FOSTERING COMMUNITY blog
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
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.