Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Ripple Effect

Guest post by Sharon Groover, Safe Children Coalition Foster Parent Trainer. SCC is the lead agency for Community Based Care in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

This story starts with a young mother of two going into labor and having no support system. Having no other options, she drove her two children to the labor and delivery room with her. When she arrived, she learned her 11 month old and 3 year old would not be permitted to stay with her during her delivery and hospital stay.

Awakened at 4 a.m. by the sound of a ringing phone, a very tired but understanding foster family, the Brophys, accepted placement of the two siblings. Later that day, Cindy took the children to the hospital to see their mother and to meet their new sibling. Learning that the mother could not be released because she did not have another adult to pick her up, Cindy arranged to return with another foster parent, Zena, to drive the mother, baby and the mom’s car home from the hospital.

In addition to giving the mother a ride, Cindy and Zena gave the mother their contact information and encouraged her to reach out for help. This provided the mother with an instant support system.

The Ripple Effect began when Gena Davis, a very experienced foster and adoptive parent and new president of the Sarasota Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, heard the story. She soon texted Cindy to acknowledge her efforts and to report some sorely needed help to restore Gena’s hope and passion for fostering children and making a difference in the lives of others.

Gena will now continue the ripples as she leads the Sarasota FAPA members with renewed sense of purpose. Cindy, Zena, Gena and their families are shining examples of the Quality Parenting Initiative and Family Centered Practice. Foster and adoptive parents have a tremendous power to make a positive impact on yourselves, your families, each other, your community and your world – one child and family at a time.

Keeping siblings together

Guest post by Neighbor to Family’s Director of Donor Relations, Karen Chrapek. Neighbor To Family is a national child welfare agency that provides sibling foster care and prevention programs for abused and neglected children. Florida offices are located in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. 

In 2010, four adorable siblings aged 5, 7, 9 and 10 and their mom addicted to prescription drugs came to Neighbor To Family’s FIRST program to keep the children out of foster care. Despite the intense in-house services delivered to help the family, the mom’s battle against her drug abuse was not immediately won. We felt it was unsafe for the children to remain in her custody and so they were placed into a Neighbor To Family foster home. We succeeded in keeping the siblings together when they entered foster care. This placement minimized the trauma that the siblings felt from being separated from their mother.

Mom then entered Haven Recovery and successfully completed a six-month residential program for addiction treatment.  Now clean from drugs, the mom received housing assistance from Haven Recovery and was able to have her own home. Neighbor To Family’s foster caregiver continued to mentor the mom. She was even chosen as the speaker for our Siblings of the Year event in 2011 as an example of our program’s success.

The children have been reunited with their mom and have been living with her for the past four months. She continues to utilize all the Neighbor To Family services including the help of staff, her case manager, family advocate and other supports.  Neighbor To Family continues to strengthen this mom’s parenting skills and supports so that the children can be reunified permanently in the next two months.

If you are already involved in Neighbor To Family in some capacity, WE THANK YOU! We really are healing families – one sibling group at a time. If you are interested in supporting our agency, please callKaren Chrapekat 386-523-1440.

Greatest Risk of Abduction: Going To and From School

Info from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which was designated by Congress to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on issues related to missing & exploited children, Toll-free, 24-hour hotline: 1-800-843-5678. Abductions are rare, but this is good information for every parent to know.

Approximately 35 percent of attempted abductions of children occurred when the child was going to and from school or school-related activities.

Some of the common lures used included providing the child a ride, offering candy/sweets, asking the child questions, offering money or using an animal as a ruse.  In 72 percent of the incidents, the suspect was in a vehicle and approximately one-third of the attempted abductions occurred during

2 p.m. and 7 p.m., when children are least likely to be supervised.

Children who escaped abductions successfully, used live-saving skills that every child needs to learn and know:

  1. Teach your older children to always TAKE A FRIEND with them when walking or biking, and stay with a group while standing at the bus stop. Make sure they know which bus to ride.
  2. Walk the route to and from school with your children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. Teach your children they should NEVER TAKE SHORTCUTS and always stay in well-lit areas.
  3. Even though there may be more safety in numbers, it is still not safe for younger children to walk to and from school, especially if they must take isolated routes anytime during the day or in darkness. Always provide supervision for your young children to help ensure their safe arrival to and from school.
  4. Teach your children that if anyone bothers them, makes them feel scared or uncomfortable, they should trust their feelings and immediately get away from that person. Teach them it is ok not to be polite and IT IS OK TO SAY NO.
  5. Teach your children that if anyone tries to take them somewhere, they should RESIST by kicking and screaming, trying to run away and DRAWING ATTENTION – and saying “This person is trying to take me away” or “This person is not my father/mother.”
  6. Teach your children NOT TO ACCEPT A RIDE from anyone unless you have said it is ok in that instance. If anyone follows them in a vehicle, they should turn around, go in the other direction, and run to a trusted adult who may help them.
  7. Teach your      children that grownups should NOT      ASK CHILDREN FOR DIRECTIONS, they should ask other adults.
  8. Teach your children to NEVER ACCEPT MONEY OR GIFTS from anyone unless you have told them it is ok to accept in each instance.
  9. Make sure the school has current and accurate emergency contact information on file for your children and confirm names of those authorized to pick them up.
  10. Always know where your children will be. Teach your children to always CHECK FIRST before changing their plans before or after school. Teach your children to never leave school with anyone unless they CHECK FIRST with you or another trusted adult, even if someone tells them it is an emergency.

Day 3: Rising Up

Guest post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock. This is the last in her blog series following her first trip to DCF’s Child Protection Summit.  

After hearing from Judo Olympian Kayla Harrison and Secret Millionaire Marcus Lemonis, the Chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises (hoping to get guest blog posts from them in the near future!), I took a minute to talk to some of the kids in foster care who were at the Summit.

Florida Youth SHINE

There was an awesome group from Florida Youth SHINE, which helps kids in foster care or aging out of foster care. Most of them were vice presidents or presidents of their local chapters, so I was seriously in the presence of greatness. I loved that one young man, Brandon in Southwest Florida, told me that when he was invited to be a part of starting a new Youth Shine chapter he said, “Yeah, as long as I can be president.” How cool is that?!? That’s how to do it!

And there was a young lady from Pinellas who was placed in foster care as soon as she was born. The social worker she met when she was 8 adopted her when she was 12. She is involved with helping the other kids in foster care and her defining moment was when she attended the Eckerd Wilderness Camp at age 17. She saw how the younger girls looked up to her and she realized that her story made an impact on them. She was also inspired by the camp staff, who truly wanted to help her and the other campers. She now wants to be a social worker and also plans to get a law degree. She currently attends St. Petersburg College.

Florida Youth SHINE

A young man named Edward from Miami may have said it best: “Who better to help them than me? They can hear from another foster youth who has been through what they have been through. Felt the depression. I understand them and have experienced it all first-hand.”

Another young woman, Tracey from Fort Myers, who aged out of the foster system in March. She said that she got into Youth Shine because they kept calling her … and calling her … and calling her. She eventually gave in and attended a meeting – and she was hooked. She found out tons of info, like that she could have a Guardian ad Litem and she could initiate going to court if she needed to. She wanted to be in a position to help other kids learn more about the services available to them.

Then I spoke to Alan Abramowitz, the Executive Director of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program. He told me about a 17-year-old kid in foster care he met who had not seen his family in two years. Alan located his cousin, who was like the foster child’s sibling, and set up a little reunion. He said it was one of the most emotional things he has ever seen. He’s seen children change the entire direction of cases in the courtroom. Hearing the child say they love their parents even after everything they’ve been through has often given parents the strength and motivation to completely turn their lives around and become great parents.

I spoke to Samuel Morris, who licenses foster homes in Northeast Florida. He said he makes sure the homes he approves for kids will really be homes, not just a place they land. He told me about a lady who showed him a hallway full of children she had fostered and told him, “These are my kids.” Homes like that help the kids reach their highest potential.

And then I met Tina, a child protection investigator executive in Santa Rosa and Walton counties. She said that her day is filled with positives, and was even when she was a CPI in the field. She reunited families, helped parents become real parents, became a mentor to foster children aging out of the system and seen parents get off drugs and back with their kids. She has been to high school graduations and often gets wonderful calls from kids and biological parents, even if they are separated.

My biggest take away from this Summit is how proud I am to be a part of such a wonderful system. The people who work and volunteer in child welfare. Everyone I spoke to had the same thing to say – I am here because I want to help people.

Day 2: Good vs. evil

Guest post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock. This blog series will follow her first trip to DCF’s Child Protection Summit. 

Niki Pocock

How do you talk to a person so sick he just raped his daughter? How do you keep your cool, staying calm, when you really want to strangle him? Our child protection investigators are in situations like that all the time. It makes my heart hurt to just think about that scenario. I know I am not strong enough to face that.

Today at Summit I had the honor of speaking to Mechill, a CPI in Panama City, about her experiences in the field. I still don’t know how she does it. Dealing with these horrific situations all the time. But she says she does it because she may be the only person a child will talk to – their only hope to get help. She also might be the only person a perpetrator will admit crimes to – for some reason they think telling a CPI they hit their wife won’t get back to the police (spoiler alert … the police still get the info).

She told me her supervisors help her get through. It is ok for her to cry at work. If she comes across a really hard case, her bosses stop everything to lend an ear – or a shoulder. They are available to her 24 hours a day because they have been there. They know how hard it is to look evil in the eye.

And then I saw the other side:

Princess Alana, Rob and Chris' 3-year-old adopted daughter

I met Rob and Chris who are a part of the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida and the Southwest Florida Foster/Adoptive Parent Association. They have three biological children, two adopted children and one foster child. But to them, they are just a family. The kids are their kids. They aren’t foster kids or biological kids. If they are in their house, they are their children.

Beautiful Brooke at age 2 on her Adoption Day

When they brought home their 4-month-old, a child in foster care, their 3-year-old adopted daughter said, “I have a new sister!” And her 16-year-old biological son would like to continue helping others – he plans to be a foster parent himself someday.

And I saw the bridge:

I met Jonathan from our Northwest Region, who works with foster parents so their homes can be approved for children. He told me how much he absolutely loves his job. He said he meets a lot of people who want to help their community, but they don’t know how to get started. He told me of the foster parents who cry tears of joy when he calls to tell them they are officially approved to foster children. He loves seeing community members merge into the child welfare role.

Stay tuned – more coming tomorrow!

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, please visit www.fosteringflorida.com.