Blog

Oct23

Celebrating With the Thrivent Chapter in Waco

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster In Texas

[story by Rebekah Poling, LSS Associate Vice President of Development  NTX]

The Waco area Thrivent Chapter meets every fall to celebrate the amazing NTX Waco Rebekah groupthings their Thrivent Choice Dollars and local chapter sponsorships have been able to accomplish. Thrivent‘s mission is to “Connect faith and finances for good” and they are best known as the financial catalyst to many community projects that are most important to their members.

Each year, the chapter invites all Thrivent Dollar nonprofit and community organization beneficiaries to set up a display table and visit with members. LSS and 10 other cause organizations were invited to this years’ event – approximately 200 members attended.

I was given the opportunity to share the mission and vision of Foster In Texas (FIT), a program of LSS, along with how Waco’s Thrivent Chapter is helping make a difference in the lives of children and families we serve – to break the cycle of child abuse. Because of their Thrivent Dollars, FIT was able to fund trainings, family support events and provided special needs for foster children in the North Texas area.

I felt honored and inspired to meet the other cause representatives doing great work all over North Texas!

Oct02

Foster From the Heart: October 17th Child Welfare Conference

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents

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

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents

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!

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents

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

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents
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]

Sep04

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month – Have a Family Plan!

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster In Texas

lssdr family-diaster-prepSeptember is National Disaster Preparedness Month (NPM), and the Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response (LSSDR) team is ready to celebrate it by sharing the most important of all disaster kit tools … INFORMATION.

The 2014 NPM theme is “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare” and since September is historically a peak month for hurricanes, it’s a great time to have a “preparathon” in your own home. LSSDR wants to encourage and help you make a plan, build a kit, and be informed.

HOW TO RECONNECT WITH FAMILY AFTER A DISASTER:*

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. Consider a plan where each family member calls or emails the same friend or relative in the event of an emergency. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.

Be sure each person knows the phone number and has coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. You may have trouble getting through, or the phone system may be down altogether, but be patient. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the attack, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and the information you are learning here to determine if there is immediate danger. Watch television and listen to the radio for official instructions as they become available.

Let your family know you’re safe … If your community has experienced a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website to let your family and friends know you are safe and sound. You may also call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and select the prompt for “Disaster” to register yourself and your family.

Know emergency plans at school and work. Think about the places where your family spends time: school, work and other places your family frequents. Talk to your children’s schools and your employer about emergency plans. Find out how they will communicate with families during an emergency. If you are an employer, be sure you have an emergency preparedness plan. Review and practice it with your employees. A community working together during an emergency also makes sense. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together.

Go to www.ready.gov to learn more about potential threats and other emergencies or call 1-800 BE-READY- for a free brochure.

Be prepared to adapt this information to your personal circumstances and make every effort to follow instructions received from authorities on the scene. With these simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected. Get. Ready. Now. #LSSDR

Family Communication Plan for Kids (English)

Family Communication Plan for Parents (English)

* This information was provided by the 2014 NPM Digital Engagement Toolkit.

The Role of LSSDR in the Event of a Major Disaster

LSSDR is a local affiliate of Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), a national ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In the event of a major disaster, LSSDR works with other responding agencies (within and beyond the Lutheran network, i.e. Lutheran Disaster Relief, Thrivent, state and federal agencies as appropriate, etc.) and donors, volunteers, and spiritual caregivers to provide relief and resources to affected individuals and areas.

Sep02

LSS Accreditation Jubilation!

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster In Texas

Portrait of happy business people jumping against[By Rebecca Stearns, Quality and Compliance coordinator, Lutheran Social Services]

“LSS demonstrates an organizational culture of genuine warmth, caring and teamwork.  These qualities support a synergy and unity of mission in creating a positive therapeutic environment for the persons served.”CARF Survey Report, 2014

Jubilation! On July 17, 2014 Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS) received word that we had once again been awarded a three-year accreditation from CARF International! The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human service providers and is recognized worldwide.

After almost a year of preparation and hard work, our staff successfully navigated the accreditation process by opening up our service delivery process to the scrutiny of the CARF survey team. Over an intense, three-day period, seven surveyors visited every LSS office providing childcare services throughout the state, interviewed foster parents, children served and staff, reviewed case records along with our policies, methods, and practices.

Why CARF? CARF Accreditation demonstrates to the people we serve that LSS is committed to respecting cultural and individual differences, reducing risk, addressing health and safety concerns, and providing the best possible services. Accreditation indicates we have made a commitment to put the needs of the children and families we serve above all else.

So, is LSS finished with CARF?  After the accreditation process, a Survey Report was provided by CARF. This report will be a valuable tool, used by our Compliance Department, to initiate the “Keep CARF Alive” campaign throughout the state.

Over the next three years, LSS plans to more effectively incorporate the CARF standards into our daily operations and in each new policy and procedure. In essence, moving forward we will “Keep CARF Alive” in all we do. Along with the ongoing support of CARF International, the Survey Report provides suggestions and recommendations for making improvements and maintaining our high level of quality services. LSS has every intention of maintaining a CARF accreditation in the years to come, so our dedication to the CARF standards will be an ongoing, never-ending endeavor as we “Keep CARF Alive.”

From the CARF Survey Report, 2014:

“LSS personnel are dedicated to providing quality service to the community and demonstrate genuine care and concern for the persons served.  The persons served are treated with dignity and respect and are involved as active participants in their programs.”

“It is clear that all LSS staff members are motivated to provide the best possible support to the foster parents and children and youths they serve. LSS staff members go above and beyond to provide support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to foster families and children/youths requiring support. It is obvious that the staff members genuinely care about the persons they serve.”

Aug27

Three Most Commonly Asked Questions About Foster Care

Posted by Brenden Scott || Category(ies): Foster In Texas
Foster Care FAQs

People interested in becoming foster parents often ask the same questions

Foster Care FAQs

In 2013, the state of Texas identified more than 67,000 children who were victims of abuse and neglect from Child Protective Services (CPS) validated cases alone. The need for qualified foster parents is greater than it’s ever been before, and Texas needs your help finding a safe place for these children to stay while their cases are being worked through.
To help you decide if becoming a foster parent is right for you, I have answered three of the questions we are most frequently asked.

Q: What are the income requirements to become a foster parent?

A: You don’t have to be rich to be a foster parent. Most families who foster are middle class families with incomes at or near the national average. Parenting can be expensive, but the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) provides reimbursement to families to help cover the daily costs associated with caring for foster children. Foster children also have their own health insurance and receive free access to any services that they require. Families who work full time can even have day care costs covered by DFPS. To cover the costs of clothing and shoes, Foster In Texas provides families with $150 per child at placement and then quarterly. Incentives are also given to families willing to work with teenagers, sibling groups, and children with special and primary medical needs. If you are able to pay your own bills and aren’t on any government assistance, you will likely meet the requirement to foster.

Q: How much space do I need?

A: DFPS has a set of guidelines that all agencies and verified foster families must follow in order stay available for placement. Collectively these are referred to as the “Minimum Standards.”

The minimum standards specify that “each foster child must have at least 40 square feet of space if sharing a room, or 80 square feet of space if they room alone.” You can house up to four foster children in one room; at 40 square feet per child, you would need a 160 square foot room for four. Of course, there are other factors that affect where children can stay in your home: gender, age and individual tendencies and behaviors. It is also important to consider whether or not a child would have adequate space to store personal items. Closet space and a dresser should be available to each child. Each room designated for foster children must also have a window to the outside and a door for privacy. If you have a spare 8 x 10 room with a window and a closet, you have enough room to house at least two foster children.

Note: Foster children can share a room with biological children with CPS approval.

Note 2: Infants under the age of one may stay in a crib in the foster parents’ room.

Q: How long do children usually stay?

A: The length of time a child spends in substitute care will vary widely. Some will be in care for a few days. Others may stay in care for months or years. Ultimately, this is determined individually by the nature of each child’s case.

Some biological parents are able to work service plans given to them by DFPS and their kids will be returned to them in a reasonable amount of time. Others may not be given that chance, or may not seize the opportunity. DFPS’ goal is always to reunify children with their biological parents as long as it is possible to do so while maintaining the well-being of the child. If it is determined that it won’t be possible to reunify a child with his/her biological parents, and if there are no relatives who are willing or able to care for the child, he/she will become legally free and available for adoption. If a foster home already has placement of the child and is adoption-motivated, they usually will get the first chance to become that child’s forever home.

While it can be hard to see the children come and go, it’s important to remember that you are making a huge difference any time you provide a safe place for the children who need it most. If you don’t do it … who will?

LSS Foster in Texas has a wonderful staff available to help answer all of your questions about becoming a foster parent. Fill out an online inquiry form or call 817-747-8110 to learn more.

Aug25

A Foster-to-Adopt Story

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

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

Posted by Brenden Scott || Category(ies): Amarillo, Foster Care, Foster Parents
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.

 

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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.