Blog

Jul25

The Art Gallery at Krause Children’s Center

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Uncategorized

TKrause art 1he artistic talent at LSS residential treatment centers is amazing!  As a special treat, I am posting 12 pieces of art produced by the girls (ages 12-17) at Krause Children’s Center in Katy. With guidance from Ms. Gwen (GIGI), these kids have really outdone themselves, and had a ball doing it.

There will be an Open House at Krause in the coming months, where these works of art will be on display, and many will be for auction at the next Healing Hearts Gala benefiting Krause.

Enjoy!

*Krause Children’s Center, a program of Lutheran Social Services, is a therapeutic residential treatment campus for severely troubled and abused children, residing at Krause while they heal from the past and create a more hopeful future.

 

Krause art 2jpg Krause art 3 Krause art 5 Krause art 6 Krause art 6a Krause art 7 Krause art 9 Krause art 10 Krause art 11 Krause art 12 Krauseart 8

Jul18

NTX Foster Families had a Wild Time at the ZOO!

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care

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

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care
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!!

Jul10

Healthy Choices Workshops for FIT Kids

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care

FIT Teen finance webThe Lubbock, Corpus Christi, and Laredo Foster In Texas (FIT) offices have recently hosted Foster Youth Workshops for the 14 to 18-year-old foster children in our program. Kelley Broadaway, FIT’s Statewide Clinical Director, is traveling across Texas to visit our FIT offices this summer, teaching “Experiential Life Skills,” and talking about the importance of maintaining healthy lifestyles and learning good financial practices.

This is such an important workshop for foster youth, to prepare them for transitioning out of the foster care system and into the next important phase of their young adult lives.

Ms. Broadaway requests that healthy snacks and meals be provided during the training. The Laredo workshop (pictured here) offered healthy veggie and fruit trays for snacks, bottled water, and healthy Subway sandwiches with baked chips.* The training also includes info about basic household upkeep, nutrition, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and reading labels and following recipes.

These teen workshops are about a lot more than food, however. Broadaway also discusses healthy financial choices with the teens. She conducts an activity where the kids pretend to move into their own apartment, and they have to predict how much their rent, utilities, monthly bills and “extras” will cost. The extras they always want to include are high-end cable, wifi, smart phones, money for entertainment, and a clothing allowance. Then they discuss the realities of minimum wage (or even a whopping $10/hour) and what comes out of a paycheck. After adding up all the monthly bills, they usually end up $500-1,200 in the hole.

Next, they brainstorm about how to cut costs—cheaper phone plan, drop HBO, get a roommate, cut clothing budget, etc. This exercise is always a big hit with the kids, Broadaway says.

The cost-of-living activity is followed up with a discussion about the difference, danger, and necessity of credit and debit cards, and the real-world topics of taxes, loans, checking vs. saving accounts, avoiding predatory lending practices, and credit scores.

Shouldn’t every teen take a class like this?

Kelley Broadaway’s schedule for upcoming Life Skills FIT workshops:

  1. Harlingen –  July 28
  2. McAllen –  July 29
  3. Victoria –  August 6

Laredo workshop*Funds from the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust were used to purchase refreshments and door prizes for youth attending the Laredo workshop.

Jun24

BeREAL Foster Youth are College Bound

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care

Bereal DarrellGrad (3)The end of the school year has been a busy time at BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished, Leaders), our transition program in New Orleans for youth aging out of foster care. And busy in a good way! Three (3!) of our youth graduated from high school:

  • Taylor graduated from John McDonogh High School and is planning to attend Louisiana State University, where he will study Business.
  • Kayana graduated from Helen Cox High School and will attend the University of New Orleans, studying pre-medicine. Kayana graduated with Honors, and also received a special Principal’s Award along with only nine other students.
  • Darrell had not just one, but TWO graduations as he completed regular studies at Landry-Walker High School (graduating with Honors) and his dual-enrollment program at Bard Early College. Darrell was one of two speakers at his Bard graduation and did a tremendous job! Darrell will leave for New York this fall to attend Bard College, where he will study Zoology/Biology.

In addition, BeREAL’s Transition Coach Michael Patrick graduated from Southern University New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. “Mr. Patrick,” joined BeREAL during the summer of 2010 and has been a tremendous addition to the BeREAL family.

BeReal's Christie Kieschnick with Coach Patrick.

BeReal’s Christie Kieschnick with Coach Patrick.

BeREAL celebrated these tremendous achievements during a special service at St. Paul Lutheran Church, where Pastor Kevin Kieschnick spoke a blessing on all of our graduates. We then enjoyed a delicious lunch at John Besh’s restaurant, The American Sector, at the WWII Museum in downtown New Orleans.

This is what BeREAL is all about – being the support network to empower youth aging out of foster care, and help them on their way to promising futures. Even with scholarships and grants covering their tuition, our BeREAL youth heading off to college will have to scramble to pay for room and board, transportation/travel, and personal expenses. If possible, BeREAL wants to help these youth avoid having to take out massive student loans. What a difference caring individuals make in these young lives!

Bereal Darrell and mentor Rochelle at grad (2)

Darrell with his BeREAL mentor Rochelle

BeREAL grads at St Paul (2)

Grad group with Pastor Kieschnick at St. Paul Lutheran Church

Bereal Ta Fgraduation (2) Bereal Keedy's graduation (3)

 

Donations can be made online at www.berealneworleans.org or call the BeREAL office: 504-931-3408. Email Christ[email protected] for more info or to volunteer.

 

Jun19

Redeemer Lutheran Youth ♥ LSS Ministries

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Uncategorized

redeemer vbs small Bracelets for Bokenkamp and New Life: During this summer’s Vacation Bible School at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Austin, the VBS kids made hand-beaded and decorated bracelets for the children residing at Bokenkamp Emergency Children’s Shelter for unaccompanied immigrant minors in Corpus Christi, and New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake. Dan Zieschang, vice president of community/church relations and member of Redeemer, is helping to deliver the gifts to the campuses.

NJHS 2014Build-A-Bears for New Life Girls: The National Junior Honor Society of Redeemer Lutheran School in Austin held fundraisers during the year and used the money to build 13 special teddy bear friends for the girls at New Life Children’s Center. The visit to the Build-A-Bear Workshop has become an annual event for the group, and New Life is their beary special cause.

The final touch to each bear is placing of the heart, accompanied by a little prayer for the bear’s future owner. The bears inhabit New Life’s Point Store and are rewarded to girls for good behavior and progress in their therapeutic program. These bears are warm and fuzzy reminders that the New Life girls are cared and prayed for, and have something to hold onto for comfort during difficult times.

Redeemer just bears

Jun05

WHY DO YOU FOSTER? LSS-FIT Mom tells it like it is

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care

Cute baby boy eating lunchAlthough National Foster Care Month is behind us, it presented many opportunities for LSS foster care staff to talk and correspond with our foster parents about why they do what they do. Below is something one longtime foster mom shared with her social worker Alicia Jones. This mom keeps a journal and writes about her experiences. She is a terrific writer and answered a few questions, sometimes referencing her journal entries. Her responses are book-worthy and highly entertaining while so thoughtful and inspiring. Please take a minute to read and enjoy!

LSS: Why do you foster?

Foster In Texas (FIT) Mom: Actually, this one only gets asked every six months. In my living room. By my caseworker. While filling out some six-month review to keep us all in compliance. Something to the effect of: “How does the family feel about fostering?”

The answer changes with the mood. With the day. With the recent entries or upcoming good-byes. It is fluid. I can never give the answer I want because it’s asked while kids are wanting attention, while my brain is in four different places, while my caseworker sits beside me waiting.

Tonight, this would be my answer:

I’ve just watched a video of my three current kids pretending to catch flies at the dinner table. I watched it in its 20ish-second entirety, no fewer than 25 times. It is the most simple game we created out of necessity after leaving the backdoor open way too long the other day. This is what I love about fostering. Over three years, I have fostered piñata hitters, puppeteers, hair braiders, skateboard riders, thumb suckers, ice cream lovers, dog petters, stroller riders, Capital ground hill roller-downers, cat feeders, story book readers, footie pajama wearers, laugh-til-you-pee-your-pants-ers, and yes, pretend fly catchers. I love that we are a family. Though who we are changes, what we are doesn’t. I like to think that the difference between my family and any other family is just the descriptor that sits in front. I love that sitting at the dinner table with three kids still makes me, at least once a week, get up laughing and say: “Hang on, let me get the camera!”

A week ago, having processed again the idea of Little Guy leaving soon, I was NOT a fan of foster care. There are times where I hate the idea that this constantly changing family is my life. That when I say “Hello,” I know there will be a “Goodbye.” That there is a need for homes like mine. That kids ultimately grow in their skin here, become secure, happy little people, are embraced by the community, are adored but then they have to move again. That I watch a variety of children have a single birthday and then watch them leave.

Tonight though, having watched the fly saga happen at the dinner table and in the tub, after reading over and over again a story I have written for the kids to prepare them for Little Guy’s transition, after playing This Little Piggy with 30 little piggies while putting on three pair of pjs, while patting Itty Bitty back to sleep, I am on board. Though it changes with the kids, with each backstory, with court dates, visits and transitions, it is home for me.

About building trust…

If they don’t trust us, they can’t heal. If “D” didn’t think he was safe around me, he would never have spoken to me and sure as heck wouldn’t have demanded, while sitting on top of my friend’s shoulders at Fiesta Texas on Saturday, that he’s “GONNA GET ON THAT BOAT!” after we told him the line for the log ride was too long. I believe the kids can’t feel safe to express even their basic needs, let alone process all that they’ve gone through, if we don’t help them to feel trust.

On what started it all…

I had already been a big sister for a child who was in and out of the system; I’d already been a CASA [Court Appointed Special Advocate] for two cases so this was the logical next step, and I’d made the decision long ago that any child calling me “Mom” would have come from CPS.

Why do I KEEP FOSTERING? That’s probably a better question and no, the answer is not “because I am a glutton for punishment” as my father has said several times. Because as much as I hate to say goodbye, I love love love saying hello to all these kids, meeting them where they are and moving forward from that point. And I’ve come to learn that I love babies, but that’s just an added plus.

Referring to her journal in 2010 …

This was when I had a 5-year-old boy, his 3-year-old sister, and a 2-year-old girl from a different family.

Again, answering the question, “why do I do it?”  Thankfully, there is so much more to fostering than saying goodbye. There is saying hello, you are safe, I love you, we want the same thing, you are an amazing kid, you make me smile. There is going to the same park with 15 different kids and finding out what each one’s favorite thing is. There is watching my friends love on each kid differently and sometimes the same. There is seeing how a community comes together in support of foster kids and their families. There is developing routines and little traditions that may last two months or 11 months or more. There is learning what makes a kid tick, what makes them smile, what makes them cry, and what makes them squeal with joy. There is the journey as a whole, which in my mind (and I often have to repeat this to convince myself), outweighs the goodbye at the end of the trip.

Here’s another tidbit from 2011:

“All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Fostering”:

  1. Never say never.
  2. Buy different character undies for each child … the sorting will be easier.
  3. Don’t try to sweep up rice right after dinner. It’s much easier when it’s dry.
  4. Vague answers to strangers about who you are, who your kids are, and why things don’t always match up are entirely appropriate and acceptable.
  5. Three-year-olds like bibs too.  And stroller rides.  And to be held.
  6. You can make your point known…whether it’s an I love you or a get down from there this instant…regardless of what your child’s primary language is.
  7. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Or the judge hits her gavel.
  8. Find the source of what really angers you. It’s likely not a back-talking three-year-old.  It’s more likely that that back-talking three-year-old will one day walk out the door. Or even more likely that that back-talking three-year-old wasn’t treated right in a previous life.
  9. Just when you thought you’ve heard it all, you realize you haven’t.
  10. There are great gifts to be had in caseworkers, fellow foster parents, visiting children, CASAs, and therapists.
  11. Many, many people out there are interested in fostering.  Not enough do it.
  12. It’s easy to forget the good stuff, so write it down.  Fortunately, sometimes it’s possible to forget the bad stuff too, so don’t bother documenting that.
  13. We are all human. Even bio parents.
  14. But not all humans should be raising kids.
  15. At the end of the ride, my kids will not remember me unless their families remind them. They are too young. They will hopefully remember that they were loved by an additional momma during their time here. It’s my choice to believe that part.
  16. It’s also my choice to believe that no matter how horrific the beginning, the ending will be a good one.  It’s called Faith.
  17. Good endings can look like different things.
  18. A day without vegetables kills no one. Nor does a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.
    Keep extra toothbrushes on hand.  And lice shampoo.
  19. It really does take a village to raise a child.
  20. A full night’s sleep is sometimes overrated.  A chance to pat someone to bed or to sing them one more song is not.
  21. The word “hurry” carries no meaning to the under-five crowd.
  22. There’s no need to point out a lie. The liar is aware.
  23. Blood is easier to clean than vomit.  Especially at 1 a.m.
  24. If you say it enough times, they’ll listen.
  25. If you say it even more times, they’ll repeat it.
  26. Make it worth repeating.
  27. There’s a reason God inspired someone to invent paper plates.
  28. School serves hot lunch.  If you don’t make a hot dinner every night, no one cares.
  29. Masking tape, bubble wrap and shaving cream are all really cheap, really entertaining ways to keep kids busy.
  30. Sometimes not being in control is a good, good thing.
  31. Love them like they’re staying forever. Treasure them like they’re leaving tomorrow!
Alicia Jones, LSS-FIT Family Social Worker

Alicia Jones, LSS-FIT Family Social Worker

May21

Super Star Foster Parents in Laredo

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care

Laredo stars_Page_01During May, National Foster Care Month we are reminded to celebrate those who make a meaningful difference in the lives of foster children: foster parents, volunteers, mentors, and the social workers who support them. National Foster Care Month is in its final weeks, and many of our LSS-FIT offices have held foster parent appreciation events throughout the month. Our Laredo office really did it up right with a Foster Parent Recognition Dinner at Tony Roma’s.

FIT Area Director Edgar Ricalde reports that each foster parent/family received “a small memento of our appreciation – a custom trophy representing the dynamic relationship foster parents have with their foster children.” The trophy is a large star hovering over a smaller star. “It’s symbolic of the guidance, love and support foster parents give, and how they protect each child,” said Ricalde.  Each trophy was individually laser-etched with the parents’ names along with the words, “Super Star Foster Parent.”

We want to share the photos from Laredo, and shine the spotlight on our Laredo FIT families:

Laredo stars_Page_34 Laredo stars_Page_33 Laredo stars_Page_32 Laredo stars_Page_31 Laredo stars_Page_30 Laredo stars_Page_29 Laredo stars_Page_28 Laredo stars_Page_27 Laredo stars_Page_26 Laredo stars_Page_25 Laredo stars_Page_24 Laredo stars_Page_21 Laredo stars_Page_20 Laredo stars_Page_19 Laredo stars_Page_18 Laredo stars_Page_17 Laredo stars_Page_16 Laredo stars_Page_15 Laredo stars_Page_14 Laredo stars_Page_13 Laredo stars_Page_12 Laredo stars_Page_11 Laredo stars_Page_10 Laredo stars_Page_09 Laredo stars_Page_04 Laredo stars_Page_03 Laredo stars_Page_02

May09

During National Foster Care Month: A Tribute to Foster Moms on Mother’s Day

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care

mothers dayHaiku for Foster Mothers 

Kids with no first chance

Get a second one―because

Foster moms are there

YOU, foster moms, are a Mother’s Day gift from the heart! Twenty-four hours a day, you’re a source of comfort, stability, and love to children who have never known or experienced the meaning of the words. YOU are the most important part of the child’s treatment team. We are all part of this effort because we know and see for ourselves how well children can do when they have caring and reliable foster parents to help them through hard times.

A favorite column by Erma Bombeck tells of God in the act of creating mothers. On the day God created mothers He had already worked long overtime, and an angel said to Him, “Lord, you sure are spending a lot of time on this one.” God replied, “Have you read the specs on this model?” then rattles off a list of impossible requirements, including 180 moving parts and six pairs of hands, all able to run on black coffee and leftovers.

A foster mom’s specs demand even more than “standard” mother models. You must have a heart big enough to encompass other mothers’ children, and the fortitude to work through the challenges and issues that accompany their shattered pasts.

You know, if it was easy, anyone could do it. But you’re not just anyone – you’re a FOSTER MOM.

 

May08

FIT Family Fiesta in Laredo

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care
Pictured (left to right): Priscilla Ruiz, Patricia Leija, Yenessy Najera, Edgar Ricalde.

Pictured (left to right): Priscilla Ruiz, Patricia Leija, Yenessy Najera, Edgar Ricalde.

[story by Edgar Ricalde]

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo and National Foster Care Month, the Laredo Foster In Texas (FIT) office planned a day of fun in the park for foster families. The May 3rd picnic included food (hot dogs and frito pies!), music and dancing, musical chairs and other games, rides, face-painting, and a whole lot of FUN.

The fiesta was a great opportunity for families to meet and interact with other foster families, and those siblings placed in separate foster homes were able to spend time with one another. Fifteen of our families attended.

This is an annual event in which DFPS, Lutheran Social Services, and other agencies collaborate to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and offer an enjoyable event for all. Underwritten by the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust and Foundation, the picnic has been held for three consecutive years.

It was such a great time, seeing the parents and kids having fun and enjoying each other. We appreciate our foster families, and events like this one let them know how much we do!

Laredo Foster Child Picnic 2014

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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.