FOSTERING COMMUNITY blog
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
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!
Foster care is a temporary service provided by the state for children who are removed from their homes due to child abuse or neglect.
According to the Department of Family and Protective Services, there were 14,137 children across the Greater Houston Area that were removed from their homes and put into foster care in 2019. Let's break this down further:
Children Served Per Texas Region:
Children Served Per Houston County:
Children Served in Greater Houston By:
So how do these statistics impact our work?
1) Race/Ethnicity: We know that Houston is one of the most populated, diverse cities in the entire country, and these numbers certainly reflect that diversity as well. As a chapter, we acknowledge and celebrate the fact that the people and children we serve through our mission come from different races and ethnicities. As the Black Lives Matter movement spread across the country, we couldn't help but think of the many kids in foster care who are people of color, who have grown up in systems that have failed and are still failing them. We know that so many of the children in foster care will become homeless, poor, or incarcerated. Kids who grow up in the foster care system are starting 10 steps behind... add additional steps if they are of color and face the challenges of systemic racism as well. Our organization is dedicated to ensuring these kids do not continue to be held back by a broken foster care system, racism, or other forms of oppression. Houston Angels will always support action that enables our children to be heard and have equal opportunities to thrive, and our team will to continue learning more about what the people we serve actually need, from a variety of angles: socioeconomic, cultural, physical and mental health, and more. The solution is complex, and ALL of these things affect the outcome.
2) Age: These numbers also tell us that almost 40% of kids are pre-teens and teenagers, which is a crucial time in a child's life. Youth who age out of the foster care system at 18 are often expected to be just as self-sufficient as their peers, but have not received nearly as much (if any at all) parental guidance and emotional support. A constant lack of support and resources, combined with the multiple traumas these youth have experienced, greatly affects their success and well-being in life upon aging out. And 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. This is why our Dare to Dream and Dare to Dream Jr programs match pre-teens and teens with healthy adults who will help them navigate life's challenges and prepare them for adulthood. Our mentors are advocates, teachers, guides, role models, valued friends, and available resources for these kids to count on during such an important time of their lives.
3) Gender: Lastly, we know from these numbers that half of all children in foster care are female. Studies have shown that a variety of factors put foster youth at risk of becoming pregnant, including a lack of supportive and loving relationships, constant instability, and stressful or traumatic situations such as child abuse or neglect. Studies have shown the following to be true:
While the above statistics may feel overwhelming, supporting foster care is not all-or-nothing. Start with one child, or one family, in your community. Our organization has seen that through consistent intentional giving, healthy relationships, and mentorship, it IS possible to change the trajectories of these children's lives. The reality is that we ALL can play some sort of role in changing a child's life forever, and the ripple effects will change our community.
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” - Josh Shipp
Sarah, Love Box Leader
"WE’VE BEEN MATCHED! I know what you’re thinking ... 'for what?!'
We’ve just been officially approved through Houston Angels to support a local foster family with love, consistency and community over the next year. A month long process of background checks and trainings and introductions is complete and we’re so excited to share with our friends and family!
Last month was National Foster Care Month, and we started learning about how deeply intertwined the foster care system is with other social issues like human trafficking, homelessness, incarceration, poverty, low education and teen pregnancy. We may not be in a position just yet to open our own home but with extra time on our hands recently and after months of searching, we’ve found the population our hearts have a deep desire to serve and are hopeful we can really make an impact!
But speaking of making an impact, y’all taught me a few months ago with our $500 donation to Houston Food Bank that alone Stephen and I can make a ripple but together, we can really make a wave! Which brings me to the next obvious question - 'why are you sharing and what can we do?'
1. PRAY FOR US - that we may find the right words and do the right things to be the support this family so desperately needs
2. CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING - recent events have dramatically increased the needs of the local Foster Care community and Houston Angels are in search of volunteers. They do incredible work, make the process so easy and the smallest commitment could make the biggest difference in the life of a traumatized child. At the very least, maybe go check out this beautiful mural they just commissioned in Downtown to help raise some awareness! #BeAHoustonAngel
3. WATCH FOR MORE - fostering and volunteering isn’t for everyone but later this week I’ll share more about our foster family and how we plan to support them and how you can help in super small ways, if you’d like to!
We love y’all and when the “job description” suggested having a strong network of family and friends to leverage for maximum support, we knew it was the perfect fit! Y’all are the best and we have so much more to come! XOXO"
Jake, Dare to Dream Mentor
"Helping people has been something that was instilled in me as child, and has been something I have kept with me now as an adult.
As a Texas Highway Patrol State Trooper, I come in contact with thousands of people every single year. Some of those contacts leave lasting memories, where some are good, ones that you want to remember forever... and some are tough, and sometimes I wish I never saw them in the first place. All around, the hardest situations I have to deal with are ones that involve children and teenagers.
Even though some situations can be extremely hard, both mentally and emotionally, I always try to leave them with something positive. I know that some of the children and teenagers that I come in contact with may not have a strong support system, or stability, or a number of other things that can negatively impact their growth and identity.
I decided to mentor with the Houston Angels because I know that in this type of setting, I can actually try and make a positive impact on the youth’s lives outside of a “Police Officer” role. Mentoring a youth in the foster system is just another way for me to give back and try to do something else positive inside my community.
There is a strong need for mentors in the greater Houston area, especially males. I hope that other males and other First Responders see this as an opportunity to make yet another difference in our communities!"
Juneteenth is the national celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, the Union soldiers landed here in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
This was already two and a half years AFTER President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official back in 1863. But due to Texas' minimal number of Union troops to enforce this Executive Order, slavery continued. Finally, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, resistance was overthrown and slavery ended in Texas.
One of General Granger’s first orders was to read to the people General Order Number 3, which begins with:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."
This day of shock and realization of freedom, turned into an annual day of rejoicing, reflection and prayer. In the early years, June 19th - referred to as "Juneteenth" - was mostly celebrated by the African American community. There was often resistance to these celebrations, so they had to take place in rural areas or on church grounds. But as more African Americans started to become land owners, land was donated and dedicated for the festivities.
Years later, classroom and textbook education started placing less emphasis and detail on the lives of former slaves. Textbooks often claimed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 as the end of slavery, and left out the impact of General Granger’s arrival on June 19th. And due to economic and cultural pressures, such as the Great Depression, Juneteenth celebrations declined. But on January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.
Today, more and more organizations, businesses and communities are starting to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth. It is an important time for our country to acknowledge American history, educate ourselves and others, promote African American culture and achievement, and strive for continued improvement.
Although this historic achievement happened so long ago, we know there is still so much work to be done in the continuous battle against racism and inequality, even to this day. Especially as we recently watched George Floyd laid to rest here in our city - over 150 years after Juneteenth began in our city. Houston Angels honors and celebrates this day, and we stand in solidarity with the African American community. We will always strive to educate ourselves, and celebrate diversity and inclusion in our city and within our own services. And we will always fight to empower this community to succeed.
We’re so excited to have 3 driven young professionals join our team this summer to help and learn all the things about nonprofit work, serving families and children in foster care, and making an impact on the local community!
Denise is currently a full-time student at University of Houston-Downtown, and she is an aspiring bilingual teacher. She was born and raised in Houston by immigrant parents from Mexico.
Denise’s passion for serving and helping at risk children began after her time spent in Mexico. She lived abroad for two years, and served the community of Puebla, Mexico through Living Hope International. During her time there, she lived alongside the orphaned children of Esperanza Viva and witnessed the healing power of love and Christ in their lives. As an advocate for children throughout the world, Denise hopes her time serving with Houston Angels will catapult her career within nonprofit organizations. She is excited and honored to be a small part of everything Houston Angels is doing to help the foster care community.
Loves: Jesus, fruit smoothies, scented candles, shopping, singing in the car
Dislikes: Houston traffic, negativity, roaches, airport layovers