Recently I humbly accepted a friend's offer to read her memoir of a childhood in foster care. Though I have known her for years and knew many of the incidents in her foster care life, I was deeply reminded of the impact such childhood experiences have had on the many decisions and directions in the rest of her life. Her foster care experiences varied considerably from devestating to kindness. Devestating included humiliation, intimidation and sometimes brutal beatings. She was separated from siblings who were also in varied situations in their own foster care. She was full of questions that were never taken seriously and grew up trying desperately to understand the cause of all this chaos.
What effect can we expect from such extremes in the critical development of children into adults? You guessed it - when children are brutalized, terrorized, or constantly intimidated - they have a strong likelihood of growing up angry. For some of her brothers, very angry. Next month, April, is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to really reflect and take some action on how we, as a society, look at the miracle of childhood and how it affects our collective future. We want to prevent (costly) crime? Prevent child abuse.
When I first took the job in Child Abuse Prevention many years ago, the concept was mind boggling. I had to put a note in front of my desk - "How can we prevent child abuse?" - and made myself try to answer the question. Child abuse, child neglect, are often brought on by other painful social concerns such as substance abuse, which is often brought on by childhood damage to those magnificent little brains - it's a vicious circle. We have to look at the bigger picture of our society. And as witnessed by the excellent manuscript I just read, we have to stop complicating the issue by placing children from one harm to another. We can fix this. We have to.
You wonderful kinship caregivers and service providers may be interested in some of these good resources to help make the place a better one in which to grow up healthy.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. April 12 in Michigan is Prevention Awareness Day. www.childrenstrustfund.org
May 3 is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. Lots of activities check http://www.samhsa.gov/children/national.aspx
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is offering the Road to Recovery Program: Preventind and Early Interventionf or Substance Use and Mental Health Problems. Excellent presentations on helping teens.
Highly recommended websites on early intervention: http://timetoact.drugfree.org/?tr=y&auid=7875375
http://timetogethelp.drugfree.org/?tr=y&auid=7875376 (this one got a A+++ from Barb Schwartz, Relatives Raising Children Program, Illinois - thanks, Barb)
Relative Caregiving: what you need to know from the Michigan Department of Human Services available online at http://michigan.gov/documents/dhs/DHS-Pub-114_346655_7.pdf
That from Kinship Care Education Center of Michigan in their wonderful eKinnections newsletter, firstname.lastname@example.org
Also from eKinnections:
Michigan Association for Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Families (MAFAK) annual conference April 29-May 2 in Lansing. More info at www.mafak.msu.edu
Area Agency on Aging Association's annual conference May 25 and 26 in East Lansing on the challenges faced by kinship families and what AAA's can do to support kinship families in their communities. More info http://mi-seniors.net/annual_conference.html
Resources for public education on kinship care from Penn State University Extension:
http://www.extension.org/pages/Conducting_a_Kinship_Family_Retreat and http://www.extension.org/pages/Grandparents_Raising_Grandchildren_-_Doubly_Stressed_Triply_Blessed
Head Start in Mid-Michigan is starting a Proud Parents 6-week interactive learning experiences for couples on child raising issues in Lansing Michigan, April 11. For more info Sharon Rogers at 517-999-2730, ext. 114 or Derrick Gilliam, Fatherhood specialist, 517-999-2730.
Calendars fill up fast so you Florida folks may want to flip those pages and mark the calendar now for the annual excellent Mid-Florida conference from Kids Central Inc in Ocala for Kinship caregivers and service providers - September 30 - October 1. We will update you with more information in the summer, www.kidscentralinc.org .
Other conferences or resources in your area please contact us at email@example.com
And of course you can pick up A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children at www.chicagoroadpublish.com or through Amazon.com . Thank you to all who respond to this blog, www.kincare.blogspot.com If you check often and spread the word, the resources will be available to more and more families.
Be kind to each other.