My Favorite Memory as a Foster Parent

motherson2Timmy moved into my home on his 8th birthday.  He was my very first foster child, and it was an emergency.  Luckily, I was aware of the birthday so I had time to buy a cake, balloons and a gift.  I didn’t know what he’d like, but I chose a stuffed animal that could fold into a pillow –  a green gator, since I figured boys like tough animals.  He was happy with my choice and told me he had a bunch of other stuffed animals that he slept with to keep him safe.

While Timmy hadn’t been bounced around too much, he was removed from a home where he lived with his little sister to a residential program prior to moving in with our family. This was going to be a big change.  He would be the youngest child in my home –  I have two boys and a girl, pre- to mid-teens.

Timmy arrived with several issues that were related to his trauma history, but nothing seemed to move him.  One day he got into trouble at school and lost privileges at home; he cried and I was ecstatic!  I know this may sound weird, but what it proved to me was that teamwork does pay off. Timmy’s team consisted of his social worker, a trauma therapist, myself, maternal grandmother and school staff. We worked diligently to make him feel safe and change some of his self-injurious behaviors.

So, his tears signified a breakthrough to me.  I knew he was withholding his emotions making it look like he didn’t care; he cared.  Unleashing the bottled up emotions was the beginning of something new for me and for Timmy.  He gave me a strange look as I praised him for crying.  He may not have understood, but I knew why I was happy!

While the journey transitioning Timmy back to his family home was long and challenging, it was incredibly rewarding.  Before he left, Timmy graduated from trauma therapy, passed the MCAS in school, outgrew several of the self-injurious behaviors that hindered his development and matured into a kind, caring kid. His birth parents had also made changes that demonstrated significant growth.  Letting Timmy go was not easy.  It proved to be very emotional for me and my birth children; but knowing we had helped him to make so many positive changes and learn how to “use his voice” made all the difference.

Timmy is happy to be HOME. We have forged a relationship with his birth family so we can all keep in touch – and we do.  We are already planning a get-together once the weather gets warmer.

10 Reasons YOU would make an excellent Foster Parent

  1. family3You have always thought about becoming a foster parent. Find out if now is the right time for your family. Call 978-935-9555
  2. You have a big heart. You want to be able to provide a stable and nurturing environment for a child in need.
  3. You have a sense of humor. Parenting can sometimes be challenging. On difficult days laughter is the best medicine.
  4. You have room for an extra person around the dinner table. You don’t need a big home, just room for one (or two) more.
  5. You have always wanted a big family. There are hundreds of sibling groups that would love to find a home together.
  6. You are ready to fill your Empty Nest. You love parenting and miss having kids in your home.
  7. You are married or single, gay or straight. Marital status and sexual preference do not determine eligibility to become a foster parent. Click HERE to read more myths about foster parenting.
  8. You are ready to take on the challenges and reap the rewards. Foster care agencies including Plummer Foster Care provide support, training and guidance.
  9. You can afford it. Foster Care is more affordable than you may think. Families receive a stipend from the state to help provide for the child in their home. Foster children’s medical expenses are covered as well.
  10. You want to make a difference in a child’s life. Annually, there are 7000 youth in Massachusetts who need foster homes. We don’t have enough foster families to meet the demand.   Change a Life. Become a Foster Parent.

Contact Plummer Foster Care today. www.plummerhome.org; 978-935-9555.

Becoming a Foster Parent: Debbie’s Experience

happyfamDebbie had been thinking about it for a while when she decided to take the first step. Maybe it was because her mother had been raised in foster care—and she’d had a rough time of it. Maybe it was Debbie’s own work with homeless teens. She’d seen up close what a home means to young people who don’t have one. Whatever it was, Debbie was sure:  She wanted to explore becoming a foster parent. Now she just had to convince her husband Tom. Would he agree to offer a child a safe home while she waited for her “forever family?” Debbie felt they could do it together, and do it well.

Tom wasn’t sure he wanted to become a foster parent, but he was willing to go with Debbie to the training. Soon they were enrolled in the foster parenting course, called MAPP Training. Once a week for ten weeks, they met in a small group – six other prospective foster parents a social worker and an experienced foster parent. It was a crash course on foster parenting—really, parenting in general. As they got to know each other and grew more comfortable, the group discussed many topics: friends, meals, daily routines, discipline, teen sexuality—even their own experiences as parents and as children. For Debbie, the class was a surprising bonding experience. It brought her closer to her husband and helped her connect with other people who shared her interests and values. When the class was done, she and Tom agreed:  They would move forward with the process.

That’s when Plummer’s MaryLuz Arling, now director of Plummer’s foster care program, came on the scene. As their social worker, it was her job to help Debbie and Tom find a foster child who was a good fit for them. She made it clear that her highest priority was to find the right match—for child and parents. She worked hard from the outset to make sure everyone was happy with the process. If anyone felt uncomfortable at any point or for any reason, MaryLuz told Debbie and Tom they could put on the brakes.

After several long conversations with Debbie and Tom about what they hoped for, and what they worried about, MaryLuz called with a suggestion. She had a child, a 13-year-old girl, she thought might be a good fit: Kayla, who needed a permanent family, was currently living in a group home. Debbie and Tom were intrigued—they might be able to give Kayla a better living situation while she waited for her “forever family.”

The relationship started with a phone call. Debbie still remembers it: “Kayla told us about her twin brother and her big sister, how her family came from the Dominican Republic, and what life was like in the group home.” Debbie and Tom introduced themselves.  They didn’t have kids yet, but they were feeling ready to start a family. Over the next two months, Debbie, Tom and Kayla gradually got to know each other. They had lunch at a restaurant with MaryLuz; that went well. Kayla and MaryLuz came to dinner—that went even better. After a while, they tried an overnight, and then a weekend together. Each time, confidence, trust and happiness grew, and soon it was clear to everyone:  This was going to work! After about eight weeks, Kayla moved in with Debbie and Tom.

To say it worked out is an understatement. Kayla is still there… she’s found her forever family. Two years after she first moved in, Debbie and Tom adopted her. They’ve also given Kayla’s siblings a home whenever they’ve needed it, and now the couple is thinking of taking in another child. For Debbie and Tom, becoming foster parents was the best decision they ever made. And Kayla says it made all the difference for her, too.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, click here for a list of the steps to take. Or simply contact Plummer Foster Care to learn more. 978-935-9555 or www.plummerhome.org.

 

Jeff’s Success Story

truck driving“The reason I went was to better my life knowing I had limited time in the system. I wanted to make sure the chance I got wasn’t ruined. I was determined. I wanted to prove that hard work pays off.”

This is what 21-year-old Jeff had to say last month after graduating from a tractor trailer training school and passing his CDL license test.

Jeff first came to Plummer Home when he was 15, living in the Group Home and then transitioning to the on-site Supported Apartment. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Cambridge and working full time as a cook, Jeff moved into his own apartment in Salem. Like many young adults his age trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, Jeff switched career paths, completed school to become a truck driver and is currently in the Mid-west training for his new job.

Jeff overcame many obstacles to achieve his goals. Unlike the negative outcomes faced by many foster youth, Jeff was able to finish post-secondary education, secure a full time job and get his own apartment with the support and guidance from Plummer. We know he has a promising future ahead of him.

AM’s Success Story

familyImagine moving 19 times before your 18th birthday. Living with 19 different families or in group homes.

This was AM’s life before she entered Plummer Foster Care. She had no connections with her birth family and no committed adult in her life.

Plummer helped her reconnect with siblings and begin limited contact with her father. Although her father was unable to parent her due to personal issues, he still became a part of her life. We also helped her create a lifelong connection with her foster mother.

At age 20, when AM moved out of her foster home, she and her foster mother signed a pact to be in each other’s lives forever. For the first time in AM’s life, an adult promised to be there for her.

Like most 20 year olds who have left home, AM talks with her foster mother frequently, and always goes home for the holidays…

Foster Children Reach Their Potential Through Educational Stability

Changing schools can be difficult and disruptive for any child, but especially for students in foster care. Research shows that school transitions significantly interfere with learning and that even a single change can delay educational progress.

While placement in foster care is generally temporary, it is almost always best if children are placed with foster parents in their own community so they don’t have to change schools. Each time a child changes school, she/he loses approximately 6 months of knowledge and skills.

Last year in MA, a bill was introduced that would allow kids entering foster care to continue in their current school when it’s in their best interest. A critical factor in making this work is the availability of foster parents in the kids’ communities.

In 2014 alone, Plummer Foster Care had to turn away 200 children throughout Northeastern MA due to a shortage of foster parents. To help these kids achieve educational stability, it is essential that we find more people willing to foster kids of all ages, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Fostering can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. To become a foster parent, you don’t need a big house, a spouse or partner or parenting experience. What you do need is dedication, patience and a strong desire to provide a stable and loving home for a child in foster care. Please consider becoming a foster parent for a youth in your community. To learn more, please visit www.PlummerHome.org.

Resources
http://www.fostercareandeducation.org/AreasofFocus/BlueprintforChange.aspx
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H76