Hoyleton | It Takes a Village

In Phylicia’s last blog, she discussed how it takes a village, and in this piece, she will explore that village a little more. 

When a child comes into care, the investigator works with the parents to find family members to take the child. Placing a child with a family member is done to help make the transition easier for the child; however, when the family is not an option for placement, the investigator moves to place the child in a traditional foster care home. A foster family is a non-relative home that takes the child but has also gone through training to help them understand the trauma that a child goes through from being removed from their parents. 

Becoming a foster parent is not an easy decision. Some parts of being a foster parent are easy. To love a child that needs love and care is easy. Making sure they are fed and clothed is easy. However, reality sets in, and the honeymoon is over because your child has been through trauma, possibly neglect and abuse. Children that come into foster care come into care with different levels of trauma. That is why we encourage our relative foster parents to become licensed because it gives our families the opportunities to understand the trauma that our kids face and that sometimes the children who need the most love will push us away the most. 

The process seems much more daunting than it is. A lot of the work that it takes to become licensed started when you brought the child into your home. What seemed like a daunting task at first, starts to diminish once you begin moving the ball. By now, you have the support of your caseworker and the licensing worker. They will help guide you through the process. During the licensing process, we at the agency level know that this can be a complicated process, it can seem intrusive, and like we are questioning your means, but we are not. We ask these questions and work toward licensing a home from a place of protection for the child. The children have already been through so much that we don’t want the stress of helping your cause more undue harm. Your acts of getting licensed are helping to build a moment in time that provides this child with some stability and safety when those things seem so far from reach for them. 

It takes a village, each child is unique and different, and a child who finds themselves in care gives them a little added uniqueness. When you find yourself talking yourself out of getting licensed, remember you have a village to support you, and your village starts with Hoyleton. 

Child Abuse Prevention Month and COVID-19

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Usually, this is a time for nonprofits and supporting organizations to promote the support systems which strengthen and educate families on parenting, healthy relationships, and managing stress. As always, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services is standing with our families and communities as we shelter-in-place together because of COVID-19. 

Hoyleton is taking every precaution to protect the youth in our care. Our case managers are concerned about the emotional and physical needs of our youth and continue to check on their well-being daily through video conferencing and sometimes by standing outside a window or on the front porch. Hoyleton’s Counseling and Care team continue to advocate for the mental health of the families and individuals we support.  We are aware that families are making difficult decisions because of a lack of resources. 

While living in isolation is our new “normal,” it requires understanding what factors we can control. Managing stress is important and a necessary part of preventing abuse. Be mindful of stress signals:

• Feelings of anger or irritation
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Crying easily
• Arguing with your partner or children
• Overeating or not eating
• Changes in sleep patterns

Communication and self-awareness are essential. Reach out to individuals if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Challenge yourself to focus on the present moment and not the next day or the unknown. Stay connected to friends and neighbors by using technology to break down the barriers erected because of isolation. Have a FaceTime call over dinner with friends, family, or co-workers to stay connected. 

Together, we will get through this. We see you, we hear you, we understand your fears and anxiety. Hoyleton is here to provide support and be a means of hope. We are all in this together. If you or a loved one needs assistance, please call Hoyleton Youth and Family Services at 618.688.4744.

National Poison Prevention Week March 26, 2020

National Poison Prevention Week raises awareness of poison prevention nationwide during the third full week of March every year. During this week, we have an opportunity to highlight the dangers of poisonings and help with prevention for people of all ages and promote community involvement in poisoning prevention and ways to prevent tragedies.

Hoyleton is helping individuals stay aware of the dangers that are in and around them every day. At Hoyleton, we continually work to support and educate individuals and the community on the dangers of drug and alcohol misuse. As a foster care agency, we also want to support our parents and caregivers by keeping them informed of ongoing changes to licensing standards and requirements which will also help during a crisis. So we are providing tips and tools to help keep you informed. 

FACT: As drug abuse problems rise in our communities, it's become as important as ever to safely and responsibly dispose of unused prescription medications.

• Medication that is no longer in use or is expired needs to be disposed of properly.

FACT: More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and streams across the United States and around the world.

• Do not flush outdated or unused medicines. 

• Deterra System Bags dissolve unused and expired medications and promote proper disposal.

• Hoyleton offers Deterra System Bags free and can be picked up at our office. We can also help your school, church, or organization to distribute the Deterra System bags free of charge.

FACT: A poison is anything that can harm someone if it is: used in the wrong way, used by the wrong person, or used in the wrong amount.

• Post the National Poison Control number which is 800-222-1222.

• Post emergency phone numbers in easy to find places and an area that is easy to access in a crisis.

• We know that the refrigerator is probably one of the places phone numbers are generally posted, however, with cell phones these days, 911 is the fastest and easiest for children to learn. 

• Also, consider posting numbers on a mirror in the bathroom or in bedrooms.

FACT: Emergency preparedness is crucial. Part of being prepared is communicating the plans your family has created. 

If you are a foster parent or a caregiver of a foster child, the licensing standards are evolving. To help keep you in compliance and in-the-know, the new requirements to meet the Family First Prevention Services Act will require that essential phone numbers such as Poison Control, 911, and even local emergency numbers are clearly posted and accessible to everyone. In addition, you will need to have a First Aid Kit and a fire extinguisher in the home and accessible where they may be needed most. For example, the fire extinguisher should be available in the kitchen, in an easy to locate and reach space.

If you have questions about licensing standards for foster parents and caregivers, or if you need a Deterra Bags for medication disposal, contact Hoyleton Youth and Family Service at 618-688-4727.  You may also email Yvonne Petito directly at ypetito@wordpress.compu-type.net.  

Perspectives From a Multiracial Family | Guest Blogger: Kirsten Peterson

Foster care. Adoption. These two words can invoke a myriad of emotions and questions as to how best care for children who need a place to call home. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families, reported 437,000 children in foster care for fiscal year 2018.1 As 2018, one-third of children entering the US foster care system are young children of color.

Fostering or adopting a child from a different ethnic, cultural, or racial group can present unique challenges. However, the best way to meet these challenges is to acknowledge their existence in an open and honest space. Guest writer, Kirsten Peterson, shares how intentional parenting has set her multiracial family on the road to success.

“The alarm clock rings at five-thirty in the morning. I stretch, say a quick prayer of gratitude, and let my feet hit the floor: off to another day as a single mom of five children. Our day does not run much different than anyone else’s day. Regardless of the color of our skin, or ethnic background, we all get ready for school and work—hustling for last-minute items no matter how prepared the night before. I hug my boys before they walk the three blocks to their public school–a school district I purposefully moved our family into eight years ago. I drive my girls to our chosen high school, and then the local train station for my eldest to take a train into the city for cosmetology school.

Here is where my story is different. I am the parent of a multiracial family. Yes, as a parent of biological children, I am sure I would have looked at schools and churches very intentionally for my children. However, most likely, racial diversity would not have been a priority. I want to give my adoptive children a life where they do not “feel” adopted by conspicuously standing out in the crowd. I want to honor my children’s’ culture and ethnicity— a black daughter and four mixed (my kids’ preferred term).

As a parent, we want our children to share in some of our cherished personal memories. I attended a Catholic school in my youth and wanted the same experience for my eldest daughter. I began looking at schools and quickly realized the schools lacked the diversity I felt would be essential in my daughter’s academic success. I continued searching and found a school that met my expectations. I had to travel outside of my city to enroll my daughter, but it was the best thing I did. Seeing my daughter attend a school with children who looked like her was an enjoyable experience. My daughter flourished in that environment. This experience opened my eyes to a space that I otherwise would neither have known nor experienced.

Honestly, parenting a multiracial family is not much different for me than if I were parenting biological children. I would still be an intentional parent looking for the best fit for my children in school, church, and extracurricular activities. I would have the additional responsibility of ensuring that my racially diverse children are seen and heard in an environment that embraces their uniqueness.”

Interested in helping a child find their forever home through adoption or foster care? For more information, call Jodi Robinson at 618.688.4727 or email at jrobinson@wordpress.compu-type.net.

A special thank you to Kirsten Peterson for sharing her family’s story.

1US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY2018 data. August 22, 2019. URL: AFCARS FY 2018 Data

Back to School: Part 3

The school’s cafeteria is buzzing with noise and excitement as students are chatting with friends and swapping stories of summertime glories. Your eye catches the kid at the long cafeteria table contemplating the lunch box in front of them with a pitiful look on their face implying, “What will lunch be today?”

As caregivers, we have each been there…the lunch box dilemma. Preparing lunches can quickly become a dreaded task.  We have to balance nutritional lunch options with picky eaters, food allergy considerations, or just the everyday monotony of a quick PB&J. However, lunch preparation does not have to be this way.

First, let’s get back to the basics of what lunch is meant to be, a nutritional, balanced way to keep minds and bodies fueled and ready to do the tasks at hand. The formula for a great lunch is ½ fruits and vegetables + ¼ whole grains + ¼ lean protein + 1 serving of low-fat dairy this equals one balanced lunch box. This simple design provides a foundation for us as caregivers to take the dietary needs (caloric intake), allergy restrictions, and portion sizes and give a successful roadmap to make our jobs easier.  However, all of these factors are dependent upon each child’s age, weight, and activity level.

Now, that we have the basics in hand, let’s play around with food options to create a lunch for even the most discerning palate.

Picking an option from each section sets you up for lunch box success. For example, veggie wrap with hummus, apple slices, and string cheese, along with water for hydration makes for the perfect lunch. It is that simple! Armed with healthy and exciting food options will make lunchtime meal planning something that both you and your child can enjoy. Happy eating!

If you or someone you know needs help or additional resources, please contact us at 618.688.4727.

Source: www.chooseMYPlate.gov

Back to School: Part 2

With August being back to school month, that means it is also an excellent time for you to go over safety tips with your youth. With the business of back to school shopping, planning after school care/transportation, and creating meal plans – sometimes it can be easy to overlook the things that seem natural; like safety tips. It is always a good idea to go over a safety plan with the children you care for as they start back at school.

Walking or Biking – If your student is walking or biking to school, be sure to go over the best navigation to get there. Go on the walk or bike ride with them before their first day, so that you are familiar with the path they will take as well. Find places that have minimal traffic and always find sidewalks for your student to take. Teach your child what a crosswalk area is and where it is not a safe place to cross.

Driving – If you are the caregiver of a teen who can now drive, go over safe driving tips with them. There can be lots of traffic in the mornings as people travel to school and work, so teaching your teen the importance of school zone speeds and how to drive in traffic is essential. There are also numerous apps, like Driving by Life360, that may be beneficial to have so that you can ensure your teen is safe.

Fire escape plans – One of the first things that are established at the beginning of the school year is a fire safety plan, but are you doing the same within your home? Create a fire safety plan with your kids and discuss the best escape route and what to do in case of an emergency.

Stranger Danger (In-person or Online) – It may seem obvious, but you can never stress enough the importance of educating your child on the dangers of talking to strangers. If you plan on having your child picked up from school by a friend or family member, be sure to communicate that with them. Go over a safe code word with your child so that they know if that person was sent by you to pick them up. Various online apps create many dangers for children. With your kids starting back to school, their peers may introduce them to new apps to download, which is why you must be aware of apps like: Tagged, TikTok, Snapchat, and many more.

Although it may seem small, by reiterating these safety tips with your children, it could prevent a crisis from happening. We always encourage parents to create an open line of communication within their family so that the youth know boundaries and can keep themselves safe.

If you or someone you know needs help or additional resources, please contact us at 618-688-4727.

Kinship Care: A Guide for Grandparents

There are a wide range of circumstances that can leave older adults in charge of their grandchildren’s care. Whether the situation was sudden or gradual, older adults who are thrust into the position of the sole provider/caregiver for young relatives may feel lost or overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are many different resources to help the 100,000-plus grandparents who find themselves taking care of children, long after expected. 

Here are some helpful tips and information to guide grandparents through kinship care: 

Prepare for shifting roles

There are many logistical preparations grandparents should make before assuming the role of a primary guardian, but perhaps the greatest thing to be prepared for is a shift in the relationship. The traditional grandparent-grandchild relationship often consists of weekend visits, holiday events, and interactions may largely be centered around play, however, the requirements of daily care can cause the relationship dynamic between grandparents and grandchildren to change. 

Regardless of how this relationship shifts, grandparents and their grandchildren can enjoy a beautifully close relationship with one another. If either the older adult or child (or both parties) seem to be having a difficult time with the change in parental roles or living situations, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offer supportive counseling services that can help with any adjustment anxiety. 

Gather support where you can

Even the most fiscally responsible older adults, sometimes struggle to afford the daily necessities of life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes additional factors such as geographical location and homeownership status into account, as many as 7.2 million U.S. seniors lived in poverty in 2017. Coupled with the issue of food insecurity, which is most prevalent across senior populations, the added responsibility of a younger relative can be financially burdensome. In fact, the SNAP program (commonly referred to as “food stamps”) reports that almost one in five seniors living with grandchildren is food insecure, yet three in five seniors who qualify for the SNAP program don’t participate. 

Whether needing assistance with paying for food, rent, medical insurance or other daily needs, older adults can seek out the various benefits they may be eligible for with this helpful, Benefits Check Up tool and with the Illinois Department of Family Services’ list of useful resources, specific to older adults caring for a child. 

 Support the child through difficult times 

Just because an older adult is the legal guardian of a grandchild doesn’t mean the child’s parent is out of the picture. If possible and in the best interest of the child, share information about the child’s life with parents, including their school activities, hobbies, and life milestones or events. Establish a routine for visits and schedule in advance, to ensure that everyone is comfortable and on the same page about the visit, especially the child.

Regardless of the potentially frustrating circumstances that led to a child living with a grandparent or other older relative, it’s critical that grandparents do their best not to speak negatively about the parent in front of the child and to not make them feel guilty for wanting to spend time with their parent, as it can be confusing and upsetting to them. Instead, older adults should try to get a sense of how the child feels about their parent(s), and ease any uncertainties, anxieties or disappointments surrounding visits. 

 There’s no foolproof plan for raising children, especially for older adults who likely thought their child-rearing days were far behind them, however, this information can help support older adults as they navigate this unique journey. 

Three Ways We Help Youth Transition to Independent Adulthood

Though there’s a specific age that legally marks adulthood, young adults don’t suddenly possess all the necessary wisdom and knowledge they need in life at that point. It’s only with the proper guidance and access to resources that young adults are able to thrive and lead healthy lifestyles. Youth who are experiencing behavioral or mental challenges, are especially in need of support to help them navigate this critical time in their lives. 

Here are three different ways our programs help youth transition into independent adulthood: 

 Identifying and working through challenges

Learning how to cope with personal traumas, challenges or issues in healthy ways provides a level of stability that allows young people to thrive on their own. One way we do this is at our therapeutic residential campus, which allows its residents, ranging from nine to 21 years old, to work on their mental, emotional and/or behavioral issues or disabilities. These issues are confronted through therapy, with the ultimate goal of improving behavior, meeting academic goals, and contributing to society in healthy, productive ways.

 Setting goals and gaining skills to achieve them… 

Individuals with developmental disabilities have the capacity to live full healthy lives with the assistance of supportive programs that address their needs. Our Transitional Living Program offers group-based care to eight young men with developmental disabilities, aged 17 to 20, that provides specific skills that help promote independent living. Some of these skills include general topics like budgeting, hygiene, social skills, cooking, cleaning, and vocational skills. Specific attention is dedicated to each youth’s individual needs so that they are taught to live as independently as possible within their zone of proximal development. Participants get to learn lifelong skills in a safe environment that can help them transition from foster or residential care into the adult world. 

 Teaching skills that can be passed onto future generations….

Unless taught, there are things that will simply remain unknown, especially among young adults with limited life experience. One of the biggest challenges young mother face is having safe appropriate housing. Hoyleton is able to immediately provide them with a safe, nurturing ‘Place to Call Home,’ as well as some basic supplies for everyday living, such as bedding, clothing, food and hygiene products. 

Our Pregnant and Parenting Teen Transitional Living Program, also known as Hagar House, is dedicated to offering housing and skills to young mothers or expectant mothers (aged 17 to 20) under the guardianship of the Department of Children and Family Services, to help them with their own development, as well as the development of their child. During this time at Hagar House, young women receive financial assistance in the form of a monthly stipend, and additional assistance completing their education, job skills, money management, positive interpersonal relationship skills, nurturing parenting technique and more. All of this support is offered by 24-hour staff who offer mentoring and guidance in all aspects of life, including parenting, education, employment, transportation or personal growth. 

Travel Tips for Families With Special Needs Children

With longer days, warmer weather, and the kids out of school, summers are ideal for families to catch up on some quality time together after a busy school year. Travel is a great way to bond with loved ones, but parents of special needs children may feel that this isn’t an option. On the contrary, taking a trip can be an engaging, educational, or inspirational experience for special needs children, regardless of their behavioral health conditions.
Here are some tips that can help make travel with high needs kids more enjoyable for everyone:

Prepare Whenever Possible
Whether or not parents have children with special needs, traveling with kids can have its hiccups, but a little bit of preparation can minimize these unexpected moments and give parents peace of mind. Though there are some things that are out of parents’ control, being proactive about the factors they can control is the easiest way to keep things running smoothly.

Parents can start by ensuring their special needs children are getting a full night’s sleep in general, but especially leading up to a trip. Make sure nutritious snacks are packed for them, which will provide the energy for a long day of travel or exploration. Taking these simple steps can help reduce crankiness and meltdowns, and give kids the opportunity to feel (and behave) to the best of their ability. If a special needs child is in foster care, don’t forget to check in with their case worker before leaving on a trip! 

Consider the Best Options
Though parents can’t always plan everything around their children’s wants, making a few concessions here and there may be in everyone’s best interests. Being able to anticipate a special needs child’s comfort levels in certain situations can be invaluable in the long run. Parents should consider travel destinations with activities that are conducive to their child’s likes and dislikes. For example, if a special needs child gets antsy around large crowds, don’t plan a trip to a place that is likely to be crowded, like an amusement park. Instead opt for a place with open spaces, like a national park.
If a special needs child doesn’t do well being away from home, it doesn’t mean travel is out of the question. A simple remedy to this is bringing along comfort items that remind them of home, like a blanket, a stuffed animal, or bringing along familiar movies. Choosing to travel by car gives families of special needs children much-needed freedom and control, versus traveling by plane, which can come with extensive delays, long layovers, and impatient passengers. 

Make the Best of Things
One of the most valuable things to remember when traveling with special needs children is to manage expectations, yet remain positive. Although a change in scenery and routine can be rewarding, it’s unrealistic to expect things to be perfect on vacation if there are typically difficult moments with special needs children on a daily basis. But despite any challenging instances that may crop up, it’s important to look at the trip as a whole, rather than focusing in on those passing moments of stress.
Parents should remember to keep a sense of humor and try to be present during these family trips and outings. Making the effort to approach less-than-ideal situations with a relaxed, positive outlook can free up space to focus on the good and make more meaningful connections with their children.

Following these few strategies can help make family travel with special needs children more efficient and less stressful so that everyone can focus on making happy memories with loved ones!
If your child has a hard time adjusting after a summer trip, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offers counseling services. Contact the Behavioral Health Department for more information (618) 688 – 4727.

American Academy of Pediatrics : https://www.aap.org/en-us/Pages/Default.aspx
Illinois Department of Natural Resources : https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Pages/default.aspx

Human Trafficking Series, Part 1: Labor Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States and Illinois ranks among the top 10 states for it. That means there are cases everyday where individuals are being exploited and taken advantage of without notice. On a global scale, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20.1 million people are victims of labor trafficking. Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received more than 7,800 reports of labor trafficking in the United States alone. Here are some tips regarding awareness toward individuals who may be victims of labor trafficking.

Common Places Labor Trafficking Can Happen:

Labor trafficking can happen anywhere no matter if it occurs in a large city or a small town. Often times, people rule out small towns because of the size of the community and the knowledge of its citizens; however, labor trafficking happens there too. Being located near St. Louis Lambert International and multiple heavily traveled interstates it is easier for victims to be transported between communities. Some of the most common places to do so are in: restaurants, barges, landscaping services, domestic work, beauty services, carnivals, farming, massage parlors, and family owned businesses.

Language & Warning Signs of Labor Trafficking Victims:

If you suspect someone may be a victim to labor trafficking, watching that person’s body language and paying attention to what they say can be key. If they use phrases like “I’m not allowed to” or seem shameful, have unusual tattoos or brandings and don’t want to talk about them, are hypervigilant in conversation, or have long and unusual hours with little to no time off – these could all be warning signs that an individual is a victim of labor trafficking.

Populations Where Labor Trafficking Occurs:

Labor trafficking can often happen to individuals who are in the United States on a Work Visa. Once they are hired, a supervisor may take their Work Visa, which is the person’s identification and proof of their status. This tactic is used as leverage to keep trafficked individuals working under harsh conditions. These traffickers take advantage of victims vulnerabilities to exploit them in a damaging way.

 Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offers support for victims of human trafficking through our Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) program. Stay tuned next week for Part II of our Human Trafficking Awareness Serious.

If you suspect someone who may be a victim of labor trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

References: https://polarisproject.org