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News and Notes from KidsPeace

Holidays are time to blend old, new family traditions

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christmas-tree-farmBy Caren Chaffee 


Traditions exist in many areas of our lives, but it seems they are brought into sharper focus during the holidays. Traditions are important: They link our past to our present. They provide a sense of comfort and expectation. They help maintain connections among family members and friends. They are often met with a sense of anticipation. They can help us feel balanced and establish routine.


Families and individuals often make plans and schedule activities based on their traditions. This sense of consistency is important. However, it’s important to remember that families change. Foster families welcome new youth in their homes; individuals get married or re-married; many families are blended; grandparents may move into a home with their adult children and grandchildren; extended family members or friends may either move away to a different part of the country or may move closer to home.


As families change, traditions need to change, too. New family dynamics mean different needs and obligations. New members of the household (such as foster youth, grandparents or step-children) or new members of the extended family (in-laws or family members who may have moved closer) may have traditions that they enjoy as well. It’s important to incorporate these activities to ensure that they, too, feel the sense of stability and comfort that traditions help instill.


Adapting traditions does not imply “out with the old, in with the new” – but rather, it is created out of a blend of the old and the new. By merging activities and practices that are important to different members of the family, beautiful new traditions can emerge that become important to everyone’s past, present and future.


Helping foster children: sharing your gifts with kids in need

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Dr. John DeGarmo(1)By Dr. John DeGarmo 


I am often asked how I do it. How I am able to take care of so many children at one time; how I have time to do all I do. To be honest, my wife and I certainly cannot do it by ourselves. To be sure, during this time of Christmas and holidays, it seems even more difficult and challenging at times. To tell you the truth, we do it with help. 

There is a lovely couple at my church that has a heart for children in foster care, yet are unable to be foster parents themselves. For years, they have watched my wife and me take care of dozens of children, some staying for a few days, others staying for several months or even years. This couple has been a blessing to my wife and me each Christmas, as they have taken the mantle upon themselves of being our “foster grandparents.” Each Christmas season, they purchase presents for every foster child that is in our house. This has helped my wife and me ensure that our children in foster care have an extra special Christmas day, as we share both the message and joy of the meaning of this special day, as well as the joy of receiving gifts under the tree; gifts with a child’s name on them. Sadly, far too many children in foster care have never had gifts to open on December 25 before coming into care.   

My wife and I try to make it a day that the children never forget, and one on which that they are able to escape their pain and suffering and simply revel in being a child. Our “foster grandparents” help us accomplish this. Like our dear friends have done, others can reach out to the foster parents in their community and “adopt” a child during the holiday season, or other times of the year. This might also include helping out with school supplies at the beginning of the school year; birthdays; paying for school field trips and summer camps and other activities that are special to the child. Indeed, many foster parents simply cannot afford to provide all of the opportunities to their foster child; opportunities that help the child escape from their trauma, and opportunities to heal from their suffering. When others come together to help the child in such fashion, they are giving a blessing to the foster parents as well.

Recently, I have had the blessing and wonderful opportunity to speak to businesses, organizations and churches across the nation about how they can help children in care. During these keynote speeches of mine, I have seen people moved to tears from the stories I have shared with them about foster children. I have listened as others have told me of their inability to have children of their own, yet the call to help other children. I have even sat by those who have told me through tears about their own experiences when they were abused and abandoned as children, and wanted to help those children today who are experiencing a similar fate. On all these occasions, I have seen others looking for ways to reach out to foster children, seeking ways to protect and care for them.

For you see, not everyone is called to be a foster parent. As you know, not everyone has the skills to bring children into their home and care for those in need. To be sure, we are all given different skills and talents that allow us to help children in care. It is my hope during this Christmas and holiday season that you discover your skills and talents, and that you use these skills and talents to help children in foster care. Whether you are a foster parent, a social worker or one who simply cares for all children and want to be a stronger advocate for them, may you share your gifts with others, during this season and beyond.

Bloomsburg, Pa., foster teen invited to 27th Annual Down Under Sports Tournaments in Australia

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robin-mooreIn the course of two years, a Bloomsburg, Pa., foster teen went from running from the law to running for accolades.


Robin Moore, an 11th-grade student, was once well-acquainted with the juvenile court system, racking up fines for thefts and cyber bullying before landing himself in hot water for breaking into a coin shop with his older brother and stealing items to re-sell. But his caseworker, Tony Gold, said he has done a complete 180 since re-entering foster care in 2012.


“He’s gone from breaking into houses, sleeping on people’s couches and not listening to his mom to getting As, Bs and one C and being very, very cooperative and responsible and working with his treatment team,” Gold said.


Gold credits Robin’s foster parents, Steve and Betsy Hribick, but also commends the young man’s tenacity and realization that he would have more stable, trouble-free teenage years if he surrounded himself with positive influences. The teen, who formerly had low self-esteem and failed to stick with any sport or activity, is now on his high school’s football and track and field team, where he excels in the 100-yard dash and relay. His plan is to remain in foster care and continue to participate in track and field and football until he can enter college and study sports medicine.


“With some help and some structure, he’s been really dedicated,” Gold said. “And he’s really good at it too.” 


So good in fact that Robin is one of only 300 students across the nation chosen to attend the 27th Annual Down Under Sports Tournaments in Australia in July 2015. He has been invited to represent the East Conference Track and Field Team, but he must raise $6,400 by June 1 to attend. He is selling team t-shirts for $20 each, and Gold is hoping to hold other fundraisers to help him raise the money.


Anyone who sponsors him will be entered into a raffle for a trip for two to Australia. Minimum donation is $20, and may be made online at or by check, made out to Down Under Sports and sent to the KidsPeace foster care office at 304 Railroad St., Danville, PA 17821. 


Vote for KidsPeace in aMuse Toy's Community Outreach Project

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KidsPeace has been nominated for aMuse Toys' Community Outreach Project, and you can help us win!


Every year aMuse makes a significant donation to a nonprofit organization that serves the Baltimore community. Past winners have included Johns Hopkins, Kennedy Krieger, Casey Cares Foundation and The Baltimore Child Abuse Center. KidsPeace Maryland has been recognized for providing outstanding service to Baltimore families.


Allison Humphries, sales and programming manager for aMuse Toys, said, "We truly appreciate your hard work and energy and would love to give back to your cause."


National Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD) is this Sat., Nov. 8. As part of this outreach day, customers will be asked in-store and online to vote for the nominee of their choice. This year, in addition to the monetary donation, aMuse Toys will incorporate a community service project as part of NTSD. Goodie bags for children of various ages will be assembled on Saturday then donated to the beneficiary to use with the families served by the organization.


Please spread the word and vote for KidsPeace here!


Conversation remains critical in fast-paced digital world

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happy familyBy Caren Chaffee 


For most people, today’s lifestyle is one of constant activity. It seems so many people are overscheduled and often overextended. Two-way conversation falls quickly by the wayside in favor of texts, emails and social media posts, which may or may not receive a reply.


On some level, we have abridged our own ability to communicate effectively and in a meaningful way.  So many of us are in a rush, hurrying from one activity to the next and typing a quick text as we walk from our car to the door of our next destination.


While it is undeniably a quick and simple solution to providing information to others, today’s instant digital contacts inevitably lead to challenges:


First, the art of conversation has dimmed. There is a stark difference between “listening” and “hearing” that too often goes unrecognized. Hearing is the act of physically accepting and recognizing sounds and words and takes little or no effort. Listening, on the other hand, involves processing the information that is heard. It takes effort, concentration and time, and it often includes observing facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. A written or posted message is open to interpretation (or, often, misinterpretation), as facial expression and tone of voice are absent from the equation. It becomes difficult to have a meaningful conversation when active listening is not involved.


In addition, two-way communication suffers. The word “communication” has its roots in the comparative Latin word meaning “to share.” Sharing implies a two-way exchange. Social media posts and mass emails often receive few or no replies and may simply end with the original post or a simple acknowledgement that the post was received or read. 


Finally, when used as a primary means of contact, digital messaging can undermine relationships. A recent blog in The Washington Post referred to “digital infidelity,” in which individuals use their social media posts and texts to stay in closer contact with an ex or with someone who can be seen (consciously or subconsciously) as a “backup” to one’s current partner, in the event the present relationship fails. Furthermore, in a world saturated with social media, the definition of “friends” is changing: While primarily defined by Webster as “one attached to another by affection or esteem,” a “friend” by social media standards is often no more than an acquaintance who is linked to and can view your social media account. Individuals may have hundreds of “friends” on their social media accounts, but it is likely that a small percentage of them are actually “attached by affection or esteem.” While social media allows the user to stay in touch with individuals to whom one may otherwise lose contact, it also has the capability to erode the status and the significance of the relationship between “friends.”


Despite the challenges, digital communication has numerous advantages as well. It provides quick and almost instantaneous contact with others, can increase one’s safety by allowing for continual contact and provides an accurate record of the information provided over a long period of time. Digital communication helps maintain connections within the parameters of the fast pace of our daily lives.  The danger lies in using it as a primary means of building and maintaining relationships.


It is important for adults to model good relationship-building skills for youth, which include active listening, two-way communication and maintaining friendships outside of social media. This can be an arduous task in today’s digital world. However, the rewards significantly outweigh the challenges. Today’s youth spend a great deal of time sharing information on a digital platform, and responding to them in their own digital “language” has its advantages. However, taking the time to actively listen and demonstrating to them the significance of a relationship built on solid communication and two-way conversation sends them a clear message that they are important. It allows them to experience how it feels to be made the most important person in the room when you make eye contact with them, process what they are saying and give them meaningful feedback within the structure of a conversation.  It shows them how the art of conversation can improve and advance a relationship, and it models for them how to build a friendship built on affection and mutual respect. Introducing and refining these skills in their youthful years will reap a lifetime of benefits. 

Steena Holmes' new novella 'Before the Storm' to benefit KidsPeace only on Oct. 8

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speak-out-circleKidsPeace is teaming up with BookSparks for their annual "BookSparks Speaks Out" campaign and this year, they're speaking out against school violence.


The campaign is in conjunction with the release of Steena Holmes' moving new novel, "Stillwater Rising" and poignant prequel novella, "Before the Storm." The novel depicts a tight-knit community shattered by an elementary school shooting and their tragic yet empowering healing process, while the prequel novella details the events and day of the school shooting.


Tomorrow, Oct. 8, is SAVE Day (Stop America's Violence Everywhere), so to help end school violence and bolster the communities who have suffered at the hands of such tragedies, ALL proceeds from "Before the Storm" purchases made on Oct. 8 will go directly to KidsPeace. 


Here are five ways you help us SPEAK OUT:

  • Buy it: All proceeds from "Before the Storm" purchases made on Oct. 8 will go directly to KidsPeace. Buy the novella and support KidsPeace. 
  • Blog it: If you're a blogger, create a dedicated blog post to spread the word about the campaign. Use the Speak Out badge in your blog post and include it in your sidebar. 
  • Facebook it: Share the badge, this campaign, #SpeakOut, #SAVEDay, and your words against school violence via Facebook and tag us and BookSparks so we can share too! 
  •  Tweet it: Speak out with @BookSparks and @SteenaHolmes about ending school violence, benefiting @KidsPeace! #SpeakOut #SAVEDay
  • Rate it: Head over to Goodreads and rate Steena Holmes' "Stillwater Rising" and "Before the Storm." The moving novella and empowering novel is a story of loss, community and healing that is unlike any other. 

Life’s Journey series: Is worrying stealing your joy?

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smiley faceBy Denise Morganthall 


“Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Remember Bobby McFerrin’s catchy song?


Worrying is a practice that many of us perfect over our lifetimes. We worry about getting sick, losing a job, keeping the house clean and what people think of us. The list goes on and on, with a lot of energy channeled into worrying about things that never happen. It is natural to worry, and worrying can actually prevent us from making some bad decisions. But there is a line, and when worrying interferes with daily life, it’s time to say enough is enough.


When we worry, we are robbing ourselves of present time and actually making ourselves sick. Worrying can cause high blood pressure, headaches and loss of sleep, and can lead to bad habits such as smoking and alcohol and drug abuse. Worrying can also impact our emotional health, leading to depression, anxiety attacks and other stress-related disorders.


Why do we spend so much time worrying about what others think of us? Did you ever hear of the 18/40/60 rule? When you are 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking about you. At 40, you don’t care what other people think of you (that one I like) and at 60 you realize nobody’s been thinking about you at all. Most people aren’t thinking about you because they are worrying about their own lives. If they are thinking about you, they are worrying what you are thinking about them.


We need to take the time to determine what we worry about and how often. There are two types of worries; productive and non-productive. A productive worry is one that you can do something about, like adhering to the April 15 deadline to file your income taxes. An unproductive worry would be dwelling on something out of your control, such as a prediction that the world is going to end. Even if this prediction were finally true, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent it.


In the most basic sense, if worrying is becoming a daily occurrence, it is time to find a way to overcome this habit.

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