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Siblings Taking a Picture
The Proclamation Signing for National Foster Care Month
May 7th at 9:30am
Montpelier, VT at the State Capitol

Governor Shumlin will sign the Proclamation

recognizing that May is National Foster Care Month.

Please join us after the signing for refreshments.

children[1]

In Vermont and beyond, more and more people are raising the children of relatives. Vermont Kin as Parents (VKAP) is an organization here in Vermont that supports these caregivers in numerous ways. VKAP is currently piloting a Kinship Navigator position in Franklin and Grand Isle counties. Today we learn more about this work from Brenda Hamlin, VKAP’s Kinship Navigator.
Thanks so much for talking with us, Brenda. Tell us, what does VKAP do?
VKAP helps Grandparents and other relatives navigate through court systems, Reach-up programs and sometimes just the friendly ear. We let everyone know about Support Groups and how important they are. We have a conference in Sept. in which caregivers attend for free. We collaborate with many area partners is helping support kin caregivers in their daily struggles.

10646804_10205825740827279_7711607593750157582_nTell us about your role as a Kinship Navigator.
Our pilot program of kinship navigator is to help relatives in Franklin and Grand Isle counties who are caring for the relatives children. I have been involved with the Community Partners program that meets monthly at NCSS. Speaking to other mental health agencies as well as just kinship caregivers.

What kinds of requests do you receive from kin caregivers?
Most of our kin caregivers would just like to know where they could get help with either financial or even school IEP”S. I also help caregivers navigate with DCF and the policies. I have just been a listening ear as well. Another requests is,” how do I get custody of my grandchild?” I help them to get through the courts.

Can you support families outside of Franklin and Grand Isles counties?
Yes, VKAP is state wide and supports everyone.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this work?
Letting caregivers know they aren’t alone.

What are your hopes for the position in the future?
I would hope that there would be a kin navigator in nearly every county.

What you most like kinship caregivers to know?
I would like everyone to know they aren’t alone. There are times when they will feel secluded. Joining a “Support Group” is key.  Here’s contact information for the Support Groups currently happening around the state:  Current Kinship Support Groups in Vermont

In what ways can friends and community members support kinship caregivers?
Some caregivers feel ashamed, don’t look at caregivers as this is their mistake. Their child is fighting a battle be it substance abuse or mental health issues. Always be mindful of the caregivers feelings too.

Are there ways that people can advocate to get more kinship navigator positions or other supports for kinship caregivers around the state?
Yes, Legislate for Kin Navigator funds, and encourage others to talk with senators and people in congress to encourage this.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I would like to let readers know they aren’t alone. We have many families who feel secluded and by joining support groups or just calling VKAP we could put you in touch with a support group. You can contact VKAP at (802) 871-5104 or (802) 871-5109. My email is: brendah.kin@comcast.net, and our website is: http://vermontkinasparents.org/.

Also, join us for our Annual Conference, which will take place September 16, 2015 in South Burlington. The conference is free for caregivers, and it is always a great opportunity to meet others and learn about helpful resources. Check back on our website, or give us a call for more details, as the date approaches.

Thanks for the wonderful work you and VKAP are doing, Brenda!

road_to_your_hearthttps490.beta.photobucket.comusergardenofevilvoltairemediaMy%20Artworkroad_to_your_heart.jpg.html

I bet that many of our readers can relate to this article on adoption from Renae Regehr on xojane.com:

These Are the Three Worst Comments Adoptive Parents Hate to Hear, So Please Take Note

Adoptive parents have real love, with their real children, and are real families. End of discussion.

+++++++++++++++++

I am at the grocery check out line with my four-year-old son, and the cashier says:

“Your son is so beautiful.”

“Thank you, we think so too,” I reply as I note her observing my blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin.

She inquires, “Is your husband dark-skinned?”

“No, he isn’t.”

“Oh, well is he from Latin America?”

“No he isn’t.”

“Oh,” the cashier replies beginning to look puzzled but now wants to solve this mystery. “Well, your son has such beautiful dark features.”

“Thank you, we think he is so handsome too.”

She probes some more.

“That is so interesting, you and your husband are fair-skinned, but your son has dark features.”

The running commentary in my head says, “Thank you, Sherlock, for pointing out the obvious to me. I had never noticed that before.”

But the words that come from my mouth say instead, “I know, it is because our son is adopted.”

“Oh, he is adopted. That is so interesting . . .”

Now, the next few comments in the conversation I know are well-meaning, but please hear me out because they can really cause my heart rate to increase, breath to shorten and blood pressure to rise.

However, let’s first talk about adoption. Adoption is beautiful and not that rare of an occurrence. Chances are likely that you know someone adopted, have met adoptive parents or perhaps have even mulled over the idea of adopting. Regardless of adoption or through biological birth, like any regular parent I love my four-year-old son. He means the world to me. Yes, our son is adopted, and just like your story, our family story is incredibly special, vulnerable, and personal.

But that is just the point; our family story is our special story about how we have a family, just like yours is yours. However, in my experience, when people hear the word adoption it seems to give them this idea that they can, tact aside, ask many personal questions about life, our son, and the context that he was adopted from.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me save you the grief or embarrassment of saying the following three comments that inevitably always arise in a conversation.

1. “You are so amazing for adopting — I couldn’t do what you did.”

This comment gets me every time! First, would you ever say that to a new mother who just gave birth to a child? “You are so amazing for giving birth.” No, never! In fact, that would sound absolutely ridiculous if such comments were made.

Secondly, and more importantly, these comments are utterly false because every child deserves a home. Life is not about me, and I am not a saint; it is my son’s and every child’s right that is born on this earth to have parent(s) that deeply love and value them.

The “I couldn’t do what you did” part just makes you sound like you haven’t fully thought that sentence through because, yes, you could adopt. Regardless, every child deserves a home. Adoptive parents are parents just by a different means. But that is all. They are parents, not saints.

2. “Are you going to have any of your own real children?”

Really?! You have got to be joking. I did not know that having a child come from my uterus was the only criteria for some relationship to be considered real! Think about this: Is the love to your spouse or partner real? Do you question that bond of love and ask others if their bond is real? My son is my own real child! It does not matter to me as to whether my son comes from my own actual body because I can 100 percent confidently tell you he feels like he is a part of me.

On a different note, when you find out my son is adopted and ask me this question, coupled with the fact that you don’t even know me, this can be highly offensive. Rather, it would be much more appreciated if you asked, “How many more children will you have?”

3. “Do they know who their real family is?”

It is 3:30 a.m. and our son has just woken up to crawl into our bed because he is scared. Sleepily I say to him, “Hold on sweetie, let’s let Daddy sleep. I will come lay beside you.”

(Having three in a queen-size bed inevitably means one of us isn’t going to sleep that night.)

He slumps down back to his bed, which happens to be right beside our bed, but on the way he hits his head on the night-time dresser. Startled by his cry of pain, I jump out of bed as fast as lightning, pick him up and start consoling and rocking him. My husband is awakened by the commotion and jumps out of bed to get a cloth for the tiny cut on his face.

In light of the story, let’s get back to the question of knowing who our son’s “real” family is. I think it is safe to say that teaching our son the difference between right and wrong, teaching him how to communicate and respect others, showing him how to ride a bike, hold a spoon, wipe his bum, and, most importantly, giving him unconditional love and support are the requirements for being a real family. So to answer your question, yes our son knows exactly who his real family is.

http://www.xojane.com/issues/the-three-worst-comments-adoptive-parents-hate-to-hear-so-please-take-note?upw

celebrateThis is an opportunity to celebrate the many permanent families that have been created through adoption.  It’s also a time to recognize the complex emotions that those involved with adoption may experience.

The Vermont Adoption Consortium has put together a wonderful newsletter that includes stories about adoption, a calendar of ideas for how to spread the word about adoption this month, and opportunities for adoptive families to celebrate and share their stories.  See the newsletter here.

For information on national adoption-related advocacy and other items of interest, check out the links, “National Adoption Month” and “Child Welfare Information Gateway” to the right of this post, under the heading, “Kinship, Foster, and Adoptive Websites.”

If adoption has touched your life, share with us on this blog, what it means to you.

thank you

May is National Foster Care Month.

If you are a foster parent, take some time to think about the good results of your hard work and caring.  It is not everyone who can do what you do.  Your concern, nurturing, advocacy, and willingness to connect are helping to transform lives in positive ways you may not even yet recognize.

If you know foster parents, please take the time to thank them for their hard work.  You might also ask how you can support their efforts.  Sometimes a listening ear, help with the laundry, or an invitation to dinner can really give someone renewed energy.

To read real-life stories of the positive ways foster parents are changing lives, as well as to explore resources and discover ways to promote fostering, please click here to visit the childwelfare.gov site.

Child's Drawing of Family

The 27th Annual VFAFA conference takes place Friday, March 21st – Sunday, March 23rd at the Sheraton in South Burlington.

This year’s Institute speaker is Charlie Applestein, a prominent youth care specialist, who wrote No Such Thing as a Bad Kid.  The conference key note speaker is Judge Britt Hammond, a recipient of the 2012 Georgia County Welfare Association’s “Friend of Children Award” and the 2012 American Public Health Services Association’s “Mitchell Wendell Jurist Award” for significant contribution to the field of children’s law.  The conference will close with Steve Lulek who has dedicated his life to introducing adolescents and adults to the joys of being in the wilderness.

Throughout the conference you will have amazing opportunities to

  • connect with wonderful people who can relate to your experience in kinship, fostering, and adoption;
  • attend workshops that will give you insights, as well as hands-on skills you can use immediately;
  • participate in a silent auction with beautiful and useful items;
  • buy books that will enhance your experience;
  • and relax and enjoy a beautiful weekend.

For more information and to register, see the VFAFA website:  http://vfafa.org/events.htm.

In cYoung boy outsidease you haven’t noticed, it’s the middle of winter and the skies can seem rather dreary.  This is when many of us start dreaming of sunnier days.  Can’t you just picture your kids splashing in the lake and running the bases?  This year, they could be doing that and more at Camp ForMe, a day camp especially designed for Vermont’s adopted children and teens.

Bill Drislane is a board member of Camp ForMe, and he’s offered to share some highlights of the program with us

Thanks for talking with us, Bill.  Can you start by telling us what can families expect from this experience?  Time and again we hear from parents that their child was thrilled and excited by camp, and felt comfortable, trusted and safe being there.  That is the message we hear more than any other.  The campers can expect a wide range of activities, much like other summer camps:  field games, art, basketball, swim trips, capture-the-flag, singing, hikes, nature studies, archery, yoga and much, much more. 

How is Camp For Me different from other camps?  Camp ForMe is for kids who have been adopted into their families.  That’s the difference.  We do not make more of the adoption issue than to extend the invitation to come to camp, and once the children and teens arrive the subject of adoption is not featured in the camp activities.  The campers frequently talk about it among themselves, but just as often do not.  The rest of the year the campers live in a world of others who do not share the experience of adoption, but for the week at Camp ForMe, each of those kids is in an extended family of kids just like themselves.  It’s a simple distinction from other camps, but it makes a world of difference.

Some kids take to camp like ducks to water, but some struggle, especially at first.  What supports does the Camp have in place for kids who need extra encouragment?  The supports are in the moment to moment programs and responses of the camp staff.  Our camp director Amy Chambers of Stowe, Vermont is an experienced director of programs for children, including camp, school and environmental programs, and she has developed a counselor staff that is trained and responsive to the problems and difficulties that are common to camp, particularly the behaviors of children who have been adopted. We have staff members that have primary responsibility for a small group, staff that are focused on a particular activity, and others who are available to float among groups and activities to support the kids that need help.

Have you seen kids come back to Camp for Me year after year?  If so, what do you think brings them back?  We even have counselors who have been coming to camp since they were first graders!  The chance to be with other adopted kids is much of what draws the campers back.  But we also like to think we’re doing a great job running a summer camp!

I see that there’s a Teen Leadership program associated with this Camp.  Tell us about that.  We present programs and activities that are geared toward teens, some for the younger teens, and other programs for those in high school.  For those who are interested, Camp ForMe has traditionally given responsibilities to teens, bringing them into positions that help run camp, with the opportunity to learn life and leadership skills.  The 2014 teen program is shaping up to be the best year yet!

What’s the cost of the camp?  $200.00 per week.

What else would you like families to know?  Camp 2014 will be held at the campus of Stowe High School, in two one-week sessions the weeks of July 7th and July 14th.  Kids can sign up for either or both weeks.   Hours are 9:00 – 4:00.  Campers bring snacks and lunch.  Camp bus service is available from South Burlington with stops in Williston and Waterbury.  Friday is Family Day, with a picnic for all at noon, with ceremonies, presentations and an early dismissal.

Where can families learn more about Camp for Me?  Visit our website, Camp4me.org.  Or call our camp telephone number, and our director will be happy to talk to you:  (802) 338-7382.

Bill, thanks for sharing this great opportunity with us!

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