal with phobias at such a tender age, but according to research, specific phobias already surface from age seven and social phobias from adolescence. There are many reasons for children to develop a phobia, whether it’s a rational fear of something or apparently irrational. Sometimes the fear might be due to a vulnerable situation, and sometimes the fear is picked up from the fears of others. Those who have a vulnerable background tend to display fears and anxieties, along with depression and other physical signs of their upbringing. For caregivers, dealing with these fears can feel somewhat challenging.  

Understand The Difference Between Fears, Worries, and Phobias

It’s perfectly normal for children to have slight worries or fears about certain things or events, however, when the reaction becomes severe and irrational, this is when it’s classified as anxiety. For children, anxiety can be disabling and to a certain degree, cause other medical conditions. If this is the case, it’s important for the parent or caregiver to seek medical attention. While psychiatric care is often recommended, there are also instances where the condition is caused by other medical conditions that could be serious, which is why extensive medical tests are recommended.

Support During The Phase Of Vulnerability

Children often associate certain events and situations with feelings of vulnerability. While these events can be carried well into adulthood, proper management in the early years can prove to be a great boost and completely remove all doubts, fears, and anxieties. Professions that have gone a long way to promoting a happy experience for children include visits to the hair salon or dentist. A fashionable hair cut or color-coordinated braces go a long way to promote the cool factor, which can turn a scary visit right around. For parents or caregivers, it’s important to spot a fear or phobia, as the method of alleviating the discomfort might be different. In both cases, however, it’s important that the child has the opportunity to face their fear in a controlled environment and, little by little, build up the courage to face it with confidence.  

Life After A Phobia

Once a fear no longer just seems like fear and you’re convinced the child has a phobia, it’s important to start treatment. Treatment may vary from medication and counseling to role playing and scenarios in order to alleviate the symptoms. Talk therapy is known to achieve quite a bit in terms of remedial action and is used during counseling sessions. Even with a phobia lurking overhead, children can still live a fulfilling life. Over time, there is the possibility that the child will grow out of the phobia or simply learn to handle it a little better without any remnants to place a damper on their day-to-day lives. While there is no known way to prevent a child from developing a phobia, parents can help by providing plenty of love, support, and nurturing. Even in this environment, although not usual, children may be overly sensitive to certain scenarios.

Although it might be hard for parents and caregivers to see a child suffer from fears and anxieties, especially when this goes over into a phobia, there are ways to manage these fears. Treatment, therapy, and a nurturing environment all play their part.

How to Prepare for The Transition From Fostering to Adoption

Regardless of whether you are adopting a foster child currently under your care, or you are receiving an adoptive placement for a child that is staying in another foster home, the transition from fostering to adoption is tough. There are emotional, financial, and physical impacts. Here is an in-depth look at the process of transitioning from fostering to adoption. 

Explaining Fostering

Foster care is a living arrangement for children who have been abused or neglected and need a safe place to live. Often times, their parents are unable to take care of them due to illness, homelessness, or substance abuse. 

Explaining Adoption

Adoption occurs when a child moves into a new home with a new family. The new parents becomes responsible for the child and assume the parental rights like the child's biological parents. 

Starting The Process

You can start the process by choosing an adoption method. You can check with a public adoption agency. Check with the state or local governments. Some states use private adoption agencies that are licensed by the state. Consult with your attorney. Your attorney will make sure that you have the appropriate documentation to complete the adoption process. Keep in mind that there is a hearing made through the state to terminate parental rights and give biological parents an opportunity to get custody of their children. Your attorney can give you advice on how to proceed through the process. 

Figuring Out The Adoption

Keep in mind that some foster children are dealing with a disability or other medical challenges. There are always resources available to assist you. You can search for different adoption organizations online. You can also check with your local bar association.

Finding An Agency

Once you have chosen an agency, you can start the adoption process. Initially, you'll have to attend a training session or orientation. At the seminar, you'll have the opportunity to interact with different social workers and learn more information about the children. You'll also get a thorough overview of the adoption process.

Financial Sacrifices

The amount of expenses connected to adoption depends on multiple factors, including; the type of adoption, the type of agency that you use, attorney fees, and the state that you live in. When you adopt a child from foster care, they may be eligible for some assistance through federal or state adoption subsidies. These subsidies are available at both the state and federal level. The subsidies can help you manage the short and long term costs associated with adopting a child. Contact your social worker to make sure that the subsidies are available in your state.

Benefits

Keep in mind that people who adopt children may be exempt from having to itemize their expenses. You may qualify for a flat tax credit similar to the minimum tax credit. There are military benefits as well. After the adoption has been completed, the military offers over $1,000 per child if you are serving on active duty. The military offers other benefits through its Program for Persons with Disabilities. Many employers offer employee adoption benefits. You may be eligible to receive financial reimbursement, paid leave, and other benefits.

Speak With The Child

Try to help the child understand the process of getting adopted. If the child is young, they may have plenty of questions. Some children may want to learn more about their biological parents. Try to make the child feel as comfortable as possible.

Speak With The Foster Family

It's a good idea to speak with the foster family before you adopt a child. They can provide you with important information about the characteristics of the child. The more you know about a child before they enter your home, the more prepared you will be. This will ensure a smoother transition. 

Slowly Develop A Routine

Once you adopt, there are several urgent issues that you need to attend to. You'll have to find a new school for the child. However, take some time to settle in and avoid rushing things. Give the child a chance to settle in at their pace. Consider taking a week off from work if necessary.

Give The Child Space

This is a drastic change in the life of a child. The child may have mixed emotions. You may need to give your child some space and let them have alone time. Try to find the right balance between spending lots of time together and letting your child enjoy independent time in their room.

Spring Break Must Do’s

It’s almost that time of the year again which is the beloved Spring Break. Some families spend this time traveling to exotic places, but you shouldn’t have to keep up with the Joneses to have a fun and memorable Spring Break. There are so many ways for families to enjoy the week off of school while staying right here in Eugene, Oregon.

Explore Hendrick’s Park

It’s easy to spend hours walking along the many trails of Hendrick’s Park which are covered by beautiful flowers and giant green trees. They are accompanied by large grass fields that are perfect for a family picnic or game of frisbee. Once you get there, you won’t want to leave.

Mini Golf At Putter’s Family Entertainment Center

Putter’s knows Eugene’s weather is unpredictable at best, and created the perfect environment for those long rainy days when you can’t wait to get out of the house. They are equipped with an indoor 18-hole mini golf course, laser tag, tons of arcade games, a playground, and pizza. 

Get Air Trampoline Park

Not only is it a giant room covered in trampolines, there are basketball hoops, obstacle courses, dodgeball, and foam pits. This place is truly fun for all ages.  

Adventure Children’s Museum

What’s more fun than a museum where you are allowed to touch everything?! Located in the Valley River Center, this children’s museum is full of activities for kids to learn while playing. 

Hike Spencer Butte

Rain or shine, hiking Spencer Butte is a must-do. The trail is doable for the whole family regardless of hiking experience and you’ll be too distracted by the beautiful scenery to notice how tired your legs are. At the top you’ll see amazing views of Eugene including Autzen Stadium.

Discover The Solar System

Go on an adventure to find all of the planets which are scattered along the Willamette River! The scale model begins in Alton Baker Park and expands 3.5 miles through Skinner Butte Park. It’s along the paved path so perfect for an afternoon bike ride!

Skinner's Butte Park

The possibilities of fun are endless here! From riding bikes along the river to playing on the giant playground, you are bound to have a great Spring Break day here. 

Magical St. Patrick’s Day Treats

Celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day with some sweet treats that may even bring you some extra luck. While all of these foods are green, don’t forget to actually wear it or else you could get pinched!

Lucky Pancakes

Start off the holiday of all things green with these amazing pancakes.

Ingredients:
Pancake mix, green food coloring, whipped cream, Lucky Charms marshmallows

Oreos-O-Gold 

Attract all of the leprechauns with this unique pot of gold! They won't even be disappointed to find that the gold isn't real.

Ingredients: 
Oreos, dark chocolate, gold sprinkles, Air head Extreme rainbow sour candy, water bottle, parchment pap

Lucky Krispie Treats

You’ll never want to eat plain Rice Krispie treats again after trying these. 

Ingredients:
Butter, marshmallows, Rice Krispie cereal, vanilla extract, green food coloring, Lucky Charm’s marshmallows

Shamrock Floats

This epic float couldn’t be easier to make or any more delicious.

Ingredients: 
Lime sherbert, lemon lime soda

Leprechaun Popcorn

Combine sweet and salty with this festive popcorn. But watch out, some leprechauns might come and try to steal all of it!

Ingredients:
Popcorn, green M&Ms, green and white chocolate candy melts, St. Patrick’s sprinkles