FOSTERING COMMUNITY blog
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
We love having interns join our team every semester. Last but not least, meet Kendall!⠀
Kendall is a Dallas native that graduated from @tamu Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in kinesiology and a minor in psychology.
Through college, she was involved in many service organizations, and served as a community outreach chair for an organization that serves children who are terminally ill. She was then chosen to serve the people and children of Lima, Peru, where her group was able to serve 3,500 citizens and their children with health care. After this opportunity, she knew she wanted her career to be serving people.
She graduated and began working in the healthcare field, but after a couple of years, she decided to pursue a nonprofit career. She is currently getting her Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management.
Kendall is excited to be interning with Houston Angels this semester. She has had it in her heart for a long time that she knew she wanted to adopt or foster a child one day, so when she heard about Houston Angels, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. She wants to learn more about how to serve the community and children of Houston better while being able to learn all the aspects of what it takes to make a nonprofit work.
When she's not working or going to school, she likes to read, be outdoors, or do something active with her sweet 1 year old lab, Josey.
Loves: she is the biggest Texas A&M football fan
Dislikes: bugs, sunburns, when the Aggies lose!
We're so excited to have several interns join our team this semester, to help move this mission forward while also learning all the things about nonprofit work and foster care. ⠀
AIexis is a native Houstonian. She is married with no children, but a dog mom to a very spoiled pup! Alexis is currently getting her Masters of Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University, and is in her last term before graduation. She has a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in English as a Second Language from the University of Texas at San Antonio.⠀
Alexis also works for Harris County with Adult Services as a Legal Guardian for people who are deemed incapacitated either through mental illness, physical disability, or both. She LOVES what she does! If and when she gets any free time between work and school, she enjoys church, reading, spending time with family and friends, exercising, taking her dog on walks, and binging Netflix.⠀
Alexis wanted to intern for Houston Angels because of the work we do to assist foster families and youth. With being blessed with her gift to serve others, she has always wanted to be a foster parent. She feels as though she has a lot to offer a child in need and when this internship opportunity presented itself, she leaped towards it. She is very excited to be apart of this organization and to gain the hands-on experience working in the foster care system and with children and families.⠀
Loves: spending time reading devotionals, watching documentaries, learning new things, and trying new experiences.⠀
Dislikes: any and all bugs, cats, and people who are dishonest.
Emilly grew up in Houston, and both of her parents are from Mexico. She is currently in high school and also attends Houston Community College as an early college student. She plans to graduate with an Associates of Arts next year, and then move on to major in neuroscience. During her free time, she tutors children virtually, write articles as part of Redefy’s journalism team, and exercises outdoors.
Although she is going into the STEM field, Emilly has always been passionate about the humanities and has connected it with her studies as much as possible. She wanted to intern for Houston Angels because she has always considered herself an advocate for children. She has witnessed the injustice and situations out of their control, and it’s been something that has infuriated her since she was young. Over time, she turned her anger into drive and passion to provide as many resources as she can to others.
Interning with Houston Angels will allow her to contribute to the long-term goal of helping those in the foster care system receive more support from society, while also supporting them herself.
Loves: reading, family time, listening to rock, cinnamon rolls
Dislikes: mosquitoes, math
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. It is a harsh reality that foster care is connected with so many other social issues of today - one of which is human trafficking. Reports show that as many as 2/3 of trafficking victims here in the US have a history in the child welfare system.
This is a hard topic and the details are difficult to read about. But it's impossible to talk about the prevention of human trafficking without acknowledging our society's most vulnerable children - and it's impossible to talk about making a difference for foster care, without acknowledging one of the gravest threats to these kids' safety and well being.
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.
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.
Click on any of the links below to learn more about the human trafficking crisis:
For many, the holidays are a special time filled with decorating, celebrating, giving and receiving - and maybe eating WAY too many treats along the way. We associate this season with warm memories, family traditions, and extra quality time.⠀
But for many children who have been separated from their families and are in foster care, this time of year can feel particularly lonely and call attention to their current lack of normalcy. The holiday season may remind them of their biological family's traditions, outings, home, and special gifts. It could make them long for quality time spent with their biological family.⠀
And for other kids in care, their memories of the holidays have never been particularly fond. Maybe they didn't typically receive gifts or attention. Maybe the holiday season reminds them of something traumatic that happened, which stirs up feelings of anxiety and makes them feel unsafe.
Laura, foster mom in Houston (*names have been changed for privacy) told us, “I could see Sarah's face as we decorated the tree with lots of memories from the time I’ve had Amanda (foster sibling), but nothing of hers. So I’ve tried to make it special for her since it’s her first Christmas home… I got the kids stockings, and Sarah a few of her own ornaments to give their special place. I think not having any real traditions, and all of the mixed emotions, is just a lot for these kids to process.”
This time of year can become more difficult for caregivers as well. Parents are navigating the busy holidays, changes in family schedules, events for school, work and family. Adding in the additional responsibilities that come with fostering, such as case worker visits, meetups with the biological family, court dates, and other mandatory appointments - this time can become increasingly overwhelming.
In addition to physical demands, caregivers may have to navigate increases in their child’s challenging behaviors and emotional stress brought about by this time of year, while also sorting through their own emotions. Foster mom, Savannah, says she would struggle with thoughts of, “What if this is my only Christmas with them?” and “What must their [biological] families be feeling right now?"
Raising a child takes a village, especially when the child comes from a hard place. Not everyone is called to foster or adopt a child, but there are so many ways to support the people who do - and that's what we're here for.
November is National Adoption Month - a time to spread awareness about the adoption process, share the stories of those who have been adopted or have adopted, and advocate for more than 100,000 children and youth in foster care across the country who are still waiting to be. Read on for some important points about foster care and adoption:
Read on to learn about one Houston family's story of adoption through foster care:
"My husband and I have been foster parents for four years and we will adopt our fourth child on national adoption day this month. We met and married at a young age and were introduced to the need for foster homes through a camp that we volunteered at for kids who had been through trauma, a lot of whom were in foster care. We heard the stories of the kinds of impact foster families had in their lives and we just couldn’t unhear what we had heard. On a deep level we know that God calls His church to care for the orphaned and to defend the fatherless. On a practical level, we wanted to be parents and there were kids who needed parents. We had empty bedrooms and there were kids who needed a place to stay. So we were licensed on my 21st birthday and immediately placed with three siblings. We had the privilege of knowing and loving them for five months and then they returned to live with family. Over that following summer we added four other children into our home. Two infants and two toddlers. All of their cases were different and the goals changed between reunification and adoption many times over the next couple of years for each of them. Fast forward to today and we have adopted three of those children and will be adopting the fourth later this month.
"Describing the intense joy and heartbreak of adoption is hard. If I am honest, I went into foster care with the intent of rescuing poor children from terrible places and adopting them into my wonderful family to live happily ever after.
I can think specifically of our youngest who we got from the hospital at a week old. When they put that baby boy into my arms all I wanted to do was fight with everything I had to be able to keep him. The Lord truly has done a work in my heart over these years to see more clearly. The goal in foster care is first reunification, if safe and if possible. See, that once tiny baby I had begged the Lord to let stay is now my forever son. While my heart bursts with joy that he shares my last name, part of me weeps for what had to be broken to make this happen. His first mama didn't leave the hospital with the baby she had carried for 9 months, she didn't get to cheer as he learned to crawl, she didn't hear his first words, nor see his first steps. She hasn't been able to know the incredible little human he is. My heart breaks for her and all the while is filled with immeasurable joy for the future I get with him. Reconciling these things is absolutely the hardest, most painful, broken, and yet beautiful thing I will ever go through.
"For two of our kids, we have been able to keep an open adoption with their birth family. The relationship we have with them is truly a gift I will always be thankful for. We keep in contact with the other two families in different ways that we feel is the safest for our family. Some children adopted from foster care won’t maintain any contact with their birth family. Each child and situation is different. Adopting through foster care is messy. Foster care will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. There will be seasons where you are cheering on bio families and walking along side them to help get their babies back into their arms. Then other seasons where you are going before a judge stating that you believe permanency in your home and family is in that child's best interest. There will be adoptions that happen less then a year after being placed with the child, while other times the future might still look very unknown even after years of being their foster parent.
"There are currently over 400,000 children in foster care in the US right now. More than 100,000 who are legally free and are just waiting to be adopted. It is easy to look at that number and merely see a statistic, but the four kids that I just tucked into bed were once a part of that number. It is when we hear their stories and see their faces and know them by name, that it becomes more than numbers and statistics. They are His image bearers and it is a privilege to raise them as sons and daughters. To see beauty rise from ashes and mourning turned into great joy."
- Savannah, foster and adoptive mom in Houston, TX
(Photography by www.emmaleedeville.com/photography)
Last month, Houston Angels was invited to speak at a virtual continuing education workshop hosted by the Children's Assessment Center. The Children's Assessment Center works to prevent, assess, investigate, and treat child sexual abuse in Houston. During the workshop, our Director of Programs, Hannah, explained how their multidisciplinary team members can access the services that Houston Angels provides to vulnerable children and families in Houston.
"We all want to believe that our children are safe and that we can protect them from harm, but child sexual abuse is real, and recovery begins with the truth." - Children's assessment center
When it comes to child sexual abuse:
Sexual abuse is one of several reasons that a child could be removed from his or her home and placed into foster care. And the risk doesn't end there - unfortunately, children in foster care are still vulnerable to further abuse. According to the CAC, children living without either parent (in foster care) are 10x more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with two biological parents.
But it doesn't have to be this way - and we're grateful to work alongside so many incredible local organizations, like the CAC, that care for our community's most vulnerable.
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