• 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.

  • Back to School: Part 1

    Starting back to school can be demanding as you prepare your child both physically and mentally. August is back to school month, and we want to remind you of the importance of early preparation as you ensure that your child is up-to-date on all their medical requirements. Below is an updated list of requirements for each child based on their grade level.

     

    Again, it is crucial to ensure that your child is ready to start school both physically and mentally. As your physician examines your child, view it as an opportunity to address any developmental, emotional, or social concerns you may have.

    In addition to preparing your child for back to school, this is also a great time for you to prepare yourself as well. In order to be the best parent you can be, you must also take care of your own physical and mental health. If you are struggling, meet with your physician as you schedule your annual check-up for you and your child.

    With the expertise from our Behavioral Health team, we can offer you and your family the assistance you may need. For more information, give us a call today at 618-688-4727.

    Sources:

    State of Illinois Health Requirements for the 2019-2020 School Year

     

  • Human Trafficking Series Part 3: HALO Program

    We hope that from our Human Trafficking series, you have learned the basics of understanding the signs and types of trafficking individuals face. Human trafficking is at an all-time high, and there are people impacted by it every day; however, there are very limited resources for individuals to get help. Because of that, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services has taken a stand and partnered with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to create our Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) mentoring program.

    This program is designed for youth, ages 12–20 years old, in DCFS care who are survivors of human trafficking or who may be at risk. Our HALO staff meet with clients once a week for one hour and establish recovery plans with the individual as they focus on coping skills, life skills, how to build healthy relationships, and set long and short term goals. One of the first concepts we teach our clients is how to define love. Because of their trauma, they often have a misconception of what love is and how it is shown. We teach them love is not shown through violence or exploitation.  Instead, we build them up and allow them to see their greatness and the choices they can make to better themselves and their future.

    Another key element we teach is the skill of self-regulating emotions. We help victims identify emotions they feel and how they can regulate those overwhelming feelings to create new healthy outcomes. As we teach each young person the skill of coping with their trauma, our overall larger goal is for them to be able to complete our program and utilize the skills on their own in daily situations. In addition to this, we also take a holistic approach and work with the child’s guardian as they work through the process of parenting a child with trauma and a specific set of needs. Our HALO program partners with our behavioral health team to support the family and provide counseling services to them individually or together as a family. As we work with the youth, it is also important to work with their foster parents so that everyone is on the same page. Then, parents can encourage goals that were set and acknowledge their child’s achievements and what still needs work.

    Overall, it is important to keep in mind that every victim of human trafficking has experienced different trauma, which is why we do not have one definite approach we use. As we assess our clients and their needs, we are then able to create a treatment plan that is unique to them and their needs. This is something we take pride in as an organization, seeing that we are one of the only agencies in our district that has a program solely dedicated to human trafficking. We serve six counties: Madison, St. Clair, Bond, Clinton, Randolph, Monroe, and Washington. If you know someone who could benefit from our HALO program and is in DCFS custody, please contact us today: (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. 

     

  • 3 Ways Foster Families Make Their Homes a Welcoming Space

    The uncertainty foster children experience can be difficult, even if they are used to the displacement, with constant moves from one living situation to the next. Although their stay is only temporary, there are a number of small things families can do that can have a big impact in making kids feel welcome and comfortable while they’re there.

     

    Keep It Clean  

    It may seem obvious that one should tidy up before welcoming someone into the home, but the reasons why may not be as apparent. Regardless of where they came from, moving a foster child into a messy, chaotic living space can cause them anxiety and unease. When everything in a home is out of place, it’s easy for foster children to feel out of place too. Making a concerted effort to declutter before the upcoming arrival of a child not only has the ability to make them feel more comfortable, but it also offers up more space for their belongings, and creates a sense of organization that allows routines (and ultimately, life,) to flow more smoothly – something foster children are in great need of.   

     

    Make It Personal

    Even if you don’t have the time, budget or creativity for a home decor project, adding a few small personal touches in a place that is just for them can be quite meaningful. Find out as much as possible about their likes and (such as their favorite colors, characters, animals, etc.) and try to include those things into their room. Or, ask them to pick out a few things after they’ve already arrived. If you prefer to keep the room where they’ll be staying a blank slate, simply create a welcome basket for them with items like books, blankets, snacks, clothes, toys, tailored to their age range and whatever you’re able to find out about their interests to make them feel welcome. Including pieces of them, like photos, school artwork or report cards throughout the house after they’ve settled in can help them feel a sense of home and belonging.

     

    Give A Choice

    As a parent, providing structure and authority for children is important, but it’s also necessary to give them choices. Often trapped in situations out of their control, it’s beneficial for foster children to be allowed some sense of empowerment in being able to make certain decisions for themselves, even if those decisions are seemingly inconsequential. Give your foster child a few different options and allow them to choose from them when it comes to what to eat for dinner on certain nights, what to watch on family movie night, or even which household chores they want to help out with. By considering their opinions and honoring their wishes on certain things, they will feel respected, valued and included as a member of the family.

     

    For more information about foster care services or foster care issues, contact us at (618) 688 – 4727.

  • 5 Family Events in Southern Illinois for Spring

    Spending time with loved ones and doing things we enjoy is what gets us through the stresses of life. This spring, you can create happy moments and create fond memories with some fun family outings. Here are a few upcoming events in Southern Illinois to enjoy together:

     

    Weekly Saturday Afternoon Movies 

    Marion Carnegie Library| 206 S. Market Street, Marion, 62959| 1pm – 3pm

    Create a new family tradition by spending Saturday afternoons at the library for a movie day. Marion Carnegie Library’s Children’s Department has a free weekly ‘Tween Movies’ event for families with kids ages 8 to 12 years old. Other weekly events include Wednesday ‘Teen Craft Nights,’ where there are occasionally special events like the upcoming April 3rd ‘Bob Ross Paint Night’ for teens and their mentors.

    Learn more: http://www.marioncarnegielibrary.org/calendar-of-events/

     

    April 6th | Annual Afternoon Spring Tea

    Jefferson County Historical Village | Mount Vernon, Illinois | 2pm – 4pm   

    Back and better than ever, this year’s upcoming tea event will have all the fixings of a traditional tea including multiple tea and coffee selections, scones, sandwiches and other treats. Step back in time for this high society tradition with a visit to Jefferson County Historical Village, where families can learn about life in the village.

    Learn More: http://historicjeffersoncountyil.com/images/2019-Tea.jpg

    ($12 JCHS members, $15 non-members – Call to register and book your tickets)

     

    April 11 -13th | 2019 Southern Illinois Steel Guitar Show

    222 Potomac Blvd | Mount Vernon IL 62864 | times vary, see schedule

    Calling all classic country music lovers… This annual Southern Illinois Guitar Show is packed with tons of local and regional talent featuring Jeanie Seely and Tim Atwood of The Grand Ole Opry. There will be vendors, food, and a singing contest you and the family won’t want to miss.

    (full schedule) http://www.southernillinoisproductions.org/

     

    April 27th| Kite Fly 

    Joe Gilk Park | 710 E Lake Dr. |Edwardsville, Illinois | 9am – 12 pm

    Take a trip to Edwardsville to fly kites at the park as part of a “statewide kite fly” hosted by the Illinois Association of Park District’s Flying for Kids event. Families can decorate their kites together, then send them up to watch them fly. Goodie bags will be given to the first 50 participants.

    Learn More: https://www.cityofedwardsville.com/Calendar.aspx?EID=487&month=4&year=2019&day=27&calType=0

     

    May 4 | Locust Street Historic Fair 

    Centralia, IL | 10am – 2pm

    Enjoy a day out and about at the fair with loved ones at the Locust Street Historic Fair. This annual event offers all kinds of modern and historic fun including antique cars, retail shops, food vendors, historical walking tours, craft demonstrations, a Civil War display, and more.

    Learn More:  http://seecentralia.com/event/locust-street-historic-fair/

     

  • 3 Simple Nutrition Tips That Promote Behavioral Health

    Across all ages and demographics, keeping the body nourished is necessary for proper development, which can last until early adulthood. For both children and young adults, some of which may be dealing with behavioral challenges, this is especially important. With many studies proving a strong connection between behavior and diet, the need for proper nutrition is stronger than ever.

    Here are some tips to help keep youth nourished and functioning to the best of their abilities:

     

    Snack Smarter

    People have different ways of coping with the trauma in their lives, and some are unhealthier than others. One of these methods is stress eating, which is eating without hunger as a response to stress and/or trauma. Unfortunately, this unhealthy coping mechanism isn’t just reserved for adults and can affect children dealing with “early life stress” as young as four years old.

    Enjoy some “comfort food” after a bad day isn’t necessarily troubling, but habitually consuming unhealthy foods to escape unfavorable feelings or circumstances is not a healthy or sustainable way to deal with things. In addition to therapy, an easy way to start implementing changes is to swap out the usual snacking foods with healthier choices.

     

    Catch Some Zzzzs

    It’s common knowledge that a good night’s sleep is necessary, but its value is often underestimated, especially for children and young adults who are most strongly affected by lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is nothing to take lightly, as it can cause difficulty learning due to inattention, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, and irritability. For youth who already struggle with behavioral issues, or intellectual and developmental disabilities, sleep should be prioritized.

    To aid with a restful night’s sleep, consuming natural teas with calming properties, like (chamomile or lavender), before bedtime and avoiding caffeinated beverages, like coffee and sodas, that can keep the body awake, interrupt natural sleep patterns, and cause sluggishness that negatively affects performance in school or at work are recommended. 

     

    Get a “Boost”

    With the daily stresses of school and/or work, coupled with other challenging life circumstances, it’s easy to slip into a routine of eating cheap and convenient fast food. But, a regular diet of high cholesterol, high fructose food affects more than just weight – it can add to an already stressed lifestyle by failing to restore energy levels, which impacts one’s mood. Fortunately, there are some specific foods that can boost energy levels and, in turn, happiness.

    Instead of consuming fast food that causes sluggishness, try consuming energy and mood boosting foods rich in Vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries and broccoli. With more energy, kids and young adults can have an easier time paying attention at school and/or work and become less irritable while doing so.

     

    These are just a few simple tips that can help keep kids and young adults healthy and functioning to their highest abilities.

  • 5 Books That Help Foster Families

    Every foster families’ story is different;  however, there are a number of situations – both positive and disappointing – that they are familiar with. To better understand and respond to various situation, many foster parents urn to available support, from social workers to therapists, and even books.

    So for National Reading Month this March, we’re helping foster families expand their resource list.  Check out our book list with useful stories and insights about different aspects of the foster care and the adoptive journey: 

    Siblings in Adoption and Foster Care: Traumatic Separations and Honored Connections by Deborah N. Silverstein and Susan Livingston Smith

    The parent-child relationship is important, but the connection between siblings – adopted or biological-  should receive just as much care and attention. This book explores the complex relationships between adopted and foster children and their new siblings, as well as the bond between them and their biological siblings they may have been separated from. Siblings offers insights on this experience and strategies to help foster these different child-to-child bonds in healthy ways.

    Foster Parenting 101: When A Foster Child Leaves by Dr. John DeGarmo

    Through all the tough moments foster parents may endure, having to say goodbye to a foster child can be the most difficult. This book outlines the different ways this affects foster families and provides some ways to help everyone make it through this challenging time when it comes.  

    The Adoptive Parent Toolbox by Mike & Kristin Berry

    Biological or adopted, each new child brings a new experience for their parents. This book shares true testimonies from adoptive families all over the world that provide wisdom gleaned from the many lessons learned. These stories illustrate both unique experiences and common obstacles throughout the adoption process and touch on various challenging aspects of the journey that may crop up in everyday life.

    Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne Schooler, Timothy Callahan and Betsy Keefer Smalley

    Parents often experience anxiety when preparing to welcome a new child, whether the child is biological, adopted or taken in from foster care. Those who are expecting a child coming from trauma may experience even more uncertainty. This book is written to address the experience of each party: the child, the parents, as well as others affected by this transition, in order to help calm concerns and navigate expectations.

    Adopting the Older Child by Claudia Jarrett

    The adoption and/or “fostering” process is a very specific experience, but welcoming an older child into the family is an even more distinct part of that journey. This book is widely considered to be a “classic” among adoption and foster care books, as it was written through the lens of each party (i.e. the child, the parents, as well as others affected by this transition) in order to help calm concerns of the family as a whole and navigate expectations to create a comfortable experience for all.

    There is no perfect roadmap to fostering or adopting, but these books can offer lessons and both personal and professional advice that can guide families through the journey.