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Foster care system in crisis

Love Feet

USC study intersects teen births with foster care in LA County

Expecting

A first-of-its-kind study released on Nov. 12 links birth and child protective services records in Los Angeles County, revealing new insights regarding births to teens involved with the child welfare system. The new data documented that one in four teens in foster care gives birth before age 20 and as many as 40 percent of these young mothers have a second child during their teen years.

In the county overall, four in 10 teen mothers have been reported as alleged victims of abuse or neglect before pregnancy, and 20 percent have a history of substantiated maltreatment. Rates of abuse and neglect among children born to teens with a history of maltreatment victimization are two to more than three times the rates of children whose teen mothers had no involvement of child protective services. Read More

By Cynthia Monticue
Funded by the Hilton Foundation, the study was also led by Julie Cederbaum of USC and Barbara Needell and Bryn King of UC Berkeley.
USC

Gardendale family that fostered 34 kids raises awareness for foster care with 5K walk | AL.com

Hackers.jpg

Tracy and Greg Hacker have parented 34 kids and counting. Six and half years ago the couple chose to open their home to foster children, and since that time, they have changed the lives of several kids as well as their own lives. This month, the Hackers are trying to raise awareness about foster care and adoption with “Walk Me Home…to the place I belong,” a 5K walk set for Nov. 23 in Gardendale.

“For us, to be real honest it has been a God story from day one,” Tracy Hacker said. “We were going to adopt and weren’t really sure how that was going to happen or how that was going to work. God just really opened the door for foster care, an idea that we never really thought about. We knew that was where we needed to be. And the rest has been blessing on top of blessing.”

In addition to the 34 foster kids they have cared for, the Hackers have two biological daughters. They learned about foster care through a teacher at Snow Rodgers Elementary School when the girls were attending. By the time they brought their first foster child into their home their daughters were 11 and 13 years old. Their oldest daughter is now off at college, with the other one not too far behind. But now, the family also includes two adopted sons, Kenny and Evan. The boys were 3 and 4 years old when they are adopted, and they are now 5 and 6 years old.

Adopting Kenny and Evan is just one of the many blessings of being a foster parent, Hacker said.

“It’s a hard process,” she said at a recent Gardendale City Council meeting when promoting the 5K walk. “It’s a hard thing for your heart when they go home, but it’s an incredible blessing for your family and to a community that will open their homes and hearts to do that. We’re honored to be a part of it.”

Right now the family has six children in the home, including one of their daughters, their two adopted sons, and three foster girls. They have had as many as eight kids in the home at one time. Hacker said she will continue to welcome foster kids until, “God says that’s enough.”

“There are a lot of kids in the world that really need families,” she said.

At the council meeting, Hacker said she was surprised to learn a lot of those kids live right in her community. “Of the 34 kids that we’ve had in our home, all 34 have lived within 30 minutes of my house here in Gardendale,” Hacker said. “That has hit me over the years. This is something that people need to be aware of. They need somebody to open their heart and their home and just to love them.”

Buddy Hooper with Alabama Foster and Adoptive Parent Association also spoke at the council meeting and said the “Walk Me Home…to the place I belong” 5K walk serves two purposes. “One is to bring awareness for the need for foster parents to help the children in the area, and the other is to raise funds for a scholarship fund that our association has been doing since 1999,” he said. “This is our way of giving back to foster children. Our goal this year is $20,000 for our walk. I think that’s going to be easily accomplished for all the support we’re getting statewide. I want this to be an event that Gardendale is proud of.”

The walk will be held Saturday, Nov. 23, which is National Adoption Day, starting at Buffalo Wild Wings in Gardendale. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and the walk will begin at 10 a.m. Adults are asked to pay a $10 registration fee, and children under the age of 18 years old are encouraged to attend free of charge. There will be tents, vendors, inflatables, hot chocolate and other activities at the event. Strollers will be allowed during the walk. To register for the walk and for more information visit www.walkmehome.org.

“We’re just looking for people to come out and support us and be there that day,” Hacker said. “Hopefully it will touch someone who will open their home and be a foster parent.”

By Sarah A. McCarty

Gardendale family that fostered 34 kids raises awareness for foster care with 5K walk | AL.com.

Va. ranks first in kids aging out of foster care | WTVR.com

RICHMOND,  Va. (WTVR) — Virginia has the highest rate of children who enter the foster care system only to never find a permanent home, according to state rankings.  It’s called “aging out,” when a child turns 18 and goes out on their own.

That’s about to happen to Mark, who lives at a group home in Richmond.  Since he is in the custody of the state, we can only give his first name.

Mark turns 18 in December and will be on his own, with no permanent family to turn to, if he is not adopted by then. Read More

10 Common Characteristics of Child Abuse Survivors

Broken Heart

Broken Heart

10  Common Characteristics of Child Abuse Survivors

I am sitting here this morning thinking about some of the long term effects of child abuse. Often adults that were abused tend to be extreme “people pleasers” and are fearful of authority. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with wanting to see others happy, but I’m not talking about typical niceness, generosity, or basic humanity. The focus here is the uncontrollable need to please others so that they don’t get mad, you don’t get in trouble (yes, adults abused as children continue to fear “getting in trouble”), or that loved ones will not leave. Here are 10  common characteristics of child abuse survivors.

  1. Incapable of Completely Trusting Others
  2. Depreciated Sense of Self-worth
  3. Elevated “Flight or Fight Response”
  4. Extreme Anxiety
  5. Inability to Express One’s Self
  6. Excessive Self-Doubt
  7. Difficulty Forming Bonds
  8. Chronic Over-achievers
  9. Highly Likely to Engage in Risky Behaviors
  10. Restlessness Within Themselves

This is just a mere few characteristics that plague child abuse survivors, and not all will exhibit all of these. The above list is what I see as a survivor myself, and what I see most often in my child/adolescent patients at the in-patient mental health hospital in which I work as a Psychiatric Nurse. The damage done leaves scars that can last a lifetime, and the challenges are fought daily.

Trust is a basic developmental milestone that is usually learned during infancy and reinforced throughout ones lifetime. For us, it is an elusive concept. Not having the ability to trust affects all relationships (intimate, casual, and professional), and often it affects what we are able to to achieve i.e., not trying to do new things for fear that something will happen to prevent completion of the achievement or endeavor. For example, many hesitate going to college or applying for a promotion because they may feel that their loved ones will need to be accepting of the time it takes to study, or that maybe a loved one will balk about the extra hours at a new job.

A healthy sense of self-worth is imperative to happiness. In general, people will try to do things they think they are capable of; therefore, if told often enough that they can’t do something they will begin to believe what is said and may never try for fear of failure. This further erodes their sense of self-worth. On the other hand, when accomplishments are achieved, it is tremendously difficult for child abuse survivors to receive compliments, often second guessing intentions or motives. Self-doubt also feeds into another characteristic of being an over-achiever, stemming from a sub-conscious need to prove ones self to be worthy.

Flight or fight response is a defense mechanism that causes anxiety, and is built into all of us for the purpose of self protection. I have been told, more often than not, that I remind people of a scared rabbit. Obviously I don’t actually look like a rabbit, but I have learned that I can appear very anxious or nervous even at times that others would not. It is akin to the saying “waiting for the other shoe to fall”, meaning I have become so accustomed to bad things happening, that I am always anxiously waiting for the inevitable. It is exhausting to say the least, and I can’t count the number of times people say to me “just don’t worry about it”. Do they not understand I am not equipped properly to “just not worry about it”?

Infants and toddlers learn to express themselves to get what they need and what they want. Child abuse survivors often struggle with the basic tool of communication. We can talk, of course, but being able to articulate what we want to say without anxiety or exposing our emotions is quite the challenge. This characteristic links back to some of the others we have already talked a bit about like trust, self worth, anxiety, self-doubt etc. It is often a balancing act to tell others how we feel without worrying about our wording, the judgement of others, or exposing our emotions. Often self-doubt wins and self expression is lost. The fear of these things and of exposing ourselves to potential harm, real or perceived, is too risky.

Difficulty forming bonds is another common characteristic that is seen as a result of child abuse. Okay, please note, I am not at all saying that we can not have relationships or form bonds with our children, family members, for friends at all, I am just stating that it can be challenging for many of us. My difficulty with this centers around my inability to trust, and I find that it is hard for me to express emotions to others verbally in a way that conveys the true depth of my feelings for them. A lot of times when expressing ourselves the words can sound shallow or lacking emotion. This is likely also the result of not wanting to expose ourselves to harm and lack of trust in others with our emotions and innermost thoughts.

The need to achieve at work, school, parenting, sports, and other activities to the point of working excessively long hours, pushing yourself to exhaustion to complete projects early, relentless researching, and many other behaviors engaged in for the purpose of noticeably excelling at a task or activity are behaviors associated with overachievers. Over-achieving for the survivor of child abuse is a simple concept….be good…really good and you will be loved, accepted, kept worthy.

Drugs, promiscuity, self-injurious behavior, and fighting are just a few of the numerous risky behaviors that plague child abuse victims. It is not uncommon for others to label these children/adults as “bad” or “trouble”, when the truth is much different. Often these behaviors result from trying to cope with pain, shame, anger, and disappointment. Surely these are not appropriate ways to cope, but remember, some of us didn’t ever learn to cope in healthy ways with our feelings. Coping skills are tools learned to deal, in positive ways, with negative emotions or situations in life. Our toolbox is empty until someone realizes this, and cares enough to help us fill it up. Sadly, without tools to cope, many child abuse victims engage in risky behaviors for many years, and some have so much difficulty coping and are so hopeless that they may tragically take their own lives.

The last characteristic is the hardest one to explain, as I struggle with this one myself and have a tough time understanding it fully. Restlessness with my life, not the type of restlessness that causes you to get up and do something, or move your legs because you are uncomfortable. It might be best described as the inability to find peace and happiness with ones current lifestyle, job, location, accomplishments, contributions, and self. I always feel that there is something else I should be doing, or find myself searching relentlessly for something without really ever knowing what I am looking for. Could it be safety? Peace? Happiness? Love? Trust? Would I even fully recognize it?

I am writing this article to share with you some of the long-term effects of child abuse for two reasons. First, I believe awareness is the key to helping others, and secondly I want to share some insight from the prospective of a child abuse survivor. Not all children will suffer all of the characteristics I have shared with you here. Just as each child is unique, the spectrum of injuries to body, mind, and spirit that result from child abuse are also unique. There is one thing we all have in common; we all deserve to be loved. Make a difference, even if it’s only in one child’s life because “it will make a difference to that one”. – Starfish Storyadapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

RN Writer 2013

On a Positve Note -Seeking ‘Forever Families’ for Foster Kids

 

“Forever,” Lisa Cantanese whispered to her newly adopted daughters Ashley, 8, and Maryann, 5.

The two siblings sat around a courtroom table with Cantanese, her husband, Shaun Fryling, and two children they already had adopted: Justice, 12, and DeAndre, 7.

Together, they had officially become a “forever family” during a heartwarming adoption ceremony conducted last week by Erie County Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin.

“I didn’t know we were having a party,” said Rodwin, kidding the girls before handing each their presents – a stuffed animal and big picture book in which the judge wrote: “Happy Adoption Day.”

“Believe it or not,” Rodwin said. “I’ve been working on this case for a long time, and I’m excited, too.”

November is National Adoption Month. Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 children in foster care, and approximately 114,000 children waiting for an adoptive family…Read More…

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