Archive for the ‘Foster Care’ Category

Oct02

Foster From the Heart: October 17th Child Welfare Conference

Foster From Heart blog graphic (3)What an opportunity! LSS-Foster In Texas (FIT) is hosting a continuing education event in October that is not to be missed by anyone interested in (or already involved in) foster care and children’s services. And it’s free and open to the public.

Essential information:

Date: Friday, October 17, 2014 – 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Location: Christ Lutheran Church

510 Luther Street, Georgetown TX 75701

Lunch and daycare provided

Must RSVP by October 7*

CEUs available; fulfills TIC training hours

The “Foster From the Heart” Conference is for foster parents, future foster parents case workers, nurses and mental health providers, social workers, school counselors and administrators, and all interested parties. And you will want to invite your friends. [A little perk/incentive: FIT parents who have the most guests attend will receive gift cards valued up to $300.

Speakers & Topics:

  • Naigene Owens, PhD – Preventing Sexual Abuse
  • Phyllis Christensen, RN – What is a Primary Medical Needs (PMN) Home?
  • Kelley Broadaway, LPC, FIT Statewide Clinical Director – An Overview About Foster Care; How to Help a Traumatized Child
  • Sarah Crocker, LSS Transitional Services Program Director – Supervised Independent Living for Kids Aging Out of Foster Care
  • Tiffany Greer – Former foster child and LSS-FIT employee
  • Star Colin – Former foster child

*To RSVP, call 512-706-7593, email [email protected], or via Eventbrite.com and search “foster from the heart.”

Sep29

Foster Care Stakeholders Conference in Laredo

Laredo Conference -groupAnyone who attended the Foster In Texas conference in Laredo on September 19th went away with an abundance of helpful information to take to their jobs, foster homes, or just to apply to life in general. There were 177 attendees who enjoyed learning while earning their continuing education credits, along with table discussions and a very nice lunch!

Robert Leal, executive vice president for programs for Lutheran Social Services-Foster In Texas (FIT) was the keynote speaker, followed by speakers and subject matter experts who presented the following topics:

  • Cultural competency
  • Getting dads involved
  • The tie between foster care and Juvenile Justice
  • Trauma-informed care

Thanks to everyone involved who made this conference so worthwhile and enjoyable!

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Sep19

NTX Giving Day Exceeded Expectations!

ntx giving day(2)[Report by Rebekah Poling, LSS Associate Vice President of Development]  

Yesterday, September 18, was North Texas Giving Day—that intensive 24-hour outpouring of generosity for nonprofits in the area—and Lutheran Social Services and our DFW-area Foster in Texas (FIT) program raised … a whopping $12,220!

It was a big day at the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) in Dallas yesterday, where Foster In Texas set up a giving station to meet and share information with the public and other nonprofits.

We had set a goal for $10,000, and our supporters showed their love for our foster children and their families by exceeding that goal well before the 24 hours was up.

We are now that much closer to realizing our vision for restored childhoods, empowered foster parents, and ending cyclical child abuse. The NTX-area foster families will have a GREAT fall and holiday season, thanks to our supporters. For many of our newest foster children, this Christmas season will be the best they have ever had.

As part of the Giving Day celebration, we invited kids in attendance to make bookmarks and friendship bracelets—one for themselves and one for a FIT child. Parents who were there wrote encouraging notes for our FIT parents.

ntx giving bracelets ntx giving notes ntx giving crafts

All-in-all NTX Giving Day was very successful and a whole lot of fun!

Overall NTX Giving Day results:

The sixth annual North Texas Giving Day raised a record-breaking $26.3 million, with more than 98,000 unique gifts, benefiting 1,580 different nonprofits. Gifts came from all 50 states, six U.S. territories, and 28 different countries, and about 26% of the gifts were from first-time donors to the organizations.

ntx giving rp

 

Sep08

A Caring Stop for Child Immigrants

ORR foster home sign

“The last stop on a long journey” reads the sign at the door of these LSS transitional foster parents

The following blog, by contributing writer Anne Basye, first appeared (9/3/2014) in Living Lutheran, the online publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Note: all names in this article have been changed.

A Transitional Home for Child Immigrants

When the doorbell rings in the middle of the night, Gloria and Luis Guerrero answer it with clean clothes, a toothbrush and a big hug.

At the door stands a social worker from Lutheran Social Services of the South and a child at the end of a long, hard journey.

Gloria and Luis, who live in Texas, are transitional foster parents for unaccompanied children from Central America who have crossed the border, hoping to be reunited with relatives in the United States.

The largest placement agency for children in Texas, Lutheran Social Services of the South is also a contractor for the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. When Lutheran Social Services of the South began ramping up its Texas shelters and transitional foster care programs in El Paso, Corpus Christi, and McAllen in order to care for thousands of new arrivals, the Guerreros responded.

They became certified foster parents to care for four children while the children’s mother, a close friend, resolved some challenges. When the family was reunited seven months later, the Guerreros closed their foster home. That, they thought, was that.

Then Lutheran Social Services of the South called.

Empty nesters, the Guerreros now shelter up to five children at a time in the bedrooms where their own kids once lived. In just six months, nearly 80 children, most under 12 years old, have bunked with them – a lot of toothbrushes to distribute, names to learn and tears to wipe.

Crossing two, sometimes three countries, these resourceful children have overcome many challenges on their journey. In the presence of this loving couple, they can finally let down their guard. “We tell them not to be afraid, that they will be safe and secure here, and loved, respected and treated right in our home,” says Luis. After a couple of days, they are “regular kids again, playing and joking.”

Weekday mornings, Gloria churns out eggs and tortillas while the kids get ready for the Lutheran Social Services of the South day program, where they learn some English and connect with medical and social services staff. Saturday, there are trips to the park; Sunday, the Guerreros bring whomever is in residence to their congregation.

The routine is comforting but short lived. Because all of the Guerreros’ foster children are “Category 1” children with a parent somewhere in the United States, the reunification process goes quickly. Lutheran Social Services of the South can track down Mom or Dad and arrange fingerprints and a background check (a federal requirement for parents of very young children) in just three days.

The Guerreros know a child is leaving when the day program sends him or her home with a new backpack. If the parent has bought a ticket for an early morning plane, the resident children say their goodbyes to one another the night before. When a nearby parent arrives by car, they can wave from their porch.

To help kids deal with transition, “I tell them, the chapter of your life in El Salvador or Honduras is now closed, and a new chapter will be opened here,” says Luis. “Often, they don’t want to leave, but we help them understand that we are a bridge helping them across to a new life.”

‘Love conquers everything’

The youngest children to turn up on the Guerreros’ doorstep were siblings 2 and 3 years old.

“We have grandchildren that are the same age, and we can’t imagine them going through something like this,” says Gloria.

The two children were very upset from being separated from the uncle who had accompanied them. “The younger boy was crying, ‘My uncle left me alone!’” remembers Gloria, who sits up with distraught youngsters until they fall asleep and comforts the ones who wake up crying in the middle of the night.

Grateful phone calls from reunited parents are common. “They say, thank you for taking care of my son, and we tell them they have a real good daughter or son and are blessed to have them,” says Luis.

Reunification is not the end of the story. Each child has been processed by the U.S. Border Patrol and has a “Notice to Appear” at a court hearing, often a year or two away.

Lutheran Social Services of the South plays no role in the ensuing immigration process, according to Mike Nevergall, vice president of Agency Advancement for Lutheran Social Services of the South. “We take care of kids who need a safe, loving place to stay,” he says. “Our goal is to identify a family member in this country who has a steady income and a place to live, so when we send these kids home with someone, we can be relatively assured that the child will be provided for.”

Luis feels the same way. “Our concern is the kids,” he says. “Whatever comes up in future for these kids we leave up to politicians and lawmakers. And we pray that things will go fine for them wherever they end up.”

“Like my grandkids, most of all they need love and people that care for them,” says Gloria, who sees this work as a ministry. “Love conquers everything.”

And so they keep answering the door.

[See more at: http://www.elca.org/Living-Lutheran/Stories/2014/09/140903-A-caring-stop-for-child-refugees#sthash.t2SiPIws.dpuf]

Aug25

A Foster-to-Adopt Story

mauk adoption single

Editor’s Note: Joshua Mauk works for LSS as part of our development team. Thanks to Josh and his family for allowing us to share their wonderful story.

Friday August 15th, 12:30 pm

We arrived early to make sure we looked good and had enough time to sign a mountain of last minute paperwork provided by our lawyer and the department of family protective services. My wife and daughter were both wearing very colorful dresses and I accidentally dressed like a leprechaun….again. I can’t help it. I like vests and ties. Our daughter’s boyfriend was there to show his support and to provide some amateur videography.  We sat down after going through the security checkpoint at Gardner Betts Travis County Juvenile Court. We were all nervous, but I knew there were many more emotions swirling in my daughter’s mind. Excitement. Uncertainty. Fear. Joy. All crashing like waves into the hope that she had when we first met her just over a year ago. Her hope has been to belong somewhere. To be part of a family. She once said at a Circles of Support meeting that she wanted nothing more in the world than to be “Kept.”

One by one friends, family, former staff, case managers, CASA Volunteers, and pastors showed up to gather before we proceeded into Courtroom A to make this thing final. She received inspiring notes, cards, and gifts from those familiar faces, some she hadn’t seen in years. Someone also brought a giant chocolate chip cookie with her new name written in hot pink butter cream icing.

As we wrapped up the placement paperwork which relinquished the State from being completely responsible for her well-being, I made an announcement that we would appreciate as many photos being taken as possible.  We asked the crowd post the photos and  tag us on Facebook.

We proceeded into a large courtroom that had been decorated with stuffed animals. I took note of a stuffed Manatee which I had never seen before in plushy form. The energy was rising and we all took our places. I sat down to her left and my wife was on her right. She grabbed both of our hands and didn’t let go till the very end. Our guests packed the courtroom and we listened to the instructions of our lawyer. Soon the bailiff asked us all to rise, and a pair of robes came walking out to the bench. They explained that they usually don’t have two judges preside over these hearings, but today was a special day because our daughter was very special to them.

They sat and briefly explained why we were all there. Then our lawyer asked her team some questions. She then asked us some questions. She then took testimony from every person sitting in the courtroom. Tears were swelling in every eye as each story was told about how she is loved and how her future is nothing to fear now. She heard so many kind words about us and about herself and when I looked at her I knew she was overwhelmed with support.

The final questions were for her. She was asked if this was something she wanted and if she thought it would be the best thing for her. She nodded and smiled. She looked at both of us and we all hugged. My wife was very strong and only cried a whole lot. As did I.

Then something unique happened. It was like the most delicious icing on the most delicious cake every made. The judge asked our girl if she was still interested in Criminal Justice as a Career choice. She smiled again and nodded and the judges who had known her for eight years asked her to come up to the bench. I think she thought she was in trouble, but she stood up and moved to the ramp that led to the bench. The judges stopped her and whispered something to her. They placed a judge’s robe on her shoulders and asked her to sit in their seat. Then with the most amazing smile I have ever seen, she picked up the gavel and declared,  “ADOPTION GRANTED!”

After my wife and I decided to become verified  foster-to-adopt parents, we did not know we would be adopting a 16-year-old girl; however, when we met her last year at a foster family picnic, we knew that we needed to be whatever it was she needed us to be. We finished up our training and had a home study done. Once all the paperwork was finalized, she was placed in our care. That was 10 months ago and now she is forever part of our family. We will never forget the effort it took to make it work as a family, and now we know that it is possible to bring a stranger into your home and grow into a forever family.

If we can do it, so can you. Fourteen hundred children age out of foster care in Texas every year, without ever finding a forever family. Please consider becoming a forever home for a child that needs just a little bit of love and support in order to make it to the next chapter in their life. Contact a Foster In Texas office near you to start the process to become a licensed foster home.

Aug22

Foster Parent Appreciation in Amarillo

Foster Parent Apprection

While the event was intended to recognize our wonderful foster parents in Amarillo, the kids had plenty of opportunity for a good time.

Foster in Texas’ Amarillo office held their annual Foster Parent Appreciation Event this past weekend. Families had a blast playing in the water, having their faces painted and meeting new friends. Thanks to a generous donation from Anderson Merchandisers, all of the families went home with a few new DVDs.

Laura, Ali and Sheena, the local Foster in Texas Team for Amarillo, would like to give a big thanks to Anderson Merchandisers, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church and Trinity Lutheran’s Mountaintoppers for making the day a huge success!

There is a statewide shortage of foster families capable and willing to foster infants, teens and sibling groups. If you are interested in making a difference in the life of a child, please fill out an interest form today! A FIT team member from one of our 14 Texas offices will be more than happy to visit with you.

Special thanks to Anderson Merchandisers, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, and Trinity Lutheran for their support.

Special thanks to Anderson Merchandisers, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, and Trinity Lutheran for their support.

 

Aug12

Back-to-School Bash for Dallas-Area FIT Families

[story by Rebekah Poling, Associate Vice President, Agency Advancement]

ntx bts backpacks - richardsonI think we can all agree that FIT families, food, and FUN go together like peanut butter and jelly. We just had a back-to-school bash for our foster children and parents in the Dallas area, and because of our generous volunteers and church partners, each foster child got a new backpack, filled with school supplies. The foster parents brought their kids to pick up their supply-filled backpacks and enjoy dinner with their fellow families and our LSS-FIT caseworkers.

Our friends at Foodtronix donated a yummy meal for the families, the FIT staff provided drinks, and a thoughtful foster mom brought a massive cake for everyone. The “come-and-go” event was held at the Richardson foster care office, and was topped off with ice cream!Our “Christmas in July” donation drive made this all possible, and the kids enjoyed making thank-you cards for the participating churches. I want to shout out a big THANK YOU to: Our Savior Lutheran Church in Rockwall, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Roanoke, King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Garland, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Bowie, Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Southlake, Crown of Life Lutheran Church in Colleyville, Bethel Lutheran Church in Dallas, Hogan Financial Systems in Flower Mound, Rejoice Lutheran Church in Frisco, and Trinity Lutheran Church in Tyler, along with Erica and Ken Stauver, Lorraine and Bob Fuller, and Gary Halberstadt. 

ntx bts Hogan financial

Jul31

Family Vacations: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

family travelsHere we are on the verge of August, and many family vacations are already in the rear-view mirror. If you still have a trip with the kids to look forward to, there are some great resources – and voices of experience – available for guidance. Everyone agrees that traveling with kids can be a challenge; that’s why whole books have been written on the subject. But can Mom and Dad have some fun too? When meeting the Disney princesses is your daughter’s obsession and Florida in the summer isn’t your idea of the perfect getaway?

A great website that lets users share their experiences with other families for better travel planning is realfamilytrips.com. Some places are more kid-friendly than others, and this is a deep site that includes been-there-done-that advice whether you know where you’re going or are still trying to decide.

Amazon’s list of best-selling kids’ travel books is well worth checking out, to keep entertain the kids on long trips where you need to keep them interested and engaged.

Of course, your mode of travel – on the road or in the air – determines a lot about how to prepare. It can be a toss-up whether cranky babies and preschoolers who don’t take well to being cooped up will do better with a road or plane trip. I think everyone agrees … the shorter the better. The beauty of a road trip is that when the going gets tough you can pull over, get out, and take a break.  Making fresh-air pit stops, where kids get a chance to run around outside, are usually well worth the extra time en route.

A few important things to remember, before you hit the road or the runway:

  • Check weather reports – so you’ll have the right clothes and won’t take up space with the wrong ones.
  • Check and double-check flight details (if flying) and hotel reservations – Was there a schedule change and you weren’t notified?
  • Snacks! String cheese and granola bars can go a long way when flight delays and traffic jams throw off meal schedules, and as treats/bribes for good behavior. An extra cookie might buy you an added 15 minutes of peace.
  • Paperwork, if applicable – e.g., a birth certificate if you have a lap traveler on a flight.
  • Your toddler’s much-loved stuffed toy or blanket.
  • Chargers and headphones for electronics; age-appropriate audiobooks can be lifesavers.
  • Don’t forget the fun.

Happy travels everyone!

Jul18

NTX Foster Families had a Wild Time at the ZOO!

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetWe had a wild and wonderful adventure this summer, when our DFW-area LSS-Foster in Texas families spent the day at the Dallas Zoo. We went on our own little safari as we toured the zoo, had a picnic, and were welcomed to the jungle by some amazing animals. I’m not sure who had the most fun … the kids who were seeing these exotic animals for the first time, the parents who were watching the sheer delight of their foster children, or the happy giraffes who were hand-fed an abundance of kibble!

Our friends and supporters at the Caring for Kids benefit held in May made this fun day possible. Foster children, their foster parents, and siblings all got to take the journey together through wildlife habitats around the world. They made some incredible memories to share for years to come.

A big THANK YOU to everyone from Caring for Kids who made a difference in the lives of faithful foster parents and deserving children all across the Metroplex.

We saw some cool cats.
We saw some cool cats.

 

"Baby Elephant Walk"
“Baby Elephant Walk”
We went neck-and-neck with a giraffe.
We went neck-and-neck with a giraffe
Jul14

Laredo Family Bowling Night

Laredo FIT team, l to r: Jacqueline Verastigui, Mayra Guzman, Yenessy Najera, Patricia Leija, Edgar D. Ricalde

Laredo FIT team, l to r: Jacqueline Verastigui, Mayra Guzman, Yenessy Najera, Patricia Leija, Edgar D. Ricalde

The LSS-FIT Laredo Office hosted a Family Bowling Night at Jett Bowl North last week, for 15 foster families and about 40 little bowlers. The kids had a blast, and siblings placed in different foster homes had a chance to spend time and build memories together. Pizza and drinks all around, and  those gutter balls were long forgotten.

A big thanks to the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust, for providing funds for this activity.

I can do this ... I can do this ...

I can do this … I can do this …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gettin’ ready to make that spare…

Gettin’ ready to make that spare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait for it …

Wait for it …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YES!!

YES!!

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Foster In Texas® is a registered trademark. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Foster In Texas is a program of Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.