The Advocate 

January 2017

January Calendar 

1 - Happy New Year! 
2 - Office Closed for New Year holiday 
16 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day (office closed)
18 - CRB

In-Service TBA 

Book of the Month 

Three Little Words is an International Bestseller and details the inspiring true story of the nearly ten years Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent in the foster care system. Despite all odds against her, Ashley triumphed over painful memories and real-life horrors to ultimately find her own voice.

Ashley lived in fourteen different foster homes, including two group homes. As her mother spiraled out of control, Ashley was left clinging to the unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system.

*Ashley Rhodes-Courter had a CASA who became one of the only stable adults in her life that took the time to honestly explain to her what was happening in her case. Her CASA also played a key role in finding her a forever family. This book gives insight into what a child in foster care may be feeling and thinking. It is also a wonderful example of the profound difference a CASA can make in the life of a child.
It is available to check out from the CASA office. -Kim 

CEU Opportunity 

The Dark Matter of Love is a documentary on the psychological aspects of growing up with and without parental love. It centers around the Diaz family, who chooses to adopt three orphans from Russia, and how their new children and biological daughter handle family together.

This film is available on Netflix. If you do not have a Netflix account your are welcome to come into the office to watch it. 

Follow this link for the CEU credit report form:

15 New Year's Resolutions That Are Much Better Than Working Out

These are way better than "going to the gym."

- Mandy Velez, a

1. Picking up the phone and calling a friend or family member instead of texting.

Calling on the phone seems to be a lost art, which is a shame, when you think about how often we communicate through texts, gchats and sometimes even Snapchats. Taking the time to hear a person's voice and catch up will not only give you a break from the digital world, but allow you to build your relationships without having to figure out their tone of voice or wait until the next family holiday to have a conversation. 

2. Do something different with the way you spend your money.

Now, it's common for people to want to save more in the new year, but there's lots of ways to go about that. For instance, instead of putting money away every month, consider low-risk investing. It's a great way to build up funds without heavy lifting. You could also pay down loans you might have, even if it's just a few dollars more. But if you're super tight on cash...

3. Cut out or limit one thing that sucks your money.

You should feel comfortable spending on things that you want, but in the new year, it's not a bad idea to put a limit on how much you're spending. If you're into Starbucks drinks for instance, limit yourself to one a week, or every two weeks. Vow to use the coffee machine at work more often to make up the difference. 

4. Focus on eating healthier foods, not depriving yourself of the bad ones.

The same goes for unhealthy foods. You don't have to go cold turkey, but set goals for yourself. And don't say "My resolution is to give up sugar," because that phrasing alone makes you feel deprived. Instead, think of healthier foods to add to your diet, so it feels like you're actually gaining something — and it won't be weight.

5. Volunteer, but be specific.

Volunteering more is a great resolution, because you're not only helping others, but your own self-confidence can grow, too. But don't limit yourself to volunteer work, in general. Pick an organization or sector that could use your help, like animal shelters or Habitat for Humanity. Getting specific will help you feel like you actually have to (and want) to follow through. 

6. Ask for help when you need it.

Whether that means in school, work or at home, make an effort to let others help you, and to reach out to them when you need help. Feeling stressed is overwhelming and can cause exhaustion and anxiety. If you don't get something in class, let your resolution be to see someone in the tutoring center. If you're going through a hard time, find a counselor to help you work through your feelings.

7. Make time to get back to your passions.

Get back to your roots, or what makes you happy, and find a way to foster that in your life. Take an acting or improv class if you love to perform. If you're unsure, check Groupon for deals and chose something that you find interesting. If you don't like it, try something else. 

8. Speak up at least once during meetings or in class.

"Being a better worker" or "trying harder" are valid resolutions in theory, but how exactly can you make that happen without becoming overwhelmed? Instead, get more specific and chose to do one thing that will make you a better worker or student. 

9. If you're trying out or applying for something, pick one thing to improve on.

Making your resolution "get into the school play" is awesome, but again, too broad. Pick one thing that will make you a better candidate and try to improve your skills. Whether that means taking the time to update your resume, create a website for yourself or practicing your interviewing skills with a friend, taking the time to do so will make for an easier time getting to where you want to go.

10. Say "yes" more.

Saying yes isn't just about always being available, but it's about putting yourself out there in moments when you're unsure of yourself, or afraid. Remembering to say "yes" to a friend who wants to have dinner with you (when you'd rather be watching Netflix) is tough. But pushing yourself to see people, or take on projects, etc., could make you happier in the long run.

11. Have designated "happy thoughts" to pick you up when you go to that "sad place."

We've all had those moments: we're sitting in bed, or alone, and boom, you think your life sucks. You get sad, a bit anxious, and you might even cry. And that's okay, but in the new year, don't let "that place" be the place you frequent. Instead, go Oprah on yourself and have a least one or two positive thoughts and things in your life to think about when you're down. Okay, your boss may be sucking the life from your soul, but remember, you have an amazing pet and at least one person to crack open a bottle of wine with. 

12. Break bad habits by picking an alternative.

Smoke? Trying vaping, instead. Drink too much? Try replacing whiskey on the rocks with vodka soda. Use Q-tips to clean your ears way too often? Limit yourself to once and a week. Slowly but surely, you'll wean yourself off of these habits, but the first step is getting away from them in some capacity to begin with.

13. Make a three-for-three promise.

So, we made that phrase up, but you'll only get so far if your resolution is to be more hygienic. Pick three things you want to add to your routine and stick with them. For instance, if you're cavity prone, vow to brush twice a day, floss and use mouthwash every night. 

14. Don't press snooze (at least not every day).

Getting better sleep is hard work. But not hitting snooze can be a good start. It's a simple, yet effective way to feel more well-rested. If you want to go a step further, try to set a bedtime, use a sleep app to know when to go to bed and wake up for optimal sleep and keep electronics away from your pillow.

15. Smile more.

Smiling can lift your mood, even if it's for no reason. This is a good resolution to make if you're goal is to become a happier person in general. As Psychology Today puts it, "each time you smile you throw a little feel good party in your brain." 

Cheers to that — and the new year!

Mom Who’s Fostered 70 Children Shares Powerful Post

- Caroline Bologna Parents Editor, The Huffington Post

After dropping off her foster child en route to his new home, Rachel Hillestad noticed he’d left his Cookie Monster toothbrush in the car. The mere sight caused her to burst into tears. 

In this moment, Hillestad posted a photo of the toothbrush, along with a powerful caption:

”I’m sitting here in a parking lot sobbing my guts out,” she wrote. “He was mine for two and a half weeks, but those days and nights saw him smile, sleep through the night instead of freezing awake in terror, swing for hours on the swings my kids take for granted. He called me Mama, and I told him every time I left that if I said I would come back, I would.”

Hillestad said that people often tell her, “I could never do foster care. I would get too attached.” But, she says, she does get attached, and that’s the way it should be.

“I wonder where they are now,” she said of her foster children. “They visit me in my dreams, and sometimes I wake up with a wet face. It hurts. Sometimes in those moments it hurts to breathe.”

There’s something more important at stake though, she added. “I’d rather these sweet babies know my love than never know it,” Hillestad said.

“There is absolutely no reason that an 8-year-old who watched his mother be murdered not know the love of a stranger,” she added. “It’s absolutely criminal that a 2-year-old sit in a social worker’s office for two days in dirty clothes because I’m afraid I’d get too attached. I got attached. Getting attached has been the greatest pleasure and honor of my entire life.” 

The mom’s post received nearly 75,00 likes. Hillestad, who lives outside Kansas City, Missouri, told The Huffington Post that she and her husband Scott have fostered 70 children over the past six years.

“Some were abused either physically or sexually, some neglected, some testing positive at birth for one or another illegal substance,” she said. “Some have been longer term placements, some have been respite placements, which is where another licensed foster parent can have the children for a few days so the main foster parents can have a break.”

“Foster care is very rewarding, but it is also tiring,” she added.

Hillestad and her husband initially became foster parents due to infertility issues, but their reasons changed over time. 

“It became a matter of, ‘How can we as a society, this society that is supposedly the richest and most prosperous nation in the world, allow this to happen to our children?” she explained. 

“How can we allow 3-year-olds to sit in county offices overnight while we watch Netflix after a ‘hard’ day?” the mom continued. “I think ‘hard’ is being beaten within an inch of your life. ‘Hard’ is wondering if you’re going to eat today. ‘Hard’ is not, ‘Oh, I have to go to the grocery store again because we’re out of milk.’”

Hillestad said that foster parents need flexibility and compassion. And kids like the foster son in her Facebook post often move to new homes for a variety of reasons. Sometimes relatives come forth who can take care of the child. Sometimes other foster homes that are better suited for child’s needs or able to accommodate larger sibling groups become available.

“In this situation, it was the best case scenario for him to move,” she explained.

But, she added, “There are a hundred thousand more just like him, kids who could better use that extra guest bedroom many Americans have than the once-a-year holiday visitor.”

Although the goodbyes can be painful, Hillestad ― who also has three kids of her own ― said she is committed to fostering more children. “I know there will be another hello, and another, and another,” she said. “I also know that some day, 30 years down the road, there will be a knock on my door, and the years and tears will melt away ― and I’ll see a face I’d recognize anywhere.”

Since her Facebook post went viral, Hillestad has received messages from former and current foster kids and foster parents. “It’s been this amazing gift to see this beautiful web of humanity, all stretched out before me and glistening with hope,” she said.

Ultimately, Hillestad hopes her post will be a call to action. “If you’re living and breathing, if you’re blessed to have a beating heart, get out there and make a difference,” she said. “Take that first step. Go to an informational meeting. You’ve heard the commercials: you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. It’s true. These kids are literally filling government offices and it’s our duty to respond.”

She added, “They need us. They need you.”

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CASA A Voice for Children, Inc. · Harvey County Court House · P.O. Box 687 · Newton, KS 67114 · USA

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