November is National Adoption month, and for many foster, kinship, and adoptive families, it’s the kickoff to a season of holiday stress! If you’re new to foster parenting, or you’ve been on this journey for a while, now is an excellent time to slow things down and think about your plans for the holiday season. Project 1.27 has a quick “Handling Holiday Stress” tip sheet and HALT tool to help guide you through making this holiday season as enjoyable (with realistic expectations) as possible!
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO HELP WITH UPCOMING HOLIDAY STRESS:
H.A.L.T. is a quick tool you can use when you notice you’re feeling stressed (this is also a great TOOL to use with the children & youth in your home).
AM I: HUNGRY? ANGRY? LONELY? TIRED?
This simple self-assessment can be a good starting point for identifying stress. Sometimes taking a simple first step can begin the process of working through more significant stressors looming. Everything is harder to process when hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. So, once this initial stress is identified, take steps to address it. Then, when you can move forward, set up a plan to head off future stressors.
For this & other Project 1.27 Resources visit https://www.project127.org/family-resources.html
November is National Adoption month! There is lots to celebrate about children being in safe and loving families-what a gift! If you ask a foster or adoptive family, many will agree adoption is a gift. Most will also share that foster care and adoption mean processing lots of grief for everyone in the home, and that’s hard. Families need Jesus in the celebrations and the grief. That’s where the church comes in. Families need the church to wrap around them, primarily through the upcoming holiday season, to help them remember how holy the hard things are. The everyday stress and the holiday stress of caring for children and youth in their homes leave many foster and adoptive families in isolation. The church is the perfect vessel to offer arms of strength, comfort, and encouragement and wrap families up with love.
Four simple ways your church can wrap love around foster families this holiday season:
For a full list of ways, you can support foster and adoptive families, check out Project 1.27's Full Resource.
If you’ve identified a foster or adoptive family in your church or community in need of more ongoing support, use Project 1.27’s Wraparound Resource to help guide you through the wraparound team process.
Help us get the word out to make sure foster and adoptive families recognize you as a foster-friendly church! If your church has completed Project 1.27’s Trauma Informed Training and is listed on our website as a Project 1.27 Foster Friendly Church
Consider signing up on the new Foster Friendly App, thanks to our friend’s at America’s Kids Belong.
“I felt hopeless. My whole world was crashing down on me,” Amanda remembers the day DHS took her three children and placed them into foster care. “We were living in a trashed-out house, we were behind on rent, and I didn’t have a job or any money.” Amanda knew she needed to get away from her situation and get help, but she didn’t know how.
In Colorado, many children are removed from parents who are struggling just like Amanda. Often these families find themselves in hard situations and have no support or resources, making an already difficult situations even more difficult. However, with help, many families can achieve stability. FamiliesCare is a new family preservation program that focuses on supporting struggling families before children are removed. Families are identified by county caseworkers and encouraged to contact Project 1.27, who connects the family with a Families Care Group from a local church. The group commits to work with the family for a one-year period, essentially becoming the needed support network to help the family keep their children safely at home. How the group serves the family will look different depending on the family’s needs and goals but could include bringing meals, and groceries, offering transportation to appointments or court, organizing fun activities for kids, and even helping identify employment opportunities. Fred Elliot-Hart, FamiliesCare Director, shares, “With this program, Project 1.27 is moving into family preservation, helping a struggling family before the kids are removed. We expect this program to decrease out-of-home placements for children.”
“I felt so alone during that season of my life,” Amanda recalls after her kids went into foster care. At one point, she was pregnant and sleeping in a park. “I kind of just gave up, I didn’t think I could ever get my kids back.”
There were a few bright spots in her journey. Melissa, a county worker, helped Amanda find temporary housing and brought her some clothes for her new baby. She became friends with Jenny, her children’s foster mom, who encouraged and supported her. “Jenny was the blessing that my kids needed, and I needed at that moment. Looking back, I’m so thankful that my kids ended up in her home. It was the best place for them to go at that time.”
Jenny paid for a hotel for Amanda over Christmas so she didn’t have to sleep outside in the snow. She drove her to appointments and court and helped her find community resources for food and housing. When Amanda regained custody of her children, Jenny showed up with a crew of helpers to move her into a new 2-bedroom apartment, helping to set up the kids’ bedrooms, organizing her apartment, and stocking her pantry and fridge full of groceries.
Amanda believes a program like FamiliesCare could have made all the difference in her and her children’s journey. “What I needed at that point in my life was someone, anyone, to help us. Someone to listen to me in a non-judgmental way and help me find resources to get out of a bad situation.” Amanda is thankful that she finally found the support she needed in Jenny. Looking back, Amanda recalls, “Having support gave me hope that I could get my kids back.”
FamiliesCare is launching in three Colorado counties, Arapahoe, Mesa, and Weld. Project 1.27 is looking for churches to partner and train to support the families who enter the program, as well as hiring for several positions within the program.
If you’re interested in learning more, becoming a prayer partner, or joining the Project 1.27 team, visit project127.org/familiescare or contact Fred at email@example.com
Amanda is now a full-time parent to her five children.
As we acknowledge October as National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, we need to evaluate the implications of domestic abuse for the children and families we serve. According to the U.S. Department of Women’s Health more than 15 million children in the United States live in homes where domestic violence has happened at least once. Children who've witnessed domestic violence are also at a higher risk for medical and mental health issues and a much greater risk of being abused or abusing others in the future. Although some children may never fully recover from the trauma of witnessing violence firsthand, there are things we can do to help set them up for a greater chance of success in the future.
Establish Felt Safety
The first thing children need is a personal sense of safety. Felt safety is a critical need for all children, but especially crucial for a child that has experienced abuse. The key factor with felt safety is the child’s perception of their safety. Regardless of whether or not the child is safe, the child needs to believe he is safe. Talking to the child about her fears, about proper boundaries, and about healthy relationships are all conversations that can help the child feel safe in your home. Through careful observation of those fears, you will probably be able to pick up on practical steps that could make a child feel safer in your home. Things like door and window alarms and a clear shower are ideas that have helped foster children in the past.
Create a Support Network
Establishing a support network of relationships will often help a child feel safe, including a professional counselor and trusted school staff. The more layers of safe support a child has the better for the brain's healing. In a church setting where you might be away from the child in children’s ministry or youth ministry, it can be helpful to find a target person willing to be the child’s consistent, safe person. Consistency is key here.
Model Healthy Relationships
Your children need to see a model of healthy relationships help them on the healing journey. Talking about healthy relationships and modeling them in your home will help children reframe prior relationships they experienced before coming into care. The time children are in your home might be the only time they are living in a Christian home, seeing Christ-centered relationships, and experiencing gospel-based parenting. These experiences could reframe how children view their future relationships.
“Despite their scars of past deprivation and lingering fearfulness, at-risk children can learn to take comfort and safety from their families. Be patient, and do everything in your power to let your children understand that they are safe and welcome in their new homes.” (The Connected Child by Karyn B. Purvis, David R. Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine, p.72)
After raising three children to adulthood, Angela* never expected to start over with more children. However, when her 8-month-old grandson, Jackson, needed her, she gladly stepped forward to take custody. Angela rushed to complete her foster parent certification to become a kinship care provider for him. Several years later, two more of Angela's grandchildren needed a safe home, and Angela, again, said yes. Today she still parents all three children, who are now 8, 6, and 6 years old. “I never imagined I’d be starting over with children,” Angela noted during this interview. “I thought I’d have them for a few months, and then they’d return to mom.”
Across the state of Colorado, many people like Angela are becoming kinship providers for children in foster care. In 2020 alone, 3,116 Colorado children and youth lived with a kinship family in Colorado. Kinship families are trusted, safe adults who a child or youth already knows. They can be biological family members, like an uncle or grandparent, or adults who are “like family,” such as a neighbor, friend’s parent, or coach. Kinship caregivers provide care and protection to children and youth who cannot remain safely in their homes due to issues including child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, incarceration, mental health, domestic violence, or even the death of a parent.
Describing the phone call asking her to take Jackson, Angela shared, “I didn’t realize what was going on. At first, Jackson was placed elsewhere, and I fought to get him with me.” Angela’s daughter and Jackson’s mother, Kate, was only 17 and living with her at the time. For Angela to have custody of Jackson, Kate had to move out. Angela felt like she was forced to choose her grandson over her daughter. “The whole thing was a very traumatic experience for all of us,” Angela shares. “It was a hard season. [Kate] had a child mindset, and we had no positive interactions. She thought I was trying to take Jackson away from her.”
After caring for Jackson for over five years, Angela is working toward reunifying him with Kate. Now, she and Kate have a great relationship and work to co-parent Jackson. Kate usually takes him several nights each week and is working toward parenting him full-time. “It’s been a long process,” Angela shares, “but now, for the last year, my daughter has been doing well and is stable.”
Angela’s other two grandchildren have been a different story. The state of Colorado terminated their parents’ rights, and after the appeal process, Angela will become their adoptive mom.
Angela quickly learned that she needed support and resources to parent her grandchildren. She plugged into a Project 1.27 Kinship Support Group and recently went through the ECHOFlex family training program. “I met others who are struggling like me, and we learn from each other,” Angela said. She has also made connections for the kids, including a male role model who provides childcare during the support group. Angela works hard to find activities to help them grow as a family and to have fun together.
Angela described her journey; "It’s been hard, and it’s not pretty, but they’re my grandkids, and I love them.”
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
Foster Adoption-Friendly Churches not only provide a safe environment for children from hard places, but support families caring for these children. It’s difficult for kinship and foster families to locate respite resources to care for the children in their absence placed in their homes, whether for a few hours or overnight. The State of Colorado has created a ‘substitute care’ category that will allow families to seek substitute or alternative caregivers of their choosing.
Consider becoming a respite resource for kinship and foster families who could use a break or some time away to take care of family or personal needs. Create an opportunity for foster parents within your church to enjoy a date night, movie or individual time with their biological children. Recruit a group of substitute/ or alternative caregivers to provide care for children in foster care. Group members can wrap around several foster families, providing the families with opportunities for time away to rejuvenate, spend time with God, or an evening of fun knowing the children are well cared for.
Children in foster care come from a place of trauma and benefit from caregivers that are trauma-informed. Project 1.27 is happy to support you in developing substitute caregivers, and provide trauma-informed training for your youth ministry leaders, as well as those in small groups and others who are interested in supporting foster families within your church.
Adopted over five years ago, eleven-year-old Josiah O’Keefe is not camera shy. “When I grow up, I want to be a professional soccer player or act on Broadway,” he said while sitting down for this interview. Josiah has acted in several plays at his school, dressing up as Elvis and singing “All Shook Up” for the talent show at the end of 5th grade.
Josiah joined the O’Keefe family just past his 6th birthday. Lori O’Keefe, his adoptive mom, recalls the first days with Josiah home. “We were both super nervous. He was nervous, I was nervous, and it was just recognizing that.” Lori’s husband, David, was at work when Josiah was brought to their home by his caseworker. “We played games in the basement with the other kids, trying to make him feel comfortable,” Lori remembers. Then she took him upstairs to bathe him and put him to bed, and Josiah, miraculously, slept through the night.
The O’Keefe family felt called to foster care in 2015, attending a Project 1.27 info meeting in December, then completing the rest of their training throughout 2016. David and Lori chose Project 1.27 because they wanted a Biblical Worldview and a Christian perspective. “We felt like some of the things we were concerned about regarding foster care would be better approached through a Christian organization.”
After they were certified, they received several phone calls for placements. Lori remembers one boy they had considered, “We had to say no because we knew we weren’t the right family for him, but it was so hard.” Several years later, when the family was at the courthouse for Josiah’s adoption, they discovered the same little boy was being adopted that same day by another family. “To me,” Lori recalls, “that was confirmation it’s not about us and what’s best for our family; it’s about what’s best for these kids, and you’re not it for every kid.”
In the early days with Josiah, many catch-ups were needed. The O’Keefe’s worked hard to meet his medical and dental needs and help him in school. They signed Josiah up for soccer, which he loves and still plays today, and taught him how to swim and ride a bike. Josiah remembers learning to ride his bike at the park with his family. “I was doing good, so I started cheering on the bike," he said. The premature celebration caused Josiah to hit a curb and fall into the grass, "We were all laughing so hard!"
David and Lori have three biological children who had challenges accepting Josiah into their family. Lori admits, “It was a good stretching for everyone. A good opportunity to do something outside of themselves.” Josiah says he loves to listen to music with his two older sisters and play sports with his older brother.
Reflecting on their life with Josiah, Lori stated, “He is thriving. He is very joyful and inclusive and loved by everyone.” Lori calls him the “Mayor” of his small private school. “Everyone knows him, from kindergarten to seniors and all the staff, and he knows almost everyone by name.”
When asked what advice David has for families interested in fostering, he said, “If God is prompting you in any way, go ahead and take the first step. Don’t overthink it too much.” Lori adds, “Just take it one thing at a time. Trust that God has a plan for your family, and he will see you through it and walk with you along the way.”
Getting a home-cooked, kid-friendly meal on the table is challenging for kinship, foster and adoptive families who are juggling multiple medical appointments, parent visits, and schoolwork while working hard to develop trust and connection with children who have experienced significant trauma. Providing freezer meals that can be heated quickly at the end of a busy day can provide more time for connection and less stress on the entire family.
"Thank you so much for sharing these amazing meals with us! They were all so tasty and it was a welcome treat to skip the cooking several nights in a row! We currently have a sibling group of four and a grandson we are raising. We had enough food for all!"
What does it mean to become a Dinner Church? Some churches provide a monthly or quarterly opportunity to drive thru the church parking lot and pick up three freezer meals. Other churches keep a freezer with meals for families to pick up during designated hours. Some churches drop off meals to families within a specific geographic area. Would your church like to be known as a Dinner Church to kinship, foster and adoptive families in your community?
1) Organize a church ministry team. One or two people can manage Dinner Church. Be sure to get approval from your church for this event, including things like kitchen use (if needed), announcements and sign-ups, calendar dates and volunteer requirements.
2) Create a sign-up system. Many churches can use their church data management system or try a free web program like https://www.signupgenius.com/. You will need a way for both volunteers and families to sign up. The number of volunteers recruited to cook will determine how many families can be served at one Dinner Church so get volunteer sign-ups before family sign-ups. If needed, limit the number of families that can register. Some things to include in your sign-up system:
3) Build a connection with kinship, foster and adoptive families in your community. Project 1.27, your local Department of Human Services or Child Placing Agencies can help get the word out and determine how many meals might be needed.
4) Organize recipes. Select recipes that are kid-friendly, freezer-friendly, simple and economical to make. Look for recipes that serve 6-8 people. (For families with more than six people, provide double meals.) With volume cooking, simple and economical are essential. If possible, select some vegetarian recipes, gluten/dairy free to accommodate dietary restrictions. Tested and kid-approved recipes are included at the end of this resource.
5) Engage volunteers to cook and distribute freezer meals. Some church volunteers use the church kitchen to make multiple meals and place them in the church freezer for future use. Either ask volunteers to bring ingredients or purchase ingredients before cooking day. Other churches ask volunteers to cook, label and freeze multiple meals from the same recipe at home and bring the fully frozen meals, in an ice chest, on distribution day. Provide this type of information in the volunteer announcement, along with distribution day, time and a link to sign up at least three weeks before Dinner Church Distribution.
6) Invite families to participate. Invite through your church announcement system or ask Project 1.27, your local Department of Human Services, or child-placing agencies to send the information to families. Often Dinner Church spots will fill up within hours of the announcement, so be sure and set a cut-off that matches the number of meals available. In the announcement, include distribution day, time and place.
7) Distribute meals!
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. When you’re fostering, sometimes you’re too busy, too overwhelmed, and too tired to itemize the ways you could use help, let alone ASK for help. But rest assured, help is wanted!
As a support person to a family that’s fostering, you can help without being asked. You may know exactly what your family could use help with, if so, by all means, do that! If you’re not so sure or could use some direction, here’s a list of a few things that almost every foster family needs help with:
1) Offer to pick up laundry and bring it back folded and ready to put away. (You can drop it off at a local laundry mat for a reasonable fee or take it home and use your own washer/dryer for a weekend project).
2) Pay and schedule house cleaning services for your foster family.
3) Make or order dinner to be delivered. Make sure to include paper plates so after dinner cleanup is a nonissue.
4) Prepare or purchase frozen meals that can be kept on hand for busy days (like when a new placement gets dropped off).
5) Purchase meal and grocery gift cards and send them in the mail with an encouraging note.
6) Purchase gas gift cards or offer to drop kids off at visits to give your foster family a little break.
7) Pray for your foster family.
Lord, we/I pray in the name of your son Jesus, asking for blessings and favor over the (foster family’s last name) family. We/I ask for your presence to be known to each family member, from the parents to the children in the home now, the children that will come later, and for the biological families that some of these children will return to. Remind each one of how beloved they are. Remind each one of your goodness, your grace, your faithfulness, and your love. Help us/me to discern the ways you call to help and support this family and give us/me the power of your Holy Spirit to respond and act in obedience to your call. Thank you for using us/me in your design to care for children in foster care, by caring for the families that take them into their hearts and homes. We/I pray for more families willing to sign up as foster parents, and for more families willing to support the families signing up.
In Jesus’s name, we/I pray, Amen.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
As we celebrate fathers this June, we wanted to share this sweet story about newly adoptive grandpa.
Ryken was placed with his grandpa as a kinship placement, who was excited to give his grandson a permanent home. At three years old, Ryken is a very busy and active child, and his grandpa wanted to provide him with a fun space of his own.
Ticket to Dream awarded Project 1.27 the funds to do a total room makeover for Ryken. Since Ryken and his grandpa love Marvel superheroes, Spiderman was the chosen theme. However, trying to provide a calming area with superhero energy proved to be challenging.
Through the Ticket to Dream grant and with the help of volunteers, Neisha and Lisa, as well as Ryken's caseworker, Terri Jasper, Project 1.27 was able to repaint the room, purchase a bed, sheets, a comforter, storage, a monitor, darkening blinds and curtains, a calming beanbag area, and sensory seeking and calming activities.
The grandfather was so thankful for the room makeover. He choked up as he talked to the caseworker, saying, “This room had a lot of bad history but now it is brand new and the best-looking room in the house.” Ryken was thrilled when he saw his new room, exclaiming, “What?!?! This is my room?!?!”
The makeover was a pleasant surprise and a blessing to this family as they just finalized Ryken’s adoption on June 10th, giving them a fresh start in their new life.