Children need love, care, and safety; they need families

The Greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell of fears...... And, with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with crime, guilt - and there is the story of humankind. John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May - Foster Care Month

A shout out to all those who are dilligently working to help children in need of permanent families!

How do we celebrate Foster Care Month?

1.  Become a foster parent

2.  Donate to an organization that supports children getting out of care

3.  Help spread the word that we are in desperate need for families for our children in care.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children - Bruce Perry

I'm a huge fan of Dr. Bruce Perry!  Here is an article that gives a brief overview of his work and the neurosequential approach to healing!  I highly recommend all his work!

Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children; How you can Help

By Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.

The most important property of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships. These relationships are absolutely necessary for any of us to survive, learn, work, love, and procreate. Human relationships take many forms but the most intense, most pleasurable and most painful are those relationships with family, friends and loved ones. Within this inner circle of intimate relationships, we are bonded to each other with "emotional glue" — bonded with love.

Each individual's ability to form and maintain relationships using this "emotional glue" is different. Some people seem "naturally" capable of loving. They form numerous intimate and caring relationships and, in doing so, get pleasure. Others are not so lucky. They feel no "pull" to form intimate relationships, find little pleasure in being with or close to others. They have few, if any, friends, and more distant, less emotional glue with family. In extreme cases an individual may have no intact emotional bond to any other person. They are self-absorbed, aloof, or may even present with classic neuropsychiatric signs of being schizoid or autistic.

The capacity and desire to form emotional relationships is related to the organization and functioning of specific parts of the human brain. Just as the brain allows us to see, smell, taste, think, talk, and move, it is the organ that allows us to love — or not. The systems in the human brain that allow us to form and maintain emotional relationships develop during infancy and the first years of life. Experiences during this early vulnerable period of life are critical to shaping the capacity to form intimate and emotionally healthy relationships. Empathy, caring, sharing, inhibition of aggression, capacity to love, and a host of other characteristics of a healthy, happy, and productive person are related to the core attachment capabilities which are formed in infancy and early childhood.

What Can I Do To Help Maltreated Children?

Responsive adults, such as parents, teachers, and other caregivers make all the difference in the lives of maltreated children. This section suggests a few different ways to help.

Nurture these children. They need to be held, rocked, and cuddled. Be physical, caring, and loving to children with attachment problems. Be aware that for many of these children, touch in the past has been associated with pain, torture, or sexual abuse. In these cases, make sure you carefully monitor how they respond — be "attuned" to their responses to your nurturing and act accordingly. In many ways, you are providing replacement experiences that should have taken place during their infancy — but you are doing this when their brains are harder to modify and change. Therefore, they will need even more bonding experiences to help them to develop attachments.

Try to understand the behaviors before punishment or consequences. The more you can learn about attachment problems, bonding, normal development, and abnormal development, the more you will be able to develop useful behavioral and social interventions. Information about these problems can prevent you from misunderstanding the child's behaviors. When these children hoard food, for example, it should not be viewed as "stealing" but as a common and predictable result of being deprived of food during early childhood. A punitive approach to this problem (and many others) will not help the child mature. Instead, punishment may actually increase the child's sense of insecurity, distress, and need to hoard food. So many of these children's behaviors are confusing and disturbing to adults. You can get help from professionals if you find yourself struggling to create or implement a practical and useful approach to these problems.

Interact with these children based on emotional age. Abused and neglected children will often be emotionally and socially delayed. And whenever they are frustrated or fearful, they will regress. This means that, at any given moment, a ten-year old child may emotionally be a two-year old. Despite our wishes that they would "act their age" and our insistence to do so, they are not capable of that. These are the times that we must interact with them at their emotional level. If they are tearful, frustrated, or overwhelmed (emotionally age two), treat them as if they were that age. Use soothing non-verbal interactions. Hold them. Rock them. Sing quietly. This is not the time to use complex verbal arguments about the consequences of inappropriate behavior.

Be consistent, predictable and repetitive. Maltreated children with attachment problems are very sensitive to changes in schedule, transitions, surprises, chaotic social situations, and, in general, any new situation. Busy and unique social situations will overwhelm them, even if they are pleasant! Birthday parties, sleepovers, holidays, family trips, the start of the school year, and the end of the school year — all can be disorganizing for these children. Because of this, any efforts that can be made to be consistent, predictable, and repetitive will be very important in making maltreated children feel safe and secure. When they feel safe, they can benefit from the nurturing and enriching emotional and social experiences you provide them. If they are anxious and fearful, they cannot benefit from your nurturing in the same ways.

Model and teach appropriate social behaviors. Many abused and neglected children do not know how to interact with other people. One of the best ways to teach them is to model this in your own behaviors, and then narrate for the child what you are doing and why. Become a play-by-play announcer: "I am going to the sink to wash my hands before dinner because…" or "I take the soap and put it on my hands like this…." Children see, hear, and imitate.

In addition to modeling, you can "coach" maltreated children as they play with other children. Use a similar play-by-play approach: "Well, when you take that from someone, they probably feel pretty upset; so if you want them to have fun when you play this game, then you should try…" By more effectively playing with other children, they will develop some improved self-esteem and confidence. Over time, success with other children will make the child less socially awkward and aggressive. Maltreated children are often "a mess" because of their delayed socialization. If the child is teased because of their clothes or grooming, it would be helpful to have "cool" clothes and improved hygiene.

Maltreated children have problems with modulating appropriate physical contact. They don't know when to hug, how close to stand, when to establish or break eye contact, what are appropriate contexts to wipe their nose, touch their genitals, or do other grooming behaviors.

Ironically, children with attachment problems will often initiate physical contact (hugs, holding hands, crawling into laps) with strangers. Adults misinterpret this as affectionate behavior. It is not. It is best understood as "supplication" behavior, and it is socially inappropriate. How adults handle this inappropriate physical contact is very important. We should not refuse to hug the child and lecture them about "appropriate behavior." We can gently guide the child on how to interact differently with grownups and other children ("Why don't you sit over here?"). It is important to make these lessons clear using as few words as possible. They do not have to be directive — rely on nonverbal cues. It is equally important to explain in a way that does not make the child feel bad or guilty.

Listen to and talk with these children. One of the most helpful things to do is just stop, sit, listen, and play with these children. When you are quiet and interactive with them, you will often find that they will begin to show you and tell you about what is really inside them. Yet as simple as this sounds, one of the most difficult things for adults to do is to stop, quit worrying about the time or your next task, and really relax into the moment with a child. Practice this. You will be amazed at the results. These children will sense that you are there just for them, and they will feel how you care for them.

It is during these moments that you can best reach and teach these children. This is a great time to begin teaching children about their different "feelings." Regardless of the activity, the following principles are important to include: (1) All feelings are okay to feel — sad, glad, or mad (more emotions for older children); (2) Teach the child healthy ways to act when sad, glad, or mad; (3) Begin to explore how other people may feel and how they show their feelings — "How do you think Bobby feels when you push him?" (4) When you sense that the child is clearly happy, sad, or mad, ask them how they are feeling. Help them begin to put words and labels to these feelings.

Have realistic expectations of these children. Abused and neglected children have so much to overcome. And, for some, they will not overcome all of their problems. For a Romanian orphan adopted at age five after spending her early years without any emotional nurturing, the expectations should be limited. She was robbed of some, but not all, of her potential. We do not know how to predict potential in a vacuum, but we do know how to measure the emotional, behavioral, social, and physical strengths and weaknesses of a child. A comprehensive evaluation by skilled clinicians can be very helpful in beginning to define the skill areas of a child, as well as the areas where progress will be slower.

Be patient with the child's progress and with yourself. Progress will be slow. The slow progress can be frustrating, and many adults, espsecially adoptive parents, will feel inadequate because all of the love, time, and effort they spend with their child may not seem to be having any effect. But it does. Don't be hard on yourself. Many loving, skilled, and competent parents and teachers have been swamped by the needs of a neglected and abused child.

Take care of yourself. For parents and other adults, caring for maltreated children can be exhausting and demoralizing. Adults cannot provide the consistent, predictable, enriching, and nurturing care these children need if they are depleted; it is important to get rest and support. Respite care can be crucial for parents, who should also rely on friends, family, and community resources.

Take advantage of other resources. Many communities have support groups for adoptive or foster families; as an education professional, you might help by suggesting some, or asking a school psychologist or other counselor to do so. Professionals with experience in attachment problems or maltreated children can also be very helpful. You too will need help; don't be afraid to ask for it. Remember, the earlier and more aggressive the interventions, the better. Children are most malleable early in life, and as they get older, change is more difficult. Take advantage of this time to make a difference in a child's life.

*Adapted in part from: "Maltreated Children: Experience, Brain Development and the Next Generation" (W.W. Norton & Company, New York, in preparation)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

FACES of Virginia Families

If you live in Virginia and are involved in foster care, kinship care, or adoption then you have most likely heard of FACES of Virginia Families!

This is a fabulous organization whose mission it is, "to provide a unified voice for children, youth, and families involved in foster, adoption, and kinship care so all children and youth are treated with dignity, respect, and equality."

Let me tell you what is the underlying and core foundational principles upon which FACES works:

F     Family - We believe that foster, adoptive, and kinship families are our best opportunity to secure strong futures for children and youth not living with their birth parents.

A     Advocacy - FACES advocates for the needs of all foster, adoptive, and kinship families in Virginia.

C     Collaboration - FACES builds partnerships with local agencies, private agencies, state government, and many other organizations working to improve the lives of children not living with their birth parents.

E     Empowerment - FACES provides educational opportunities to families so they are better equipped to be valued partners in protecting the health and safety of children and youth.

S     Support - FACES believes that mutual support strengthens families and improves placement stability for children and youth.

If you are either a foster, adoptive, or kinship family check out FACES!  Join the organization and learn everything you need to know to be a strong support and advocate for children and youth and families in Virginia!

On the FACES website you will discover all sorts of ways to help children and families, AND, you will learn how to get involved in changing the laws and policies of our State to further support our children!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dr. Fritz Redl and Dr. David Wineman - Their Classic Work on Treating Hurt Children

Dr.s Fritz Redl and David Wineman are considered by many, to be founders of the moment to treat hurt children with dignity, understanding, compassion, and love. 

Their classic books, collectively considered by some to be the "Bible" when it comes to working with challenging behavior, are Controls from Within: Techniques for Treatment of the Aggressive Child, and, The Child who Hates: a Sensitive Analysis of Anti-social behavior of Children in their response to the adult world.

Written over fifty years ago, these extraordinary works are still, a must read for anyone working with young people who exhibit behavior that today we diagnose as oppositional defiant, aggressive, or violent.

While we have some extraordinary journal articles, robust research, and literally hundreds of books and articles on helping hurt children, I think these classic works still stand out as important as we work to understand and treat those children who are in need of serious treatment.

A few of my favorite quotes from Redl and Wineman....

Remembering Fritz Redl: "'The children must get plenty of love and affection whether they deserve it or not: they must be assured of the basic quota of happy, recreational experiences whether they seem to have it coming or not. In short, love and affection, as well as the granting of gratifying life situations, cannot be made the bargaining tools of educational or even therapeutic motivation, but must be kept tax-free as minimal parts of the youngsters' diet, irrespective of the problems of deservedness' (1952)."

"We are against the application of physical punishment in any form whatsoever under any circumstances. Even for the normal child, we reject the idea that physical pain will 'teach' the youngster, that the entrance to the character of a child leads through the epidermis of the hind quarters, or that physical pain will solve things by giving the child the chance to pay for his sins and thus end his guilt feelings" (1952).

"Boredom will always remain the greatest enemy of school disciplines. If we remember that children are bored, not only when they don't happen to be interested in the subject or when the teacher doesn't make it interesting, but also when certain working conditions are out of focus with their basic needs, then we can realize what a great contributor to discipline problems boredom really is. Research has shown that boredom is closely related to frustration and that the effect of too much frustration is invariably irritability, withdrawal, rebellious opposition or aggressive rejection of the whole show."

While newer books may be more enticing, current in some respects, and appear more appropriate to our modern day, I think these classic works are worth delving into. They are a foundation upon which we can build a repertoire of skills, techniques, and approaches that can truly help a child heal!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oh, Those Difficult, Hard to Manage, Out of Control Kids... Keep Them!

As we diligently work to help our hurt children behave appropriately, manage their anger, and free themselves from defiance and violence, it may help to remember that for which they are fighting for.

Anna Quindlin writes,

Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? "Keep her," I replied.... The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me.
Could it be that our hurt children, in their struggle for survival are fighting for life? Perhaps they are fighting for attention to know they mean something to someone; for unconditional love to know that they deserve care and kindness just because they are here on this planet?  Maybe their fight is for recognition that they exist, or nurturing to help them grow?

In our modern society we tend to take things away from misbehaving children; we take away their toys, their privileges, their freedom.  We take away parents and loved ones.  We take away hugs, and kisses, and nurturing. 

Perhaps, just as a tender peony wilts when the sun, water, and nutrients are removed, so too our children will wither when their basic needs for love, attention, and belonging are unmet?  Maybe they need more not less?  Maybe they need more nurturing, more kindness, more dedication; more reassurance that they are valuable and worthwhile, and lovable.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Teenagers Need Unconditional Love and Commitment

I found this excellent article, by Pat O'Brien at Adoption Information Center  of Illinois.
Many teens in foster care have been disappointed by adults throughout their lives. Their birth parents were unable to provide for them adequately. Their foster parents couldn't give them the permanent family they needed. Caseworkers may have moved them from home to home, causing painful changes each time. In the end, these teens may feel they've been let down by every adult they've encountered.

How can we help these young people? Pat O'Brien has an answer: "Teens in foster care need at least one adult who makes an unconditional commitment to them. They need that commitment before anything constructive can follow."

I truly think this is the key to the healing of maltreated children and youth... at least one adult who makes an unconditional commitment to them.

The article continues...
O'Brien is the founder of You Gotta Believe, a New York child welfare agency that specializes in placing teens with adoptive families. "At our agency, we recognize that all teenagers need a parent. We define a parent as ‘at least one adult who makes a unilateral decision to unconditionally commit to a child for a lifetime.' For teens who need a permanent home, anything less is an artificial relationship."

Our teenagers need families, they need homes, they need a caring, loving adult who is there for them!

To read the entire article, click:  Teenagers Need Unconditional Commitment

Friday, January 29, 2010

Help Virginia's Chidlren - Ready to get involved in politics? It is easier than you think!

I admit I am not too knowledgeable about the workings of government and in the past have not written to my congress women and men all that often.  (I'm reforming and working to alter this... smile).

Can you relate?

Do you wish you could get involved and help make some changes?


Let me help you... it is really easy.  How about one quick email to a Senator?  I'll give you all the information and you just have to click, write, and send it off.  Two minutes that is all it takes!

First let me tell you about a bill that has been introduced... a horrible bill initiated by Senator Marsden.

Basically it goes like this:

"Child welfare; placement of children. Provides that the Department of Social Services shall consider residential placement of children when reunification with the family is not in the best interests of the child."

Now, for anyone who is familiar with Virginia and the Transformation that has occurred over the last two years, you will know that this is a truly horrible idea.

We need children to be in families.  We cannot even consider residential placements as a home  for children.  Residential Centers do not replace a family.   We can't go back to the day when an institution was considered a family.  It is unconscionable for a civilized Country to even consider this as an option.

Residential Treatment Facilities are to be used on a very, VERY limited bases as a means to treat children so they can return to a family.  Any residential or congregate placement should be a last resort when every other possible option has been exhausted and then a temporary placement to prepare the child for a home.  We in Virginia must be committed to keeping children in the least restrictive environment as possible.  This is non-negotiable in my mind.

So... here is how you can help:

1.  Click on this link:  Stop this horrible Bill
2. Scroll down a bit and write an email in the little box.

Simple as that.

Spread the word!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Every Child Deserves a Home and Love. Period.

"People ask me. "What about gay adoptions? Interracial? Single Parent?" I say. "Hey fine, as long as it works for the child and the family is responsible." My big stand is this:

Every child deserves a home and love. Period."

Dave Thomas.
Founder of Wendy's
Adopted child

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Starfish Story - You Can Make a Difference to a Child

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

Aapted from The Star Thrower byLoren Eiseley

The private family service agency with which I am involved, UMFS, gives this story to each prospective parent as they begin the process to become licensed as a foster or adoptive family.  It speaks to the work of helping children, one child at a time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Children in Foster Care Need to be Somebody to Someone!

"One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody."

Mother Teresa

One permanent, loving, and healthy connection to an adult can make all the difference in the world to a child without a permanent family!

Permanency Pact - A FABULOUS idea to help youth!

I love the idea of a permanency pact. 

What is a permanency pact?

 A pledge by a supportive adult to provide specific supports to a young person in foster care with a goal of establishing a lifelong, kin-like relationship.

Obviously I am a huge fan of forever families.  I think the fact that children need healthy families is beyond questioning and certainly one of the most crucial aspects of healthy growth, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually! Every child deserves a loving family and we should do all we can to create a world where this is possible!  It is the dream of my heart.

Yet, the very sad fact is that many youth, over a hundred thousand in the United States grow up in the foster system without a permanent, stable, loving family!  They "age out" and are on their own.  They go from being abused and neglected to being a ward of the state, to being on their own.  This is not a way any child should live. EVER.

We wonder how this can happen to so many children in a modern, civilized world.  The answer is something like...the "system" isn't working correctly, some people haven't caught the vision, social workers are too busy,  the courts don't get it, there aren't enough adoptive families, workers aren't following the law, no oversight to make sure children are safe, etc. etc.   There is plenty of blame to go around.

While many people and organizations are diligently working to help get children into loving families, and a lot of progress has been made in some localities, there is much work to do to provide homes for our youth in the care of the state.

For those children who have yet to be adopted or raised in a forever family, a fabulous idea is to make sure all children have some caring family like support!

Youth need a life-long, kin-like connection with a supportive adult!

To learn everything you need to know about establishing a permanency pact with a youth, read more:
 Permanency Pact

Thursday, January 21, 2010

GAO Report on Seclusions and Restrains - May 2009

Residential Treatment Centers are locked facilities, or institutions supposedly designed to "treat" difficult children.  These private businesses and hospitals have become a booming industry in the United States, often charging families, and Social Service departments $500 - $800 dollar a day to keep children locked up. 

Now, there are some residential programs that do actually help children.  These programs do not use restrains and seclusion, allow children to freely communicate with family, engage youth in therapy with family, have a family type home arrangement, and are NOT considered a permanent living arrangement but are used for specific short term treatment to help children and youth live more safely in a home with a family.

But this article is not about the progressive, humane, and caring centers that actually help children.  This is about the many, many RTC throughout the country who base their program on a system that does not work, that harms children, and engages in abusive and cruel treatment of children. 

Most people are unaware of what actually goes on in these residential treatment centers, (RTC). Dangerous, potentially deadly restraints are common; seclusions are frequent, and there is little oversight to monitor what is happening to children and youth housed in these institutions.

While we like to think children are being cared for and treated with respect, the reality is that children are hurt, isolated, and often alone, suffering untold abuse, all in the name of treatment. Family members are not allowed to see their rooms, communicate with them on a daily basis, or be an integral part of the program. Family members have little to no understanding of what goes on and are often unaware of the abuse children are suffering.

Last May, after several months of extensive research to determine how restraints and seclusions are used on children in the United States, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reported its findings to the Committee.

Here is the summary of their findings....
GAO recently testified before the Committee regarding allegations of death and abuse at residential programs for troubled teens. Recent reports indicate that vulnerable children are being abused in other settings. For example, one report on the use of restraints and seclusions in schools documented cases where students were pinned to the floor for hours at a time, handcuffed, locked in closets, and subjected to other acts of violence. In some of these cases, this type of abuse resulted in death. Given these reports, the Committee asked GAO to (1) provide an overview of seclusions and restraint laws applicable to children in public and private schools, (2) verify whether allegations of student death and abuse from the use of these methods are widespread, and (3) examine the facts and circumstances surrounding cases where a student died or suffered abuse as a result of being secluded or restrained. GAO reviewed federal and state laws and abuse allegations from advocacy groups, parents, and the media from the past two decades. GAO did not evaluate whether using restraints and seclusions can be beneficial. GAO examined documents related to closed cases, including police and autopsy reports and school policies. GAO also interviewed parents, attorneys, and school officials and conducted searches to determine the current employment status of staff involved in the cases.


GAO found no federal laws restricting the use of seclusion and restraints in public and private schools and widely divergent laws at the state level. Although GAO could not determine whether allegations were widespread, GAO did find hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on school children during the past two decades. Examples of these cases include a 7 year old purportedly dying after being held face down for hours by school staff, 5 year olds allegedly being tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape by their teacher and suffering broken arms and bloody noses, and a 13 year old reportedly hanging himself in a seclusion room after prolonged confinement. Although GAO continues to receive new allegations from parents and advocacy groups, GAO could not find a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects information on the use of these methods or the extent of their alleged abuse. GAO also examined the details of 10 restraint and seclusion cases in which there was a criminal conviction, a finding of civil or administrative liability, or a large financial settlement. The cases share the following common themes: they involved children with disabilities who were restrained and secluded, often in cases where they were not physically aggressive and their parents did not give consent; restraints that block air to the lungs can be deadly; teachers and staff in the cases were often not trained on the use of seclusions and restraints; and teachers and staff from at least 5 of the 10 cases continue to be employed as educators.

To read more, please visit GAO Report on Seclusion and Restraints

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

National Resource Center for Adoption

The National Resource Center for Adoption is a leader in promoting adoption and permanency for every child!

Their mission? To assist States, Tribes and other federally funded child welfare agencies in building their capacity to ensure the safety, well being, and permanency of abused and neglected children through adoption and post legal adoption services program planning, policy development and practice.

Twice a year they publish, The Roundtable, an online magazine filled with information on adoption and how to get children into families!

To get ideas on how to get children and youth into permanent and loving homes in spite of the challenges, check out the latest newsletter!

Children Locked Up - A Must See Video on Institutionalize Child Abuse

We have thousands of children in the juvenile justice system, in residential treatment facilities, and institutions.

While of course, we must keep society safe, and there are certainly children who need psychiatric help, there are also children locked away from family, friends, and the public; children wallowing in congregate care with little to no care from outside the facility.

Often these children do not have access to anyone outside the institution to discuss what is going on or how they are treated. Even, within the law these children can be dangerously restrained, secluded, and isolated. Yes, there are rigid rules but there are also ways to get around them, loopholes that allow for abuse.

The following documentary is an exceptional glimpse into what can happen to children behind bars. It is difficult to watch.

While many children need serious help, locking them away, demanding compliance, exerting extreme control, treating them as animals is not helpful. Abuse, confinement, keeping children away from those who love them only creates more problems and elicits more difficult behavior.

As with any of us, if we are locked up, unable to communicate with those we love, removed from other human beings who care about us, we will act out. Human beings, especially children are not meant to be isolated, kept away from loved ones.

Why anyone thinks this is helpful is beyond me.

I invite you to take some time and view the following video; while it is deeply disturbing, it powerfully speaks to how society often deals with difficult children and challenging behavior.

Children Behind Bars

While this video takes place in Canada, many youth in the United States face similar situations.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Heroes - Fred Rogers Quote on Helping Children

"It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I CONSIDER THOSE PEOPLE MY HEROES"

Fred Rogers

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Need For Permanent Families - Recruiting kinship, foster, and adoptive families

From Virginia DSS...

There is a need to design and implement models of diligent recruitment for kinship, foster, and adoptive families to improve permanency outcomes for children and youth in foster care and to meet the diligent recruitment requirements of MEPA. These models must be multi-faceted and recognize that permanency efforts should begin when a child first enters care. Options for permanency should include the early and continued exploration of kin, including paternal and maternal family members, foster and adoptive families who can provide for children with a goal of concurrent planning, as well as thorough exploration of youth's existing and past relationships to find those willing to build commitment to become adoptive parents or enter into some type of permanent relationship with the child. Projects under this program announcement will be expected to meet the diligent recruitment provisions of MEPA. Recruitment efforts should be designed to provide information to potential resource families throughout the community about the characteristics and needs of the available children; the nature of kinship care, foster care, and adoption processes; and supports available to kinship, foster and adoptive families. This includes the provision of information to the community of natural relationships such as, but not limited to, teachers, mentors, coaches, parents of friends, communities, and extended family members.

Effective models to recruit kinship, foster, and adoptive parents must be multidimensional. General, targeted, and child-specific recruitment efforts should all be included. Child specific recruitment efforts should be broadly viewed to include specific family and relationship exploration to work with youth to identify and develop existing relationships and nurture them into long-term connections and even possible permanent legal placements for the youth. The funded projects will collaborate and partner with groups from the communities representative of those groups from which children in care come, to help identify and support potential resource families and to conduct activities that make the waiting children more visible. The target population for this project includes any children or youth in public foster care systems.

Commitment to Permanent Lifelong Connections for Foster Youth! Nice!

Research is showing us that the most important key to the success of a child in the foster system is to have a one commited, permanent, life long connection with a healthy adult!
We know this, yet too many children are languishing in "the system" without anyone in their lives but workers.  I applaud those agencies and localities working to find, support, and sustain these loving and caring connections for youth!

The following document is a fabulous example, from California, of a commitment to youth, to help them find life long, permanent, healthy relationships!

We commit to work within our organizations, agencies, and communities and through the growing permanency for foster youth movement to support and promote these objectives by doing the following:

Promote recognition of and respect for the urgent need to ensure every foster youth has at least one lifelong permanent relationship;

Educate all we come into contact with about the need, urgency, and promising practices for achieving permanence for foster youth;

Support local and statewide projects and efforts to raise awareness, recommend policy changes, increase funding for and provide assistance to improve older youths’ opportunities to develop a lifelong connection with a committed adult before leaving foster care;

Initiate change within our own organizations to support youth permanence and lifelong connections.

Fortify our common commitment to the permanence of foster youth as an obligation of the entire child welfare and human community to the children in our foster care system.


Bruce Perry - My Favorite Neuropsychiatrist in the World

I admit it!  I am a devotee of Dr. Bruce Perry!

If you haven't discovered this brilliant neuropsychiatrist, and if you are interested in children who are living with the effects of trauma, abuse, maltreatment, and neglect, I invite you to meet Dr. Perry!

You could begin by reading, The Boy who was Raised as a Dog, to get a sense of Dr. Perry's love of children and his creation of the neurosequential approach to healing trauma.  His research and methodology are transforming the way we work with and heal children!

From The Child Trauma Academy,

Dr. Perry has conducted both basic neuroscience and clinical research. His neuroscience research has examined the effects of prenatal drug exposure on brain development, the neurobiology of human neuropsychiatric disorders, the neurophysiology of traumatic life events and basic mechanisms related to the development of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. His clinical research and practice has focused on high-risk children - examining long-term cognitive, behavioral, emotional, social, and physiological effects of neglect and trauma in children, adolescents and adults. This work has been instrumental in describing how childhood experiences, including neglect and traumatic stress, change the biology of the brain – and, thereby, the health of the child.

A focus of his clinical research over the last ten years has been focused on integrating concepts of developmental neuroscience and child development into clinical practices. This work has resulted in the development of innovative clinical practices and programs working with maltreated and traumatized children. The ChildTrauma Academy’s programs are in partnership with multiple sectors of the community and in context of public-private partnerships with the goal of promoting positive change within the primary institutions that work with high risk children such as child protective services, mental health, public education and juvenile justice.
Dr. Perry has numerous articles, classes, presentations, and lectures available at The Child Trama Academy!

The Fear and Feeling of Rejection - John Steinbeck Quote

The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell of fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with crime, guilt—and there is the story of mankind.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Best Practice Principles - Virginia

I love this... it is a great model for how children and families should be treated by Social Services!

Virginia Practice Principles

The Virginia Children's Services System Practice Model sets forth a vision for the services that are delivered by all child serving agencies across the Commonwealth, especially the Departments of Social Services, Juvenile Justice, Education, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Office of Comprehensive Services. The practice model is central to our decision making; present in all of our meetings; and in every interaction that we have with a child or family. Decisions that are based on the practice model will be supported and championed. Guided by this model, our process to continuously improve services for children and families will be rooted in the best of practices, the most accurate and current data available, and with the safety and well-being of children and families as the fixed center of our work. These guiding principles for permanency services in Virginia shall be incorporated in all decisions in case planning and service delivery for children in foster care and their families. To achieve permanency for children in foster care, services provision shall be timely and based on the following principles:

We believe that all children and communities deserve to be safe.

1. Safety comes first. Every child has the right to live in a safe home, attend a safe school and live in a safe community. Ensuring safety requires a collaborative effort among family, agency staff, and the community.

2. We value family strengths, perspectives, goals, and plans as central to creating and maintaining child safety, and recognize that removal from home is not the only way to ensure child or community safety.

3. In our response to safety and risk concerns, we reach factually supported conclusions in a timely and thorough manner.

4. Participation of parents, children, extended family, and community stakeholders is a necessary component in assuring safety.

5. We separate caregivers who present a threat to safety from children in need of protection. When court action is necessary to make a child safe, we use our authority with respect and sensitivity.

We believe in family, child, and youth-driven practice.

1. Children and families have the right to have a say in what happens to them and will be treated with dignity and respect. The voices of children, youth and parents are heard, valued, and considered in the decision-making regarding safety, permanency, well-being as well as in service and educational planning and in placement decisions.

2. Each individual’s right to self-determination will be respected within the limits of established community standards and laws.

3. We recognize that family members are the experts about their own families. It is our responsibility to understand children, youth, and families within the context of their own family rules, traditions, history, and culture.

4. Children have a right to connections with their biological family and other caring adults with whom they have developed emotional ties.

5. We engage families in a deliberate manner. Through collaboration with families, we develop and implement creative, individual solutions that build on their strengths to meet their needs. Engagement is the primary door through which we help youth and families make positive changes.

We believe that children do best when raised in families.

1. Children should be reared by their families whenever possible.

2. Keeping children and families together and preventing entry into any type of out of home placement is the best possible use of resources.

3. Children are best served when we provide their families with the supports necessary to raise them safely. Services to preserve the family unit and prevent family disruption are family-focused, child-centered, and community-based.

4. People can and do make positive changes. The past does not necessarily limit their potential.

5. When children cannot live safely with their families, the first consideration for placement will be with kinship connections capable of providing a safe and nurturing home. We value the resources within extended family networks and are committed to seeking them out.

6. When placement outside the extended family is necessary, we encourage healthy social development by supporting placements that promote family, sibling and community connections.

7. Children’s needs are best served in a family that is committed to the child.

8. Placements in non-family settings should be temporary, should focus on individual children’s needs, and should prepare them for return to family and community life.

We believe that all children and youth need and deserve a permanent family.

1. Lifelong family connections are crucial for children and adults. It is our responsibility to promote and preserve kinship, sibling and community connections for each child. We value past, present, and future relationships that consider the child’s hopes and wishes.

2. Permanency is best achieved through a legal relationship such as parental custody, adoption, kinship care or guardianship. Placement stability is not permanency.

3. Planning for children is focused on the goal of preserving their family, reunifying their family, or achieving permanency with another family.

4. Permanency planning for children begins at the first contact with the children’s services system. We proceed with a sense of urgency until permanency is achieved. We support families after permanency to ensure that family connections are stable.

We believe in partnering with others to support child and family success in a system that is family-focused, child-centered, and community-based.

1. We are committed to aligning our system with what is best for children, youth, and families. Our organizations, consistent with this practice model, are focused on providing supports to families in raising children. The practice model...should guide all of the work that we do. In addition to practice alignment,
infrastructure and resources must be aligned with the model. For example, training, policy, technical assistance and other supports must reinforce the model. We take responsibility for open communication, accountability, and transparency at all levels of our system and across all agencies. We share success stories and best practices to promote learning within and across communities and share challenges and lessons learned to make better decisions. Community support is crucial for families in raising children.

2. We are committed to working across agencies, stakeholder groups, and communities to improve outcomes for the children, youth, and families we serve. Services to families must be delivered as part of a total system with cooperation, coordination, and collaboration occurring among families, service providers and community stakeholders. All stakeholders share responsibility for child safety, permanence and well-being. As a system, we will identify and engage stakeholders and community members around our practice model to help children and families achieve success in life; safety; life in the community; family based placements; and life-long family connections. We will communicate clearly and often with stakeholders and community members. Our communication must reinforce the belief that children and youth belong in family and community settings and that system resources must be allocated in a manner consistent with that belief.

3. We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure that children with disabilities receive the supports necessary to enable them to receive their special education services within the public schools. We will collaboratively plan for children with disabilities who are struggling in public school settings to identify services that may prevent the need for private school placements, recognizing that the provision of such services will maximize the potential for these children to remain with their families and within their communities.

We believe that how we do our work is as important as the work we do.

1. The people who do this work are our most important asset. Children and families deserve trained, skillful professionals to engage and assist them. We strive to build a workforce that works in alignment with our practice model. They are supported in this effort through open dialogue, clear policy, excellent training and supervision, formal and informal performance evaluation and appropriate resource allocation.

2. As with families, we look for strengths in our organization. We are responsible for creating and maintaining a supportive working and learning environment and for open, respectful communication, collaboration, and accountability at all levels.

3. Our organizations are focused on providing high quality, timely, efficient, and effective services.

4. Relationships and communication among staff, children, families, and community providers are conducted with genuineness, empathy, and respect.

5. The practice of collecting and sharing data and information is a non-negotiable part of how we continually learn and improve. We will use data to inform management, improve practice, measure effectiveness and guide policy decisions. We must strive to align our laws so that collaboration and sharing of data can be achieved to better support our children and families.

6. As we work with children, families, and their teams, we clearly share with them our purpose, role, concerns, decisions, and responsibility.

Read more.... Virginia Practice Model

Foster Care Central.. my new favorite site!

One of my new favorite sites... Foster Care Central!

Stewart Gordon is the founder of, an innovative Website that serves as a “national hub” for foster-care information and resources. He created the Website to bring information, resources and people together to improve the lives of foster children nationwide. “Foster Care Central is bringing foster care into the mainstream,” Gordon said. “One of our goals is to change the negative stigma of foster care and bring this crisis into the national spotlight to help the children rather than letting them fall through the cracks of society.”

This site has all sorts of resource including forums, blogs, meet-ups, right along with tons of information and a calendar of events!

I love it!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Residential Treatment Centers - Do they work? Bazelon Center Information

A must read....

Bazelon Center for Mental Health

Tens of thousands of children with mental health needs are being placed in expensive, inappropriate and often dangerous institutions.
The number of children placed in residential treatment centers (or RTCs)[1] is growing exponentially.[2] These modern-day orphanages now house more than 50,000 children nationwide.[3] Children are packed off to RTCs, often sent by officials they have never met, who have probably never spoken to their parents, teachers or social workers.[4] Once placed, these kids may have no meaningful contact with their families or friends for up to two years.[5] And, despite many documented cases of neglect and physical and sexual abuse, monitoring is inadequate to ensure that children are safe, healthy and receiving proper services in RTCs.[6] By funneling children with mental illnesses into the RTC system, states fail—at enormous cost—to provide more effective community-based mental health services.

Read more....Bazelon Center for Mental Health

A Forever Family - quote

“it fueled the fire in my heart to know that one day, finding a forever family who can provide unconditional love, a sense of normalcy, and happiness to your life will no longer be just luck – it will become the standard of foster care.”


Recommendations from Youth on Permanency

Virginia Children's Services Practice Model

Virginia Children’s Services Practice Model

We have developed a common philosophy that has helped to shift practice to achieve better outcomes for youth and families.

We believe:

All children and communities deserve to be safe.

In family, child, and youth-driven practice.

Children do best when raised in families.

All children and youth need and deserve a permanent family.

In partnering with others to support child and family success in a system that is family-focused, child-centered, and community-based.

How we do our work is as important as the work we do.

Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act

Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act!

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Fostering Connections) is a new federal law that includes important improvements for children and youth who are in foster care or are at risk of entering foster care. The act offers vulnerable children and youth meaningful family connections and important protections and support. Considered by many to be the most significant
and far-reaching child welfare legislation in more than a decade, the act became law on October 7 2008, when it was signed by President Bush after unanimously passing both the House and Senate.

Some of the strategies that have prove successful in finding and sustaining permanent homes for youth include:

• Using public awareness campaigns to dispel the myth that children and youth ages nine and older and those with special medical or behavioral health needs cannot be adopted or do not wish to achieve permanency.

• Using strategies that focus not just on raising general public awareness about the need to provide permanent homes and families for youth, but that focus on identifying supportive adults and relatives in the lives of individual youth, and recruiting and training these individuals as foster or adoptive parents, relative caregivers or resource families.

• Once youth have permanent families, either through reunification with their birth parents, through guardianship with extended family or by joining new families through adoption, ensuring that these families remain strong and supported through the creation and expansion of “post-permanency” services including family-to-family and youth-to-youth peer support and other concrete support services.

• Use of intensive family finding activities designed to reconnect children and youth with safe, permanent families by using techniques including internet search technology, genome analysis and file mining to locate biological family members for youth in the foster care system. Once identified, efforts can and should be made to establish or re-establish relationships between these family members and children and youth in foster care, with the goal finding a permanent home and family for the youth.

• Use of “non-legal” tools designed for, and with the input of, youth to formalize life long connections. An example of this is FosterClub’s Permanency Pact, which helps establish a formal, kin-like and lifelong relationship between a young person in foster care and a supportive adult.

Number of Children and Youth in the System in Virginia

According to Voices of Virginia,

Over 6,900 children in Virginia are in foster care.

Over 55% of children in foster care are 13 and older (3,795 youth).

20% of all children and youth in foster care live in group homes and institutions (1,371 children and youth).

For thousands of these children and youth (38%, 2,635 youth), the goal set forth in their foster care plan does not lead to a permanent family.

We need to get our children home! These children need families. We cannot afford to keep children institutionalized, being raised by workers rather than parents. We must find a way to get them reunited with their families or in a new permanent family.

These children need to be out of the system!

Virginia rate of Adoption

According to Virginia Performs, Virginia had the second lowest rate of public agency adoptin in the nation.

The Commonwealth ranks first among the states in the percent of youth (22.5 percent) who age out of foster care.

This means, of every state in the Nation, Virginia has a larger percent of children who are not adopted but end up remaining in the system until they turn eighteen.

In addition, Virginia ranks fourth from last in the average waiting time between termination of rights from original guardians and finalization of adoption. Virginia's average wait time of 20.9 months means that children who have lost their parents average more time in foster care than their peers in other states.

Children Need Families

Children need families. They need to have loving adults to care for them. They need people who love them. They need nurturing and love.

Time to get children out of the system and into families.

Whether the family consists of their family of birth, extended family members or a brand new permanent family, children need to be raised in a home with people who love them.

It is time for all of us to open our hearts and homes to help children languishing in institutions and get them into a loving family!