foster care

Monument Academy: Coming in 2015

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We have been learning more about Monument Academy for almost a year now and are so excited for it to open its doors Washington, DC. Monument is building an environment that will focus on all aspects of a child’s life, education, and well-being. Take a second to learn more about their vision and how you can be involved, as a volunteer or employee! -DC127

Monument Academy is embarking on an imperative mission to create a public, tuition-free, weekday boarding school for youth who are or may be in contact with the foster care system and we are doing it right here in Washington, DC. There is no doubt this journey will be challenging. We embrace this knowing the significance of the need and the impact our school will have on the lives of the children and families we will serve.

Right now, young adults who age out of the foster care system are at a significantly higher risk for homelessness, unemployment, illness, incarceration, welfare dependency, and sexual and physical victimization than their peers. Although youth in foster care report having similar life aspirations as their peers, their educational needs often go unmet and these dreams are not realized. In fact, these young adults are more than twice as likely as their peers to never attain a high school diploma or equivalency degree. Monument Academy will change this reality for youth in DC.

In addition to an unparalleled, personalized educational experience, we will ensure our students receive an excellent education in social and emotional well-being and that they are provided with an opportunity to learn, practice, and master independent living skills such as securing housing, cooking and nutrition, and financial literacy. Each of our students will develop a positive relationship with at least one adult with whom they plan goals and reflect on progress. Our hope is that Monument Academy students will engage in rich experiences such as summer camps, internships, wilderness trips, and international travel to supplement their academic career and prepare them for life in college, a career of their choice, and for independence and participation in the larger community as an adult.

Monument Academy Public Charter School is very excited to be developing a relationship with DC127. We are impressed by your mission and the work you do. We see the intersections in our work and the possibilities that could come from our collaboration.

Although we have been in the research and development process for quite sometime, we are now in a rapid sprint toward our grand opening. We will open our doors in July of 2015 for our staff and will welcome our first class of 40 fifth graders in August. Our plan is to build the student body by adding one grade level per year through to twelfth grade. At capacity, we will be able to serve and make a difference in the lives of 320 Washington, DC youth each year.

We hope and anticipate that we can work collaboratively with DC 127 as we build our staff and our support systems for students. Once we are open, there will be numerous opportunities to come interact with the students and share in their experiences. Over the next 6 months, here are three ways that we would love to have you get involved with Monument Academy:

  • Apply to work: We have openings for teachers, social workers, administrative and operations staff and houseparents. Visit our website for the full job descriptions: www.monumentacademy.org.
  • Volunteer: We will have opportunities that range from administrative tasks to student and family outreach to helping prepare the classrooms and residences for our students.
  • Safe Families for Children: Our school is a weekday boarding school but we anticipate that some children may experience an unexpected disruption in their home life. We have been speaking with DC127 about receiving support for weekend stays for our children should the need arise.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities or want to learn more about Monument Academy, please visit our website at www.monumentacademy.org and feel free to contact us at info@monumentacademydc.org. You can also see our flyers describing our school and work opportunities here: Information for Families, Monument Academy BrochureEmployment Opportunities.

One City. One Hope: Who is the Mother to the Motherless?

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On November 7th, we hosted a night that brought 15 churches and 100 people together to pray for and unite on behalf of the kids in DC’s foster care system and those at risk of entering.

That’s the meat and potatoes. But as we all know, the details never do it justice. For me, November 7th was a reflection of the heart of DC127. People from churches all of over the city came together because of their love for Christ and their commitment to the children of DC. And that’s kind of beautiful.DC127-0013

If you weren’t able to make it, we’ve uploaded the video of our main speaker, Robert Gelinas, below (and it’s posted here).

The whole thing was quite powerful, but there was one question in particular that Robert posed that struck me. He said that if we are the Bride of Christ, and if God is the Father to the fatherless, then who is the mother to the motherless?

I hadn’t thought of the church in this sense before. I’ve prayed over and over that as the Father to the fatherless, God would move in Washington, DC on behalf of the children without homes. I’ve prayed that as the Father to the fatherless, God speak to each child so they knew they weren’t alone. And I have prayed that the Church in DC would reflect this trait of Christ and take up the reputation of caring for the orphan that the Church has heDC127-0056ld since its founding, but understanding the Church as the mother to the motherless gave a name, role, and new light to our responsibility as Christ’s Bride, Body, and People.

Our goal is to see Washington, DC be a city where every child has a home and families get the support they need, but there are many ways we could do this without taking the time to create a network of churches. There are many wonderful initiatives in our city, but it would be a sin if the foster care wait list was reversed and the church wasn’t part of that success. Inherent to this vision of a city that cares for its children is the leadership of the church in DC ensuring the success of each child.

There are about fifty other points in Robert’s talk that made me stop and think, so I’ll just let you watch the video instead of parsing them all out here. The last point, for me, is if God is the father to the fatherless and if that does make us the mother to the motherless, then that truth eradicates any doubt that God is with us, strengthening us, and moving us forward.

-Chelsea, Director

P.S. If you want to see more photos from One City. One Hope, click here. And we’d like to thank Andrea and Renata for capturing the evening through pictures, and Nathan Cronk, Raphael Derungs, and InterMotion Media for recording the evening and creating the video below. And if you want to hear more from Robert, check out his new podcast.

One City. One Hope. – Robert Gelinas 3 from DC127 on Vimeo.

The Church and Reunification in Foster Care

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Today we’re featuring the Christian Alliance for Orphan’s webinar: The Church as a Partner in Biological Family Reunification in Foster Care.

Reunification, when a child is able to return to their family after spending time in foster care, is a beautiful thing and the ultimate purpose of foster care. We believe that as the Church, we’re called to restore families and support all families. The webinar below is a great resource to learn more about how your church can support and reunify families.

If you’re interested in mobilizing your church around reunification, send us an email at info@dc127.org. We would love to help you launch!

The Church as a Partner in Biological Family Reunification in Foster Care from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Our Orphan Sunday Prayer

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Blog-ButtonAs we work to recruit churches to our city-wide prayer gathering, One City. One Hope on November 7th, we’re calling on all churches to join churches across the globe in observing Orphan Sunday.

We’re asking all churches to join us in this prayer. As a collective Body across the city praying this prayer together, we’re engaging in Orphan Sunday alongside churches around the world.

You can print out the PDF version here: Orphan Sunday Prayer

You can also use the text version of the prayer below:

A prayer for Orphan Sunday

On this Orphan Sunday, we join with your people across our city, country and world to pray for children. We know that love for these precious children begins not with us, but with you. You pursued us when we were wayward and alone. You adopted us as your children. You invite us to address you as Abba and to live as your sons and daughters. Truly, we love because you first loved us.

You tell us also that you are near to the downtrodden and destitute. Your heart aches for children that face the world alone. You champion the cause of those who have no one else to take their side. And you call us to do the same.

So we pray that you would rouse us to share your heart. We ask that you would stir your people to passion and vision and action on behalf of children that have no family, and those in families in crisis.

We lift up to you the millions of children in the world who have lost their parents to disease, to war, to addiction, to poverty, to abandonment. As you promise to do, place the lonely in families. Be their defender, their provider, their hope and peace. Help us to do the same.

We pray also for the 400,000 children in our foster system in America, and the 1,200 children in Washington, DC. So often, they are bounced from home to home, knowing little love, consistency or true nurture. Please be their love, their consistency, their nurture. Help us to do the same.

And we pray for children at-risk of being removed from their families. Support these parents with your love, your grace, and your patience. Teach us to open our communities, welcoming families in distress and strengthening them as a unit.

We confess that we have often lived with little regard for these precious lives. Please forgive us. Lead us to take up their cause, not in guilt or obligation, but as a joyful response to your great love for us.

As we do, we pray that you would use our humble response to transform. To transform the lives of countless children both physically and spiritually. To transform us as we encounter you in them. To transform your Church as we lift our eyes beyond our own comfort and self-focused religion to live out the painful beauty of the Gospel. And finally, to transform a watching world as it catches glimpses of your love made visible through the actions of your people.

We commit all this to you, the One who is a father and mother to all, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Foster care initiative to launch in New York

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Mark Morales, Children’s Ministry Director at Full Gospel Christian Center in Suffolk (Long Island), New York, is leading the newest 1.27. Mark and his wife, Linda are adoptive parents and recently received approval from Full Gospel for the launch. Today, we’re excited to talk with Mark about the initiative.

What inspired you to launch a foster care initiative in New York?
I have always had a heart for kids and have been involved in children’s ministry in some capacity for almost 20 years. My heart’s desire has always been to help children to reach their potential in God. In 2006 while living in Texas, [my wife, Linda, and I] went through the process to become foster parents and then, through divine intervention, we were chosen to adopt a 2-year-old boy who was in Texas Child Protective Services. He became our third and youngest child and has changed our lives. During that time I felt that, while it is incredible to adopt a child from another country, we can’t forget the children in our own backyard that need families. Eight years later I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic to build a house and minister to kids. I left there feeling that I did a wonderful thing, but again I wondered why I needed to go to another country to minster to children when so many kids in my city needed help. It was then that I started researching how we could help New York kids in distress. Through that research we founded Project 1.27 and I knew that we were called by God to start a ministry to reach the children of the Big Apple in foster care.

What will the launch entail?
Our launch is going to be November 2, Orphan Sunday. We plan to roll this out to our church family. Our pastor has sent letters to area pastors to let them know what we are doing. We hope to have a guest speaker that day, and we have partnered with a foster agency, an adoption agency, a mentoring ministry, and The Long Island Heart Gallery with the expectation that they will all be with us that day for our launch with tables set up in our lobby to answer any questions and to show their support of our ministry.

What ideas, if any, will you adopt from your predecessors, like CO’s Project 127?
We have adopted many ideas from Project 1.27. The very foundation of what I would like to see happen in my state at its core is the same as Project 1.27: “A Family for Every Child”. Our Mission Statement is similar: “To Inspire, Recruit and Support Churches and Families to Foster and Adopt Children in their own backyard.” Also like Project 1.27, we hope to have collaborative efforts with area churches.

What new ideas do you hope to implement with New York 1.27?
We will come alongside people who are already doing great things for kids, such as case workers and CASAs, and show our support through prayer and gifts of appreciation during Christmas time. They need to know that what they do for kids is incredible. We have also networked with some group homes in our area and will have the children from these homes come to our church events, such as Harvest party, Christmas party, and Easter celebrations.

How can we be praying for your team, specifically?
I know that this sounds cliché, but I feel we need prayer for wisdom, wisdom to know the steps we need to take and who we need to align with. We need prayer to have churches catch the vision. We also need prayer for funding.

Thanks, Mark! Please join DC127 in praying for this new sister initiative!

Book Review: Ready or Not

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Are you considering becoming an adoptive or foster parent? If so, pick up this book. Over the course of 30 days, Pam Parish, herself a foster parent, will lead you through 30 themes relevant to adoptive or foster parenting. Each chapter will guide you as you think about pursuing foster care or adoption, asking you to consider many aspects of the journey, pointing you to relevant verses in the Bible, asking hard questions, and giving you space to write down your thoughts and feelings. Throughout this devotional, Pam shares from her own experience, encourages you to reflect on your reasons for embarking on this adventure, and makes sure your eyes are wide open before you do so.

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A few highlights:

On day one, Pam points out the Biblical mandate to care for the orphan and the fatherless, but notes that not every Christian’s call is the same in that regard. She writes, “It’s clear that God’s will is for all followers of Christ to take the gospel to the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s His will for everyone to pastor a church. In the same way, it’s God’s will that we care for the orphans, but that doesn’t mean every family is called to adopt. Too often, families confuse God’s whisper to get involved in the cause of orphans as a directive to add an orphaned child to their family. That can lead to heartbreak for even the most well-intentioned family.” You need to be sure of your calling before adding to your family in this way because you will return to the certainty of that calling in the more difficult moments.

Day 11 talks about adoption as legal and permanent. And foster care may not be permanent, but it is also a commitment. She writes, “When a child is placed in your home, you’ve committed to protect them, love them, and provide for them until the time comes for them to return to their family or enter permanency in another way.” Even when it’s really really hard, as a foster parent, you’ve committed to caring for this child. If things aren’t working out, you can’t just send them back. Days when you want to, you’ll need to return to what you know, that you were called to this. “This process isn’t about finding the right child to meet your needs; it’s about being the right parent to meet theirs.”

The point of foster care and adoption is to provide a loving environment for a child whose birth family is unable to. Ultimately, you want the child to adapt and grow in your family. But to do that, she needs to be able to trust you completely. The theme for day 14 is Trustworthy, and it warns you about how children discover whether you are a trustworthy person: they test you. Again and again. They act out. They shut down. They do all kinds of things to find out if there’s anything that will make you give up—and prove yourself untrustworthy in your promise to care for them. You must remain true to your calling to stand by these children and be unshakeable—no matter what they throw at you.

This 30-day journey will bring ideas and concepts to your attention that you might never have considered. It will be an invaluable tool for helping you determine if adoption or fostering is for you and preparing you for some of what lies ahead if you decide it is.

 

Foster care in the news: CASA edition

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  1. Children’s voices heard through CASA volunteers. Are you passionate about what you do? Are you unafraid to ruffle feathers to defend what you believe? Do you voluntarily invest your time, energy and countless car miles in pursuit of justice?
    CASA of Central Virginia volunteer Sunny Simone’s answers would be, yes, yes and I do.
  2. CASA of Union County is changing lives, one child at a time. CASA volunteers unselfishly dedicate their time, energy and, most important, their heart, to Union County’s abused and neglected children currently in foster care. Each of these 405 children deserves to have their voices heard. CASAs, who work with only the child’s best interests in mind, advocate on behalf of each child — whether it be educational, medical, emotional or beyond
  3. First CASA Black Tie affair comes to Richmond. When abused or neglected children are moved by court order to group or foster homes overseen by the state social and legal agencies, they can get lost in these sometimes overburdened systems.As an extra layer of protection, judges appoint “special advocates” who volunteer to watch over individual cases.For many abused children, their count-appointed special advocate (CASA volunteer) will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.
  4. CASA volunteers serve youth in the court system. Sometimes, children get swept into Ravalli County’s justice system through no action of their own, in cases that may involve abuse, neglect, or even exploitation. Others may have been declared “delinquent.”
  5. My journey from pain and fear to love and hope. I was 6 and my sister was 4 when we were taken away from our mom. It was an awful time. We were terrified. But there was one person who stood by us through all the upheaval. She was there for us every time we needed her, making sure we were OK.Her name was Miss Belle. She was our CASA volunteer.
  6. Honoring my grandfather’s memory through CASA. When my sister-in-law told me about a volunteer opportunity with CASA advocating on behalf of children in need, I knew that was how I wanted to give back. I feel in a way I honor my grandfather’s memory through my work with these children.
  7. “Being a CASA is my heart’s work.” When Tammy first heard about the CASA cause while watching an episode of the Dr. Phil Show in 2009, she knew it was for her.
  8. Foster children stories. The followings stories are real and came from the book “Someone There For Me” published by the CWLA Press and edited by National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association. The pictures are royalty free images used to protect the real identity of the foster children.
  9. “Our CASA was our voice.” I believe my focus and my worldview—that it is not the falling that matters, but the rising every time we fall—is in large part due to the attention that my siblings and I received from our CASA volunteer.
  10. “I am the reason you should never give up on a child.” I’d like to share with you a little of how CASA’s powerful commitment to children has influenced my life.

Want more info on becoming a CASA? Check here.

6 ways to help foster kids without becoming a foster parent

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We get it. Not everyone is in a place to be a foster parent right now. So what can you do to help kids in foster care? Quite a bit, actually. Adopt Us Kids offers several ways you can make a difference in the life of a foster kid—without committing to care for one full time:

  1. Train to be a court-appointed special advocate. We’ve written a few posts about this recently, and we’ll have more in coming weeks. You don’t have to be a lawyer or a social worker to speak up for a kid in foster care. You just have to be able to commit to seeing through a case, which typically takes one-and-a-half years. Advocating for a child involves gathering information from all the people in his life and presenting that information to a judge to help determine the best outcome for the child. To qualify, you have to go through training and a background check. Find out more here.
  2. Mentor a child. We talk about mentoring a lot here at DC127. That’s because it can have such an impact on the life of a child in foster care. As with a CASA, a mentor could be the only consistent adult in an itinerant teen’s life. Several programs offer opportunities to invest time in helping a child in foster care succeed. BEST Kids is one of many in the DC area alone. If you’re interested in getting connected as a mentor, send us an email at volunteer@dc127.org, and we’d be happy to help you find the right organization for you.
  3. Offer Your Photography Services. Do you take pride in capturing a telling expression on a face? Or taking fun, candid shots? Foster agencies need you! Often a parent’s first introduction to a child he or she might foster is a picture—and agencies need people to take those pictures! Use this database to find agencies that would benefit from your talents. Or contact the Heart Gallery of America Program, which uses framed photos in its expos and galleries to raise awareness about children waiting to be adopted.
  4. Become a Respite Provider. Foster parents need date nights, too! Do you love hanging out with kids and rue the fact that your nieces and nephews live so far away? Consider getting your kid fix by giving foster parents a break! You can provide temporary relief to a foster family by offering short-term child care. We would love to connect you to agencies and families in need of support- email us at volunteer@dc127.org.
  5. Donate supplies. It’s back-to-school time, and many foster kids won’t get anything new to start the year off right. Contact a local agency to find out how you can help make sure a child in foster care has some shiny new supplies.
  6. Sponsor a Foster Youth’s College Education.  Every year, tens of thousands of youth age out of foster care. They likely do not have family to help them transition to adulthood—or help with college expenses. Foster Care to Success ”connects the public to deserving college-bound foster youth” through a unique sponsorship program.

Book Review: Another Place at the Table

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Another Place at the Table
Kathy Harrison

Karen is a 7-month-old baby girl whose mother can’t kick her drug habit. Lucy is a sweet 8-year-old whose teen mom is too immature to care for her. Danny is a sullen 4-year-old boy whose special needs mom couldn’t care for herself, let alone him. Sara is a 6-year-old who has never known an adult who didn’t abuse her. Kathy and Bruce Harrison welcome all these children and many, many more come into their home, some for a night and some forever. But all are guaranteed a safe and loving home for the duration of their stay.

Kathy and Bruce didn’t set out to become foster parents. They took the training and became certified because it was required in order to adopt two sisters, one of whom Kathy fell in love with when she was a Head Start teacher. When the adoption was finalized, they felt that five children (three biological sons and the two adopted daughters) was enough. But social services kept calling. At first Kathy and Bruce said no. But the sad stories broke their hearts. Kathy knew she could offer what so many of these kids needed. So they started saying yes. And eventually, Kathy left her Head Start job and devoted herself full time to parenting children in foster care.

In this page-turner, Kathy describes in detail what foster parenting is like. She shares the stories of many of the children who have passed through her home, she reveals the inner workings of the foster care system, and she offers nuggets of wisdom learned through trial and error—and certainly not taught in foster care training. She also relates how her children have taught her many truths about the reality of foster care. For example, when Sara arrived on her doorstep, she learned children coming into foster care don’t always have a toothbrush. Or even underwear. And when 3-year-old Tyler is returned to a birth family that still needed so much help, she learned that often, to foster means “learning to be satisfied with giving Band-Aids to children and families who needed intensive care.”

“This book is not intended to shock, although it may do that,” Kathy writes. “It was not written to change public policy. I’m far too much of a realist to expect that. It is only the story of one family’s journey through the maze of a social service system and of the children who unwittingly led the way.”

Kathy pulls you so thoroughly into her world that you’ll find yourself clutching the cover of the book, anxious to learn the fate of her children. And when you turn the final page, you’ll  shake your head in gratitude that foster homes like hers exist to care for the children who so desperately need them. You may even be inspired to join their ranks.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent or supporting a foster family, email us: info@dc127.org. 

 

Foster care in the news

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This is a monthly roundup of news and blog posts about foster care and all things related. Come across an interesting article we missed? Email us: info@dc127.org

  1. Removed: a short film about foster care. (video) Originally created for the 168 Film Festival, ReMoved follows the emotional story through the eyes of a young girl taken from her home and placed into foster care.
  2. Every time foster kids move, they lose months of academic progress. When 12-year-old Jimmy Wayne’s parents dropped him off at a motel and drove away, he became the newest member of the North Carolina Foster Care system. Over the next two years in the foster care system, he attended 12 different schools.
  3. Jesus, the judge and the orphan. As lawyers, case workers and court clerks scurried around the court room, we sat waiting – ignorant of the process but eager to see it end. We assumed our role would be minimal, more as a silent presence than an active participant. We were wrong.
  4. San Diego resources available for college-bound teens aging out of foster care system. (video) About 6,500 foster children in San Diego County, and many of them spend years moving from home to home. Each year, 300 will leave the foster care system when they turn 18.
  5. California schools get billions to track, boost foster children’s performance. California is embarking on a first-of-its-kind attempt to improve the academic lives of foster youth by giving schools more money to meet their special learning and emotional needs and holding educators and administrators accountable.
  6. Program helps L.A. foster youth become high school grads. Unlike most of her classmates, Alicia Rodriguez’ birth parents and siblings weren’t there to see her walk across the stage. Instead, her foster mother and sister were in the crowd, along with Aguayo and Hernandez, the Los Angeles County social worker and tutor who had helped her make it to graduation.
  7. They would hide their purses. It’s as if you get a card. It comes with the garbage bag full of your clothes. It’s the result of being a part of something so abnormal that most people don’t know anything about it. It’s not a physical card or stamp on your forehead but it’s always there. It’s always front and center. You’re scary. You’re dangerous. There must be something off about you. After all, you’re a foster kid.
  8. Why you should be a foster family. 9-year-old Ema shares why you should open your home to children in the system.
  9. Fostering failure? A look at the US foster care system. (video) Ronan Farrow meets with three young adults, who have recently “aged out” of the foster care system, as part of larger investigative report on the frightening reality that our foster care system may be setting up hundreds of thousands of young Americans to fail.
  10. House passes adoption incentives package; Senate expected to act soon. The House passed by voice vote last night a bill that could usher in significant reform of the federal role in the adoption of youths in foster care.
  11. Foster care forum highlights barriers to effective programs. A bureaucratic debate over sentence construction is denying health care to young adults who were once in foster care, a round table on child welfare learned Monday.
  12. My journey in foster care: The second most devastating day of my young life. Foster care was never explained to me. At least in a way I could understand at the time. I didn’t know that foster care was a temporary home, and not a permanent one.
  13. A safety net. Who helps local foster children when they age out of the system? No home. No money. No one to show them the way. Standing at a crossroads, with their few belongings packed into a bag, not sure where to go or what to do, is the spot that many local foster children find themselves in when they turn 18 and “age out” of the foster care system.
  14. Want to make a difference? Try foster parenting. Let’s face it: We all fare better with a little stability in our lives. For children whose families are in the throes of crisis, foster families can provide that firm footing.
  15. Across borders, foster youth ask: What’s missing? Alumni of foster care in Seattle and Tokyo believe systems in each country could gain from the voices of young people.
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