What a year this has been! The holidays will be here before we know it. While we hope all families experience a time of celebration and joy, even during this difficult season, the holidays can be a difficult time for foster and adoptive children. The holidays tend to bring up many triggers, questions and tough emotions for children to navigate. Below are some ideas for supporting children during this time.
September 1, 2020, while a slew of friends and family waited in the courthouse parking lot because of COVID regulations, Julie and David finalized the adoption of brothers, Zayden and Nixxin. It was a day to celebrate. And to grieve.
Not everyone understands how grief mingles with joy at an adoption. Fortunately, David and Julie do. They’ve been helping Zayden grieve for almost a year, ever since it was determined he and his little brother couldn’t safely return to their biological mom.
“In the courtroom, Zayden put on a good face, but he was still sad,” shares Julie. “We let him be sad, even as we shared how glad we were to have him as part of our family.” The boys’ safety, well-being and adoption into a loving family are things to be celebrated, and at the same time, it is important to acknowledge the huge loss. With the help of David and Julie, later that evening, Zayden was able to celebrate and had lots of fun with his friends.
The Back Story
Adopted at birth, Julie always sensed God drawing her towards adoption. When she met David and they started talking about fostering and adopting, Julie thought, “Maybe this is the right guy for me!”
After attending a Project 1.27 Info Night in 2017, Julie asked, “David, how serious about this are you?” Dave having heard during Info Night that a couple needed to be on the same page responded, “If you are on board, I’m on board!”
...Even during a pandemic!
In November, churches across the U.S. have typically focused on caring for the vulnerable children in foster care. 2020 isn’t a typical year, but there are ways churches can engage the congregation using resources for Stand Sunday (Nov. 8) and National Adoption month (all November).
During this pandemic, the stress on already fragile families is intense. History shows that when just unemployment increases, there’s an increase of children coming into foster care. Add in a limited access to mental health and substance abuse treatment and isolation at home and it becomes clear that Not every child has been safer at home.
In 2020, there are-
Not enough adoptive families for waiting children!
Not enough foster families, especially for siblings and older children in foster care
Not enough support for at-risk, foster and adoptive families
Use these virtual (or in-person) resources to engage your congregation in ministry to vulnerable children and families in your community.
PROJECT 1.27 VIDEOS & RESOURCES:
What do you do when you pray, plan and prepare for a Foster Care Awareness Night at your church
and nobody comes?
Schedule monthly Foster Care Awareness Nights. Keep foster care on display. Watch God at work-
That’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to see at church during a pandemic. And then there’s God!
Julie and Jon Stephens were interested in hosting a Foster Care Awareness Night at their church because they were spurred on to consider foster care after watching another Project 1.27 family, the Wolgemuths. As Julie describes it, “Seeing foster care on display in actual people’s lives helped me think that maybe we could do that.” After talking to husband, Jonathan, the couple attended a Project 1.27 Info Night in 2017. They walked away wishing they hadn’t heard any of the information because it meant they couldn’t turn away.
“We just took one class at a time, one step at a time. It took us a year, but we trusted God knew what he was doing. We were set up to bring in a kid, help a family in need.” Since becoming certified, Jon and Julie have adopted their first placement and supported their second placement’s move to live with her aunt in another state.
September is a month to recognize all kinship providers who stepped into an important gap to care for children experiencing abuse and neglect. In circumstances where a child is not able to safely remain with their parent, kinship providers are the first choice for placement to minimize the trauma of removal. Kinship care is defined as a relative or non-relative adult with an existing bond to the child, who agrees to provide care to the child during a dependency and neglect case. This allows children to preserve family and community connections, making kinship providers an invaluable resource. While kinship care is a gift to helping children cope with the challenges of removal and maintain a sense of familiarity, it also can be a difficult situation for families to be in. Kinship providers often find themselves in the middle, torn between a system working to protect the child who has been harmed, and preserving their relationship with the family member responsible for the abuse. Kinship families may also find their own life plans, safety, or privacy interrupted; or be financially strained in providing for another child. In honor of celebrating the hard work of kinship parents with consideration to the many complexities it presents, below are some ways to show your family love and support this month and always.
November 2016, when two-day-old Baby Girl arrived, Adam and Katie became first-time foster parents and first-time parents. They describe the day Baby Girl arrived as “exciting chaos”. Eight months later, when asked how we could pray for them and other foster parents, Adam and Katie quickly responded with one word – Peace! (Excerpt from August 2017 Newsletter)
Peace. When Adam and Katie shared their story in 2017, they didn’t know just how much they would need your prayers for peace. This month, after 1,371 days in foster care – their care – Adam and Katie adopted Baby Girl, better known as Harvest Lynn. They also adopted her little brother, Wynn Robert!
Many children who have experienced trauma are triggered by transitions. This can be difficult to help a child manage because transitions are a part of everyday life in ways big and small. In responding to transition triggers, a child may show behaviors that range from mild protesting to a severe meltdown. Fortunately, there are many ways that caregivers can help predict and prepare for these circumstances to help a child have an easier time moving from one task to the next. Over time, children may come to learn the mechanisms that work for them, ultimately decreasing the length and severity of behavioral responses and increasing their ability to make positive behavioral changes. Feeling successful in this way is a powerful tool to helping kids heal from trauma and build positive relationships. During a time when transitions are more constant than ever, this is an invaluable gift to give to your child. Below are some suggestions on how to help a child build confidence in addressing their transition triggers.
Create a routine: Think about the main components that make up the child’s day and have a predictable structure in place. Organized activities, such as bedtime, are great to have in place for all ages. As your child progresses to be reassured by this structure, understand that maintaining consistency is key. For example, children who have experienced trauma may not be able to developmentally understand why one night they got a later bedtime and the next they did not.
Janet’s Easy Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Bill’s Homemade Ice Cream (Shelly’s dad’s recipe)
"We loved it when my dad came back from the store with chocolate milk for this!" - Shelly
The impact of COVID-19 continues to present new challenges for foster children and families experiencing the child welfare system. For children who have endured trauma, building and maintaining a structured environment they can count on is hard fought work by foster parents. The pandemic has resurfaced or exacerbated feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty with foster children already in an unfathomable situation. Now that we are several months into navigating a world turned upside down, take a moment to use the questions below to check in with yourself and the foster or adoptive family you support to encourage good mental, spiritual and emotional health.
What am I grateful for? The practice of gratitude is a powerful tool in finding joy even in the most difficult circumstances. Take a few minutes at the beginning of every day to list three things you are thankful for. This practice postures you to start the day with a glad heart.