https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/PlummerYouth_021-scaled.jpg 2048 2560 Jordan Caress-Wheelwright /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png Jordan Caress-Wheelwright2023-08-19 14:36:002023-09-15 11:17:13Plummer receives $1M in state funds towards upcoming construction project
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/mercedes-mehling-KLKskEi777M-unsplash-scaled.jpg 1437 2560 Jordan Caress-Wheelwright /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png Jordan Caress-Wheelwright2023-06-22 16:26:482023-06-22 16:26:52A Lifeline for LGBTQ+ Youth
The foster care system provides services when a child or young person does not have a safe family living situation. Even before the recent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and the escalating incidents of hate speech, LGBTQ+ youth were overrepresented in foster care. A 2019 study showed that LGBTQ youth were 2.5 times more likely to enter foster care than their heterosexual and cisgender peers.
A significant proportion of the LGBTQ+ youth who enter the foster care system do so as a result of family conflict over a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Often this conflict involves abuse, a youth running away, and/or a youth being kicked out of their family home. In a 2022 poll by the Trevor Project, 42% of LGBTQ+ youth reported they had stopped speaking to a family member as a result of anti-LGBTQ legislation. And only 38% of LGBTQ youth found their home to be affirming.
For these youth, accepting adults in their lives can serve as a protective factor against sometimes fatal outcomes. A 2019 Trevor Project survey showed that youth who reported having at least one accepting adult in their lives were 40% less likely to have attempted suicide in the past year. In situations where a young person’s family does not provide safety, acceptance, and belonging, the accepting adult may need to be an affirming foster parent.
The extraordinary wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in combination with the sometimes hateful tenor of the national conversation may well lead to increasing family conflict that drives more LGBTQ+ youth into the foster care system. They will need foster parents able to meet their needs with care that affirms their identity and personhood. Might that foster parent be you?
Become a foster parent. Affirming foster parents can be a lifeline for kids who have experienced identity-related trauma. Click here to learn more about becoming a foster parent.
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Happy-Mothers-Day.png 788 940 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png competenow2023-02-14 15:39:372023-04-29 07:10:27Sometimes Love Means Saying Goodbye
Sometimes Love Means Saying Goodbye
Foster parents demonstrate their love for the children they care for in a variety of ways, including by providing comfort to the anxious child. By providing a daily routine, foster parents help kids understand that they will have good food, a comfortable bed to sleep in, and clean clothes to wear every day, no matter what. They understand that a child with a history of trauma needs extra TLC to feel safe.
Foster parents also show love by letting their foster children leave their home when the time is right. Foster care is not meant to be a permanent living arrangement for a child or teen. Foster care is meant to be a temporary safe harbor while efforts are made to find the best permanent living arrangement for a child or youth through reunification with birth parents, guardianship by another relative, or legal adoption.
Child welfare practice has evolved toward keeping kids with their families or, if that is not possible, returning them home or to another permanent family as soon as that can be accomplished. Safely. Foster parents play an important role in helping families reunify. They support visitation with parents and siblings. Whenever possible, they build a trusting relationship with the birth parents. These relationships are often a key part of the reunification process. They strive to honor their foster child’s culture and family traditions.
Letting go is not easy. It can be difficult for a child who has formed bonds with a loving family to leave a foster home. And it can be painful for the foster parent who has lovingly cared for a child for months or even years. Often, the transition from one home to another is gradual in order for everyone to prepare for the upcoming change.
The fact that foster care is a temporary plan does not make it any less important. Foster parents play a vital role in nurturing children until they can move to a permanent family. In fact, the work of foster parents is crucial in helping children move on. Seasoned foster parents appreciate this and know that although farewells can be sad, they are in the best interests of the child they have loved. Letting go isn’t easy, but it is an essential part of foster care.
By Diane Kindler, LCSW 2/14/23
Learn more about Plummer’s Foster Parent program here: https://bit.ly/foster_parenting
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/08-2022-Perm-Blog-Post-Insta.jpg 456 544 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png competenow2022-08-23 15:32:442023-04-29 07:10:28How family search and engagement can impact a youth’s path to successful adulthood
Through its Permanency Practice Leadership Division Plummer provides consulting, coaching, and training in permanency best practices to child welfare professionals working in government programs and in private, non-profit agencies. Our permanency work is carried out in the spirit of the Plummer Promise to work to ensure that every youth has access to “permanency”; someone committed unconditionally to nurture, protect, and guide them to successful adulthood.
One of the basic parts of permanency practice is family search and engagement (FSE). It is a practice that identifies and locates family members, community members and others who are significant to children and youth in foster care or who are at risk of coming into care. FSE includes safely establishing or re-establishing relationships between children and important adults in their lives.
Cheryl Peltier, a Senior Child Welfare Manager at Plummer, notes that the “search” part of FSE is the just the beginning of the work. As the term suggests, search involves identifying and locating people who have a connection to a youth which may in some way contribute to their finding permanency. “People”, are found in many ways, including through intensive case record review. Asking the youth who is important to them or who do they think of when they are going to sleep each night can lead to many potential connections. In addition, many families have a key person, often a grandparent or another elderly relative, who is most familiar with family history and who can provide many to links to other important family members.
Ms. Peltier notes that “search” is often the easy part of FSE. The real work begins with getting the people who have been identified and found to engage in working on behalf of a child. Individuals can contribute in many ways to the permanency process. They can provide relevant family history, serve as a member of the youth’s permanency team, contribute concrete supports such as transportation to appointments, offer to help a youth with important life skills like learning to drive or provide respite for a family member needing extra support to be able to successfully parent a child.
Many people assume that when they are contacted as part of the FSE process they are being asked to provide a permanent home for the child. The social worker helps people engage by assuring them placement is not the reason they have been contacted. Very often they can be most helpful by helping a child understand their history. Many kids in foster care do not have a clear understanding of why they came into care or who their family members are. With information gathered from parents, former foster parents, and others a child can develop a clearer sense of what has happened to them. And, in turn, be better prepared to attach to future care takers. While a permanent family resource eventually may emerge from FSE it is not the initial focus of the work.
Another important part of FSE is to ensure that the youth’s paternal side of the family is brought into the process. Frequently in child welfare the focus is on the mother and her side of the family. Fathers are often described as not being involved with or interested in their children. With the FSE process seeking out and involving fathers and their relatives is a standard practice. It often leads to establishing many enduring connections and supports for a child. In addition, the paternal family may provide important family history that could not be obtained from another source.
Jillian Chenault, Program Director of Intensive Permanency Services, notes that that the guiding principle beneath Plummer’s FSE work is to include people in the process for what they can do rather than exclude them for what they can’t do. There are many people who are unable to provide a home for a child and some who cannot have any direct contact with a child. But that does not exclude them from helping a child they care about find permanency. A baby picture from a birth mother, a letter from an incarcerated father, the contact information for a long lost relative or a phone call from a former foster parent can help a child. These are all things that can emerge from the family search and engagement process. And, as such, are all important parts of each child’s journey to permanency.
–Written by Diane Kindler, LCSW
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/joice-kelly-EDbJ-kBxel8-unsplash-crop-scaled-1.jpg 2000 1843 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png competenow2022-05-17 18:47:382023-04-29 07:10:29Keeping It in the Family: Kinship Foster Care
Child welfare agencies frequently place children with their relatives. This is kinship foster care. It is estimated that approximately 25% of children in foster care are placed with relatives. Most kinship care providers are grandparents but others filling this role include aunts and uncles; older siblings; cousins and close family friends such as godparents.
Kinship care offers many positives for kids and families and it is often the first choice for a child needing out-of-home placement due to abuse or neglect. Children who are unable to live with their birth parents have been traumatized. Transitioning into a familiar home is less disruptive for a child than moving in with people they are just getting to know. Kinship care allows children to stay connected to family and their culture and to be with people who know their history. Kids in kinship foster care move less often than their peers in non-relative foster homes. That stability often protects children from the frequent school changes that most foster children experience as they move from one home to another.
Sometimes kinship care makes maintaining contact with birth parents simpler than it is for a child who is not living with family. When birth parents and kin caretakers work well together reunification can occur within a shorter timeframe. Chances of reunification increase when there is an alliance between the child birthparent and foster parent. Such an alliance is likely to occur more readily when foster care is provided by kin.
There are specific challenges involved in providing kinship care. Since kin caretakers are often grandparents they may be challenged by taking on full time care of a child, especially a child with special needs. Older kin caretakers also may have to resolve specific resource issues related to taking on responsibility for a child. They may, for example, live in housing where minors are not allowed.
Relationships with birth parents do not always go smoothly. Kin caregivers may be in the difficult position of having to set boundaries with the parents of their foster child. There may be disagreements around visitation which can be hard for family members to resolve.
Often kinship placements occur during a time of crisis which impacts not only the birth parents and their children but also the prospective kin caregiver. It’s a complicated process. A grandparent may be overwhelmed by the idea of parenting again but also determined to keep their family together. They want what’s best for their grandchild and at the same time may resent having been put in the position of becoming a full time caregiver.
Fortunately there are helpful resources available for kin providing foster care. Social workers help them connect to needed resources such as financial aid and and medical and dental care. They also help kinship caretakers understand the child’s special needs and link them to the mental health services, community supports, respite care and other programs which will make it possible for them to provide a loving and stable environment for their young relative. Many kinship caregivers find very relevant help by joining support groups designed specifically for kin foster parents. Being with other people who are in the same boat and who understand the joys and pains of kinship foster care can be just the help needed to keep someone going. And, to help them continue to provide the love and nurture that can help their young relative thrive.
Diane Kindler, LCSW
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/omar-lopez-zsXDWzlqpKU-unsplash-scaled-1.jpg 1311 2000 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png competenow2022-03-16 14:51:132023-04-29 07:10:29Foster Parenting as a Single Mom
One of the myths about being a foster parent is that you have to be married. Well, you don’t. I know this because I’ve been a foster parent as a single mom for years. (You also don’t have to own a home either in order to be a foster parent but that’s another story.)
Are there particular challenges to being a single foster mom? I think they are similar to the challenges faced by other single moms. I have to be able to handle many roles and during those inevitable tough times, I miss having a partner to pitch in and help. It can be lonely at times. Fortunately, I have a network of foster parent friends, single and not, who are there to cheer me on and pick me up when I need it. Those late-night texts and e-mails are truly a lifeline. I think my being a single parent has made me understand the importance of building a support network.
How do I manage as a single foster mom? I do what all single parents do…..multitask, multitask, and multitask. I work hard at staying organized, have a huge dry-erase whiteboard hanging in my kitchen, and have learned to put everything on it. With time my foster children have learned to use it also. It is so important that we all know where we need to be and how we’re going to get there. I also have become very good at knowing when I need help and asking for it.
Do my kids have positive male role models? I do my best to involve them with reliable male relatives and friends. I put lots of energy into helping them connect with good male teachers, coaches, and members of our church including the pastors. I acknowledge that it can be hard not to have a dad around and am very careful to be aware when my foster child is feeling this absence in their life.
Is there any advantage to being a single foster parent? Most of the foster children I have cared for come from single-parent homes, most often headed by a mother or grandmother. Due to my being single I think I have an extra dose of empathy when it comes to my foster kids’ single parents. I appreciate their struggles and know how hard it can be to raise children on your own. And, I know that my foster kids always benefit from my understanding and respecting their birth families.
So, remember that there is a huge need for good, caring, competent foster parents who happen to be single!
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
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Dear Foster Parent,
We work together to help kids in the child welfare system. Usually, we have a cooperative relationship, each doing their part to help a child. We’ve hit some bumps in the road but managed to work things out between us. I’m not sure you know how much you are valued and loved by those social workers you’ve come to know.
We love your willingness to welcome a child into your home even when you are asked to do so on short notice. Your flexibility has provided a child with a safe, warm bed when they needed it most, even when it inconvenienced you.
We love the lengths you go to in order to help foster children maintain ties to their families. It takes time and energy to get kids to and from visits with family. You help prepare them for those visits and comfort them when they fall through. You also are there when kids come back from a visit very sad or angry. You get that their feelings aren’t about you although you are the one who has to help them manage those intense emotions. And, you do everything possible to help your foster child avoid the loyalty conflicts that plague so many children in care.
We love the unique perspective you have of your foster child. You know them in a way that we can’t. You are there for the early morning routines and late-night struggles. You are witness to their finding their place within your family. You see them when they are most vulnerable. Sometimes we forget how valuable your perspective is. Please remind us when we do so because your voice must be heard if we are to do right by kids in care.
We love your ability to fall in love with a foster child. You are the person who loves the challenge of a snarky thirteen-year-old girl who is mad at everyone. Or the foster parent who can care for a young child with complex medical needs no matter how many medical appointments are involved. Or the person willing to provide a loving home for a youth who has moved through multiple foster homes and group homes and has pretty much given up on ever being part of a family. And, who is determined to fight you every step of the way.
We love and respect that your caring for a child includes being able to let them go. Even when it breaks your heart. When a child leaves you to return home to family or to join their adoptive family you are able to celebrate with them despite your own pain. And that, of course, is the ultimate love…..the ability to put someone else’s needs before your own.
We love you for so many other things. Even when we forget to acknowledge your contributions please know that you are deeply appreciated and loved by your child welfare partners.
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
*This is a fictional letter based on real people and relationships.
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Dear Foster Parents,
I am writing to you to give you some ideas about welcoming a new foster child or youth into your home. I know a lot about this because I have been in a lot of foster homes….seven to be exact, during the two years I’ve been in the system. I won’t tell you the obvious things you probably know….. like being clear about what your rules are and showing me where I can find stuff I need like towels.
Instead, I’m going to give you some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you get ready to take on another foster child.
Do understand that moving to a new home is overwhelming. Please let my first few days be as low-key as possible. Keep things simple and save events involving lots of people for later. Even something as simple as a church supper can feel like too much for a new kid in your home.
Don’t expect to get to know me very well at first. When I met new foster parents I usually kept a pretty low profile while I checked things out. Giving a kid space to settle in at your house will help them feel comfortable sooner. I may just need some time to get used to a new environment. But don’t worry, before long I’ll let you know who I am and what I like.
Do understand that if I am entering a new school that will be a huge issue for me. When I knew that I was starting a new school, especially if it was in the middle of the school year, I was always very nervous although I didn’t tell anyone that. So, assume that might be true and do whatever you can to make starting school easier. Try to get your foster child a tour of the school before they start. Make sure that on the first day they and you know who will be their “go to” person if things aren’t going well. Try to get a supply list before they start school so that they’ll have what they need….like a particular type of calculator…. on Day One.
Don’t be afraid to check in and ask how things are going. Don’t bombard me with questions, but give me some chances to let you know how I’m doing. Remember that I’m more likely to open up when I feel comfortable and don’t have to make direct eye contact…..like when you’re driving me somewhere. Sort of raising a question aloud….saying something like “I wonder what it’s like for you to get used to being with a new family” can help me open up to you.
Do show me that you get how important contact with my birth family is for me. Right from the beginning, you can show your foster child that you respect their ties to their family. Make sure you understand what the plan is for them to have family contact and do your part to make sure that things happen on schedule. Reminding me that I have a call with my brother scheduled after supper and making sure I have a quiet place to make the call shows me that you get how important my family is to me.
A new kid comes into your home with lots of questions and not much confidence that things will work out. I hope these do’s and don’t will help you make their entry easier. That will be good for everyone.
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
*This is a fictional letter based on real people and relationships.
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At Thanksgiving as we gather with family and friends we often take time to have each person at the table name something or someone they are thankful for. If group of social workers and other child welfare professionals were gathered around a Thanksgiving table here are some of things they might have to say.
I am grateful for the foster parents who are willing to take on the challenge of caring for an older youth. Many people who become foster parents didn’t start out with the idea of fostering a teenager. Yet when you learned of the need for homes for older kids you expanded your vision and opened your home to a teen.
I am grateful for those special people who “get” teenagers in foster care. They are the people who understand that the older youth they are caring for are apt to be angry and extremely resistant to joining a family. They are patient people who understand that the youth’s anger isn’t about them. It’s about the circumstances that have disrupted the youth’s life at a time when they desperately want to be regular kids doing regular things like hanging out with friends and spending hours on their phones. While you may be the target of their anger you know that they are really acting out because they have been let down by others so many times.
I will forever be thankful for the foster parent who would not give up on an older youth. The young person who came to your home expected that you would reject them. They had learned to do something to get themselves “kicked out” on their own terms before the inevitable happened. But then they met you, the foster parent who simply wouldn’t give up on them even as they tested limits over and over again. In doing this you gave a young person a healing experience which helped them understand that there are adults who stick with kids through very hard times.
I am really thankful for your ability to appreciate challenges. You have an amazing sense of humor which gets you through some very difficult times. You like these teenagers because they are never boring and they keep you on your toes as a parent.
For those of you who do care for older kids in care please remember this. We won’t all be showing up at your house for dinner and for that you can be thankful!
We really do appreciate all that you do for our older kids. We see every day what a difference you make for kids in care. So please accept our genuine gratitude for your caring and commitment. Happy Thanksgiving.
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW