• National Child Abuse Awareness Month: A Curated Toolkit to Effectively Advocate for Children

    Children are some of the most vulnerable among us, and it’s our responsibility to figure out ways we can advocate on their behalf.

    In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, here are ways you can advocate for their right to safe, healthy, stress-free lives.

    Tune In

    One of the very first steps toward advocacy of any kind is through learning as much as possible about a particular issue. With countless accredited resources on the various issues children face from neglect, to sexual abuse, or malnutrition, it is easier than ever to become informed. Becoming knowledgeable about these issues can be a powerful tool in dismantling the things that enable these injustices to occur.

    Research: Here are some useful external  tools to help you stay informed on the latest advocacy efforts on ending the issues, including:

    Child Trafficking – ECPAT – USA

    Child Abuse & Neglect – National Child Abuse Coalition

    Child Hunger – No Kid Hungry

    Speak Out

    Although many already know about the various issues children face, they may not be necessarily be aware of the prevalence of these issues, or the extent of detrimental – sometimes lifelong – effects they have on children’s lives. Working to consistently spread awareness focused on a specific cause helps the public to collectively empathize and learn about the problems children sometimes have to endure.

    Share: Here are a few different ways to spread awareness about important causes like that affect children:

    Create a campaign

    Invite leaders to speak

    Utilize the power of media

    Show Up

    Having compassion for those in need is only a small part of advocacy – a much more substantial part is taking action. Research organizations that support child advocacy in your community and participate in volunteer opportunities, fundraisers, and donor drives to help carry forward the very same mission you’re passionate about.

    Act: Here are some guides from providers (beyond Hoyleton) on how to get involved in some of the aforementioned causes:

    Child Trafficking: Opportunities to Volunteer for Child Trafficking Causes

    Child Abuse & Neglect: Use Tools That Help Pinpoint Where to Give

    Child Hunger: Ways You Can Help End Child Hunger


  • 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.

  • Margie Lewis’ Journey from Foster Parent to Mom

    After being a foster parent for over 30 years, Margie Lewis has impacted the lives of numerous children who have been in and out of her home. “Every child that comes in my home, I treat them like they are my very own. I want them to feel loved,” said Margie. “They may be gone tomorrow, but you love them anyway and try to make a positive difference in their life.”

    But recently, when she found out that her grandchildren (her adopted son’s biological children) were coming into care, she knew she had to do something to keep her family together. So, Margie decided to adopt.

    “The adoption day was emotional for me; I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. Adoption’s bittersweet because you want the kids to be with their bio parents, but sometimes that’s not an option. I wanted to try to keep Parker and Gabby in our family,” said Margie.

    Being in their new environment, Parker and Gabby are thriving and continue to grow every day. Parker, being a child with vision impairment and multiple health care needs, has improved daily. “He’s done what they didn’t think he would do; he has made great progress,” she said. Now, not only can Parker see color, he can identify each color he sees. As for Gabby, Margie felt that when they brought her home from the hospital, she would never see her smile. Now, as a 3-year-old, she smiles all the time and enjoys singing, dancing, and helping Parker.

    Although Margie was not one to brag about herself, Foster Care Supervisor, Susan Hosman, had nothing but praise for Margie.

    “Ms. Lewis was my super foster parent,” exclaimed Susan. “She’s a loving grandmother that has taken on the role of mother and father to the children. Ms. Lewis is an advocate for her grandchildren and she always puts the children first.” Having love and compassion is something that is so natural to Margie as she focuses all her attention on what is best for each child. “She never once complained about all of the doctor appointments that Parker was in need of. She is the true definition of what a foster parent should be,” said Susan.

    This is what adoption is all about – providing the best care for children and allowing them to thrive in a safe and loving home. “My goal is for them [Parker and Gabby] to make the right choices, to be on the right track and break the cycle,” said Margie.

    Margie will continue to work hard to ensure that all of Parker and Gabby’s medical, emotional, and educational needs are met, and she’s giving hope to a second generation. She has faith that they will break the foster care cycle.


  • 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.

  • 3 Ways Social Workers Further Our Work’s Impact

    The work our social workers do isn’t easy, but it’s so important, and they do it day in and day out. We’re always grateful for their hard work and dedication to our youth, but during National Social Workers Month this March, we want to take the time to acknowledge them for all that they do.

    Here are three ways social workers are integral to our work:

    They guide

    When families experience challenging situations, our social workers are there to determine what interventions need to take place, and make sure they receive it.

    “As I was working with one of the families I serve, whose kids just came in to care, I started by identifying issues they were having. Then, once we identified those, I had to determine what services are going to best equip them to care for their children in the future. We did the integrated assessment, and I was also able to help the mother see how certain classes and services that we offer can benefit her.”

    They check in

    Our social workers look out for the youth they serve by thoroughly checking in on their well-being to make sure they’re safe and physically, psychologically, socially, and emotionally stable.

    Social Worker, Tyler Michael feels that checking in on her youth is key to developing a trusting relationship. “I always make sure I am able to talk to my youth one-on-one, because that makes them feel like they are being seen and heard. I want them to know that I truly am listening to them and focusing all my attention on them.” Michael also meets with all of her clients three times a month, attends their IEP meetings, and takes them to their doctors appointments as a form of consistently checking in.

    They advocate

    Social workers are able to speak on behalf of the kids and families they serve to advocate for the needs that will be in their best interests.

    Our social workers here at Hoyleton believe in empowering our youth to speak up and tell their stories. In order to do so, sometimes our social workers have to step in and advocate for each child. Social Worker, Tyler Michaels, fuels this passion by advocating on behalf of one of her 15-year-old clients. “I could tell something wasn’t right in the home and that the kids were scared, so I actually advocated on behalf of the kids. Finally, when they came in to care, they were able to admit that they now see how they were in a bad situation, but in the given moment they could not speak up for themselves,” Michael said. “Now, the 15-year-old is actually very empowered and speaking up for herself and telling her story of what happened.”


    Remember, March is a time to recognize social workers. So, if you know a social worker, please make sure to thank them for the many ways they serve others when they need it most.

  • 3 Questions with Stephanie Tesreau, Hoyleton’s new Director of Communications & Marketing

    Though Stephanie Tesreau only recently became a part of the Hoyleton family with her new role as Director of Communications and Marketing, she is no stranger to our mission and the critical services we provide youth and families in Southern Illinois. That’s because she and her husband have been foster parents for over 12 years.

    Learn about Stephanie’s journey as a foster parent and why her new role at Hoyleton is so special for her career:

    How did you first get started as a foster parent?   

    My husband and I both came from large families,  and we were used to little ones in the house. When we got married, I had a biological son; my husband wanted kids, but couldn’t due to a prior period with cancer. So, fostering was something for us to do together.

    Now, we’ve been fostering children for 12 years and have had over 12 kids in our home. We’ve adopted three boys over the past two years, and we’re working on our fourth adoption that should be finalized this year.

    How will you approach your new role given your own personal experiences with foster care?

    It’s interesting because when I took this position, I told management, ‘this is the one job where my passion, my spiritual gifts, my life experiences, and my education collide.’ It made me smile just thinking about it because I would never have imagined that everything that I had been working on independently would come together in one career.

    My personal and professional lives right now are very intermingled because, while I’m here [at Hoyleton], I also work with foster moms at a state and community level where I’m helping them get through whatever emergency they have. At my day-to-day job here, I focus on what I can communicate not just to foster parents, but also help inform the community of other areas Hoyleton serves. So, I will always strive to make sure that they have the resources they need.

    Additionally, it’s important for people to know that a foster parent’s job is often to co-parent alongside birth moms or a guardian. Most of us don’t expect that – even me probably, years ago when I started. Now, I have a relationship with my foster daughter’s grandma – we built that relationship, and she’ll always be in her life. And that’s important because kids need to know that they weren’t just forgotten. Unfortunately, sometimes those kids do feel that way and while we can’t always fix that, if we build those relationships it may at least help a little.

    What opportunities and priorities are you focused on in your first year here with Hoyleton?

    Communication is the biggest thing; people just need to know what’s going on. Building ways to cultivate our relationships, letting our community know what’s going on, and how they can help us and how we can help them are critical touch points.

    When people hear Hoyleton, they automatically think foster care or residential care, they don’t really know all the additional services, and I think it’s essential that we let them know that we’re a large, well-rounded organization that’s continuing to grow. Additionally, because we are in so many counties across the State, we’re thinking of how we can best serve them from north to south and east to west. I think that’s going to be a  big opportunity for us, and it will be exciting to explore the best ways to do that.

    Welcome to the team, Stephanie. We’re delighted you found your perfect role.

  • 5 Ways We Advocate For Our Youth

    Our many programs are designed around creating safe, healthy environments for Illinois youth, in order to encourage their confidence and identify their full potential.

    Here are just a few ways we advocate for our youth daily:

    1. We counsel, we don’t condemn

    We understand that some of the children we serve endure difficult situations. That’s why our Behavioral Health program provides emotional support and counseling to children and families, to offer healing for past traumatic experiences, as well as to help them find opportunities through their challenges.

    1. We work to tackle problems in advance

    Our Preventative Services offer education for families in order to prevent challenging issues like substance abuse and teen pregnancy. Our coalitions are recruited to investigate circumstances like potential human trafficking cases to avoid recurrences whenever possible.

    1. We guide foster youth as they step into themselves

    We set our adolescents up for success by helping them make a smooth transition from foster care to independence, with our Independent Living Opportunity, which allows them to live in their own apartment while receiving guidance on money management, meeting educational and professional goals.

    1. We help pregnant youth build their futures

    The support young people receive in their youth goes a long way to build their success further down the line. Young adults who are pregnant receive support through Our New Life Parenting Program, which helps them to develop nurturing, healthily parenting skills.

    1. We contribute to addressing their mental health

    Mental health is crucial to overall well-being, especially during the pivotal years of youth. We provide Mental Health First Aid training for adults, which helps them to more effectively respond to behavioral incidents by trying to understand the causes of that behavior and how mental health plays a part in them.


  • Meet Kelly Bandy, Hoyleton’s Incoming Board Chair

    Starting in October, Kelly Bandy will become the Chair of Hoyleton’s Board of Directors.   Kelly has been a member of the board for over 10 years, most recently serving as its Vice Chair.

    Kelly and her husband, Eric, are long-time supporters of Hoyleton.  Both are native to Southern Illinois and have a deep passion, and commitment, to youth and families throughout the region. They operate a family business, Bandy’s Pharmacy, inspiring health and wellness throughout three communities.  Today, Bandy Pharmacy has locations in Centralia, Salem, Irvington and Mt. Vernon.

    Hoyleton was first introduced to them through a business partnership; their pharmacy in Irvington, supplies Hoyleton’s nursing staff with the necessary prescriptions for the youth living at Hoyleton’s residential campus. Irvington is just a short drive away from there.

    As the business relationship grew, Kelly and Eric’s fondness for Hoyleton’s work grew, as well.

    “Hearing stories from foster parents or kids in the residential program really made an impact on me.  Those stories really put things in perspective for my life. Kids are going through different trials that most, including me or our kids, don’t experience in everyday life.  Thankfully, Hoyleton’s been there for youth and families to count on for almost 125 years,” says Kelly.

    Eventually, Kelly joined the board of directors. Her motivation was to further her advocacy efforts for the youth in residential services with the goal of helping them create a quality of life she desired for her own children.

    Kelly still has the same motivation and calling today, but her focus has broadened.

    “Many don’t realize how much Hoyleton provides.  Programs like Puentes de Esperanza that serves our Hispanic community members, pregnancy and parenting teen classes, an integrated living program, and foster care – the list goes on – are all critical to our region.  Hoyleton plays a key role in delivering services and resources to many individuals and families.”

    When Kelly assumes the chair position, she’ll focus on sustaining and improving all the best-in-class programs and services Hoyleton offers. She will explore ways to expand services to meet more needs, as well. In all, she’s encouraged by the many transformational outcomes she’s witnessed in her many years on the board, but she knows there are many more people to serve.

    Kelly says, “When my term is complete in two years, Hoyleton will be beginning its next 125 years.  It will continue to be financially strong, growing steadily, building communities and serving youth and families with care. “

    Thank you, Kelly, for your dedication to Hoyleton’s work and to the over 3,000 youth and families Hoyleton serves every year.