LUK, Inc. Blog
May is National Foster Care Month
By Michele Morrissey
LUK is a proud supporter of National Foster Care Month, and you should be too! Each May the President offers a yearly proclamation supporting the Children's Bureau in their efforts to recognize the work of foster families, social workers, faith-based and community organizations, and others who are improving the lives of young people in foster care. The President’s proclamation also encourages all Americans to participate in efforts to serve foster children throughout the year.
Honoring, Uniting and Celebrating Families is the theme for May 2016. This provides an opportunity to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. During National Foster Care Month, we renew our commitment to ensuring bright futures for the more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care. At LUK, we recognize our families during National Foster Care Month by providing a Community Day In the Park and an Appreciation Brunch.
Dear Foster Parents,
First, let me start off by saying thank you.
Thank you for the commitment to provide a safe loving home for children you have no prior connection to or knowledge of.
Thank you for the good you are bringing into this world.
Thank you for being positive role models in our community.
Thank you for referring your friends to LUK.
Thank you for putting up with numerous people entering your home on a routine basis.
Thank you for the time and extra expenses you have put into helping these children have a happier, more successful future.
Thank you for enduring and persevering through the obstacles you encounter everyday as a foster parent.
Perhaps, after reading that, you’d think that I was fostered at some point in my life, but it's actually the complete opposite. I grew up with two loving parents and had no knowledge of foster youth while growing up. However, growing up in a two parent, safe, loving home is not the case for every child. Unfortunately life happens, things go wrong and innocent children end up needing safe, loving homes. Thankfully, there are people like our LUK foster parents who step up and dedicate their life to helping others. Their huge, caring hearts make up for the adults whose hearts aren't as big and whose arms aren't as wide open.
In the spring of 2011, I joined LUK and began my journey into the foster care world. I have watched numerous families make an extremely courageous and selfless decision to foster children in need.
The process for becoming a foster parent takes quite a while due the lengthy application requirements. The length of times gives families plenty of chances to change their minds about becoming foster parents. I am thankful for the families who stuck with the process and became licensed foster parents. However, neither the immense amount of paper work or unimagined number of tasks that needed to be completed got in the way of numerous families decisions to move ahead with the process.
One particular family sticks out in my mind as I began my journey into foster care right around the same time the “Rodriguez” family began their formal training in CPR and First Aid. They first reached out to LUK in April of 2009. Their licensing process was completed in October of 2011 and throughout the past 5 years Jose and Juanita have impressed and exceeded all limits and expectations when it comes to fostering.
Before Juanita and Jose, my image of the foster care program was a lot different, and I can thank Lifetime movies and ABC Family for that one. The difference? The “Rodriguez” family has raised two children of their own, and the foster parents are retired and have plenty of time and attention to give to youth in their home. Juanita and Jose have done everything in their power to provide for these children as if they were their own, and I could not be more inspired than I am when I think about the great things they are doing.
Imagine welcoming children into your home, giving them everything and anything that you could to help prepare them for a better future. Raising them as if they were your own, loving them more and more with every passing day. Hearing them call you "Mommy" and "Daddy", teaching them how to share, dropping them off at school, and then one day having to say goodbye for good. That's something I can't even begin to imagine, yet we all know that's almost always the case with fostering.
It's now been five years the Rodriguez family welcomed their first youth into their home. They have had 6 youth in their home throughout the past 5 years, all of whom have flourished and were loved. The most recent has been there since 2012 and it looks like they will be saying goodbye to her sometime within the next month. She is graduating high school and preparing to enter college in the fall.
I am so thankful to have this family as part of LUK. It takes a lot to become foster parent. You must have courage, patience and you must also be selfless. A lot of people cannot handle the pressure and complications that come with being a foster parent, which is why we must appreciate and thank the ones who are.
So if you are, were previously, or intend on becoming a foster parent...THANK YOU!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
by Dave Hamolsky
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
SAMHSA’s theme for the month is “Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health”.
Mental Health America’s theme is “Life with a Mental Illness: Learn about it. Act. Share”.
My theme for the month is “Declare War on Stigma in all its forms!”
“Social stigma is the extreme disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society. Stigma may then be affixed to such a person, by the greater society, who differs from their cultural norms.” (Wikepedia, 2016)
In America when we really want to get serious about addressing a problem we “declare war”. For example, the War on Poverty (President Lyndon Johnson, 1964), the War on Drugs (President Richard Nixon, 1971), and the War on Cancer (President Richard Nixon, 1971) are historical “wars” that “we” continue to fight to this day. We seem to understand that when we wage war it is of great importance because people die or get seriously injured, countries are ravaged, cities and communities are destroyed, and families are torn apart. Recognizing the seriousness of war, we apply this intensity, the focus, the determination, and the resources to addressing social problems. We not only recognize the importance of “fighting” the problem, we also understand that it requires the coordination and energies of ALL OF US to “win” the war. There is also the suggestion that we will NEVER GIVE UP until the war is won.
Recent Findings from the 2006 HealthStyles Survey:
- Only around one-quarter of young adults between the ages of 18-24 believe that a person with mental illness can eventually recover.
- Only 42 percent of Americans believe that a person with mental illness can be as successful at work as others.
- Only a little more than half (54%) of young adults who know someone with a mental illness believe that treatment can help people with mental illnesses lead normal lives.
- Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that people with mental illnesses are not to blame for their conditions (84%), only about one in four (26%) agrees that people are generally caring and sympathetic toward individuals with mental illnesses.
What can you do?
#1 – LEARN: Learn as much as you can about mental health, substance use, and stigma.
#2 – TALK: The most powerful co-conspirators to the problem of stigma is secrecy and silence. So, talking about substance use and mental health is a great place to start!
#3 – GET INVOLVED: Take the Pledge…
TAKE THE PLEDGE: http://bringchange2mind.org/
TAKE THE PLEDGE: https://www.nami.org/
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: http://www.samhsa.gov/
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): https://www.nami.org/
NAMI: Facts about Stigma and Mental Illness in Diverse Communities: http://www2.nami.org/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm?ContentFileID=5148
Partnership for Drug Free Kids: http://www.drugfree.org/
Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health: http://www.samhsa.gov/children
National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH): https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): https://www.drugabuse.gov/
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/
OK to Talk – Website for youth: http://ok2talk.org/
Talk About Mental Health: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/index.html
Conversations in Your Community: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/community-conversation/index.html
May I Have a Moment of Your Time?
By: Kelsey Cadran
The importance of Data
The phone rings, you answer. “Hello?” “Hi There, we are conducting a survey, may I have a moment of your time?” What is your first response? Hang up? Tell them you’re busy? Or take a few moments and answer the few questions?
Data can be a powerful resource, but the information needs to be valid and plentiful for it to be useful. The more people that participate in the survey and answer those questions with sound responses the better the results. That moment in time you choose to answer those few questions can really help an organization, cause, or individual achieve a result that may just benefit you!
Me? Yes, you! But how?
Those surveys can gather enough information to find a need in a community, develop an idea that could address a common interest, or just in general get people more interested and invested. There is a reason why people offer discounts, or incentives for just a few answers. These persons and places rely on the information to help better serve the public, while yes, benefitting themselves as well. You may find that surveys, polls, and questionnaires are time consuming and just downright annoying, at times I’d have to agree. That phone call at dinner time, or while you’re just on your way out the door “Could you please answer a few questions?” is frustrating, but understanding why can change that mood. Simple questions like “do you have children?” or “what is your usual method of transportation” could be polling for information about whether a not a town may be considering spending money on putting in additional resources in the town for public use.
Non-profits collect information on various data points to help understand the needs of the community they reside or serve. With this information they are able to discover what might be areas of need, and direct them toward applying for certain grants. Once the funding is established data is collected to show progress and requirements of funders. Data elements can be anywhere from demographic to service related. Without collecting this information, there is no way to tell whether you are being effective with your method other than a case by case basis, and assumptions. There’s a saying that goes around “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.”
Recently I learned that a local museum in my town that is funded by a state agency is losing their funding. While I don’t know the exact reason, it leads me to wonder if they do not find value in funding a project that is just not getting the volume of visits it was expecting. When you walked in the door the first thing you see is a little note that says “Please sign our guestbook!” my immediate reaction was to think, they’re collecting data. They want to know how many people are stopping by, and where they are coming from. Something as simple as signing a guest book could be the reason a non-profit entity makes or breaks it.
The idea of this blog entry is to get the message across that your input matters! So the next time you are faced with a survey, a simple questionnaire, a guestbook, take a second and respond. Your valid input is important!
LINKS to some additional articles:
Nonprofit Data Users – Challenges: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adnan-mahmud/nonprofit-data-users-3-ch_b_4960313.html
Nonprofit Performance Management: Using Data to Measure and Improve Programs. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2013/07/02/using-outcomes-to-measure-nonprofit-success/
National Volunteer Week
by Hilary Amedy
National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Since then, every U.S. President has signed a proclamation promoting National volunteer Week. Governors, mayors and other elected officials also make public statements and sign proclamations in support of National Volunteer Week.
Volunteers are one of country’s most important assets. More than 62 million people volunteered last year, donating approximately 8 billion hours to non-profits.
During National Volunteer Week we would like to thank all the folks who have volunteered their time and talents to improve our community. LUK volunteers donate their time selflessly by serving as mentors, LUK Board members, Mentoring Advisory Board members, as members of Community Action teams, assist with trainings, and helping with fundraising events. Mentors alone average 4,000 hours per year with LUK mentees.
People volunteer for many reasons from wanting to give back to the community, make a difference, gain new skills or to meet new people. We know how volunteers help non-profits but volunteers benefit from volunteering as well. People who volunteer can increase their self-confidence, self-esteem and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Thinking of becoming a volunteer? See the following list of reasons that will help you make up your mind. (UC San Diego 9500 Gilman Dr. La Jolla, CA 92093 Copyright ©2016 Regents of the University of California.)
#10: It's good for you.
Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards. It:
- Reduces stress: Experts report that when you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts usual tension-producing patterns.
- Makes you healthier: Moods and emotions, like optimism, joy, and control over one's fate, strengthen the immune system.
#9: It saves resources.
Volunteering provides valuable community services so more money can be spent on local improvement
- The estimated value of a volunteer's time is $15.39 per hour.
#8: Volunteers gain professional experience.
- You can test out a career.
#7: It brings people together.
As a volunteer you assist in:
- Uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal
- Building camaraderie and teamwork
#6: It promotes personal growth and self-esteem.
- Understanding community needs helps foster empathy and self-efficacy.
#5: Volunteering strengthens your community.
As a volunteer you help:
- Support families (daycare, eldercare)
- Improve schools (tutoring, literacy)
- Support youth (mentoring and after-school programs)
- Beautify the community (beach and park cleanups)
#4: You learn a lot.
Volunteers learn things like these:
- Self: Volunteers discover hidden talents that may change your view on your self-worth.
- Government: Through working with local non-profit agencies, volunteers learn about the functions and operation of our government.
- Community: Volunteers gain knowledge of local resources available to solve community needs.
#3: You get a chance to give back.
- People like to support community resources that they use themselves or that benefit people they care about.
#2: Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
- Community service and volunteerism are an investment in our community and the people who live in it.
#1: You make a difference.
“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t been in bed with a mosquito!” (Anita Roddick, The Body Shops)
The Foster Care Drift
by Michele Morrissey
We have all heard the stories from former foster youth who grew up in the system. Their stories often share the same common problem of growing up in multiple foster homes – the foster care drift (Placement Patterns in Foster Care). More than one disrupted foster home is traumatic enough for a child, but it’s difficult to fathom the harm experienced by a child when they have moved through 5, 10, 15, or even 20 homes.
What causes a child to move so many times? Who are these foster families that keep rejecting this child? Is the child welfare system so bad, that it cannot find permanency for these kids? The answers to these questions are not easy to find. It is too easy to say that the foster care system or foster family failed a child once again. It is also too easy for foster families to say, "I will never request a child be removed from my home."
I have had a specific child on my mind for a couple of months now. I was at a provider meeting that included several foster care agencies and this child was presented, as he’d been on a waiting list for some time. In professional lingo it is called a ‘placement request’ where agencies collaborate on locating an appropriate foster home for a specific child. This male child is three and half years old and needed to be transferred from his current foster home to a new home because of behavior issues. Further information reveals that he was part of a sibling group of four children and they were trying to find a home for him and his sister. The brother and sister had been separated from the other two siblings also due to behavior issues. When placed, the newest foster home will be his fifth foster home. The mother side of my brain is already shouting, "For heaven's sake this child is only 3 years old, how bad can his behavior truly be!!!"
Our intake coordinator presented his referral packet to a home and we found a match! The siblings had, what is considered, a long transition into the home. He finally moved into his new foster home with his sister. However, within days he was removed from the home due to severe behaviors and aggression. The little boy was screened by a state funded mental health team (the Mobile Crisis Team) and deemed safe to return to the foster home, but again, displayed very unsafe behaviors, property destruction, and aggression. He was moved to another foster home within our agency.
So what happened in this small child's life that brought him to this place? Obviously, abuse and neglect by his birth family brought him into the foster care system. Why so many foster homes? Most people think of behavior problems as tantrums, hitting or something similar. However, a child affected by trauma can bring bad behavior to new levels that are hard to imagine. Some of the most challenging behaviors that I have seen are bed wetting, hurting a family pet, hurting or battling with another child in the home, or even acting aggressively toward a foster parent or their biological children. It should also be said that rarely does this bad behavior mean one isolated incident. It occurs frequently and patience, additional supports, therapies, and “thinking outside the box” may have no impact. Providing a loving home for a child with these kinds of challenges will test even the most seasoned foster parents. Can a foster family that has tried everything under the sun and had no success be blamed for giving up?
One of the points that are taught in our MAPP (Massachusetts Approach to Partnership Parenting) training is that the safety and health of your own family needs to come first above the needs of a foster child. This is a hard concept to wrap the brain around until it has been experienced.
Foster families are all created differently and each experience is unique. The thought of a child with extreme behavior issues has chased many potential foster families away because of fear. Not all foster children have extreme behaviors. I have often been surprised by a family who seemed to be tailor made to handle a particular child. I admire those who choose not to give up and I understand the heartbreak and grief of those who need to make a change. There are no black and white rules when it comes to children in foster care.
The foster care system is working hard to minimize placement disruptions. There is now collaboration between state social services and private agencies to increase the chance of finding a home that fits a child's needs. Placing a child in a home that is good fit right from the start is an important piece of the puzzle.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, take the first step. Please call LUK at 800-579-0000 to talk about your interest in becoming a foster parent. We will answer any questions you have, and will begin the process when you are ready to proceed.