FOSTERING COMMUNITY blog
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
What do you get when you combine:
Houston Angels' very first Boo Box Bash!
What's a Boo Box Bash? It is a grab-and-go event to celebrate Halloween!
Our friends at Sunrise Spiritist Society of Texas volunteered to assemble THE most amazing Halloween-themed Love Boxes for all of the families and youth on our waitlists. They were decorated and filled with goodies like candy, snacks, pumpkin carving supplies, arts and crafts, decorations and more! Everyone was invited to our favorite place in Houston - the site of our mural! - to pick up their Boo Boxes, grab individually-wrapped bagels and cookies, and take family photos in front of the angel wings.
Thank you to our community partners who made this project possible:⠀
Click the video below to see more photos from this fun project!
Daniel was born and raised in Mexico City where he graduated with an accounting degree. Right after
graduation, he moved to Houston to marry his wife Paola after dating long distance for four years! They
now have two lovely daughters and two crazy cats. He has worked in the Oil & Gas industry in different
accounting related roles since he relocated.
Daniel feels a personal connection to the Houston Angels’ mission. He became an orphan at the age of 9
after his parents died of cancer. In the beginning, he lived with his older siblings, but they were still too
young to know how to navigate the responsibilities of raising a young boy. During this period, Daniel went
from being an honor roll student to almost failing a grade and being expelled from middle school.
Things changed when some distant relatives offered to foster him and welcomed him into their home. His
grades improved almost immediately and he began making better friendships. He also started working
full time as soon as he could and paid for his education. All of this was possible thanks to the power of
having a good support system, good role models and a stable and loving environment.
Daniel knows he was very fortunate and he is forever grateful for all the help that he received from many
people along the way. He is determined to pay it forward by helping foster kids that can benefit from
having additional support, both emotionally and financially.
When Daniel found out about the Houston Angels’ mission and programs, he knew this was the right way
for him to give back to these amazing kids. He is proud to support the organization as part of the Board of
Directors and as Treasurer.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day to highlight issues surrounding mental health, and the need for supportive efforts.⠀
We know that foster care WILL most likely affect a child's mental health, in more ways than one.
Children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care as a result of neglect or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. These kids have also likely experienced other disadvantages such as poverty, parental drug and alcohol abuse, and more. And while in foster care, they are likely to move between placements multiple times - which means multiple sets of parents and siblings, houses, schools, friends, routines, and lifestyles to become familiar with, if they even have time to before moving again.
When this type of complex trauma and stress happens so early in life, there are long-lasting effects on the child's brain chemistry and their psychological, emotional, mental and behavioral health. They are more likely to miss developmental milestones, struggle in school and have learning disabilities, and are less likely to graduate. And the longer children in foster care go without the proper intervention and healing, the more their mental health can decline as they age.⠀
We know the following statistics to be true:
This is why we strive to build community around foster families and youth. Our local caregivers deserve our support. And children need time to trust that their world is stable and safe. They need to be surrounded by healthy adults that allow them to feel seen, heard, valued and capable.⠀
Mental health matters. And we can help.
She is no stranger to foster care advocacy - she also volunteers as a Child Advocate (Child Advocates volunteers are appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child or sibling group in foster care). It brings her joy to know that she can be the voice for a child who needs one, and as a result there is one less child in the world who feels unseen.⠀
When not working with children, she is enjoying her kick boxing hobby! (pictured) She hopes to kick down barriers that hold children back from reaching their full potential, and knock out any challenges that get in the way.
Loves: writing, kick boxing, listening to poetry, praying, dance, family-time and a good action movie⠀
Dislikes: eggs, mayonnaise, hatred people and bad drivers
We all know how important health and wellness are for a child's development. And it's even more vital for our community to collectively invest in social, emotional and physical well-being of children in foster care.
Foster youth have experienced abuse, neglect and separation from parents, as well as frequent placement changes and instability within the foster care system. As a result, many struggle with low self-esteem, managing stress, regulating their emotions and making good decisions.
One way to help foster youth work these struggles is to encourage routine and habits that maximizes their physical health. According to the Youth Transitions Funders Group,
"Maximizing physical health begins early in life, as youth are exposed to and encouraged to participate in a wide rage of healthy activities that reflect their interests and capabilities. As they grow and develop, young people need information about all aspects of physical health, including nutrition, exercise and fitness, disease prevention, and sexual and reproductive health. This knowledge will increase the likelihood that youth and young adults will continue to engage in healthy behaviors—including regular exercise—well into adulthood, and will be proactive in addressing and managing their own health care needs."
So how can the community - including foster parents, mentors, Love Box Leaders, teachers, friends, neighbors, etc - help help children in foster care (and any child, for that matter!) learn about and maximize their physical health? Here are a few ideas:
🤸🏼♂️ Expose them especially ones that align with their capabilities and peek their specific interests. Go on an adventure hike, sign them up for an organized sport, or help them learn their way around a kitchen while teaching the importance of healthy foods and nutrition.
🤸🏼♂️ Make physical activity part of your time together - go on walks, play an active game, explore the outdoors. Anything that gets their bodies moving and blood flowing.
🤸🏼♂️ Talk with them about the many life-long benefits of caring for their health, and how it's never too early to adopt healthy habits.
🤸🏼♂️ Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself!
Speaking of healthy activities... we are just two days out from the start of our virtual fundraiser, Race for Wings!
It's not too late to sign up so that this weekend's workout DIRECTLY impacts Houston's children and families in foster care. Visit www.houangels.org/raceforwings to register now!
So you've seen us promoting our next fundraiser - a virtual race called Race for Wings - that's raising much-needed funds for children and families in foster care in Houston. You've heard that every dollar of our participants' registration fees will go towards emergency/urgent situations, Covid-19 relief, extracurricular activities, learning and enrichment, health and healing, and more.
But now you may be asking yourself... what exactly IS a "virtual" race?
Virtual races are similar to in-person races, but provide much more convenience and flexibility.⠀They allow participants to compete and support their favorite causes from a distance. Check out some of the perks of participating in a virtual race:
YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN TIME AND PLACE
Skip the super early alarm, traffic jams and long lines! Simply complete the distance from the comfort of your own neighborhood, within the required schedule.
FOR ALL GOALS AND ABILITIES
Whether you're out to win first place, crush a personal record... or just planning to take the dog for a longer-than-usual walk, feel free to set your own pace and goal without worrying what other participants are doing.
EARN SOME NEW SWAG
Based on the event's registration types, you'll receive a T-shirt, medal, special prizes... or all of the above.
BREAK A SWEAT WHILE GIVING BACK
Virtual races make it really easy to still support hardworking nonprofits, even (and especially) in the midst of today's pandemic.
Need another reason to sign up for next month's Race for Wings? Visit www.houangels.org/raceforwings to register today!
Compete (from afar) with in the race of your choice - swim, bike, run, or all three - to achieve your wings and become a Houston Angel. Choose from a variety of participation options which include t-shirts, medals and other swag. We can't wait to have you join us for the event that has something for everyone, because everyone can do something!
It is an honor to walk alongside our families no matter where their journeys may lead, but it is extra special when we are able to watch their forever unfold right before our eyes!
Adoption Day kicked off with Hannah waking up to a bright and cheery balloon arch by @JaJaInflatables decorating her doorway, as well as a fun yard sign from Card My Yard of Clear Lake!
That morning, the adoption ceremony took place virtually over Zoom - the family's relatives, friends, and Houston Angels were all able to join in (sporting Hannah's favorite color, yellow!) to watch the incredible moment that the judge announced their "forever" was official.
That afternoon, Houston Angels dropped in with treats by Craved Creations Bakery, signs and gifts. Local photographer, Megan Daley, got to work capturing the joy and excitement of the day.
Could this mother-daughter duo get any cuter with their matching outfits?! Their clothes weren't all that was matching that day... the family's Love Box Group gifted these ladies matching infinity necklaces from James Avery! And it turns out that Mom had gifted Hannah the infinity ring from that same collection, earlier that morning.
And our friends at Ivory Boutique also gifted these ladies two gift cards to shop at their boutique together!
After more than 2,000 days in foster care... her forever became official. And thanks to all who have donated and supported this mission, Houston Angels has been able to walk with this family over the past year towards such an incredible milestone.
We are forever grateful to all of our partners that made this adoption celebration possible:
click the video below to watch the recap:
It is a harsh reality that foster care is connected with so many other social issues of today - one of which is human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a market-driven, global industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profits. It is a form of modern-day slavery when someone is exploited through force, fraud or coercion for the economic gain of another, in the form of:
Not all those who are trafficked are physically forced - in fact, most human trafficking occurs through psychological coercion, tricking, manipulation, or threats. This criminal industry affects every type of community across the country and is present amongst various ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds; however, according to the Polaris Project, roughly two-thirds of reported survivors in 2018 were women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Children at Risk, Texas is a leading hub for human trafficking, which spans across all of our major cities and even exists in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods.
reports show that roughly 60% of trafficking victims here in the united states have a history
If we want to support the end of human trafficking, we MUST support children in foster care. Two of the top five reasons for human trafficking are due to 1) unstable housing and 2) runaway or homeless youth - both of which are common circumstances for youth in foster care. Traffickers will seek out and groom those who are most vulnerable. And because children in foster care often lack consistent support and a watchful eye, they can fall prey to tricks and manipulations by predators.
Voices for Children explains, "The trafficker will play on the vulnerability exposed by their victim to gain power and ensure loyalty. According to the Department of Justice, most often, victims fall prey to traffickers who lure them in with an offer of attention, food, clothes, a safe place to sleep, friendship, and love. During the process known as grooming, the trafficker’s goal will be to gain the victim’s trust, provide for the victim’s needs, and isolate them. The grooming process can be lengthy, as it involves earning the victim’s trust. Many foster children have experienced a lack of trusted caring adults in their life; however, pimps are willing to put in the work, as the child will serve as a financial payout for them in the future. Once the trafficker feels they have successfully made the victim dependent on them, they will manipulate or directly force the victim into prostitution. They will often use violence to retain control. With the rapid growth of digital technology, traffickers now heavily rely on social media to recruit and start the grooming process."
At Houston Angels, we know that young people who have grown up in the foster care system have received less financial, emotional, and social support than their peers, are less prepared for life after foster care, and are more likely to fall victim to life-threatening situations such as human trafficking, homelessness, incarceration or suicide. This is why our Dare to Dream Program was created to help local youth in foster care navigate life's challenges and provide them with one more healthy adult to call. Our volunteer mentors provide wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that help empower and guide our youth towards a healthy, happy and thriving adulthood. We tell mentors that the simple act of telling their youth “I believe in you,” or answering the phone when times get hard, can change their path completely - and hopefully avoid these statistics that plague our system. Our children deserve better than this.
For more information about how you can support a youth in foster care, please visit www.houangels.org/daretodream. Click on any of the links below to learn more about the human trafficking crisis.
Jonathan grew up in West Palm Beach FL and central New Jersey, and several years ago moved with his wife and two young children (babies at the time!) to Houston. After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in mechanical engineering, he has spent the past decade working in the oil and gas industry, learning many different sides of the business - including planning capital projects, managing turnarounds and maintenance services out in the field at the refineries, procurement, category management and more.⠀
Although he just officially joined the board this past month, Jonathan has been supporting Houston Angels behind the scenes since its early days. When his wife, Melissa, took on the role as President back in 2018, he did not have any prior experience with or knowledge of the foster care system. But as Houston Angels became an official chapter of the national organization and continued to grow, he learned all about the need for this work and enjoyed being a part of the impact, including being a part of a Love Box Group and volunteering during events and projects.⠀
He is excited to officially join the Board as part of the finance team, and play a more direct role in ensuring the organization remains in great financial and operational standing.
Tiffany has been helping Houston Angels behind the scenes since February, and officially joined our Board of Directors last month. A little more about her:
Tiffany grew up outside of Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!!) and attended Youngstown State University where she studied social work. After swearing she would never move too far from Pittsburgh, her husband was transferred to Houston where they now live with their two small sons.
Tiffany first entered into social work with a desire to work with children. After first working in an outpatient oncology setting as well as with older adults, her path eventually led her back to working with kids, providing therapy in elementary schools through a satellite program. During her time in the schools, she was able to work with children of all backgrounds, along with their families and school staff. She felt that very few things compared to being able to develop a rapport with a child in need, and knowing the positive impact you are making in that child's life.
After moving to Houston, Tiffany soon found out about Houston Angels through the President, Melissa. The more she learned about the organization the more she knew she had found her place. She is so excited to once again work with children as well as their caregivers, and assist an organization that can make a very real difference in the lives of so many.
We've had so many new followers join us lately (we're so thankful you're here!) so we thought we'd reintroduce ourselves!⠀
Houston Angels is the local chapter of a national nonprofit organization called National Angels, which was was created to support families and children experiencing foster care.⠀
We know that foster care is HARD - on the children who are placed in the system as a result of abuse/neglect at home, on the caregivers who open up their homes to them, and on the biological families being separated. We know that children in foster care are of the most vulnerable children in our population, and often fall victim to homelessness, human trafficking, incarceration, struggles with mental health, and more.⠀
The National Angels organization started as volunteer groups throwing fun service events and extracurricular activities for children in foster care. Over time, support for foster care became less about the one-time activities and gifts (which still have their time and place)... and more about the real bonds that were forming. It was about the lives being changed as a result of community, consistency, and intentionality.⠀
What started as a single chapter in Austin, TX quickly grew into a national organization with chapters opening up in major cities like DFW, Cleveland, Seattle, Houston and more all across the country. These chapters are building communities of people that walk alongside foster families and youth in their normal, everyday lives. These communities are providing much needed wrap-around support - intentional gifts, healthy relationships, mentorship, resources, emergency support and more - for kids in foster care as well as families who care for them.
love box program
The Love Box Program was created to provide our local foster care community with consistent, customized and holistic support. Our Love Box volunteers are everyday people from the Houston community, who are matched with foster families based on zip code and compatibility. These volunteers help meet practical, financial and emotional needs for the entire family.⠀
Our "Love Box" may LOOK like a traditional cardboard box, but this program is so much more than a box of stuff - it’s about relationships, connection and support.⠀
Depending on the family's needs, Love Box support could be a box filled with practical items like groceries, paper products, seasonal activities, special treats, etc. But Love Box support could also look like volunteers offering to babysit, tutoring or helping with homework, planning a child's birthday celebration, or even chipping in for a new washing machine (which has happened twice already!)⠀
And even in the midst of today's social distancing, our volunteers are still supporting their families through porch drop offs, grocery shopping, submitting online orders, sending activities for kiddos, and communicating via Zoom, FaceTime, or texts.⠀
You've heard us say that foster care is HARD. But we know that if we can wrap community support around foster families, we have a much better chance at ➡️ increasing the families' overall sense of normalcy ➡️ helping caregivers feel equipped to continue this hard work ➡️ establishing much-needed stability and relational permanency for children in foster care ➡️ steering them away from negative outcomes, and creating more opportunities for their health, happiness and thriving ✨⠀
dare to dream program
Youth who age out of the foster care system at 18 are often expected to be just as self-sufficient as their peers. But the absence of parental guidance and emotional support hinders the ability for any youth to flourish in the world -- and this is especially true for kids who have grown up in foster care.⠀
The constant lack of support and resources, combined with the multiple traumas these youth have experienced throughout their lives, greatly affects their success and well-being upon aging out. This is why youth in foster care are more likely than their peers to struggle with mental health, drop out of high school, not attend college, become homeless or incarcerated, or pregnant as a teenager.
what you can do
Our waitlists have been growing rapidly, and there is a clear need for additional community support for our city's foster families and youth. Sign up to receive our emails and follow us on social media to stay in the loop about current needs and volunteer opportunities.
Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone can play a role in this mission. And we hope you'll join us!