Thanksgiving After Foster Care

thankfulRead below to see one former foster child’s experience of Thanksgiving. To see her full blog check out http://www.wendyslookbook.com/2011/11/thankful-foster-care-universities/. Just some background information; her name is Wendy Nguyen, she graduated from college with her Bachelors in Psychology, and she is active both in the fashion industry and juvenile justice. She has worked with the homeless, underprivileged youth in the public school system, and juvenile delinquents.

Thanksgiving is quite emotional for me.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  I feel incredibly blessed in life.  If you asked me in high school what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would have said I wanted to be alive.  Not a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant… I just wanted to live.  Growing up in foster care was interesting.  My social worker told me when we first met that 30% of foster youths become homeless, 30% incarcerated, 30% pregnant, and of the 10% only about 5% go to college.  After hearing the statistics, I desperately wanted to be in the 5%.  To be honest with you, I was set on college not because I wanted to pursue higher education.  I wanted to go because I didn’t want to be homeless.  I needed housing.  I heard about this magical place called “dormitories” where young people can live if they went to school there.  So I decided to work as much as I could to save up just in case I got into one of these dorms.  From 5:30 – 7:30 am, I was in the school cafeteria with the lunch ladies making burritos and sandwiches (I was very fast at making those!), went to school after work, off to my second job as a math tutor after school, and on the weekends, worked at Jamba Juice (and just in case you’re wondering, all of their fruits are fresh and they do have a secret menu).  Then college applications came around.  I remember sitting in Civics class filing out the application when a few classmates teased me saying, “why don’t you apply to Berkeley.”  I had one space left in the application and thought… ok whatever. I’ll just fill it in.  I’m truly grateful for that uncomfortable encounter.  UC Berkeley was the only semester school in the University of California system with a start date in late August.  All of the other universities were on quarter systems with start dates in late September.  My birthday is August 28.  UC Berkeley’s first day of school that year was August 28.  I literally went straight from foster care to college on the same day.  If I got accepted into any other school, I wouldn’t have had a place to live from my 18th birthday to late September.  When you’re in the foster system, you have to leave the foster home on your 18th birthday with or without transitional housing, because there is another girl waiting to take your spot.

I have a lot to be thankful for.  I’m thankful to be alive, for my foster care experience because it made me who I am today, for my friends who I call family, my brother, and my dear boyfriend.  And I’m incredibly thankful that you’re on this journey with me.  From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU so much for your support and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your story. Boone County CASA wishes Wendy and everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. May we be thankful for the families and affections we have, and may we keep those lacking these basic supports in our hearts.

To see the official CASA website visit us at www.boonecountycasa.org.

 

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Munchausen by Proxy

Most of us have heard of the book A Child Called It. School Library Journal describes it as an, “autobiographical account charts the abuse of a young boy as his alcoholic mother first isolates him from the rest of the family; then torments him; and finally nearly kills him through starvation, poisoning, and one dramatic stabbing.”

This book has led to extensive conversation on a condition called Munchausen by Proxy, a set of behaviors usually enacted on a child by a mother seeking and reveling in attention. The ‘by proxy’ simply means ‘a placeholder.’ In this situation the placeholder is the child, who takes on the role of patient. Those effected with Munchausen’s (without the ‘proxy’), “assume the status of “patient,” and thereby to win attention, nurturance, and lenience from professionals or nonprofessionals that they Babyfeel unable to obtain in any other way.  Unlike individuals who engage in MALINGERING, people with factitious disorder and Munchausen syndrome are not primarily seeking external gains such as disability payments or narcotic drugs—though they may receive them nonetheless.”[i] Yet some psychologists argue that the disorder may not exist as a disease at all. In fact MSBP states that, “There is no consensus among doctors, child care professionals, lawyers and others about Munchausen, even on what to call it. Also, referred to as Factitious Disorder by Proxy and Pediatric Condition Falsification, it is not classified as a disorder in the DSM-IV, the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible” of mental conditions, because of “insufficient information.” The American Academy of Pediatrics also has no policy on it.”[ii]

One of the more recent cases to make headlines about this disease is the case and death of Garnett Spears.

“In the short five years that he lived, little Garnett Spears was plagued with health issues, spending much of his time in the hospital. He suffered from constant digestive issues, fevers, seizures and ear infections. He also had to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach.

His mother, 25-year-old former nursing student Lacey Spears, took to social media to chronicle her son’s health issues, voicing her worry and frustration. Thousands of people soon rallied behind this poor young mother with the sick little boy.

In January 2014, Garnett was once again admitted to the hospital where it was determined that he had dangerously high sodium levels. The hospital became suspicious, alerting the police and Child Protective Services (CPS). As her son was lying in his hospital bed in tremendous pain and slowly dying, Spears spent much of her time on Facebook and her blog, posting a play-by-play, relishing the attention she was receiving. On January 22, Garnett was declared brain-dead. His mother took him off life support the following day.

During a search of the family home, police found an open container of sea salt and two feeding bags which later tested positive for sodium. Lacey was arrested and charged with manslaughter and second-degree murder. In April 2015, she received a sentence of 20 years to life, with the judge stating that MSBP had caused Lacey to crave the attention that being the mother of a sick child gave her.”[iii]

To read more about cases involving Munchausen’s by Proxy visit http://listverse.com/2015/09/03/10-shocking-cases-involving-munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy/. If you or anyone you know exhibits behaviors associated with this syndrome contact your doctor as soon as possible. For a list of what to expect, take with, and question regarding a Munchausen doctor’s appointment visit https://members.mhn.com/web/public/default/Mayo/DS00965.

 

 

[i] Feldman, Marc, Dr. “Muchausen Syndrome, Muchausen by Proxy, Malingering, and Fictitious Disorder Site.” Munchausens. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

[ii] Levin, Steve. “Sick Kids.” Sick Kids. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

[iii] “10 Shocking Cases Involving Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy – Listverse.”Listverse. N.p., 02 Sept. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

 

Write to Heal

writingSoul Water Rising held a contest, which asked foster youth to submit poetry showcasing their voice through their tumultuous experiences. When you have a second, take a look at the stories of these foster children. Some are uplifting, some are heartbreaking, but nearly every one talks about the struggle of transition and finding one’s place in the world. These poems are jarringly honest, and highlight both the good that happens in the system and the hurt caused by separation from one’s biological family.

For example, here is the poem which won the ages 13-15 Division. It was written by a 15 year old foster child from Maryland. To see the poem in its original posting click here.

BROKEN WINGS OF A FOSTER CHILD

I’d teach the world to spread their wings though mine seem to be broken

I’d teach the world to chase your dreams and fulfill those dreams unspoken

Even when the world seems cold carry on child and know

That i too am a troubled youth with only one place to go

 

I’d teach the world how to laugh and smile through thick and thin

As the time fades on me your journey can now begin

I used to feel so hopeless because a foster hood i was given

I’d teach the world though you have a label it doesn’t mean u have to live it

 

I’d write music to sing to those that feel lonely and no one cares

I’d give hope to those that don’t make it and feel life’s unfair

I can teach the world that though our destinies have been chosen

You still have a chance to heal your wings

For mine were once broken………

 

T.M. Age 15 Maryland, USA

 

Prescription Drug Disposal

PDDBPlease see the ‘Prescription Drug Disposal Bin’ sticker. Here in Belvidere there is a safe drop off site for prescription drugs. This was set up in an effort to prevent drug abuse in Boone County.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that, “The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which monitors emergency department (ED) visits in selected areas across the Nation, reported that approximately 1 million ED visits in 2009 could be attributed to prescription drug abuse. Roughly 343,000 involved prescription opioid pain relievers, a rate more than double that of 5 years prior. ED visits also more than doubled for CNS stimulants, involved in nearly 22,000 visits in 2009, as well as CNS depressants (anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics), involved in 363,000 visits. Of the latter, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax) comprised the vast majority. Rates for a popular prescribed nonbenzodiazepine sleep aid, zolpidem (Ambien), rose from roughly 13,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2009. More than half of ED visits for prescription drug abuse involved multiple drugs.”[1]

NIDA for teens, a site dediucated to educating teenagers about drug abuse and risky behavior says, “Can You Die If You Abuse Prescription Drugs?

Yes. More than half of the drug overdose deaths in the United States each year are caused by prescription drug abuse. In the last decade, the number of deaths from abuse of prescription drugs has increased dramatically.

In 2001, 9,197 people died from a prescription drug overdose; that number jumped to 22,810 in 2011. The trend holds true for young people—765 young people died as a result of a prescription drug overdose in 2001. In contrast, more than 2.5 times that—1,950 young people—died from an overdose in 2011. Close to 17,000 (74%) of all deaths from abuse of prescription drugs involved opioid painkillers and more than 6,800 (30%) involved a class of depressants known as benzodiazepines (some deaths include more than one type of drug).1

Mixing different types of prescription drugs can be particularly dangerous. For example, benzodiazepines interact with opioids and increase the risk of overdose.”[2]

 

[1] “How Many People Suffer Adverse Health Consequences from Abusing Prescription Drugs?” How Many People Suffer Adverse Health Consequences from Abusing Prescription Drugs? National Institute on Drug Abuse, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

[2] “Prescription Drugs.” NIDA for Teens. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Alone and Scared

Reblogged from http://www.fox32chicago.com/news/local/36670660-story. Fox 32 News story written by Craig Wall.

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) – The Department of Children and Family Services has launched an investigation after a baby was left alone in a day care last night after it closed.

It happened at the “All Things are Possible for Kids” day care center at Chicago and Pulaski Avenue.

The DCFS investigation is just beginning, but sources say this facility has not been a problem agency and in fact, previous issues have only involved paperwork.

But on Monday night, things changed in a big way and cell phone video captured the dramatic rescue.

Getting his 1-year-old daughter, Journee, back safely was a huge relief for Cornelius Jones. But last night was a panic situation for Jones when he showed up at the daycare to pick up his daughter 15 minutes before closing and there was no one there.

“I was terrified and I was also hurt because I knew she was in there in the dark and I couldn’t get to her,” Jones told FOX 32.

He called 9-1-1 and the fire department had to force open the door to get inside to a crying baby.

In the cell phone video which captured the incident, you hear an officer call “Journee,” then the baby cries and you hear someone say “awe.”

“I was wondering where is she, where is she. I hear her, but I couldn’t see her. And one of the police officers flashed a light to the left and flashed it back to the right and that’s when I saw her crawling towards us screaming and my heart just dropped,” Jones said.

A DCFS source says this daycare has not been a problem facility, but after FOX 32’s story aired, another man called to say several months ago he too had removed his son from All things are possible.

“I knocked on the door, rang the bell, called and emailed the day care, but got no responses,” Jones said.

According to Jones, workers claimed they were still in the back of the day care at the time he arrived.

The Director apologized and offered the following explanation to Journee’s mother:

“And she told me that they thought Journee was a doll, but she’s not that little to be a doll, so it’s some excuses,” said mom Quanesha Borum.

“If anything it should be shut down, I mean nobody leaves kids behind, toddlers. I don’t care how old they are that’s’ dangerous,” Jones added.

For many parents, one of their biggest concerns when looking for a daycare is, is the facility safe? DCFS recommends parents visit several facilities, make appointments and take time to watch activities, check surroundings and ask questions, and then stay involved.