Fuck Yeah! Foster Parents For Teens!

Jul 17

Changes, changes, changes

After trying for months to track down my niece and nephew’s latest case worker AND my brother, I FINALLY got a hold of both of them today. Technically the case worker just left me a voicemail, but it was a very helpful voicemail. She gave me my own brother’s new number (funny how I have to get it through a stranger because the family near him doesn’t know/won’t update me) so I called him this morning …

According to my brother (we share the same father but not mother), he’s been looking for work “everywhere” and wants the kids back. It sounds like he may be able to get them back if he gets some form of stable housing. Right now that appears to be a family shelter situation. I wish that instead of that, our extended family in that area would open up their homes to him, but that doesn’t appear to be possible. It wasn’t possible a year ago and clearly nothing has changed. I have many feelings about this but have decided to keep that part private …

My brother says he’s visiting the kids on a regular basis, which is a good thing. I know that for a while that wasn’t the case. He has a court fee that I told him I would help him pay if I can send the check directly to the court. He said he’ll get back to me with that info. I also told him that I have been trying/wanting to send more school supplies and clothes for the kids. He says the next time he’s at the foster home, he’ll - after me suggesting this - talk to the foster mother and make a list for me that I can order and then have sent to the case worker’s office, who will deliver the package to the foster home.

I’ve left several messages at the foster home and haven’t heard back. But this isn’t new and I don’t blame the foster mom. She has several kids in her care; I frankly don’t know how she does it. I also hear she just had a baby of her own. So I am REALLY REALLY invested in getting the kids out of there ASAP. I am hoping my brother sticks with his plan and takes them out of there ASAP, as soon as he’s allowed to …

As I mentioned before, I will be in CA in September and will be visiting with both the kids and my brother to get a better sense of what’s going on. There’s still a possibility that I will take the kids, but that couldn’t happen until I am living in California. However, the only reason I would take the kids is because the alternative is for them to continue being in care. I can tell that my niece wants to be with her dad, even knowing how unstable he has been in the past. 

Life in many foster care cases, it’s not lack of love that resulted in my niece and nephew being taken into care (again) …

My brother loves his kids. I believe that with all my heart because of the way that I’ve personally seen him with them (before they were taken) and from the things my niece says about her dad. She loves her dad - my brother - a lot. …It’s that my brother and the mother of his kids have substance abuse problems and are also living in poverty. That, plus lack of education and consistent family/friend support, contributes to the present reality. 

My brother is expected to find a job with a bunch of logistical strikes against him: he’s supposed to attend classes during the day AND do regular drug testing - all while hunting for a job. I understand the point of these requirements, but how is he supposed to get a job if he can’t make it to interviews, because he has mandatory daytime classes?

How is he supposed to get the kids if he can’t afford to get a place because he doesn’t have a job? His present schedule - ordered by the court - just doesn’t make any sense. 

Clearly if my brother had made better choices his kids wouldn’t be in care, but we’re past that point. The present reality is that there is no word on what the mom is up to, or if she has any reunification plan in place, and my brother wants his kids back but needs to get a place first to be eligible.

The family shelter solution doesn’t sound ideal but that’s the only thing on the table right now, since apparently the extended family in the area isn’t offering any kind of help.

I have very conflicted feelings about my niece and nephew being in a family shelter with my brother, but I have no control over what he and the court decides. At least my brother is focused on getting the kids back and researching all options. All I can do is stay in touch with him and the kids, provide emotional and financial support (where it makes sense to do so) and see what happens next …

Jul 12

Anonymous asked: I really really really want an older brother or sister. How can I convince my parents to adopt. I know for a fact we have enough money and my mom always wanted more kids. Please help me

Hi young anon,

I’m both an older sister and a younger one so I think I know how you feel, in the sense that I never grew up with my older siblings so I missed that experience of having an older brother or sister there to both annoy me and mentor me.

That being said, I will be honest with you and say I have no idea how to “convince” your parents to adopt an older brother or sister “for you.” Sorry. I don’t know your parents and I honestly never thought about trying to convince my mom to adopt anyone.

I can probably guess at least some of the reasons why you want an older brother or sister:

- someone to teach you things

- someone to be there for you, protect you

Those are the things I didn’t experience with an older sibling that I think would have been really affirming.

I think it’s great that you, as a part of wanting an older brother or sister, would want to help an older child in foster care find a forever home. However, I am suggesting that you take a step back and think about what is truly motivating your desire for your parents to adopt an older sibling for you.

The reason why I am asking this is because your family’s entire life is going to be turned upside down by bringing in a teen from care. It requires many changes to happen both in the home and inside of all your heads and hearts. It’s a ton of work, can take a long time and costs money (the financials vary by household, goals and state law).

I am not saying it’s going to be 100% awful, because I honestly have no idea what it’s like. I haven’t adopted a teen from foster care yet - all I have achieved is getting certified to be a foster parent and passing home study.

What I am saying is that it will be different. It will certainly be different than if you were born into a family where your older brother or sister was already there, and you shared the same parents. The person who your parents adopt from foster care may or may not get along with you at first. It may be years before you form a bond. It may be very different from what you expected.

If you are looking for mentorship from a young adult or older teen, there are safe and effective ways to find that through organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Rock Camp for Girls and Boys & Girls Club. This may be a better alternative for you if your parents are not interested in raising another child (and they have the right to decide to not raise anymore kids).

So, I guess what I am saying is, just sit your parents down someplace quiet one day when they are calm and in good moods and tell them how important it is to you that your family makes a space for a teen from foster care to have a forever home. You could explain that in addition to just wanting an older sibling, you think that it would be a great way for the family to give back and help someone in need.

You could offer to come to a foster parent orientation meeting with your parents in your city. Then, I would just leave it up to them to think about it. Don’t try to get them to give you an answer that day. Give them a few months to think about it and to approach YOU with questions. Don’t be pushy.

Because ultimately, they will be the ones handling a lot of the most intense and stressful aspects of going through the process of both adopting from foster care and helping an older child transition into the home, as well as bonding. This is just as much about them as it is about you. And even more important than that, is that this is about an older child who perhaps has been moved around a lot and it would be a shame for your family to make the decision to have a child placed, only to then give the child up because your family couldn’t deal with all the changes and additional stress.

Because a change like this would be full of great things and really painful things. Your family may just not be able to handle it. That is the risk every family takes when they open it up to a child. That’s why foster parents should be given a lot of support from the government  but unfortunately that doesn’t happen nearly enough. 

Adopting (whether from foster care or private adoption) is a huge decision for a family to make. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking your parents to consider adopting an older teen, and sharing why it’s important to you to have an older sibling, but ultimately you will need to accept whatever decision they make and trust it was the right decision.

Because think about what it would be like for an older child to come into a home where the parents had been guilted or pressured into adopting them, and feeling any form of resentment about it (unconscious or not). I imagine that would feel really terrible. Your parents need to be 100% on board and if they aren’t, and it’s this dragging them along process, that is not an ideal environment for a child looking for and needing unconditional love.

Hope this helps you.

Jul 12

Anonymous asked: anything new going on?

Hi Anon,

Thanks for asking. Yes, a few things have changed. For several months I was out of touch with both my brother and my young niece and nephew, due to my brother not having a phone and my niece and nephew being moved to another foster family. 

Just yesterday, I was able to finally get the new case worker’s number and also found out that my niece and nephew are now back with the last foster mom, a woman who I liked. She is the home where I last sent money for clothes and school supplies.

I am going to speak to my niece this weekend, so I’m really happy. Today I am speaking at a conference about women and violence in the media, so I have quite a few things to be grateful for.

My niece and nephew’s teen half sister - my older niece who I had come stay with me for 10 days in May - is doing well, relatively speaking. She’s back at her mom’s house and as far as I know they are getting along. We had such a great time while she was in NYC. It was beautiful to finally connect in person after three years of strictly online and phone contact. I am planning on having her spend Christmas with me and the extended family.

So yes, I am feeling really grateful for the blessings in my life. A few weeks ago I co-presented a workshop at Allied Media Conference in Detroit. A week before that, I attended an event for my nonprofit in Atlanta. I enjoy traveling and look forward to my nonprofit’s 20 city tour in Oct - Nov 9, which I am presently in the process of booking/producing.

I am really busy, always working on something. I do my best to take time for myself to decompress. Part of that self care practice is that I am leaving my job on Sept 1 and then staying in California for the entire month so that I can spend time with my family and go to my sister’s wedding. Immediately after the wedding, I go on tour for six weeks across the country until Nov 9.

After October, I am not sure where I will be or what I will be doing, but it will be different. And by then I will have spent time with my young niece and nephew - face to face - and hopefully there will be more news about their placement status. Right now, all I know is that they are possibly going to be with their foster mom for “a while longer.”

The last time I heard “a while” was back when they were first placed last summer. My young niece and nephew have now been away from their parents and moved from place to place for an entire year. That thought alone makes me very focused on spending as much time as possible with them in person in September. I was actually in Los Angeles in February for a festival, where my nonprofit tabled, but I couldn’t get a hold of the case worker to plan a visit. It was incredibly frustrating.

Oh … I have made a big decision that I will elaborate on in a future post but can touch on briefly here:

I want to be the best mother I can be. I know I can’t be perfect but I know there are steps I can take and am taking to ensure the best possible quality of life for my children. With that in mind, I have decided the best decision for me is to go into business for myself, starting in December. I will shift to being self-employed, full time. 

Building a successful business is a ton of work and requires a lot of time and attention, particularly in the early stages. I know this from research and also from my mom’s stories (she started her own business with a partner when I was a toddler, which she runs to this day). So, I have made a very difficult - but right for me - decision:

I am going to postpone (yet again) having a foster teen placed with me until 2016. Yes, three full years from now. 

A brief summary of my reasons are as follows:

1) It’s still a possibility that I will end up having my young niece and nephew placed with me

2) It’s still a possibility that my teen niece will live with me to finish high school and transition into college

3) I want to run a profitable business before I bring a foster teen into my life so that I can provide the most stable environment as possible

For a while I was beating myself for putting myself first and deciding to wait. That was a very unhealthy thing to do. But that’s the past and I am focused on the good things happening right now and in the new few months.

It’s critical that I stay positive as much as possible so that I can achieve my goals this year … because the more that I succeed over the next three years in my business and in becoming a healthy person inside and out, the better parent I will be to my niece and nephews (either legally or as an active parent figure/financial/emotional supporter) and my future foster teen. <3

I will continue to update this Tumblr with the following:

- Reports on my process with my younger relatives and youth mentorship

- National and local foster care news (when I have time)

- Research and commentary on foster care and related topics

But the truth is that you probably won’t see posts about a teen being placed with me until 2016. Thanks for reading so far.

Mar 05

Anonymous asked: anything new happening?

Hi Anon,

Thanks for asking. It’s looking like placement is going to happen closer to November or December of this year. I don’t really have any new updates besides that …

My life is very busy and I recently took my nonprofit POC Zine Project to L.A. Zine Fest, where we were invited guests. Our panel was over capacity, which was amazing. I leave for Chicago tomorrow for Chicago Zine Fest, where POCZP is also an invited guest and we are being honored at a ceremony at Quimby’s Bookstore.

The company I work for was recently bought by another company, so it doesn’t make sense right now for me to try to cram a child into my life this early in the year. I have set a goal for this year, and that is to wind down much of the things that keep me so busy by the fall, and then shift my focus to having a child placed with me and bonding with a new daughter/son.

I will be wrapping up a 12 city tour at the end of October and will be very happy to stay put after that, have a teen placed with me and focus on being there for him/her ^_^

I know I am doing a terrible job keeping this updated, sorry. I feel like there will be a lot more to share as I begin more placement work after this summer. Between now and then, I will do my best to remember to update this periodically with related updates, helpful links and news.

Thanks again, Anon, for checking in <3

Mar 05

Anonymous asked: where can I get a teen girl for foster adoption where's the easiest place to find one and do it

This question sounds very sketchy without additional context. I am going to air on the side of caution and say … do the research for local resources if you’re serious about this as an ethical aspiring parent, not a pedophile/creep. Thanks.

Jan 22

Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth quietly growing in strength led by Reps. Bass, Bachmann →

Excerpt:

Three former foster children will be in Washington on Monday to witness President Barack Obama’s ceremonial inauguration for a second term.

They were invited by California Congresswoman Karen Bass, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and an ardent advocate for the more than 400,000 kids in foster care. She said witnessing the historic occasion will inspire them to reach their own goals.

"What I hope they walk away with is, `Wow, maybe I can do something great in my lifetime,’" Bass said. "I like for young people not to see a limitation on what they can do with their lives.

She’ll also introduce the youths to fellow lawmakers, hoping that meeting them in person and hearing their stories will encourage her colleagues to join. The caucus, which formed in 2011 and has focused on improving education outcomes and reducing the disproportionate amount of psychotropic medications prescribed to foster kids, has been slowly growing in strength.

Representatives Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; Tom Marino, R-Pa.; and Jim McDermott , D-Wash., also co-chair the group of nearly 75 members. Obama recently signed into law The Uninterrupted Scholars Act, which the caucus pushed through to improve education outcomes by giving social workers access to education records.

I’m so excited about The Uninterrupted Scholars Act!

Jan 15

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act: Increased Educational Opportunity for Students in Foster Care

President Obama signed the Uninterrupted Scholars Act into law yesterday, which is incredibly relevant information for foster youth, foster parents, and support networks.

One of the most challenging issues facing youth in care is having to repeat courses when they enroll in a new school because their placement changed. Children and youth often had to repeat classes, or potentially miss important classes they need to graduate on time.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act authorizes, in certain circumstances, the release of child education records without parental consent, and eliminates parental notification requirements for information requested for certain court proceedings.

This amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to make it easier for caseworkers to gain access to the educational records of foster children.

As reported in the Huffington Post, Representative George Miller (D-CA) stated, 

"Throughout their young lives they may change care placements multiple times. Each placement means adjusting to a new family; often to a new community, new friends and a new school. Each move can put their educational success in jeapordy that’s because the caseworkers who advocate for them as they move from one school to another often do so without critical information. Though current law rightly requires foster care workers to move children’s educational records in their case plans, another federal law limits the ability of caseworkers to access those records in a timely manner."
Dec 26

Holiday Thoughts

I hope everyone is having a safe, fun and relaxing time with their loved ones. For those who are not, I hope you are able to find peace and happiness however you can. Often our lives are interchangeable - one year we’re surrounded by loved ones, and the next year, we’re out in the cold. You never know how things will turn out, one day to the next.

Life is full of surprises and not all of them are good. But the human spirit is strong, and thankfully it can usually help us get through the tough times … It never hurts to have faith that things will work out, that time can make painful memories manageable, and to believe that there are good people in the world (because there are!). <3

For Christmas, I got my teen niece a Nexus 7 tablet. She will use it for fun, but I am also encouraging her to use it to augment her education. Her school sounds terrible. I want her to use it to read books and to teach herself new things. I told her about the free SAT prep apps, and sent her a link to be able to download a bunch of ebooks I am sharing with her. I explained (via text - her favorite medium) how to customize her Nexus device and how to find free books through the Kindle app.

I  also got her a keyboard attachment so she can use the Nexus 7 like a laptop. I hope this device makes a difference in her life … she’s a smart person and I think that her past actions demonstrate that she’s a survivor - she found me online to find her dad, and she knows she doesn’t want the kind of life that she’s presently living. If her mom ends up breaking her promise and goes back to meth, I will be happy to take her. I can worry about all the stressful stuff later, for now I just feel good knowing that I am doing the best that I can to be there for her.

I’m a little disappointed that my younger niece and nephew’s case worker never called me back in time for me to send Christmas gifts through her. Since I can’t mail things to the foster mom, I had wanted to send them things through the worker, and was told I could. But the worker never called me back, so I was too late.

I’m going to call them tomorrow and see how their Christmas went. I’ll let them know that I’m working out getting gifts to them ASAP. 

Although I am honestly very happy to not have any children right now LOL, I’m looking forward to later next year when I will have a child in my home … whether it’s my niece, or a foster teen. <3

Dec 13

[MICHIGAN]: UM-Flint 'Life Skills Coach' to help students from foster care →

An $800,000 Michigan Department of Human Services grant has helped to bring a “Life Skills Coach” to the University of Michigan-Flint, a position that will be used to help students transition from the foster care system to college life.

The grant is being used fund the service at six state universities and one private college, according to UM-Flint.

The adjoining program at UM-Flint will be called Mpowering My Success.

UM-Flint’s Life Skills Coach is Cindy Nelson-Pouget, LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker). The program is expected to serve between 12-25 students each year.

Click here for the full article.
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I’m so glad they are doing this!! Foster youth need support beyond age 18, especially in an academic setting.
Dec 08

RE-BLOG: Hope for the Future: Newbies →

theworldoffostering:

Newbies

Welcome new followers! Thanks for joining me on this journey of foster care, adoption, and most recently birthing our first biological child.

I just wanted to clarify our situation in case you just found me: I have a 12 year old DD that was internationally adopted after I spent some time volunteering in orphanages while living abroad. She came to the States when she was two. I have a 6 year old DS who was adopted out of foster care. He was placed with me when he was just shy of one month old and eventually became available for adoption (that was not the original case plan/goal). His adoption was finalized when he was 2 1/2.

I adopted my two older kids as a single parent (never married), and I was 27 when DD joined me Stateside. I met my DH in 2009, and we were married in 2010. He adopted my two kids within a few months of our marriage, so they now have a daddy for the first time in their lives. We continued in the fostering process together, having more than ten placements (including two sets of twins) in our first years of marriage together.

In addition, we went through a miscarriage during our first year of marriage after more than six months of trying to get pregnant. After another year we found out we were pregnant again, and our daughter, E, arrived four weeks ago on 10/30-18 days past her due date.

We continue to foster, provide respite, and want to adopt again to grow our family. If you have questions, please feel free to ask, and encouragements are always welcome too. Glad to have you along for the continued journey.

Thank you for sharing your story! My Tumblr is about my journey finding and adopting a teen through foster care, but I love to share inspiring stories like yours regardless of the age of the child. <3