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 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 […]
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.”
A legal guardian can make decisions on behalf of the child, but the child maintains a legal connection with his or her birth parents. Guardians can be permanent, temporary, or limited. Guardians often are family members. The legal relationship established by a juvenile court guardianship ends when the child turns 18 and is considered an adult.
Foster Care provides temporary care for a child who can’t live with his or her own family. A child may have entered foster care for a number of reasons, including neglect, abuse, or a family crisis. Foster families receive funding from the State to help in the child’s care.
Spaulding for Children recruits and licenses foster parents. Services provided include placement, case management, home based visitation, information and referrals, support groups for both children and parents, and youth mentoring.
Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program at AdoptUSKids is now accepting leadership program applications!
The Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program at AdoptUSKids is an eight-month fellowship designed for emerging leaders working in child welfare. It includes hands-on experience, exposure to national experts, and mentorship opportunities.
The program will begin with a three-day kick-off celebration in the Washington, D.C., area in January 2019. There is no fee to participate.
To learn more and to get an application, go to adoptuskids.org/mpld.
Applications are due by September 3, 2018.
Spaulding for Children
Phone: 248 443 0300
Fax: 248 443 7099