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