Tag Archives: volunteer

A lot of love to give

By Kathy Wintons, Adoptive mom and Administrative Secretary at Children’s Home Society of Florida.

Daughter and mother on adoption day!

Daughter and mother on adoption day!

I met my daughter, Myra, for the first time when she was 14. I was transporting her to the airport where she was going to fly out and visit a potential adoptive parent. After her return she decided the parent wasn’t a match for her. She wanted to wait, pray and dream for a father and mother that was a good fit for her.

My husband and I were not interested in teenager. I always preferred caring for younger kids. My husband and I always knew that someday we would adopt. We took the in-depth adoption training course (MAPP) so we would be ready to adopt, but as the years went by and not thinking about adopting.  I was asked to be Myra’s mentor and, eventually, I agreed.

Over the next two years, we realized Myra had become a part of our family. There was never a moment where it clicked, it was a gradual thing. Eventually, we just couldn’t imagine our lives without her. My husband and I prayed about it and we decided we can do this. We can be her mother and father.

I do think there was a moment where Myra realized she wanted to be in our family. My husband and I took her to her high school’s football game. There we were, sitting in the stands with the other families. I think that is the moment that she truly felt she had found her forever family.

Myra officially became a part of our family on April 9, 2014. The attorney said he had never seen so many people in the courtroom before – family, coworkers, friends and case managers that had helped her to get to her forever family; there were so many people there to surround us with love and support.

Myra is an A/B student. She is a wonderful athlete – she’s currently on the volleyball and basketball teams and hopes to get back into track as well. Her dream is to become a nurse and background in law.

Daughter, mother, grandmother and father.

Daughter, mother, grandmother and father.

I always thought I would adopt a baby or toddler, but Myra is perfect for us. Teens like Myra desire to have a family, to be loved – and they have a lot of love to give.   Every day is not always a great day.  But when she gives us all the love she can give and says, “Mommy I love you,” It makes everything wonderful!

Like all children, teenagers need to know that they are loved and that the love is forever. However, If you are flexible, don’t take yourself (or them) too seriously, and can negotiate firm but loving guidelines, this can be an ideal situation for you both. Although at times it seemed less time consuming because teens are more independent, they may require more emotional work for a time. Raising a teenager into adulthood may have bumps along the way, but the joy of knowing you are making a difference in a young adults life is a lifetime achievement for you and that child.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwIA8y-YjY8

The greatest joys in my life

Guest post by First Lady Ann Scott

First Lady Ann Scott reading to children at the Child Abuse Prevention kick off at the Governor's Mansion

First Lady Ann Scott reading to children at the Child Abuse Prevention Month kick off at the Governor’s Mansion.

Being a mother and a grandmother, with two more grandsons on the way, is the greatest joy in my life. When my children were growing up, I wanted them to feel safe, loved and cared for and know that we supported them as they worked to achieve their dreams.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful children around our state that have persevered through terrible family situations. Some of these kids have been neglected, abandoned and abused, yet they have smiles on their faces and love in their hearts. We can each make a difference in the lives of these children by getting more involved in our communities. I believe that strong communities help make strong families, so I encourage all Floridians to donate their time to children’s causes and participate in youth-focused organizations. You can volunteer as a youth mentor, help out at an afterschool program or a local literacy program. We can all make a difference in the life of a child by sharing our unique skills and abilities.

As Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close, my hope is that all Floridians become more involved in their communities so that all of Florida’s children experience the happy childhood and bright future they deserve.

Transformation

Guest blog post by Myron Rolle, a Florida State athlete and student, Oxford graduate, Rhodes Scholar,  former NFL player, and advocate for foster children. He has held many Myron Rolle Wellness and Leadership Academy camps for children in foster care and today is holding the “Rhodes to Success” camp.

There was a small boy in foster care with glasses at one of the Wellness and Leadership Academy camps. He was small, diminutive, reclusive and not very social. I kept my eye on him all week and made sure he was encouraged to participate in the camp.  

Go team! Coming in as a group at the Myron Rolle Wellness and Leadership Academy.

Go team! Coming in as a group at the Myron Rolle Wellness and Leadership Academy.

One day, Rudy Ruettiger came to speak. He was featured in the movie “Rudy,” which details the Notre Dame football career of an underdog player who was dyslexic. Rudy fought to get in the game and made a great, famous play.

At the Q&A with Rudy, the small boy began asking Rudy questions – right in front of the entire group. He was confident, active and had a new self-awareness.

Climbing the rock wall at camp

Climbing the rock wall at camp.

The next day he was the only one to make it to the top of the rock wall. In a way it was symbolic. He had conquered his fears and his past. He was a new man. I ran over and gave him a huge hug and told him how proud I was of him for breaking out of his shell and overcoming his fears. He had completely transformed in just a few days.

I have never been a foster child. I cannot imagine the pain they have known. But I treasure the relationship that I, as well as my family formed with DCF years ago.

I dove right in, with the goal of finding out what made the kids laugh and forget their troubles, if only for a little while. I spoke with them about their dreams and their feelings to find out what I could do to offer them the most and help shape their futures.

Myron playing flag football with the campers.

Myron playing flag football with the campers.

The Myron Rolle Wellness and Leadership Academy was established as a means to instill within them the importance of education, a foundation of values, self respect, and the ability to better understand how to nourish and take care of themselves. I want this special population of young people to walk away with higher goals, better confidence and know that successful adults around them believe that they can achieve anything.

Today, 50 kids are at the “Rhodes to Success” event, which I hope will encourage the kids to aim high with their educations.

Campers dancing and having fun at a camp assembly - it takes a lot of courage to get up in front of a large audience!

Campers dancing and having fun at a camp assembly – it takes a lot of courage to get up in front of a large audience!

My time with the kids inspires me to continue working on my own football career and future work in the medical field. They have shown me that there truly is no limit to what we can accomplish.

 

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!