Tag Archives: baby

My take on foster care

Blog post by Kristen Bolander, a foster, adoptive and biological mom in North Florida.

Baby Adorable and I blogging away

Baby Adorable and I blogging away

I had the pleasure of babysitting a tiny little bit the other night. The baby, who I will name Adorable, is adorable and in foster care. As I snuggled Adorable to death I was reminded of all of the emotions that come over you as a foster parent. This is Adorable’s foster parent’s first foster kid. Not only that, but they have a 7-month-old bio son themselves. They took in an addicted baby when they have their own child to raise.

We have all seen those blog posts about how hard it is to be a foster parent, and how it’s worth it, and all. This is my take on it…



As a foster and adoptive parent I get comments everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

“God bless you for doing that.”

“I’ve always thought about doing that.”

“I could never give a kid up.”

“When the time is right I am going to foster.”

“I wish I could do that.”

“You’re such a great person for taking in abused kids.”

“There is a special place in heaven for you.”

“You must have a heart of gold.”

We heard all of the above comments at the beach in one hour.  All in front of my kids which gets old for all of us.

We heard all of the above comments at the beach in one hour. All in front of my kids which gets old for all of us.

While I always appreciate any encouragement I can get, I hear these same phrases so often that they have become blanket statements for people to say, when they want to express their admiration for someone but don’t know how. I smile, make a joke about how I just drink a lot of coffee and have a bunch of bad ideas and walk away before anyone can bother to ask more questions like, “Are any of them related?” (Please, do not ever ask an adoptive parent this question in front of their children – use your head people.) 

My feelings about foster care aren’t about how hard it is to give a kid up, though it can be very difficult. For me, what has been hard is looking the kids in their beautiful eyes and thinking about what has been, and what could be. Those incredibly long nights, when you are awake with your addicted baby who is screaming from withdrawal are hard, really hard. That time when you look in your child’s eyes and you see the resemblance to their bio mom and a moment of fear flashes through your mind of, “What if they turn out like that?” and you can do nothing but pray and hope. Those moments when your child is screaming to go back to the person who hurt them.

Those foster care classes where they give you the reality of foster care but then try and let you know how rewarding it can be, they cannot prepare you for it all. Sometimes it’s not rewarding. Sometimes a child will come into your home and you cannot help them. Your skills and love do not match their needs, and you have to find that child another home. Sometimes, or a lot of times, you lock yourself in a bathroom and cry because you are so overwhelmed by the kid’s behavior, or the thought of what happened to them, the thought of losing them or everything. Being a foster parent is overwhelming, and emotionally and physically exhausting. It’s not hard for me to love another person’s child; if you’re a kid in my home, you’re my child and I love you, though many times I may not like you. It’s hard to deal with bad behaviors and it’s hard to accept that people abuse children, but that’s what foster parents do, day in and day out. All while caseworkers, attorneys, and Guardian Ad Litem’s, come in and out of the home, make phone calls about you, and scrutinize if you have taken out your bathroom trash that week or not.

I don’t watch TV because it’s a great way for me to avoid the news and reality of the world around me. I don’t get newspapers, I don’t follow politics, and I don’t really care about much going on around me. But abuse, I’m not in the business of ignoring reality.  I copied this from www.adoptuskids.org.

“More than 250,000 children in the U.S. enter the foster care system every year. While more than half of these children will return to their parents, the remainder will stay in the system. Most of these children are living with foster families, but some also live in group facilities. Each year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care without being adopted. Today there are 104,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted ranging in age from less than a year old to 21.”

250,000 kids come into foster care each year, and you know where they end up? In the homes of tired people, emotionally exhausted people who just want to sleep through the night, people who have raised more kids than ‘The Duggars’. Those foster parents, when approached by strangers giving blanket statements, “I don’t know how you do it, I could never do that,” smile and give some generic answer, just like I do, smile again and move on. But in truth most of those people who say those seemingly nice statements have no clue how much we foster parents give, and love. They have no idea how much time and energy we invest into helping mold the most vulnerable members of society, who will one day grow up and have a choice to make about how they want to treat their children. We work, day and night, to ensure that our kids aren’t treated differently, that they get the special services they need, that they feel loved. We have to think about child abuse all day, not just when it pops up on the news for three minutes. It is our kids’ constant reality, and now ours. If you get upset when you hear something terrible on the news, truly stop, and think about how foster parents have to take that reality on 24/7 until the child, or children can adjust.

Today, go thank a foster parent. Don’t give out any more blanket, “Oh you’re such a great person” statement. Go DO something for them. Foster parents are helping to change the entire world of the children in their homes. That’s a big freaking deal. Take them a meal, send them a gift card, or write them a thank you note. What we do behind closed doors is epic, even if you can’t see it. But to us, it’s all worth it, knowing that even if that kid was with us for just a few days, we helped make their life a little better.

I love being a foster parent. I know foster parenting is not for everyone, but if you have honestly been considering it, here is a video that my husband Willy and I are in.


The “F” Word

Guest post by Denise Beeman Sasiain, foster mother to Summer, 17, who will stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood; Isabella Hope, 3, who they’ve had since birth and adopted last year; Xavier (aka X-man), 2, who they are in the process of adopting; and Daniella Joy, 1, who they’ve also had from birth and recently adopted.

In our home, we absolutely, positively don’t use the “F” word. We don’t like it. We try never to refer to our children, especially in their presence, as a “foster” child.

My daughters and I were at a mother’s day tea party and someone asked me if Summer, our 17 year old was mine. Although Summer is still not, and probably won’t be, up for adoption before she ages out of the system, she still is my daughter. I wholeheartedly answered “Yes, I got her when she was 15.” And that was the end of the discussion.

I applaud the concept of the term “foster child,” in which children are cared for in homes other than their own.  Although my husband and I salute the concept of fostering and the history of the word, to us, on an interpersonal level, it signifies that a child is different from our other children.  The word “foster” implies emotionally that they don’t quite belong.  Although it is an accurate legal description, it doesn’t work for our family.

From a legal standpoint, it is important that they are not identified as a foster child, but I say that from an emotional standpoint, it is just as important. Children need to attach and to belong!

Whether a child will be with us for a few weeks, years or permanently, they all become equal members in standing.  They all receive the same love, concern and care. They are all my kids! Even if they are planning and yearning to return to their moms and dads, they are still a member of our family, albeit temporarily. I tell them they just have a second family.

Denise and husband Pierre

Denise and husband Pierre

Fatherhood: Option or Obligation?

Guest post by Bryan Nelson, a father of two, foster parent, and Program Coordinator for Boot Camp for New Dads in Orlando. The boot camp is a part of Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County’s initiative to create and reinforce strong families.

Bryan and his son

Bryan and his son

In a Presidential Fatherhood Roundtable event in Orlando last February, I had the opportunity to ask Miami Heat All Star Dwayne Wade a simple question, “What would you say to a young dad who feels he has the option instead of an obligation to father his child?”

His answer was simple:  “Once you create a child, your options are gone. It’s your job to step up and be the parents they need. Kids don’t ask to be here and we’re not going to have all of the answers every time. There are gonna be tough days … but so what, there’s tough days on the court, I don’t quit. If I’m missing shots, I don’t quit. I go to the gym and figure it out! So why would I quit on what’s most important in the world? I’m building future leaders!  Why would I quit on someone who looks just like me, someone who acts just like me? Why would I quit on that? I brought them into this world and it’s my job to make sure I’m there every step of the way.”

It’s a refreshing breath of air to hear someone with influence, popularity and fame to tell it how it is.

One expecting father at the Boot Camp for New Dads workshop I teach said, “Chivalry isn’t dead, fathers have simply stopped teaching it!”

He couldn’t be more right. Our children depend on the standards and expectations we set for them to guide them through the tough teen and young adult years.

When a child’s father is not in the picture and not a positive role model, mom is left to pick up both roles. Moms can do it, but it would really help her to have two adults to parent the kids. Two people to walk the floor at night with an infant – and switch off when the baby’s crying becomes unbearable. Two people to alternate picking up the kids from school. Two people to clean up the house. The potential for two incomes or, if the mom is able to stay at home, another option for child care.

Orlando is ranked #58 out of the top 101 U.S. cities with single-mother run households at 46.7 percent. This is a growing problem in our society. FATHERHOOD IS NOT AN OPTION! Far too many males feel they have a choice.

I am proud of the 962 fathers who took our Boot Camp for New Dads workshop in the past two years. These men join many other great guys in Florida who stepped up and took on the father role. But I always wonder – why aren’t the other fathers stepping up? Are they scared? Do they just not care?

Some people say the men who don’t have any interest in sticking around probably won’t be good dads anyway. The popular idea in society these days is that dads are dumb, don’t want to be involved and if they are, will only screw up, so why force them? The facts however couldn’t be more opposite.

Father absence spurs significant increases in high school drop-out rates, poor school performance, abuse/neglect, teen pregnancy and even overall health.  The facts are clear; children with involved fathers are healthier and do better in school as well as socially.

For the children who are not able to be with their fathers due to death, abuse or neglect, I encourage males in the community to help these kids grow by becoming strong, positive role models. I also encourage the entire community to emotionally support the mothers who are navigating parenthood alone. It is true that it takes a village to raise a child, but fathers play a crucial role in the future of Florida’s children.

Maternity Leave – Gone Fishin’

Guest post by Kendra Goff, PhD, DABT, State Toxicologist for the Florida Department of Health.

Kendra Goff, PhD, DABT, State Toxicologist

Kendra Goff, PhD, DABT, State Toxicologist

As an expecting mom, tailoring my diet to the health of my baby-to-be seemed daunting. There are so many inherent “can’ts” and shouldn’ts” during pregnancy and I didn’t want to take any dietary missteps that could hurt my baby later. For many women, one of the confusing points about diet during pregnancy comes in the question of seafood.

My pregnancy has let me empathize with how confusing it can be for any mom or mom-to-be to clearly tell the difference between which fish are safe to eat and which fish are advised to be avoided—before, during and after pregnancy. With a constant flood of conflicting information about the dangers of mercury-laden fish, many of us want to throw our hands up in frustration and ward fish off altogether (which is exactly what we at DOH absolutely don’t want to happen!)

As an avid sushi eater and lover, I was most concerned about having to forgo my Japanese favorite—and luckily, I didn’t have to! I was reminded that, with a little education, incorporating the right fish into my diet (in cooked forms) was actually very simple and rewarding. My sushi-craving palette didn’t have to suffer—and neither did the profits of the Japanese restaurant who knows me by name!

Fish bring undeniable health benefits to the table. A variety of low-mercury seafood options provide proteins and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Consistently incorporating fish into your diet before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can boost your baby’s intellect and encourage brain and eye development. Some researchers have even suggested that depression experienced during and after pregnancy may result from a lack of fish consumption.

“Fish for Your Health” wallet card

“Fish for Your Health” wallet card

During both my pregnancies, I couldn’t help but smile during my healthy nutrition discussion with my OB-GYN when she handed me a wallet card produced by DOH, clearly detailing nutritional information about low-mercury seafood. I immediately recognized several of my favorites in the “Low Mercury” category, including clam, catfish, crab, herring, oyster, scallops, shrimp, tilapia and tuna, with a recommended consumption of 12 ounces a week. Salmon, one of the healthiest seafood options, can provide the recommended amount of omega-3s in as few as 6 ounces a week.

Even in my current position of State Toxicologist, that wallet card remains a regular guest at my restaurant outings and the grocery store, clearly and easily reminding me which fish are best for my diet and for my family’s meals. I encourage others – women who are currently expecting or planning to get pregnant and all women of childbearing age–to print out our “Fish for Your Health” wallet card and find the many fish that are right for you.

You may be making sacrifices during your pregnancy, but don’t let seafood be one of them! Remember these three elements to snag your fish-friendly diet: consume a variety of fish; find fish that are relatively low in mercury; and the most important of all–incorporate them into your diet!

“Fish for Your Health” wallet card

“Fish for Your Health” wallet card

Preventing Childhood Deaths

DCF and DOH just released the Statewide Child Abuse Death Review Report, which investigates deaths related to abuse or neglect.

Most of the children in the report were under age 4 and the majority of these deaths could have been prevented.  Of 126 deaths, 62 were caused by drowning or unsafe sleep practices. Several other deaths were a result of parental frustration with the child.

Here are some tips to help ensure your family is safe:

Drowning prevention

  • Install fencing and other barriers around your pool and check regularly to make sure they are working properly.
  • Make sure your doors have alarms and child-proof locks so that you know if a child has left the house.
  • Adults should learn to swim and also teach their children how to swim. Children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at risk of drowning.
  • Remove toys, especially riding toys, away from the pool area.
  • Never allow a child to be around any water unsupervised. That includes bathtubs, buckets, toilets, ponds, ditches, canals, pools, rivers, oceans, hot tubs and more. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water.
  • Never allow a child to supervise another child near or in water.
  • Learn first aid and CPR for children so that you can help in the case of an emergency.

Safe-sleep practices

  • Put baby’s crib, cradle or bassinet close to the parent or caregiver’s bed for the first six months.
  • Place your baby face up to sleep
  • Make sure the baby’s mattress is firm and fits snugly in its frame, and that sheets fit tightly around the mattress
  • Keep the baby’s sleeping area away from all loose strings (i.e. blind cords, electrical cords and clothing)
  • Offer your baby a pacifier (never a bottle) when placing your baby down to sleep.
  • Keep the room temperature of your baby’s sleeping area comfortable for a lightly clothed adult to keep baby from getting overheated.

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Parenting tips

  • Constant infant cries can be frustrating. It is ok for your baby to cry while you take a five-or 10-minute break. First, put your baby in a crib, make sure the baby is safe, and close the door. Check on the baby every five minutes. Don’t ever shake a baby.
  • The “Terrible Twos” can be a difficult time for any parent. Give your toddler basic choices – this outfit or that outfit? – and tell them what they CAN do – “Please take your toy to your room,” instead of “Don’t leave your toy there.”
  • The teen years can be extremely challenging for parents. Take time to do activities together and talk so you create a bond of trust. It is very important to have open communication with teenagers so they feel comfortable talking to you about issues such as sex, drugs, school, friends, etc.
  • For more parenting tips, check out our online Parenting Guide. It is also available in a free e-book format.