Ways to Keep Kids Engaged this Summer

Michigan Science Center brings wonders of the universe and live experiments directly into your living room. Log on to MiSci’s ECHO Distance Learning Studio, Mondays through Fridays at 2:30 p.m.

While public libraries have been approved to re-open in Michigan. several public libraries are open online. And many have made their extensive collections of ebooks and movies available for download. Some also have special online programming and book groups for kids — and grown-ups, too.

Southfield Public Library website is open with e-books, audio books, movies, music, children’s resources and many research sources at www.southfieldlibrary.org. SPL plans to reopen in phases. One of the first phases will be with phone service and material pickup at the drive-through window. They will post information when this service is ready on their website and social media pages.

Please check the websites and continue to utilize online resources of our state’s outstanding libraries. Among them are the Detroit Public Library and the Clinton-Macomb Public Library.

Get outdoors. Huron-Clinton Metro Parks are open throughout Southeast Michigan, as are Michigan State Parks, including Belle Isle. Hike, bike, explore and more.

Yoga with Maya. Mondays through Sundays at 5 p.m. Click here for directions for 30-minute, password-protected Zoom sessions.

Animal Lessons from Detroit Zoo.  Discover amazing animals and learn online.

Coloring Through the City. A fun way to explore Detroit is the downloadable Detroit Parks Coloring Book brought to you by Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. The book is made possible by the teams at Eastern Market, the Belle Isle Conservancy, Downtown Detroit Partnership, and the City of Detroit.

Katherine Ward: An Amazing Smile May Be Why Storyteller Seems So Familiar

You may have seen Katherine “Katie” Ward on Spaulding’s Facebook page. Every Monday evening, she reads books out loud as the star of “Storytime with Miss Katie.”

The time is special for children and adults who enjoy hearing a good story. Click here to catch the program Mondays at 7 p.m.

Katie Ward soon will celebrate nearly 10 years as a professional serving in foster care and adoption. She has served more than three years with Spaulding for Children.

While in college Katie was headed to a criminal justice degree when she took a class in juvenile justice that changed the course of her life.

“I could not believe what these kids had gone through,” Katie said. “And I knew I needed to help.”

Katie cites her own great childhood for her love of kids. She adds it may be difficult for people to understand that many children today do not receive the unconditional support that they did growing up.

Katie is one of 7 children. And, today, she is raising two children. She also has a large extended family.

“I know that everyone just wants to be seen, heard and supported,” Katie said.

At Spaulding Katie works as an adoption specialist. It is her job to find adoptive families for youth in foster care whose parental rights have been terminated.

To locate a family, Katie works her network of agencies and contacts foster families and other relatives of the child. She works with MARE, the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, where she develops an online profile of the child and then attends recruitment events.

Currently, Katie is most excited to report that she has identified a family for a youth who has been in foster care longer than anyone in the state. The young person is approaching his 17th birthday and has several developmental challenges.

While in the residential placement he received several support therapies from occupational to counseling which have been invaluable. Not all residential centers have such extensive services.

“When a couple adopts an older child, they miss the teething and learning to ride a bike phase, but they get to be instrumental in helping someone become an adult,” Katie said. “These parents can teach things like learning to drive, applying for a job, how to present themselves in an interview, order and tip in a restaurant, laundry, cooking – all the skills he/she will need to be independent. And, of course, how to find and cultivate their passion.”

While Katie is awaiting finalization of this adoption, she states that the hardest part of her work is telling a child that a family they have been visiting with does not in fact want to move forward with the auditorium.

Adoption workers like Katie spend months with a prospective family before introducing the child. She teaches them that children in foster care, despite the challenges they have faced that led them to be in care, have had training that will be beneficial to them – and their next family.

Families are taught coping and mindfulness skills. Finally, families looking into adoption receive additional support from Spaulding, both before and after the adoption. There are also support groups for adoptive families to help them on their journey.

“I would love to think about a day when my services would not be needed,” Katie said. “But until that day, I’ll be here.”

Enjoy being with Katie online at Storytime with Miss Katie each Monday at 7 p.m., live on Spaulding’s Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/spauldingforchildren

Family Preservation Principles

The National Family Preservation Network has outlined principles of Intensive Family Preservation Services. These services are designed to support families in which children are either at imminent risk of placement or have been placed outside their homes.

Principles in Working with Families

  • The family is the best resource for the nurture, care, and well-being of children.
  • The most durable way to help children is to help their parents.
  • Keeping families safely together, whenever possible, must be the highest priority of government laws, policies, and funding.
  • Because the integrity of the family is critical to its functioning, services to families must primarily focus on keeping families together or reunifying families when out-of-home placement is necessary.
  • Families must be assessed for strengths as well as weaknesses.  Strengths can be used to help address weaknesses.
  • Families must be involved in decisions about every aspect of an intervention: safety, assessment, goals, services, progress, placement (if necessary), and outcomes.
  • Families must be empowered through services, not kept dependent on them. Services should be provided only until the family is stabilized and has the necessary skills to remain safely together. Families can then choose whether or not they want additional services.
  • We owe families the best possible services at the lowest cost to whoever is paying for the services.  All services must be evaluated for their effectiveness and cost-benefit.

Click here for more information from the National Family Preservation Network.

 

 

June Is Reunification Month

When a catastrophe happens, when a child is forced to be removed from his or her home, the State turns to agencies like Spaulding to temporarily take care of the safety and well-being of that child. From the moment a child walks in to our care, our main goal is to reunify the child and his family. When the child is returned with his or her family, this process is called reunification.

Spaulding’s goal is to reunite children with their families. Foster care serves as a temporary placement for a child while the parent(s) addresses the issues that led to the child’s out of home care. When a child is removed from the home, Spaulding communicates to parents their rights while the child is in foster care and they also communicate with foster (resource) families about their role, responsibilities and rights.

When the birth family works closely with the foster family and the Agency, the child can feel more secure. And while they may not completely understand, children can sense when the grown-ups are working on their behalf to transition back to their birth family home.

Spaulding for Children supports the family, both birth families and foster (resource) families, to rectify any issues that have caused a child to be removed from the birth home. We also serve as a bridge between birth and foster families, helping the families develop a supportive relationship on behalf of the child.

Despite the challenges presented with virtual court hearings during COVID, Spaulding worked with another agency to reunite a mother with her two children. The process of family reunification is strengthened by community involvement. Child welfare and social service professionals encourage all members of a community, even those who are not foster parents, should learn about the needs of families with children in foster care and how one can help support the family’s reunification efforts.

When a child is successfully reunited with his or her family, everyone sees the child welfare system at its finest!

Melissa S. Jenovai, LMSW, Vice President of Child and Family Services, Spaulding for Children, served as a resource for this article.

Click here to learn more about Family Reunification.

 

 

Love Continues After Reunification

Her kids call Ms. Allen, “Aunty Mary.” She has adopted four and fostered more than 30 children through the years, including two teen girls who were reunited with their father.

Ms. Allen works side by side with birth parents – but always on the kids’ side – doing what is in their best interest. Yet, even after reunification, the connection with Aunty Mary does not stop.

“I’m here for all my kids,” Ms. Allen said. “They are always in my life.”

Aunty Mary provided foster care and then helped reunify two teenage girls with their single father. She helped the girls understand the complicated family dynamics.  After the girls were reunified with their dad, Ms. Allen permitted the girls to stay with her during the week to attend their school.  Her support to this family after the reunification helped to sustain the family unit.

At Aunty Mary’s home, the kids get lots of love – and are taught responsibilities, including chores. Upon completing their chores, they receive an allowance.  The child’s most important responsibility in her home is school.

“Education is Priority #1,” Ms. Allen said. “Homework is not optional.”  Ms. Allen goes to her kids’ schools and talks to each of their teachers. Teachers very much appreciate her active presence. Her kids also appreciate her involvement.

Knowledge is key, Ms. Allen said. What children learn in school is what they need to move forward in life. What children need to learn in the home, she adds, is they are loved – just for being who they are.

Even though the girls have been reunified with their family, they continue to feel the love Aunty Mary gives to them.  Today the girls often call her and ask if they can come by for a sleep-over. They continue to receive gifts on their birthdays and they are in contact by phone frequently.