Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Year of Faces and Places


As the year comes to an end, we wanted to thank you for visiting our blog and show appreciation for our guest bloggers. We hope the blog posts have introduced you to thoughtful real-life stories and useful information.

 Here’s a compilation our top five blog posts this year. They’re good reading if you have some down time this week:

1.       Miles of Smiles Brought to the State Fairgrounds

Wade Shows carnivals and the Florida State Fair Authority hosted about 13,000 foster, adopted, and disadvantaged youth at the fairgrounds. This amazing blog post comes from the daughter of  Wade Show’s owner.

2.       A Child Born from the Heart

An adoptive father tells the story of his adopted son, including his son saying, “My sister Sami came from mommy’s belly, and I came from mommy’s heart.”

3.       Who is Your Emily?

One of our staff tells a story about a young girl, Emily, in an effort to inspire and help other DCF  staff cope with working with abused, neglected children. This one puts everything in perspective.

4.       They’ve Found Forever Families

This blog is a brief, first-person account actual adoption ceremonies for several families during November’s National Adoption Month. Highlights include remembering an adoptive grandmother exclaiming, “I’m about to be a new grandma!”

5.       Two Teens. Two Worlds Apart

A young lady talks about meeting a refugee and learning about his life before he came to the    U.S. – making her very thankful for the comforts of her own childhood. “His uncle from Germany would send his family money so they could eat. Mine sent me money for holidays and    birthdays that I saved for my prom dress.”

We hope you have enjoyed our blog this year and look forward to bringing you even more posts in 2013. If you are interested in being a guest blogger about a topic related to DCF’s services, please email dcfsocial@dcf.state.fl.us.

Holiday Stresses May Come in Cute Dresses

Guest post by Bob Carton, licensed mental health counselor at the Employee Assistance Program at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

The holidays can be a stressful time. The simple act of finding the right dress for a gathering may become an ordeal for someone. Wearing the same new dress as your supervisor can be funny on a sitcom; however, it can be painful in real life – especially if a subordinate looks better than her boss in the dress.

Holidays by design are meant to be days when we break with routine custom and adopt a festive sensibility. We break diets, socialization patterns, spending practices and normal drinking customs. A holiday is a mini vacation from normal life. During such predictable breaks in our routines, one may find that we can easily lose constraint and wander too far from our normal disciplines. This may lead to loss of control and unwanted consequences, and these penalties may be costly to both our physical and mental wellbeing.

Think back on a festive feast at grandma’s house in days gone by. Plates filled with mounds of potatoes swimming in gravy, piles of turkey and ham, homemade breads and biscuits slathered in butter, with special dressings, festive veggies adorned with special sauces and garnishes, bright orange mounds of yams browned with marshmallow and pecan glazes. Who could pass up an extra helping of Aunt Millie’s magnificent pecan pie?  Huge amounts of energy are required to convert all that masticated mass into absorbed nutrients. (Now you know why you snoozed through the winning interception and touchdown while watching your favorite team during the holiday game.)

Your stomach muscle walls churn violently on one side of your stomach; clumps of food are thrown violently against the far wall, falling into a bubbling vat of acids and enzymes. All these solids on the move urge continued commands to drink fluids – how we respond to that thirst may help or hurt the process. Provided you didn’t eat so much that the remaining stomach contents take a reverse trip, the next leg of the journey will take you to the little room down the hall.

The meal described above may seem an exaggeration for some, while many will identify with the description for at least one holiday meal. The same way a tendency toward excess may push us toward overdoing the other holiday rituals we engage in; whether it is over consumption of alcohol, spending beyond safe limits, worrying about pleasing in-laws and friends who may have seemed impossible to satisfy. The stressors will compound and may build and couple themselves to memories of past holiday regrets. These excesses can take the joy out of any holiday season if we allow them to.

The remedy is planning: thinking how much money, time, energy, calories and socializing one can afford and still manage to retain a semblance of the meaning the holiday was intended to convey.

Put mental limits on all consumption and do your best to stay within your mental budgets. Retain a sense of joy and when the joy begins to fade, back off. Know there are people we can never please; let the Grinches go. There is no law saying you can’t start your own tradition more in keeping with your values, holding on to those features of holiday life that are meaningful to you and your family. Laugh, sing, breathe and don’t spend, eat or drink too much and this may be your best holiday yet.

Delivering Holiday Cheer for Local Elders

Guest post by DCF Northwest Regional Managing Director Vicki Abrams

Ms. Jennings sat in her wheelchair in the nursing home, looking a little misty eyed as she saw holiday decorations around her. Her husband of 61 years had passed three years earlier and her twin sister died last year. She felt very alone.

Suddenly her face perked up – she saw two big smiles on little faces coming towards her. Her two grandchildren, ages 3 and 6, had come to visit her. Their parents had arms full of presents and holiday treats. Her eyes filled with tears as she embraced her grandchildren.

The holidays give us a wonderful time to come together as families and friends, sharing memories and good tidings. But for many older and disabled adults, the holiday season can be a lonely, stressful and even depressing time.

Here are just a few ways to help the elderly and vulnerable adults during the holiday season.

  • Spending quality time strolling down memory lane with loved ones
  • Talking with and listening to elders in nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Helping with holiday shopping or hanging seasonal decorations
  • Bringing holiday treats or preparing a special meal
  • Helping out with home repairs or routine chores
  • Making sure elders have warm clothes and proper heating and air
  • Helping children to make handmade holiday cards for elders and delivering them to nursing homes

This week, escorted by Santa Claus himself, Senior Santa volunteers in Panama City will deliver handmade holiday cards from area children to local nursing homes, distribute gifts donated by Jerry Wilson’s Roofing and Charlie Coram’s Place and delight residents with traditional holiday carols and food.

Connect with an elder family member or friend this holiday season. To help people outside your family, contact local nursing homes to see how you might be able to bring a little holiday joy to residents this season. Even little acts of kindness will surely be greatly appreciated.

Happy holidays!

Helping Kids Cope with Tragedy

Post by Jennifer Evans, a licensed mental health counselor and traumatologist who specializes in compassion fatigue.

Children can start showing signs of trauma right away or months after a disastrous event. Just hearing about an event on the news or seeing a reaction from parents is enough to have an effect on kids.

You may not have spoken to your kids over the weekend about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, but it is possible they heard something at school today and might have questions for you about it this afternoon.

Here are some ways you can be available for your child during this time:

  • Be Clear: Talking about tragedy and death can be very difficult for anyone. Being clear and only answering what the child is asking will help them to understand without getting into too much graphic detail. Try using dialogue like, “When people die, their bodies stop working.”
  • Be Available: Let your kids ask the questions. Start by asking them, “What do you think happened?” Allow them to guide the conversation where they need to go to help them cope.
  •  Stay Calm: Children learn emotional reactions and coping through adults. The way adults react to events is often the way the child perceives and reacts to the event. It is okay to cry and show concern and emotion, and then to show appropriate ways to cope and heal. Try using dialogue like, “It is okay to feel confused and hurt. Sometimes people cry to show how sad they are. This allows their body to feel better.”
  • Normalize Their Feelings: When a tragedy happens it can be confusing and often kids are uncertain of the emotions they are feeling. Use this opportunity to discuss emotions and the way kids are feeling and explain how you can cope. Try using dialogue like, “Often people feel sad when something like this happens. It is hard to understand why someone would do something like this.” 
  • Understand How Children Cope: You may see your child try to act out the traumatic event through their dolls or other toys. This can be scary for a parent to see, but kids will often replay the event as a way to cope. You can use this opportunity to discuss their play and what their memory of the event is. This is a great time to clarify and normalize their reaction again. Try doing an activity to help provide closure for your child. Ask your child if they would like to say or do anything to help the families who have experience this tragedy. They may want to write a letter or a card to the school or the families to say they are sorry and offer words of hope and encouragement.
  • Notice Changes in Behavior: Often times the effect of trauma on your body does not happen until weeks after the event. This is a normal process of coping. If your child’s behavior dramatically changes for an extended amount of time, consult a professional. Common symptoms of trauma include sleeplessness, over/under eating, extended sadness for no immediate explanation, extended traumatic play, lack of focus/concentration, and nightmares.

We are all keeping the victims in our thoughts and prayers. Our website about coping strategies has more information about how children and adults are affected by and react to tragedy. We encourage you to visit the site for resources about how to help your friends and family during this time.

Miles of Smiles brought to the state fairgrounds

Guest post by Marina Zaitshik, 17-year-old daughter of Wade Shows Owner Frank Zaitshik. 

Marina

With such tough economic times, I know that I am not alone in wanting to help others that are currently struggling. Since middle school I have volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries and other charitable organizations from time to time. I enjoyed volunteering but always left my shift feeling like I could do something more. Time passed and normal teenage things temporarily pushed this feeling to the back of my mind.

This “do something” feeling was brought forward again around Christmastime when my dad, Frank Zaitshik, mentioned an idea he had. It was simple: use our carnival, Wade Shows, to provide a completely free event for disadvantaged youth.

Fast forward four years later and I am proud to say this idea has become a reality! In February, my dad shared his idea with Chuck Peasano, Executive Director of the Florida State Fair Authority. The idea made headway and the Florida State Fair Authority ran with it!

In October our first meeting was held and I was so impressed with all the progress. Wade Shows officially teamed up with the Florida State Fair Authority, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Eckerd and other Community Based Care Organizations to plan Miles of Smiles for Kids: A Holiday Carnival for Hope.

We secured the location, the staff, the kids and even sponsors. The event has grown so rapidly and we are now expecting around 13,000 kids! Foster/adopted children, children from economically challenged families and other disadvantaged youth from the SunCoast Region are all invited to Miles of Smiles. There will be rides, various entertainment, food and games. No detail will be spared at this event and all of the children will receive the full fair and carnival experience.

The Miles of Smiles for Kids carnival will be at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on:

  • Friday, Dec. 14 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 15 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 16 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

I am honored to be a part of the first annual Mile of Smiles for Kids. Our company and the carnival industry as a whole have given me and my family so many opportunities and blessings. It is cool to be able to put on this event to help others. I am grateful for all of the hardworking people that have signed on to make this event a success. Miles of Smiles has taught me to never give up on an idea because that idea can become a reality!