Happy 2016!

To end this year CASA staff sat down to brainstorm their wishes for the upcoming year. Their hopeful list for 2016 goes like this…

  1. That there’s continued reason to use the phrase “you’re doing good work for these kids” but less reason to have to.
  2. That there’s a higher rate of even resilient children within the system receiving therapy to help them work through their abuse/neglect.
  3. That there are less children experiencing the ‘maybe days’ of not achieving permanency.
  4. That the world is able to see a greater focusing on the benefits and positive aspects of foster parenting.
  5. That our Midwest community continues to grow in its awareness of child abuse and efforts to prevent it.
  6. That foster youth in our area are able to receive more peer mentorship by foster alums who have made successful lives for themselves post DCFS wardship.
  7. That both the employment and college attendance rate of former foster youth rises.
  8. That Boone County be the location of more services (i.e. counseling, parenting groups, mental health services, domestic violence classes) so that parents with transportation challenges don’t have to travel so often into Rockford or beyond.
  9. That more older foster youth are able to take advantage of their unique aged based services like assistance with college, living skills and financial management classes, and employment search aid.
  10. That there is a greater presence of classes and prevention focused services available to at risk populations such as pregnant teens.
  11. That there are more and affordable services for parents of children with special needs locally (we did just recently learn about BraveHearts here in Boone County. Seriously you guys, your contributions to children here are wonderful and varied!).
  12. That the quality of life for the poorest children here in our county and everywhere globally is able to improve. Thanks to organizations such as Vitamin Angels for their ongoing efforts in this struggle.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

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New Foster Child? Meet Jumping Jack

We thought this was a beautiful, touching post about the things adoptive/foster parents can do to keep siblings together. We were impressed by this mother’s dedication to the individual and specific needs of each of her children. Way to go, Beautiful Opportunity, you’re doing great work!

The Beautiful Opportunity

When we first agreed to Joyful and Watchful’s placement, we said we’d take their little brother, 4-year-old Jumping Jack too, if he came into care.  But a week later, we made a different plan.  Here’s why.

Initially, we were told the youngest sibling was a three-year-old girl.  Room-wise, this made it easy to house everyone, since a little girl could bunk with Joyful.  When we found out that she was a he, we still were interested in the taking Jumping Jack, and thought we’d look at moving Joyful in with Sassy.

But in the intervening week between Joyful and Watchful’s arrival and Jumping Jack entering foster care, two things happened.  First, Sassy had a hard time adjusting to Joyful and Watchful’s presence in our home.  Second, we saw how the three siblings interact together and found out there were some major issues.

Sassy is our 13-year-old (bio) daughter.  She’s a giving, sensitive teenager…

View original post 687 more words

The Maybe Days

51pIGkZ2YBL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_It can be very hard to explain to children exactly what foster care is or to validate their unique feelings, which is so important to a child removed from his/her family. The book The Maybe Days covers this ground beautifully. The especially wonderful thing about the book is its underlying point to children; its not your fault, its not your job to fix, your responsibility now is to simply be a kid and do kid things. This, we’ve found, is easier said than done.

What are some of their maybe questions…

Maybe I’ll get to see my parent this week for visitation (not all bio parents show up to 100% of their visits)

Maybe they’ll remember my birthday (unfortunately, we’ve had times where parents have forgotten).

Maybe my last name will be changing (between goal change and termination this is hanging in the balance).

Maybe I will be at this school next year (whether a child returns home to a parent or moves foster homes, this frequently can be different).

Maybe today is the day the rest of my clothes get here (children are often moved in a hurry and are unable to take everything they would like with them).

But its Legal!

 

When we say “substance abuse” many people immediately think of illegal drugs; cocaine, marijuana in IL, or heroin. What comes to mind is that you have to smoke it, snort it, or inject it outside of the allowances of the law. Those are the things that hurt children. Those are the things that lead to children witnessing inappropriate behaviors or leads a parent to addiction which later leads to the neglect of their children.

However, alcohol is legal. And, it is often seen as less of a problem because most people have had a drink or casually drink with friends every now and then. Having a glass of wine while out to eat with a group of adults is a horse of one kind. Perpetually drinking at home in front of children or leaving bottles within their reach is another. Additionally, sometimes its accessibility is the very thing that causes problems. It is perfectly legal to pick up a bottle of vodka at the grocery store, whether or not the consumer has a problem drinking.

Alcoholics end up having a major impact on their children. Read below for one woman’s personal story. To see the full article from AA click here.

When I was ten years of age, I was given a glass of whisky and drank it straight down. It burnt and took my breath. Throughout my drinking years I did not touch whisky again. At sixteen, I had my first experience of getting drunk. I used to work for a bottling company where my job was to put labels on bottles. I knocked off work one lunch time and proceeded to join next door’s bottle department for drinks. To this day, I cannot remember getting home.

From the age of seventeen, when I met the man of my dreams (or so I thought), until I was twenty five, a night life of social drinking and the birth of my daughter kept me out of danger of alcoholic drinking. At the age of twenty five, we moved and I got a job as a barmaid full time. Work was hard and drinks were free behind the bar providing you didn’t get caught. I then started to show the consequences of my heavy drinking, the work, my housework, being a mother, my social life.

I was admitted to the Melbourne Clinic with the DTs (delirium tremens) and hallucinations. I spent two weeks there and was discharged on medication. Back at my doctor’s I was told to go to AA, I said, “No, I’m not an alcoholic”. I then spent from the next seven years being a top-up drunk, bender drinker, social drinker, drying-out on the wagon, then back to alcohol. I introduced myself to the morning drink. Beautiful food was bought for the fridge and my daughter and I ended up eating baked beans.

For these children, raised by alcoholics, the consequences can be dire. They perform below other peers in school, report more conflict within the family, and are most susceptible to diagnoses of developmental disorders. NACOA says that, “Seventy six million Americans, about 43% of the U.S. adult population, have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Almost one in five adult Americans (18%) lived with an alcoholic while growing up. Roughly one in eight American adult drinkers is alcoholic or experiences problems due to the use of alcohol. The cost to society is estimated at in excess of $166 billion each year. There are an estimated 26.8 million COAs in the United States. Preliminary research suggests that over 11 million are under the age of 18.” And even more importantly, “There is strong, scientific evidence that alcoholism tends to run in families. Children of alcoholics are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than children of non-alcoholics.” So yes, it is legal. It can still be used illegally, though, and can still cause great damage to children. 

Yet, some children of alcoholic parents do become very successful. Take, for example, Billy Currington. He’s scored multiple number 1 songs, has signed a record deal with Mercury, and has written/demoed songs for other country musician greats. The song that first made Billy famous was one he’d written the lyrics for when he was twelve. The song, “Walk a Little Straighter Daddy” was written about his stepfather, who Billy said was a longtime alcoholic. Billy’s issues with his stepfather still linger, and in 2007 The Boot released an article saying in part, “Country crooner Billy Currington is parking his tour bus for the rest of the year in order to concentrate on therapy. The 33-year old tells PEOPLE magazine, as first revealed by Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper, that he endured more than a decade of abuse from his stepfather. He says the childhood trauma has ultimately resulted in his own issues with anger that linger today.”

The problem? Not all alcohol is bad. It can be consumed safely. It is socially appropriate at times. We’re certainly not advocating for prohibition (which really didn’t work to curb drinking problems anyway). What we are in favor of is knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction (view below). Know when to get help if you need it. Don’t let your consumption affect the lives of your children.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or recovering from alcohol use
  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home due to repeated alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social or interpersonal problems
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies
  • Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms

-List of symptoms from Mayo Clinic

One Single Father

We were really touched by The Washington Post’s article, A father’s initiative. Read the excerpt below or click on the above link to read the whole piece. This was also featured as one of Longreads’ under-recognized stories of 2015.

But Bindu did live in Wisconsin, in one of its worst neighborhoods, where Obama’s fatherhood initiative was advertised on fliers posted at barber shops, food banks and homeless shelters. “Strong Fathers Take Family Matters Into Their Own Hands,” one read. And even if some considered that a thin solution to so much systematic racism and decay, Bindu thought that a fatherhood class could at least be a safe and constructive place to go. She had encouraged Paul to enroll and said he could stop sleeping on friends’ couches and live with her, so long as he followed her rules: no wandering the neighborhood at night; no visits from the baby’s mother, whom she didn’t trust. “I can’t be your safety net forever,” she had told him, and she had decided against giving him his own key.

Now he carried Sapphire upstairs to their bedroom, where his mattress was on the floor under a string of Christmas lights. He brushed her teeth and rocked her down into her crib. Then he sat on the window ledge, lit a cigarette and blew smoke into the alleyway.

Run, Hide, Fight

Unfortunately, the FBI states that active shooter incidents in the United States are “an increasing trend.” Between the years 2000 and 2013 there have been 160 mass armed violence incidents, and this number doesn’t include the Paris attacks or the San Bernardino shootings, which happened this year. It does account for the shootings at Virginia Tech, our very own NIU, and Sandy Hook Elementary School. Nearly 500 people were killed during these events, while even more (557 to be exact) were injured.

This means that the public needs to be prepared and know the best ways to react if ever in this terrible situation. As stated by the FBI, “Active shooter incidents are becoming more frequent—the first seven years of the study show an average of 6.4 incidents annually, while the last seven years show 16.4 incidents annually.” Their advice? Run if you can. Barricade yourself if that’s a better option. Finally, fight instead of being passive. In fact, “21 incidents ended after unarmed citizens successfully restrained the shooter.”

CNN recently released a video of one such run, hide, fight training.

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/us/2015/07/25/active-shooter-demonstrations-kaye-dnt-ac.cnn

These trainings are becoming more popular, especially following the recent events of mass terror. This Ohio gym has even gotten involved, teaching people ‘gross motor’ reactions to gun violence. As the trainer says in the video, under so much stress a person may lose fine motor skills.

To learn more about trainings or to schedule one you can visit AliceTraining.com.