Sunday, June 25, 2006

Youth Presentation at Statewide Foster Parent Conference

I have just returned from a statewide foster parent conference at Deer Creek, Ohio.

My friend Gayle and I led two presentations each:
1.) She presented to foster parents and social workers, in a session titled "Independent Living is a Lie."

2.) We each presented a youth workshop. I took the younger youth, while Gayle worked with teens.

3.) I gave a lunchtime presentation to an audience of 175 people. It was very sweet, because two foster children who had attended my youth workshop came running up to hug me afterward, "You did a great job, Miss Lisa!"

Youth Workshops
In this posting, I will focus on the youth workshops. With the teens, Gayle led a dramatic workshop, based on a class in issue-based drama that she had taken at OSU. Her twelve teenagers broke up into smaller groups to act out the issue and risks of running away.

In my workshop, I had 14 younger children and one adult helper. I had created a powerpoint presentation, sharing my foster care story with the children, explaining the power of stories and inviting them each to write their own personal "mission statement," with their goals for the future.

Art first exists in the artist's mind. Books first exist in the author's mind. There would be no buildings without the architect's blueprint. I explained to the children that their futures would need planning and determination.

My college mission statement was to work my way through school and graduate school, and to learn how to love and be loved.

Acheiving goals is not a race. It took over 20 years for me to accomplish a family of my own. I was 26 years old before I had the money to buy my first car. I was 30 when my husband and I moved into our first house, which we designed ourselves.

Important goals often take years to accomplish. The first step is to make a plan for yourself and work towards it. The time it takes is a worthwhile investment. What could be more important that your future?

When the children heard that, they were excited to write down their personal goals. Education, house, family, permanency... Much was revealed by what they wrote. I told them to think big and aim high. I also reminded them that these goals change over time.

Attribution Theory and Foster Children
One thing that I found very interesting about my youth workshop relates to attribution theory:

-In a study, boys and girls were given two puzzles. The first was impossible to solve; the second was super-easy.
-The girls blamed themselves for not solving the first puzzle, and said the second was too easy.
-The boys claimed that the first puzzle must be broken. They were great at puzzles, as proven by their success at the second puzzle.

I wondered how foster youth might respond... and at this conference, I found out. Every one of the 14 foster children in my conference blamed themselves for both their failure to solve the first puzzle and their success at the second.

It was all up to them. Think of what a weight that must be to carry.

Book Giveaway
We did not have much of a budget this year. Ohio Family Care Association had planned the conference, and due to funding concerns, they had not budgeted in an honorarium for speakers or our conference supplies. Gayle and I shared a hotel room with the woman who planned the conference and her two adopted children.

Because of the lack of funding, I supplied my own equipment (powerpoint, laptop) and purchased books for children and teenagers out of my own money.

I went to Half Price Books, and purchased:
1 copy of "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson
3 copies of "Dicey's Song" by Cynthia Voigt
1 copy of "Hidden Talents" by David Lubar
2 copy of "Won't Know Till I Get There" by Walter Dean Myers
1 copy of "Where the Lilies Bloom"
2 copies of "Homecoming" by Cynthia Voigt
1 copy of "Solitary Blue" by Cynthia Voigt
2 copies of "Bud Not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis
3 copies of "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery
1 easy-reader copy of "Anne of Green Gables"
1 copy of "Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1 copy of "Pinballs" by Betsy Byars
4 copies of "Great Gilly Hopkins" by Katherine Paterson

All things considered, I was very happy that the two Half Price Books I visited had so many options of juvenile books that deal with foster care and foster care-related issues. However, I would have been happier if there had been more multicultural options and more books with male characters.

Next year, I plan to seek funding myself, and strategically plan out my book purchases. I wish there were more Picture Books for foster children... (not just adoption).

Ohio Foster Youth Deserve Their Own Conference
Gayle and I have an ultimate goal, which is to have a concurrent foster youth conference. It would take place at the same location and time as the adult conference. We believe that foster youth deserve their own conference, centered in on their needs.

We discovered that there once was a separate foster youth conference in Ohio, but it "dried up, due to lack of funding." Gayle and I plan to seek funding for 2007. We might contact Foster Care Alumni of America, and ask if they would consider this as a pilot project for FCAA of Ohio.

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wow Lisa thanks for the visit, not sure how you found me.But nice you did, have you gone to read any of my book?

You can get to it through my blog. thanks again I'll be back to look around more.
So you've discovered half price books. That's my happy place, by the way.

I like the list of books you got. If you get a chance, read the latest blog entry I made, called "history lesson". (Hurry up before it gets lost in the shuffle, too... I've been blogging a TON lately).
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