Tag: church

Foster Care: A Sibling Story

“He has your eyes…”

We are sitting in a hospital room.  Our daughter has just given birth to our first grandchild and her biological and adopted siblings are gathered about.  Each taking a turn holding and admiring the newest addition to our family.

It was a traditional scene.  One where the family will “ooh” and “aww” over the beautiful life that has just entered the world.  But a certain comment took my breath away.

“He has your eyes Jose.”

Uncle Jose, only 14, looked up with pride.  It was an important moment.  Because in adoption, you don’t always get to see another who has your eyes.  A small symbol that provides a silent and powerful connection.

Our family is a patch quilt of sorts.  My husband and I have two daughters adopted from foster care.  They have a biological sister and brother adopted by my parents.  It’s a complicated little family that doesn’t make sense on paper and confuses most people who meet us.   But it’s our family.  And when those four children entered our lives, we knew they all needed to stay together.

And here we are ten years later in a delivery room and I am again struck by the power of the sibling bond. And so grateful that they could experience this miracle together.  That they could all take a turn holding the next generation of their family, of our family, and see tangibly the power of that sibling connection.

We are all woven together now, they and us.  Biology doesn’t define our family; the love and commitment knit throughout that hospital room is what makes our family.  But I don’t deny the power of biology – the miracle that is witnessed when you hold another and see your own eyes looking back.

Everyday siblings in foster care are separated because there are not enough families to keep them together.  And when that separation turns into permanency, these children will inevitably be denied the basic privileges and experiences that siblings deserve and need.  From the big moments like births and weddings to the small moments like raiding your sister’s closet or playing with your brother after school.

It’s hard work taking in a sibling group.  Helping each individual child heal and work through their trauma while also caring for multiple children with multiple needs.  But can I tell you something?  It’s worth it.

“He has your eyes Jose.”

Interested in knowing what it takes to be a part of this amazing work?  Check out our orientation page and get started today!

Arizona Faith and Families was founded by Paul and Nikki Lehman.  Paul and Nikki started their family by adopting two teenage girls from foster care.  They are now the proud parents to five children and one grandchild and work to equip others toward successful foster care and adoption. 

Separating Siblings

Today I received six different emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups.  Today I had to reply that I did not have any foster families available who could take in these siblings.  May I share this with you?

6 year old boy, 1 year old girl

3 year old boy, 1 year old boy, 2 year old boy

7 month old girl, 2 year old girl, 4 year old girl, 7 year old boy

Newborn girl, 3 year old boy, 1 year old boy

8 year old boy, 12 year old girl

8 year old girl, 9 year old boy, 11 year old girl, 13 year old girl

This was just yesterday.  Every day our office receives dozens of emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups, a surprisingly difficult population to place.

This is because sibling groups range in age and size.  While a new foster family might feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5 year old, not too many feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5, 7, and 10 year old.  And that’s ok, because it is no easy task!

But what happens when foster homes aren’t available for these sibling groups?  They are forced to be separated; often times into multiple homes or into group home settings.   Today they will not only experience the loss of their home and parents, but will also be torn from their siblings.

This is a tragedy.  Praise God we no longer have children sleeping in DCS offices (remember 20015??).  But the work is not done.  Arizona has nearly 200% more homes than it needs for children ages 0-2 but falls far short of what we need for children over age 7 and especially for children who are a part of a sibling group.  You can view the statistics on the DCS website.

Arizona needs foster parents.  Foster parents who are willing to step out in faith, possibly have a very hard 12 – 18 months of parenting multiple children with multiple traumas, and stick around long enough to inspire others.  This is hard.  It requires people with real grit.  It takes people who are teachable and who are willing to be flexible.  Foster parents who have space, the time, and the ability to transport multiple children.  Foster parents who have a strong support system for when things get tough (or are willing to build one).  Foster parents who understand our calling as Christians to care for the orphan and who are willing to follow this command despite how uncomfortable it may be.

This is a good work.  I would argue some of the best work that can be done.  But it is hard work.  Are you willing to work alongside us?  We’ve been there, done that and we want to give you the tools to do it too.  Check out our orientation page and get started today!

 

Arizona Faith and Families was founded by Paul and Nikki Lehman.  Paul and Nikki started their family by adopting two teenage girls from foster care.  They are now the proud parents to five children and one grandchild and work to equip others toward successful foster care and adoption. 

Back to School Basics for Foster Parents

Going back to school is always a refreshing switch from the summer schedule.  Routines are great for children, and though it may cause anxiety for some students, it is always nice to get into a good schedule.  Here are 5 quick tips for getting back into your school groove:

  1. Family meetings. Life can get busy and hectic, so plan family meetings or one-on-ones to re-connect.  Maybe this is done over an after-school snack, or maybe it’s a weekly check in during Saturday breakfast.  Either way, find time to slow down and connect with the kids in your care.  A lot can happen during an eight hour school day!
  2. Get free meals.  Sign your foster children up for free breakfast and lunch.  While you might have great aspirations to pack healthy meals, it is still a great back-up to have on hand.  All foster children automatically qualify for the free breakfast and lunch program so be sure to take advantage of this support.
  3. Meal plan. This is one of our favorite suggestions that we give to our families.  Meal planning will save you both time and money as you jump back into the craziness that comes with a busy school schedule.  There are so many amazing tools to help family’s meal plan, but here are a few of our favorites:

http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/meal-planning/meal-plans-shopping-lists/

http://wellnessmama.com/1612/kid-friendly-meal-plan/

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/my-favorite-quick-and-easy-dinners/

  1. Prepare for battle. Homework can be your worst nightmare during school season.  If you have a child with a full visit schedule, counseling, and other appointments, school work becomes nearly impossible to get done.  Add in a learning disability or behavior challenges and you have a nice recipe for a migraine.  Work with your child’s teacher if needed.  Oftentimes homework demands need to be modified.  If you find that your child’s day involves school, an appointment, homework, and sleep…there needs to be some adjustment to include play!  Don’t be afraid to work with your child’s teacher if homework becomes too much or is difficult to fit into their schedule.  You are their best advocate.
  2. Get talking. Inevitably someone this school year is going to ask your foster child about their parents or their family.  It might be a teacher, some friends, or that nosey stranger, but the conversation is bound to happen.  Roleplay with your child to help them learn what they would like to say when the uncomfortable questions get asked.  Practicing these conversations helps children identify what they are comfortable sharing and gives them great tools to protect their own privacy.

Praying for all our families as they get back into the school groove!  Please feel free to share your own special tips, we’d love to hear them.

Home Inspection Fails: The Top 10

The Top Ten

A portion of the process to become a foster parent includes an inspection of your home by the state of Arizona.  This can feel intimidating but is intended to make sure that licensed homes are safe environments for children in care.  The state provides each family with a comprehensive list of inspection standards and relies on agencies to help get you prepared.  Below are the top 10 reasons families fail to pass an inspection the first time through, as provided by the state of Arizona:

  • Smoke detectors are not installed in each bedroom
  • Dogs over six months of age are not current on rabies vaccines
  • A record keeping tool is not available to document review of emergency evacuation plans with foster children
  • Smoke detectors are not installed in each living area
  • Electrical panels and outlets are in poor repair
  • A written emergency evacuation plan is not available and posted on each floor
  • Emergency phone numbers are not posted in a prominent place
  • Medication is not in locked storage
  • Highly toxic substances are not in locked storage

And the current number 1….

  • Lack of proper first aid supplies

We want all families to feel confident as they go through their inspection and do our best to ensure that each family passes an inspection their first time through!  To help prepare, please take a look at the most current inspection book closely and begin the process of preparing your home.  You can also review home inspections 101 to get an idea of the inspection process.

Home Inspections 101

During the licensing process, the Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR) will conduct a life safety inspection in your home. This is to ensure that your home is in compliance with the safety requirements for licensed foster parents. We know this can be a stressful time for families, but no need to worry we have you covered! Simply, look over this document to learn about some of the major safety concerns addressed during the inspection.

*This is a brief overview of the most commonly asked about safety requirements. A full detailed list of safety requirements for foster parents will be given to you during the licensing process by your agency. Your licensing agency will also do a walk through with you to help you prepare for the States inspection.

Medication and Toxins    

(Many families attach magnet locks to existing cabinets for the locking of medication and toxins.  You can view a sample here)

  • Medication must be maintained in a securely fashioned and locked storage, unless:
    • The foster child may access their medication specified in their case/service plan
    • The medication must be readily and immediately accessible i.e. asthma inhaler or epi-pen
  • Refrigerated Medication
    • Must be safeguarded in a locked box within the fridge. (Many families use a tackle box with a lock)
  • Highly toxic substances are in locked storage (substances that can cause serious bodily harm or death if improperly used)

Fire arms

  • Fire arms and weapons must be unloaded, trigger locked and locked in a storage container of unbreakable material
  • Ammunition must be locked in a separate storage from the firearm
  • Other than some provisions for law enforcement officers, no foster parent is permitted to carry a weapon around or near a foster child. This includes individuals with a concealed weapon permit

Safety

  • 2A 10BC fire extinguisher is to be stored near the kitchen. If you have a multilevel house, you must have a fire extinguisher on all levels
  • Families are required to post and review emergency evacuation plans with foster children and maintain a record showing when it was reviewed
  • First Aid supplies must be maintained and available
  • Emergency phone numbers are to be posted in a prominent location (Poison control, 911, non-emergency local police, Family emergency contact, and crisis hotline)
  • Smoke detectors are to be installed in each living area and bedroom
  • If necessary, a functioning carbon-monoxide detector is to be properly installed on each level of the home

Animals

  • No animals on the premises should pose a threat due to behavior/venom/disease
  • All dogs over 6 months of age need to have documented proof of current rabies vaccinations

Pool Safety and Spa Safety

  • If you have a pool and intend to take in children younger than 6 years old, you must:
    • Have a pool fence that is at least 5 ft. high
    • Keep the pool gate locked, except when in use and there is an adult in the pool enclosure to supervise
    • Surround the pool with an enclosure (if your house acts as part of that enclosure you will need to read the Pool Safety section to see how to be in compliance)
    • Have a shepherd’s crook and a ring buoy
  • Hot Tubs and spas must have safety covers that are locked when not in use
    • In addition, a hot tub/spa is required to be fenced in compliance with R21-8-113.B for homes providing care to a child of six years of age or less
    • If drained, fenced or unfenced, you must keep the spa:
      • Disconnected from all power sources
      • Disconnected from water source supply
      • Covered at all times

Sleeping Arrangements

  • Each child in your home needs their own bed.  Futons, pull out couches, and trundle beds do not constitute a bed
  • Children need to be provided with a bedroom but they can share a bedroom with other children.  Lofts, or rooms without windows, walls, and a door, do not count as bedrooms
  • The state does not allow more than 8 total children, or more than 5 foster children, to reside in a licensed foster home.  There are some provisions available for sibling groups
  • Children over the age of 6 must sleep in bedrooms with children of the same gender

For a complete list of the state’s life safety inspection guidelines please click here

Who are the kids in foster care?

With over 21,000 children in the Arizona foster care system, it is important to stop and reflect on who these children are and what help they need.

Why are they in foster care?

The number one reason children come into care is neglect (85% based on the latest report).  This means lack of appropriate food, supervision, and shelter.  Children also come into care when they experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.  Often times children who come into care because of neglect later disclose that they have also been physically and or sexually abused.

How old are they?

The largest percentage of children in care are between the ages of 1 and 5 (approximately 33%) followed by the ages of 13-17 (21%).  When foster homes cannot be found for these children, they are placed in shelters and group homes.  In Arizona, approximately 1 out of every 5 children in state care live in a group facility.

How long do they stay in foster care?

Children can come into your home for as short as a few days and as long as a few years.  Many factors affect the amount of time in care, but 50% of the time their stay lasts between 1 and 12 months.  56% of children are eventually reunified with their parents.

What behaviors do I need to be prepared to parent?

Behavior is the language of children.  As such, children will display a wide range of behaviors such as tantrums to express frustration, hording to express fear of starvation, lying to express fear of abuse, and bed wetting from night terrors.  They need loving foster parents who will not personalize or shame them for these behaviors but rather hold their hand through the healing process. Foster parents need a good support team and behavior management skills in order to meet this challenge.  Behavior and behavior management are addressed at length during the 30 hours of pre-service training.

What resources are available?

Children come fully insured with Arizona’s comprehensive medical and dental program (CMDP).  CMDP covers a child’s need for dental, health, and behavioral care.  There are also many non-profit organizations ready to help with clothing, educational resources, and access to scholarships for extra-curricular activities.  Arizona also provides WIC services to children under five and the free lunch program to school aged children.  Children in state care also qualify for financial assistance in enrolling in day care or before and after school programs.

Godly, patient, and loving foster parents are needed to care for these precious children as they wait to re-unify with their birth families or to be placed in an adoptive home.  Who are the children in foster care?  They are real children, with real needs, and real stories.  If you feel God might be calling you to this task, please consider attending an orientation to find out how!

Not ready to foster?  Here are five ways to help now!

Shared Parenting: Connecting Foster Families and Birth Families

This is the fifth entry in a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

“Shared parenting” is a term that often shocks many prospective foster parents when they first hear it.  Essentially, shared parenting is the building of a positive alliance between foster parents and birth parents on behalf of children in foster care.  This can include simple acts such as passing along report cards, printing photos, or sharing updates.  It can also be more relational and include meeting for meals or play dates at the park.  It is important to note that foster parents will never be expected to put themselves in an unsafe or inappropriate situation.  Each case is unique and will be approached with an individualized plan.  Though it might seem daunting at first, shared parenting is a very important part of the foster care process.

Shared parenting helps birth parents do what they need to do to reunify with their children and allows children to remain connected to their birth families while they are in foster care.  It is a common belief, and misconception, that most foster children do not return home to their families.  Consider the following statistics from the latest available 6 month period:

Number of foster children leaving DCS custody by reunifying with their parents: 3,102
Number of foster children leaving DCS custody by being adopted: 1,576
Percentage of foster children with a case plan of reunifying with their parents: 55%
Percentage of foster children with a case plan of adoption: 20%

A majority of foster children actually return home to live with their biological families.  This means that foster parents do their best to help support and teach biological families while their child (or children) live with them.

How does it work?

Shared parenting will look different based on the specifics of each case, and will be determined by an assessment of safety issues.  At a minimum, foster parents are expected to support the positive aspects of the biological parents, and will be expected to refrain from berating the birth parents in front of the child.  This level of shared parenting could be as simple as telling a child that they have beautiful eyes like their mother, or sending a note to the birth parents to let them know how their child is doing.  In a best case scenario, you could build a strong relationship with the birth family and include them in holiday celebrations or even a weekly family dinner.

Is this really a good thing?

YES!  Absolutely.  Foster children will come into your home with strong attachments to their birth families, and it is important for foster children to retain appropriate contact with their relatives (unless their case plan requires no contact of any kind).  Children in care are comforted, and more easily attach, when they see biological and foster families working together.

As Christians, this is a very special opportunity.  Foster parenting is not only a ministry to children but also to families as a whole.  Developing relationships with birth families provides the opportunity to share the gospel, model healthy parenting, and effect change in the lives of a child’s family.  We would do best to take advantage of this special opportunity.

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Col 4:5).

To find out more about becoming a licensed foster parent, visit our licensing page today.

Source: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/99/docs/SemiAnnual-Child-Welfare-Reporting-Requirements-4-15-9-15_FINAL-Revised.pdf

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which will explore the types of children that are in foster care and how we need to approach parenting a foster child.

This blog entry is part of a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

Battling Mom Guilt

This morning I woke up in a cold sweat.  It’s the day before Thanksgiving.  I home school my children and I woke up realizing that I’m a horrible mother because I have not taken the time to prepare a lesson on the Pilgrims.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I haven’t taught my kids about the Mayflower; I am a total failure.

This is a small snippet of the ridiculous and absurd thoughts that I have to intentionally flush down the toilet each day.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone.  Mom guilt is real, and it is vicious.

As a foster parent, you will be more susceptible to these assaults of guilty thoughts.  Did I make the right decision?  Am I capable?  Did I force my family into this?  What am I doing to my children?  These kids would be better somewhere else.  And it goes round and round and round.

It is funny how only the bad and negative thoughts seem to get whispered in our ears.   There is definitely no cheerleader in my subconscious.  Just an angry, bitter spirit who seems to hone in on all my fears and anxieties with some super powered magnifying glass.  What’s up with that?

As Christians, we know what’s up with that.  We just have to remind ourselves.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We are at war.  We are at war with an enemy we can’t see.  It should be no surprise that he whispers.  But how to silence those whispers?  I don’t want to wake up each day feeling like I’ve failed before I have even started.

Ephesians 6:10-11 tells us

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 

The ability to defeat mom guilt has been provided for us. The Bible tells us to be strong in the Lord.  The Bible tells us to depend on His might.  The Bible doesn’t just tell us to put on armor.  It tells us to put on the armor of God.  Our God is aware of our enemies’ tactics; He has not left us defenseless.

When I wake up in a panic about some area of failure, my temptation is to pull the covers over my head and go back to bed.  Being a mother is such an important role.  Our enemy knows that, so we must not be surprised that we will be frequently assaulted, and often from within our own minds.

Ephesians 4:22-23

lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Those twinges of mom guilt are important.  They are important reminders that I must lay aside those feelings and fears and instead be renewed in the spirit of my mind.  I must put on the new self, a self that has been created in the likeness of God, created in righteousness and holiness and truth.  A creation like that can recognize a guilty lie.  A creation like that can laugh when mom guilt sails their way in the form of pilgrims and the Mayflower.

So I woke up today freaking out.  But I will not live the day that way.  I will begin my day with joy and in victory.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

To read about the approach of Arizona Faith and Families to foster care and adoption click here.  Or to find out more about becoming a foster parent in Arizona please visit our Licensing page.

The Gift of Adoption

A personal post from 2013:

I just spent the day getting my daughter ready for her junior prom.  Moments like these are bittersweet for moms.  Shopping, nails, shoes, makeup, and hair are all on this mom’s list of favorites.  Watching your daughter combine all those activities and emerge looking less like a teen and more like a young woman, changes the dynamics.

As an adoptive mom it’s even a little harder.  Prom night is just another reminder that the time is slipping faster than I can savor it.  It’s another reminder that graduation and that 18th birthday are just around the corner.  It’s another reminder of all those missed moments that have led to this milestone event.

But it serves as another reminder too.  Seeing my daughter so beautiful and happy is just another bow on the gift of adoption.  We may have missed many moments, but the memories we’ve been a part of can’t compare to the ones we lost.

I wasn’t there the day she was born.  I wasn’t there when she took her first steps or said her first words.  I missed the first day of kindergarten and the chance to teach her to ride a bike.  But I was there today.  Today I helped my daughter get ready for prom.  And it reminds me that the moments missed just can’t compare to the memories made.  And that my friends, is the gift of adoption.

To find out more about adopting from foster care please visit our FAQ page and Contact us today.

A Practical Prayer Guide for Foster Care

People often ask how they can be involved in foster care; the number one way to be involved is to pray.  Acts 1:14 explains how the disciples were “joined together constantly in prayer”.

If we, the Christian Church, seek to step in and care for these orphaned then we need to be “joined together constantly in prayer”. This is no light task we have taken on, but if God is for us who can be against us? When we look at the broken system that is foster care today we should be deeply moved to go before our Father in prayer on behalf of all those involved.

Let’s take the first step in caring for these children, would you join in praying today?

Biological Families

  1. Pray for the biological families of these children to come to saving faith in Christ and be transformed in how they parent. Pray that God would send Godly mentors and friends to help them on their journey
  2. Pray for them to receive the help they need
  3. Pray that they would be treated well and loved by the Christians they encounter through the system
  4. Pray for Godly foster parents to show them Christ’s love and partner with them in working towards reunification

Children

  1. Pray that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior
  2. Pray that God would heal their wounds and hearts
  3. Pray for them to be safe from abuse while in foster care
  4. Pray for them to find a forever home either through reunification or adoption
  5. Pray that God would send them someone who can speak truth into their lives and help them to heal from the trauma they have encountered.

Foster Families

  1. Pray for more laborers in the field
  2. Pray that God would continually encourage them and strengthen them on their journey
  3. Pray for boldness and opportunities to share the Gospel with these children and their biological families
  4. Pray for their marriage to remain strong and united
  5. Pray for biological children living in the home, and for foster children moving in, to transition well

Adoptive Families

  1. Pray that they would not be discouraged as they wait
  2. Pray that their marriage would be unified through this time
  3. Pray for them to love their child as God loves their child
  4. Pray for them as they raise their children to have wisdom and guidance

The Workers

  1. Pray that God would draw Godly people into the field of social work
  2. Pray that they would be encouraged in their job and not grow weary in doing good
  3. Pray for Godly judges, therapists, support staff, ect. to be involved in this process
  4. Pray for them to boldly live out their faith daily and for opportunities for them to share the Gospel

Please feel free to print and share this post as a tool for guiding your prayer time.