I am very excited to have started as the new Program Assistant at CASA for the 9th district! Originally from Ohio, I relocated just over a year ago to work at the International Rescue Committee in Wichita, so Kansas is still rather new to me. It has been a desire of mine to work at CASA for some time, so I am thrilled to be here. Child Advocacy is very important to me and I so look forward to working with you and getting to know each of you!
Book of the Month
I Speak for This Child is authored by Gay Courter, the adoptive mother of Ashley Rhodes-Courter (author of Three Little Words and Three More Words). This book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize
This is a unique book in that it is written from the perspective of a CASA who ultimately adopted a child from the foster care system. Additionally, her adopted child then wrote about her experience. Thus, we are given an incredible special full-circle perspective in a way that is so rare in this work.
A copy of this book is available to borrow from the CASA office.
Amazon Kindle offers a free 53-page preview of the first chapter here.
Also, in 2001, Gay Courter wrote an update about the outcomes of the cases covered in the book and where those CASA children are now. You can read that supplement on her author website here.
CEU Opportunity: TED Talk
In this talk, Nelson Hincapie looks at his own broken childhood and how it has led him to advocate for children as an adult. (click on the image to the right to access the talk)
"From [the children], I have learned that there is a tremendous amount of power in truth; and when they share their stories, they've made peace with their past."
Nelson Hincapie has been an advocate for children for more than 15 years. He has focused on working with hundreds of children in foster care and especially those who are aging out of the system, giving him a unique perspective and understanding of many of the issues kids in foster care face. Currently, he mentors adolescents who have aged out of foster care and are making the transition to independent living. Hincapie joined Voices For Children Foundation as president & CEO in May of 2009. He began his career as part of the team that led the successful statewide campaign for Universal Pre-Kindergarten.
As the world springs to life around you, remember to care for yourself
and refresh your life.
1.Let go of the guilt of taking time for yourself.
It is not selfish to care for yourself - it is needed! Your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing is so important, remember to care for these as you care for others in your life!
2.Find peace in the ordinary
We don't always have time to take a day, or even a few hours, to treat ourselves. So make the most of the moments we do have. Light a candle while getting ready for the day and breathe in air that brings a little extra joy to your day. Spend a few more minutes to relish the warmth from your cup of tea/coffee. Find a new plant or flowers to refresh a space where you spend much of your time. Sometimes the best self-care is just in gaining a new perspective and redirecting our focus!
When we get busy/tired/frazzled, we often wind up even faster to catapult ourselves at whatever lies ahead. Sometimes this works, and sometimes we teeter like a top until all balance is lost (and I may be speaking from experience here). So take time, especially first thing in the morning. Positive Psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Boardman related in this way, "In the morning I deliberately walk slower than my usual frantic pace, put my phone away, and take time to look around". Absorb the fresh world in the morning and slow your heart rate and thoughts; I promise they will pick back up to lightspeed soon enough.
4. Be Selective
Be as particular as a hummingbird finding a flower on what you focus your energy. Not everything needs to be beyond perfection at every moment. Obviously there are responsibilities that must be upheld, but it is also fine to be human. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed because you haven't had time to organize your living space, so pick a section to make perfect and delight in that space until you have time to take care of the rest. "To err is human; to forgive, divine" - remember to be forgiving with yourself!
5. Fill your life with color and flavor
Life is so full of richness - rich colors, rich textures, rich flavors. Surround yourself with colors that liven you, cook or eat with your favorite spices. Perhaps try a new color or spice in your life and find a new part of yourself.
Spend time with someone who makes you genuinely laugh! Watch a movie that you know will bring you some much needed levity. There is a unique kind of healing to be found in the hilarity and frivolity.
7. Recall your accomplishments
Especially in this work, there are long hours and successes are often hard-won. So as you list the things that you have yet "to do", create a list of what you have done. The successful cases, the first smile from your CASA child, the first step towards healing and trust. Have a place to list those out and look at them when you need that flicker of hope and the memory of that smile. The road is long, but look what you have already done!
8. Have a support system
You are an already an amazing support for so many people, but be sure to have those around you who can support you too! Reach out to your network when you are in need. Perhaps inform others of what self-care looks like for you so that they know what you need and when you are in need! And we are here as part of your support system too!
9. Active Listen to Yourself!
While you are caring for others, you practice Active Listening as you restate what someone has shared with you to speak to what they are telling you about their feelings. Do this for yourself. Craft a phrase that encompasses the range of what you are feeling and speak it aloud. This will tangibly connect you to your emotions. As Toni Bernhard, J.D. articulated, "Crafting phrases that speak directly to what I'm feeling connects me with my own heart. The result is that I feel deeply cared for." Feeling deeply cared for is the root of self-care, so listen to yourself and care for you.
By Michael Piraino, Former CEO of the National CASA Association
Children who have been abused or neglected have typically had few, if any, trustworthy adults in their lives. Then they enter a child protection system that is challenged to provide the kinds of childhood experiences that are essential to healthy child development. Without smart, evidence-based interventions, it is no surprise that these children may lack confidence in their ability to succeed. The result is huge wasted potential, at a huge cost to the public.
These foster youth are probably more susceptible to the damaging effects of adverse childhood experiences because they have often experienced more of them, and more of them associated with immediate family connections. There is strong evidence that “bad events have stronger and more lasting consequences than comparable good events. Close relationships are more deeply and conclusively affected by destructive actions than by constructive ones.”
Research on trauma-informed care tells us the consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including lack of goals, poor problem solving, a shortened sense of the future and school failure in teen years. Researchers are also increasingly aware of the potential negative and positive impacts of different mindsets.
The nature of foster care in the United States creates at least two mindsets that are particularly damaging to foster children. These do not arise from anything inherent in the children, but from their experiences within the system, and from adult perceptions, that focus on failure.
The “Nothing But A Paycheck” Mindset
There is a public mindset that foster parents are in it only for the money. Because most people have no direct experiences with foster care systems, this mindset persists even when it is not the reality. Some studies have found that the primary motivations for becoming a foster parent often have to do with caring, community service, and helping children, although financial support may be an additional consideration. And in most states, basic foster care rates are less than the estimated cost of caring for a child — in several states, less than half the cost. So if foster parenting pays, it doesn’t pay very well.
When it comes to financial motivations for caring for foster children, either the reality or the perception can create a mindset that can be damaging to the children. In her testimony to the US House of Representatives, Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew described how the “nothing but a paycheck” theory leads young people to devalue themselves, making them more vulnerable to traffickers.
The Trashbag Mindset
There is another foster care experience that seems particularly ubiquitous and equally disturbing: putting all of a kid’s belongings in a trash bag when they have to move from one home to another. It’s bad enough that foster kids have to move repeatedly. Foster youth move an average of 2.8 times during each stay in foster care. In 2012, states met the federal standard for placement stability for children in foster care over 24 months only 35 percent the time. Kids can easily get the message that they do not deserve a permanent home and they are no more valuable than rubbish.
Improving children’s lives by changing mindsets
So our foster youth have experienced severely adverse childhood experiences that are further reinforced by the ways they experience foster care. Fortunately, new research can help us overcome these difficult circumstances. Two key strategies are to reduce the adverse childhood experiences and strengthen relationships that protect children from the effects of stress. Among key protective factors are positive role models and consistent, stable and appropriate relationships with adults. In particular, having a relationship with a caring adult outside the family has a meaningful impact on an at-risk child’s well-being. These relationships can help children learn to stay calm, be interested in learning, care about school, get more exercise, join after school activities, and avoid bullying.
One of the most promising ways that consistent, caring adults can help foster youth is by helping them get out of the hopeless mindset and into a success mindset. At the recent HOPE Global Forum, I was struck by a comment by Ricardo Semler, Chairman and Non Executive Partner of Semco Partners: “without hope, there is very little statistical chance life will ever work out.”
In my work with CASA and guardian ad litem volunteers over the last 21 years, I have frequently seen the corollary to Semler’s comment: a hopeful, success-oriented mindset is a key ingredient in overcoming a history of serious maltreatment. Research over at least a decade has shown just how important this is. Carol Dweck has written about the key differences between “fixed” mindsets—in which failure becomes permanent trauma—and “growth” mindsets, which accept failures as challenges to be overcome. The approach Dweck and others suggest is not just simply telling kids to be hopeful. There are evidence-based ways to help children develop a growth mindset. The evidence of this approach’s impact on educational success is particularly encouraging.
Conversations with young people served by CASA volunteers confirm to me that for decades, this approach has been an inherent part of the way our volunteers work. Themes like consistency, support, caring listening, guiding—these are what the young people think were the most impactful part of the volunteers’ work. Clearly, while the court work is important, it is the relationship and its positive and consistent motivation that means the most to the children.
Within the CASA for Children network, we have been specifically applying research about mindset and positive self-identity in our work with older youth for several years. Because CASA volunteers are often the most trusted and consistently present adult in a foster child’s life, they are in an ideal position to apply the evidence-based mindset approaches. The particular research we have used had shown positive and sustained impacts on at risk youth in academic initiative, test scores, grades, depression, school behavior and absences. Applying this evidence-based approach to foster youth, we believe we can help them rise above the negative messages given by the system, help them understand they can be successful, while recognizing that they will face challenges and can learn to deal with them.
One of the great strengths of this approach is that it does not foster further dependency. In her testimony to Congress, T. Ortiz Walker Pettigrew described how foster care often “normalizes the idea to youth that other people are supposed to control their lives and circumstances.” The mindset and “possible selves” research counteracts this by fostering protective factors and a more positive identity in the young people themselves.
Every child under the care and protection of the state due to abuse or neglect deserves to have a caring adult whose commitment is to say “I am for the child®“. An adult whose very presence will convince a child that he or she is no trashbag kid, no paycheck kid. I invite you to be part of this movement. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-piraino/no-more-trashbag-kids_b_6656966.html