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.
In the spirit of Father’s Day, let’s celebrate and encourage the fathers and father figures who serve their families, children and community. These men can be powerful examples of respect, kindness and love to children coming into care. Sadly, many of these children come from homes where neglect and violence was experienced on a regular basis. Instead of a foundation built on a father’s love, there was neglect, fear or harshness. As a result, foster dads, granddads and uncles may be the first positive male role model a child experiences. Below are some suggestions for recognizing the important role of these men in helping children normalize healthy patterns of love and stability in their lives.
Be a positive role model: Children will be watching you, looking to compare and contrast their new relationships with former ones. This provides an opportunity to help them learn how a loving and caring male lives and serves others. Setting positive examples in relationships, communication, managing work, implementing respectful discipline and following through on commitments are a few examples of useful life skills to model for children.
This time of year, families are usually registering for summer camps and checking community activity calendars with great excitement, looking forward to the Summer months ahead. This year, the impact of COVID-19 means Summer will look different. As families continue making the necessary adjustments there are still many opportunities to creatively engage kids in ways that bring joy and fun. Below are some suggestions that will keep kids busy, create happy memories and build strong connections, all of which are vital in developing healthy, resilient families.
Porch drop offs: Kids love surprise gifts! Porch drop offs can be a great way to bring the fun and a change of pace. Create a bag of items like coloring sheets or puzzle books, sensory objects, water toys, summer treats and an age-appropriate craft project. Consider porch swapping puzzles, games and toys between households as you feel comfortable.
Cupcake Wars: Have one or more families set up a place where kids can get messy and host a virtual baking party. Drop off vanilla frosting, decorating supplies and cupcake batter. Have each kid use two ingredients from the pantry to create personalized flavors. (For younger kids, pre-make different flavors of cupcakes and frosting.) Let kids be as creative as their hearts’ desire with fondant, candy toppings, melted chocolate, cookies, and piping bags full of fun colors. Designate a judge to determine the winner of the decorating competition, have kids share about their personalized flavors, and enjoy the yummy results together.
After their son, Brooks, was born, Bradley and Deanna battled secondary infertility, struggling with inherent grief and loss. After weighing the options, foster care seemed like the right option for their family. The Hamiltons knew there were kids in the community who needed the love and care of a family. One of Deanna’s best friends, Charissa, was a foster parent, so the Hamiltons understood the possibility for more loss and grief and decided caring for a child was worth the risk.
Soon after signing up for Project 1.27 training, Hamilton's friend and tenant, Ingrid, shared that she would be providing kinship care for a baby girl. When Ingrid struggled with finding appropriate childcare, Deanna volunteered and the family developed a close, loving relationship with little Poppy. Five months later, when the Hamilton’s were certified, Poppy was officially placed in their home. During those five months, Deanna and Bradley got to know some of Poppy’s biological family who agreed the Hamilton’s would be a great adoptive family for Poppy.
As foster parents, Deanna and Bradley came to understand the layers of beauty in foster care and developed a personal understanding of how beautiful reunification can be. Unfortunately, for Poppy, this could not be done safely. Deanna shared that Poppy’s mom continues to be at the forefront of her prayers.
Project 1.27 staff talked to three churches about how they are supporting families in crisis. Thank you to Denver United Church, The Rock Church in Castle Rock and Colorado Community Church in Aurora for sharing these ideas.
A Meal Train
Churches in the area are organizing meals for families in need. Some churches provide funds for groceries, others offer to make the meals. The meals are gathered and volunteers distribute the meals to families on designated days.
Collaborate as a congregation and create small care packages to send families during this crisis. This is a simple but powerful way to get the congregation involved and show love for families.
Emergency Food Pantries
While churches remain closed on Sunday mornings, the building and people resources are still available. Ask the congregation to drive by and drop off pantry donations which other volunteers can organize for distribution. Then invite families in the community to drive by while volunteers load trunks with food and essentials
Zoom Support Groups
Zoom provides the gift of staying connected during isolation. Offer a variety of zoom gatherings and support groups throughout the week to support families. Churches are able to tailor the content to address the various needs of the community and congregation.
This is a great way to offer encouragement and support.
Personal Follow Up
While there are many things churches can do in this crisis, sometimes there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned phone call or hand written note.
Here are some additional ideas shared by Denver United Church >