LUK, Inc. Blog
An Interview with a LUK Foster Parent
By Michele Morrissey, Director of Community Placement Services
People who are wondering about entering fostering tend not to ask the questions they really want to know. They usually vague questions such as; "What's it like?' The following is an interview between two experienced LUK foster parents.
Q: Is fostering worth doing?
A: All life's big things; love, marriage, children, family, and work, are what you make them. Being a foster parent has its challenges, I'll be quite honest about that, but on the whole it's fantastic otherwise we wouldn’t still be doing it. In fact, for me, it's the best thing I've ever done.
Q: Is becoming licensed difficult?
A: It takes time. After you've phoned or emailed LUK, and say: "I'm interested in becoming a foster parent" someone will visit you in your home and talk about what it means to foster a child and what to expect from the licensing process. They're making an early quick-fire assessment. Some people aren't right for it; maybe their home isn't right, might be their situation, (e.g. free-roaming pet snakes, the only spare bedroom being the utility room next to the washing machine....)
I don't know what percentage fail at the first hurdle, but no one's time is wasted. There follows a period of six to twelve months where you get regular visits at home from a specialist whose job it is to go through all your circumstances. I've been through this twice, found it fun and helped me focus. They dig into your whole life. They're not looking for perfect angels, those people don't exist. They are interested in how you've dealt with the different difficulties we all face in life.
Q: Do you have any say in which children are placed with you?
A: Definitely. Even before you're approved your Family Resource Worker (FRS) will be working with you on what sort of child your ideal placements will be. Some people are better suited to teenagers. Some will prefer younger kids or infants. A lot depends on the shape of your family, especially if you have children of your own. Some foster families are initially cautious about children who've had their troubles. Some are worried about being thrown in at the deep end, so they opt for respite (you get a child to foster from Friday afternoon to the next Sunday evening or maybe for a week).
Q: Are you on your own?
A: No! Each foster family has their own designated FRS whose job is to help, advise and support the foster parent. Mine visit at least once per month, for a whole morning. They are always there at the end of the phone. Plus I attend monthly trainings, which offer me an opportunity to discuss and bond with other foster parents. Your foster child has their own designated Case Manager who also visits weekly and works with your own FRS to keep things on track. Frankly, in all my years and so many different jobs, I've never felt better supported.
Q: What kind of person are you? What are some of your personality traits?
A: Faith is by far the strongest tool I have to work with. From faith comes the patience required to truly understand what is really going on in a challenging situation. Faith provides the assurance that God will never thrust you into a situation that you cannot handle if you seek and follow His guidance. From faith sprouts consistency; including the ability to embrace change and adapt to new situations. Each child is special and has unique needs. One wants to be hugged; the other fears any physical contact. Foster children yearn for consistency in their traumatized lives. I have to work at listening. I cannot help a child with his problem unless I truly understand that problem as he sees it. Too often I catch myself trying to fit a “standard solution” to the wrong problem i.e. not the problem that the child perceives.
Q: What happens if things aren't working out?
A: Good question. You know, I sometimes wonder if they ever seem to be working as I'd like! But if you are having frustrations that's when you pick up the phone for support. And of it gets too much for you; you can always end the placement, but that is a last resort. LUK offers trainings monthly and helps with getting additional supports so you don’t have to disrupt a child’s placement, but sometimes it is unavoidable.
Q: If I end a placement, will that be the end of my fostering career?
A: No, (unless that's what you want). LUK needs all the foster parents they can get. Your qualifications and credentials are valuable; it's up to the system to play to your strengths. I found that things got easier the more fostering I did, I got familiar with the stresses and strains and learned better to identify the joys.
Q: How does the payment work?
A: Fostering is a profession. We are all professional parents. Our bi-weekly payment is termed a stipend, as we are reimbursed for the costs associated with providing for a child in our home. You are reimbursed daily when a child lives in your home. It is tax-free and not deemed an income. I am reimbursed a rate every day per child. That money covers their room and board, food, transportation, recreations such as dance lessons or karate and all other costs associated with taking care of a child. The children do get clothing allowances on top of that. LUK also helps out with the costs associated for family vacations, summer camps and special requests that would go above and beyond everyday care.
Q: Is there anything else I should know?
A: Sweet Jesus, yes! The bulk of it is stuff you have to find it out for yourself as you go along, and so you do. Each child is so utterly unique you have to make tailored arrangements to help their specific needs, and that means making your fostering up as you go along. There's paperwork; not much. There's monthly trainings, and social events. But mostly you're just finding out how to be a good mum or dad to a particular poor lonely child who's done nothing wrong to end up sad, worried and frightened.
There is no ideal profile of a foster parent. The demographics are broad and include single adults or coupled partners. You may be single or married; own or rent your home; but you must pass a criminal back ground check and a safety check of your home. There are many conversations and interviews held with prospective foster parents to ensure a good fit.
In other words, foster parents don’t have to come with a super-hero cape, but they might earn one over time. We recruit people who have a gift for working with children, who have a passion for wanting to develop the best in children but also realize that there’s not a lot of glamour and glory in foster care. Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs in the world.
We call on all of you to join us in becoming one of the faces of Foster Care and to change a lifetime of a child or youth in foster care. No matter who you are or how much time you have to give, you can help create permanent, lifelong connections for these children and youth. For more information, please call us at 800-579-0000 or find more information at www.LUK.org/FosterCare.
National Volunteer Week 2017
by Hilary Amedy, Mentoring Program Coordinator
Have you ever wished that you could say “thank you” to someone who has performed a service to our community? You have that opportunity during National Volunteer Week, which takes place April 23-29 this year. Volunteers are one of our country’s most important assets and programs like the LUK Mentoring Program are volunteer driven. We would not exist if it we didn’t have the dedicated volunteers that we have.
National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Since then, every U.S. President has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week, which has grown each year with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week. National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community.
Volunteers reach out beyond themselves, to engage in kindness and caring for others. People from all walks of life engage in volunteerism for a variety of reasons. Recently, a volunteer who applied to be a mentor with the LUK Mentoring Program stated that her reason for wanting to volunteer is that she loves working with young people; that she had a lot of help in her life and wants to give back. Another volunteer said she just wants to give back and hopes she will be someone a youth will be comfortable talking with; one felt she had positive role models in her life and she will feel good about being there for someone who needs some extra support; another has liked coaching sports in the past but wants to be able to focus on being there for one youngster; and one young man had a mentor when he was growing up and knows first-hand what a difference it made in his life.
The LUK Mentoring Program has incredible volunteers who spend time mentoring, serve on the Mentoring Advisory Board and help with fundraising events like the Kids at Heart Mentoring Gala. When we asked Kelly J. why she became a mentor she stated, “1 hour a week is a small commitment when the bigger picture is the lifelong impact you will make on a child.” Domenic Z responded, “Just to see the pure joy on your mentee’s face when you go to pick him up and hear him reminisce about time that you spend together, times you thought were so normal but to him were phenomenal and John M says, “Anyone interested in joining a non-profit board should take a good look at LUK Mentoring,” and if they are interested, he recommends becoming a mentor too as he believes they go hand-in-hand and make him a more informed and vested board member.
According to the latest Volunteering and Civic Life in America report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, 62.6 million people in the United States volunteered in 2015, collectively donating 7.8 billion hours of their time to their communities – an estimated $184 billion worth of service. Volunteers in the LUK Mentoring Program donated approximately 3,648 hours of time last year through 1:1 mentoring, serving on the Mentoring Advisory Board and towards fundraising events.
Please take a moment to recognize the volunteers who make our community a better place and go to www.facebook.com/lukmentoring where we are highlighting our generous mentors and volunteers.
If you would like to be a LUK Mentor, serve on the Mentoring Advisory Board or help with our fundraising efforts go to www.luk.org/mentoring or call 1-800-579-0000 and ask for Mentoring staff.
How Mental Health Can Affect Substance Use Disorders
by Libby Baker, SAPC West Coordinator
For Substance Abuse Prevention Month, LUK is featuring a series of blogs specially discussing substance abuse prevention activities.
In recent years, Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) have been identified as a mental health illness. For many people, another mental health illness comes along with SUDs and it’s hard to identify which one started first. SAMHSA has designed the SPF (Strategic Prevention Framework) to provide a community based approach for prevention, intervention, and treatment for both.
SAMHSA estimates that, as of 2014, 43.6 million people have a mental illness in the United States. In the same survey, it is estimated that 20.2 million people have a SUD and 7.9 million suffer from both. Mental illnesses can have a big impact on how we make choices and socialize with other people, as well as our mood, thinking, and behavior. Sometimes the biggest coping mechanisms for those that aren’t in treatment for their mental illness is a behavior that can end up being very dangerous, such as SUDs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse those with a severe mental illness are 4 times more likely to be considered a heavy alcohol user, which means consuming 4 or more drinks per day. They are also 3.5 times more likely to regularly use marijuana and 4.6 times more likely to use other drugs. The biggest relationship, however, is with smoking. Those with a severe mental illness are 5.1 times more likely to smoke daily. So the question now becomes: if we were to crack down on those with mental illness and get them into treatment, can we prevent these 7.9 million people from having a SUD as well? With increased mental health services and better access, it’s possible. The first thing that will need to be done is to Shatter the Stigma on mental health and SUDs. Stigmatization is the greatest barrier to individuals seeking help, because they feel as though they will be looked down on. We will also need to watch for warning signs in our friends and family members. If you think someone who may need help, say something. For all the teens out there, Instagram has developed a new feature where you can flag a picture if you think someone might be fighting a battle that they need help (and it’s completely anonymous). Together we can help the people we love get the services we need and decrease that 7.9 million people who have a mental illness and a Substance Use Disorder.
For information on you can help Shatter the Stigma to help people access services please visit http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/stop-addiction/state-without-stigma
A Holiday Message
by Maurie Bergeron, Director of TIL Services
When we think about the holidays, it often conjures up scenes of family dinners, laughing, roaring fires, eating, drinking, gifts, beautiful lights, and trees. We associate words like joy, peace, sharing, giving, warmth, and togetherness. Christmas music saturates the airwaves in November and store displays announce the coming season sometimes before all the leaves have even hit the ground. We are inundated by these images, and with the support of the media we construct a vision of how things are "supposed to be." We internalize this vision and create stories about the fact that if we are "good" our holiday will look like this as well.
Unfortunately in the real world - the world outside of marketing and media - in the world where people are unique and families are multi-dimensional and thoughts and feelings exist, the reality of this vision is often fleeting at best. Eggnog spills, cats knock over Christmas trees, people get laid off, the baggage of history arrives with family, families fracture and generations of experiences and feelings surface. Whether we are alone or in the midst of people, many of us experience shame or unworthiness - a sense that who we are and what we have can’t and won’t be enough. That somehow if our world deviates from these joy- filled scenarios – we are "bad," that somehow there is something wrong with us.
But this is just not true. Our vision of how things are "supposed to be" is the problem – not you, not me, not us – but the "supposed to be." The images of other people, other families are just that – images.
I can remember how families were portrayed on television when I was a child and thinking, "if only we were like that." I can remember going to a friend’s house to play thinking, "if only we were like this." The television families were actors, quite honestly – many of whom struggled a great deal in their lives and some who sadly lost that struggle. As for my friend’s family, nothing was as perfect as it seemed, I found out, when her parents got divorced and my friend moved away.
The concept of "supposed to be" is fraught with misinformation and pain. And the premise that somehow during a particular time of year we should be kind to one another, that we should be grateful and giving, well in my humble opinion, this is misguided as well.
Let us begin now to work towards accepting the reality of who we are in real life – as real people with real problems, sorrows, joys and gifts. Let us allow ourselves to be imperfect, different than what we are told we are "supposed to be," because we are so much more than that. You are so much more than that. Let us be gentle with ourselves and allow ourselves to recognize it is okay to be sad if we feel sad. Whatever you feel is authentically yours. Own it. Let us recognize that if the holiday season is hard for you, there is nothing wrong with you. You are perfectly you. There is no shame in struggling through this time of year – nor is there shame in rejoicing in it. There is no right way to do this. There is only your way. And let us not forget that what we see is not always real, that we are not alone in our struggles. Let us remember that each of us wrestles with our history, our ghosts, differently, so be kind – always – not just during the holidays.
There may be times when our feelings can become more than we believe we can handle. There may be times when we feel we are totally alone and want to give up. There is always hope and you are never truly alone. If you need someone to reach out to – you can call any of these hotlines 24 hrs. a day, 365 days a year National Suicide Prevention Hotline Trans Lifeline VA Suicide Hotline
Remember you are worthy. You are perfectly you. Peace - always.
TIPS Training for Our Servers: Why is this Crucial?
By Libby Baker, SAPC West Coordinator
For Substance Abuse Prevention Month, LUK is featuring a series of blogs specially discussing substance abuse prevention activities.
It doesn’t matter what bar you go into in the United States, I’m willing to bet that your bartender is going to be TIPS trained (Trainings for Intervention ProcedureS).
This training started in 1982 by Dr. Morris Chafetz. Dr. Chafetz helped found the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and served as the first director. He developed this program to help bartenders and servers be more confident in their abilities and to prevent the patrons of restaurants from drinking in excess.
This training comes with many benefits for the business, staff, and community. For the businesses, TIPS Training helps with liability concerns, prevents property damage, and legal problems. Not only does TIPS training prevent insurance increases, but can qualify a business for insurance discounts. This training can also help with regulation and with making the establishment more welcoming for customers.The staff the benefit from increasing their skills, and learning how to protect themselves and their employer from legal action in the case of over-serving or serving alcohol to an underage person. Even better, TIPS training may even help increase tips by strengthening their professionalism!
Lastly, TIPS training helps the community by improving education surrounding underage drinking and over-indulgence. Well-trained servers help to decrease the chance of someone driving while intoxicated. This leads to fewer accidents and fewer deaths and injuries, meaning more people can travel safely.
Check back next week for information on the connection between mental health and substance use disorders.
All information taken from the www.gettips.com site.