SFC Staff Profile: Charles Bragg

Charles Bragg shares the best part of his work

As Spaulding for Children’s Foster Care Aid, Charles Bragg gets people where they need to be, physically. And he makes sure the children and families Spaulding serves get what they need in every way that he can.

Mr. Bragg assists everyone at Spaulding, from the president to the staff and especially to the children and families. He takes children to appointments with doctors and dentists, visits to specialists in Spaulding offices, and wherever else they need to be.

Mr. Bragg started as a temporary worker assigned to Spaulding. What started as a six month engagement would turn into an invitation to return when a full-time position opened. In his 11 years with Spaulding, he has met parents and children who have experienced a lot of pressures.

“Some of these kids have been through so much,” Mr. Bragg said. “They might not believe it, but we are all here to help. Even if they have to be removed from their home, we then do all we can to help them return home.”

He also helps transport furnishings to families starting over, and in every other way Spaulding provides a helping hand. Plus, he’s responsible for the care and maintenance of Spaulding’s vehicles, a pair of specially equipped vans.

In his work, Mr. Bragg also helps Spaulding deliver critical support to caregivers and parents which is so often needed. He transports biological, foster and adoptive parents to Spaulding classes and training programs to prevent an issue or conflict from escalating into abuse or neglect.

The aim, he said, is to help strengthen the family unit after a child is removed from parental custody, so that one day the child can be returned to a safe and nurturing home.

“The real clients at Spaulding are the kids,” Mr. Bragg said. “We want them, foster parents, biological parents – everybody – to feel special and to feel welcome when they’re here.

“In some cases, things don’t work out. Parents’ rights may terminated by the court. No judge or referee wants to take a child from their parent, but they may have to because the parents have not done what they need to do to get their kids back.”

Charles’ bright smile and, “Yes! I can do that” attitude make him indispensable to everyone he meets.

“You can pass along what’s right and teach something you’ve learned to everyone,” Mr. Bragg said. “There’s something about the road. It’s relaxing. When transporting a young person, lots of time they’ll open up and we’ll talk. They give insight into their situation. I want them to know that what we are doing is trying to help them.

“Best of all, I like seeing families coming back together – helping kids go home to their parents and seeing them happy to see their parents.”

A Salute to Addie D. Williams

As we commemorate 50 years of service to families and children, we would like to thank one remarkable individual who dedicated two decades of her professional career to Spaulding for Children, our President/CEO from 2000-2016, Addie D. Williams. Recently, Ms. Williams described Spaulding’s life-changing story.

“I worked for the State of Michigan for 11 years, and had the opportunity to know first-hand the caliber of services provided by Spaulding, first as an adoption worker and then as the Adoption Coordinator for Wayne County,” Ms. Williams said.

“In my position as an adoption worker, my caseload consisted of children who were available for adoption, had been referred to private agencies for placement but for whom no placement was found.  These children tended to have more challenges.  When I could not place the children on my caseload, they were referred to Spaulding for Children.

“Spaulding started as an adoption agency that specialized in placing children with developmental disabilities. At the time, the State didn’t think these children could be placed in adoptive families, they were considered un-adoptable.

“To convince the State of Michigan that there were families in the community willing to adopt these children, Judy McKenzie, Spaulding’s then-president entered into a unique purchase of service agreement with the State. She said, ‘If we successfully place a child, this is the amount you will pay us; if we don’t successfully place the child, you don’t have to pay us anything.’

“That first year, Spaulding placed five children who had been believed to be ‘unadoptable.’”

In the past, children with challenges and disabilities often would have grown up in foster group homes or in another type of institutional setting, Ms. Williams said. Then, they would have aged out of the system on reaching their 18th or in the case of children with developmental disabilities, 26th birthday as adults without ever knowing the security and strength that comes from being part of a family.

During her first four years as President and CEO of Spaulding, Ms. Williams helped develop a sound financial basis for the organization, developing new relationships with organizations and individuals. She also worked with Mike Lucci, John and Betty Barfield, Bob and Marjorie Daniels, and others across Michigan and the U.S., to raise awareness of Spaulding’s mission and to develop financial stability for the agency.

As President/CEO, Ms. Williams led Spaulding to find and develop new and innovative ways to serve foster and adoptive families that promote permanence and ensure the well-being of children after they move to adoption or guardianship. And, under her leadership, Spaulding continued building on its international acclaim for its pioneering work as the first agency focused on placing children with disabilities and special needs. Spaulding became the first agency in Michigan to use video equipment to help place children with foster and adoptive families.

“If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth?” Ms. Williams asked.

In 1985, Spaulding received a federal grant to establish the National Resource Center for Adoption that has trained more than 200,000 professionals in all 50 states, each U.S. territory, and several Native American tribal nations. This program also served as the template for what is now The Academy for Family Support and Preservation. The State of Michigan also funded Spaulding for prevention programs for families with children ages 0- 3 that addressed family risk factors for abuse and neglect as well as provided parenting skills training and support for young teen-age mothers.

The Skillman Foundation was an early supporter of the work Spaulding was doing, Ms. Williams said, Skillman partnered with the agency to develop prevention programs to reduce the incidence of abuse and neglect in families served. Other foundations also saw the need to support child neglect and abuse prevention programs. In addition, faith-based and community service organizations, also stepped forward to provide critical assistance to Spaulding and the families we serve.

In looking back at her years with Spaulding, Ms. Williams said she recognizes there are additional challenges for SFC today. With increases in the number of children entering the foster care system who have more intense challenges, there is a need for a broader community support system. As the field gains a better understanding of the impact of trauma on children and families, we realize that our professionals and resource families need more training in how to address and accommodate children impacted by trauma. More and more families are being impacted by substance abuse, there is an increase of children born addicted to drugs, and a corresponding need for increases in the numbers of foster and kin families. In past years, families could find room for another child at the table. Today, typical families have both parents working jobs outside the home. Finding trustworthy child care and after-school programs can be expensive and of variable quality. These families feel foster parenting is not a role they can play.

Today an attorney in private practice and an educator at Wayne State University School of Social Work, Ms. Williams continues to support Spaulding in its mission to promote permanency for all children by educating the community of the continued need for foster parents, as well as couples who believe that as parents with two careers, fostering is not possible for them.

“The resources and services needed to support families who have children placed in the child welfare system cuts across the community and its numerous agencies and institutions. We must educate the community on the need for families, resources and services. We must also educate and train families and professionals on the impact trauma has on a child. Every child deserves a family capable of addressing their unique needs. If children are truly our future, we need to be preparing them today; providing loving, caring parents to children in need is step one.”

People Oriented

Meet the Wade Family

Like Spaulding, Marsha Wade believes there is a home for every child. And she personally has provided home and family to a good number of children.

Ms. Wade is a parent to two biological children, a foster parent to another, and an adoptive parent of 12 more children. All of her 12 adopted children have had special needs: behavior disorders or cognitive impairments. “I tell them to give me the harder-to-place children,” Ms. Wade said.

Marsha said she realizes that she has always had a lot to give. “I was raised in a large family with fostered and adopted kids,” she said. “When you see the sad stories of children being moved around – especially after being placed – then the family says they can’t continue and then they are returned (to foster care) – it broke my heart.”

One of her children later said to her: “Before you came along, I felt like no one saw me.”

When asked how she has managed to be so successful she cites many sources of support. First is her family of two grown children who often come by her home to help with everything, as well as give her needed breaks to recharge. She also has a friend who is totally committed to help with the kids’ Individual Education Plans (IEP). She seeks other resources from Spaulding to Families on The Move, a support group for foster families which meets monthly.

And then there is her personal motivation and belief: “I always felt that all children deserve to have a family and home of their own.”

Marsha’s Advice to those considering adoption:

  • Be honest with yourself. Check your level of commitment, then ask yourself what you are and are not prepared or willing to tolerate. You may need to adjust your expectations, especially when considering those who are impaired.
  • Identify your needs and then seek support in advance, so it’s there when you need it.

Always be your child’s advocate and don’t wait to get them what they need.

Spaulding CEO Cristina Peixoto Addresses International Conference

Spaulding for Children has long been a national resource for professionals seeking the latest information and programs to help and support families and the interests of children. Last month, Spaulding received recognition on the global stage when CEO Cristina Peixoto spoke at the International Seminar on Social Assistance and Human Rights Policy, held Oct. 22-25 […]

Spaulding Develops Guidance for Families with Foster Teens

Every parent knows the challenges of raising a child change as the young person develops into a teenager. While the specific areas of concern may change, each youngster still needs lots of hands-on attention. And a teen, especially one who has been in the foster system, may need a different level of attention entirely – and sometimes even new types of guidance.

Families are Desperately Needed to Foster Teens

There are 800 older foster youth in Michigan who “age out” every year, which means they turn age 18 and leave the child welfare system without achieving permanency with a family. In June of 2018 in Spaulding’s service center, (comprised of four counties) there were 80 youth between the ages of 10-17 that were in need of foster care placement.

Unique Challenges of Parenting a Foster Teen

Parenting a teen from the foster system comes with its challenges. Many teenagers have experienced traumatic events. They know little of continuity and likely have experienced rejection and isolation. Many have complex emotional needs.

Families that respond to the need for teen fostering initially may lack the confidence or skill set necessary to create a nurturing environment for them. Family members often step in when needed, regardless of their level of preparation. Others may be completely unprepared, but take a teen in, only to later regret that decision. In the process, they may create more rejection and disruption in the teen’s life.

To support all families and caregivers who are fostering teen-age children, Spaulding is partnering with four nationally recognized agencies to create the CORE Teen program. These agencies are the ChildTrauma Academy, the Center for Adoption Support and Education, the North American Council on Adoptable Children and the University of Washington.

Spaulding for Children, in partnership with the ChildTrauma Academy; the Center for Adoption Support and Education; the North American Council on Adoptable Children; and the University of Washington was awarded a 3 year Foster/Adoptive Parent Preparation, Training and Development Initiative cooperative agreement with the Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families.  The project will develop a state-of-the-art training program, equipping resource parents with skills necessary to meet the needs of older youth who have moderate to serious emotional and behavior health challenges.

Spaulding’s CORE Teen Program

After reaching out to families, youth and content experts, partners of the CORE Teen Program identified the parental characteristics and skills that best serve foster teens. Spaulding then worked to create a course of study to build awareness among foster parents and others of these specific characteristics and competencies.

The curriculum includes a Family Self-Assessment, 14 hours of classroom instruction, and “Right Time,” an online instruction guide that serves as a ready reference in real time situations. The curriculum is presently being tested at four different locations across the country.

Feedback from those being trained indicate that they find it extremely helpful.

“Loved how we learned how to thread the self-assessment information into conversations with families.”

“The process is amazing from start to finish. The trauma information is user friendly.”

“The self-assessment is spot-on with providing feedback and resources.”

“But, I know how to raise kids.”

While parents know and have seen a great amount of what can’t be taught in a classroom, parents of teens in foster care may want to “relearn” certain parenting behaviors. Some of the new principles may even feel counterintuitive, but teens in foster care often have different needs.

For example, the use of “grounding” as a punishment is very common for teens who’ve made a mistake in judgment or behavior. However, when a foster teen is grounded, it underscores isolation and may be counter-productive for changing behavior. Instead, parents may want to consider alternative activities they can do together with their teenager.

Another might be the use of “time-out.” Many teens who have been in foster care feel as if they have long been isolated from others. And while they may need a break from the offending activity, a better choice might be replacing that with “time-in” as a family. That way, a child learns that they are still part of the family, even when they have made a mistake.

Spaulding has found in developing CORE Teen that parents raising foster teens need additional parenting strategies. The new program helps parents put these new concepts into action, as well as provide resources for when the unexpected happens.

“We like to think of it as a tool box and we are adding new tools for a different job,” said Sue A. Cohick, CORE Project Director, Spaulding for Children. “Parents may need to adjust their expectations, or not place (their expectations) on the teen. The best thing you can do for them is to create an environment of support and acceptance. Your home can provide a level of stability these kids may not have known before. And that allows them to grow and develop.”

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