Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Creating learning experiences for foster youth

Do you remember being a teen, and those specific experiences that, at the time, seemed like the most important moment in the world?

This very interesting research study demonstrates that: 

1.) Teens are better at learning from "reinforcement learning" than adults are

2.) Teens engage both the hippocampus (memory) and striatum (decision-making) regions of their brains at the same time, while adults tend to alternate between using one or the other

3.) Therefore, the experiences that teens have are rich with opportunities to create memories and educate them on making future decisions

The researchers’ conclusion was that the adolescent period of risk-taking and impulsive decision-making may be especially beneficial because it improves our reinforcement learning.  In simplest terms, reinforcement learning is making a guess, being told whether you’re right or wrong, and using that information to make a better guess next time.

As we work to ‘make memories’ for foster youth, this is a great reminder that teens are particularly sensitive to and responsive to the experience of the moment. 

In our interactions with teens, we have the opportunity to provide learning opportunities that can shape their understanding of the world. 

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Supporting our brothers and sisters of the foster care system

Sometimes our siblings of the foster care system try to put on a brave face and not show the world that they are struggling - right up until the moment that all the dominos fall down. (this is something that I did after aging out)

When that happens, we need to figure out the best way to help them. Not just for the moment, but building a way to succeed in the future:

1.) Are they connected with statewide and local resources that could help them in this situation?

2.) Have they reached out to local and statewide resources and asked for help?

3.) Do they have a local support network - and if so, are there ways that we could advise that support network to do specific things to help them?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Quick Tips for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Thinking about some of the top things I wish someone had told me when I first aged out of foster care:

1.) Give your best to each day, every opportunity,  and the moment at hand and focus on building your future
#‎yourfuturematters‬ ‪

2.) There are and will always be some people in your life that will try to bring you down. Do your best to safeguard yourself against the haters and surround yourself with those who truly care and want you to succeed.


3.) It's okay to struggle while navigating through the unknown.  Common sense doesn't really exist - it's just something that somebody's parents took the time to tell them. It's okay to *not know* the things that nobody ever took the time to tell you.

Don't blame yourself for not knowing -- just seek to learn from it, and strive to pave a pathway for others to succeed when someone finally cares enough to take the time to give you a roadmap

4.) Please remember to thank those who help you along the way. Saying thank you is an essential part of advocacy.

Thanking those who help us when we need the most can re-energize them to help others in the future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Need to find a way to celebrate and support former foster youth who graduate college and grad school

It can be incredibly disheartening for former foster youth to work so hard to earn a degree, and then be immediately be reminded of their lack of family privilege immediately upon college/grad school graduation.

Because they still aren't sure how to fund moving expenses and future housing and food costs after graduation -- even when they are offered amazing jobs.

This can feel terribly overwhelming without family support.

I still remember what it was like after I graduated with my Masters degree from the University of Kentucky. Thankfully, the Ohio workplace that hired me was willing to pay my moving expenses.

Even then, I couldn't afford an apartment right away, so I slept on the floor of a friend of a friend in Columbus for the first 2-3 months. She let me keep my stuff in her basement, until I had saved up enough for an apartment.

 I remain altogether grateful for both of these two privileges: moving expenses covered by future workplace, and having a floor to sleep on.

Not former foster youth gets those two things after college/grad school graduation.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ohio needs a statewide hotline for foster youth and alumni

If California can do it, why can't we?

Still keep thinking about how great it would if there was one statewide number that youth could call...

Foster Care Youth and Alumni Hotline

The #StaySafe element would be to invite youth who are thinking about running away and/or experiencing abuse in their bio homes, foster placements or group homes/juvie/residential facilities.

The #GetConnected element would be to support youth who have "aged out" of foster care and are currently facing challenging circumstances.

Most county hotlines are not youth friendly, if you are a young person calling in to get help.

1.) There can be long wait times

2.) The current people taking youth calls tend to vary between:
- those who truly care
- those who are paid to care
- those who don’t care

3.) The staff member answering the call might be:
- a staff member on call who can’t be bothered
- a staff member who has a script and reads it with all the compassion of a telemarketer
- a staff person who does not work with youth and is not youth friendly

4.) The county/private agency often has a vested interest in covering themselves
We’ve had youth who run away from abusive foster placements – they call their local hotline for help – and are placed back in that same abusive home – then run away again

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Learning more about Mobility Mapping, thanks to the Dave Thomas Foundation

The Dave Thomas Foundation's adoption model is based on making sure that youth come first when it comes to adoption decisions.

They firmly believe that it’s most important to listen to each youth’s experience, history and needs.

Their program focuses on finding permanency for youth who are most at risk of “aging out” of foster care (older youth, sibling groups, minority groups, children who have been in foster care for a long time, and/or have experienced a previous failed adoption).

Mobility mapping is a relaxed and informal method of exploring a young person’s history, in order to identify people and relationships that might provide permanency.

To avoid re-traumatizing young people, facilitators are encouraged to encourage often, and to redirect away from painful and negative memories.

 Sample questions might include:
  • Who in your family might know other relatives’ last names? 
  • Who in your family would be the person who would be most likely to coordinate family reunions? 
  • Creating maps of where the young person lived at certain times in their lives, and the person / people in their life at that time that they trusted. 
 Mobility mapping always includes safety conversations: 

  • Youth are invited to use marker to identify the people they feel safe with 
  • And to repeat this with a different color marker to mark the people they do NOT feel safe with 
  • At that point, young person (him or herself) is empowered to identify the people from the safe list that they would want to reconnect with
Mobility mapping also encourages youth to identify their own greatest needs:
  • "What five things are missing from your life right now?"
  • "What are the top five things you need - they can be people, things, or unanswered questions."
  • Youth can rank those top things in order based on most to least importance. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, report it

Reasons why being a mandatory reporter of abuse matters:

1. Mandatory reporting matters for kids who are victims.
If no one cares enough to report it, the abuse will continue. They will be emotionally traumatized, and often physically scarred. They could even die.

2. Mandatory report is worth it for the cases in which the child is being abused, but it is deemed by those in power that there is "insubstantial" proof.

Certain types of neglect and abuse are difficult to "substantiate" Because there is no physical evidence. That doesn't mean that child or teen is not worth advocating for... And it's still worth taking the time to call.

If and when you do call to report suspected child abuse or neglect, be prepared for the following:
  • Some of the hotlines are not adequately staffed. You might be on hold for a very long time. 
  • Sometimes the staff member who answers might not seem very responsive or helpful.
  • Sometimes it takes three or more separate calls for anyone to do anything to protect that child.  
There are so many young people for whom I wish someone had cared enough to notice and report their abuse sooner.

Taking the time to report suspected neglect and/or abuse can help improve that child's current experience - and possibly save his or her life.

 ‪#‎IfYouSeeChildAbuseReportIt‬‬ ‪

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