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What's New at KidsPeace

News and Notes from KidsPeace

Five Years and Counting as a Foster Parent

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It has been my experience as a social worker that in the hustle and bustle of reaching the ultimate goal in child welfare … safety, well-being and permanency, we tend to overlook the gems that have helped us along the way. Although what we do as social workers in terms of case planning, coordinating and monitoring is critical to the stability of our clients, we can never forget that without families offering their homes, energy and time we would not be able to provide our services. It is with that in mind that I have set out to interview four extraordinary women and share their stories and advice as foster parents with KidsPeace.

 

My first interview was with a woman I would describe as hardworking, feisty and committed. She has been a foster parent with KidsPeace for five years. I have had the pleasure of knowing her for going on three years. What first struck me about her was how truthful she was with EVERYONE. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear the truth about a situation and then hear, “so what are we going to do about it?” As I took on this project of capturing the essence of KidsPeace, she was one of the first parents to come to mind.

 

Who inspires you as a foster parent? The kids. You hear a lot of different things and a lot of different views on what makes these kids do what they do. I like to see firsthand what motivates them and then see how with consistency they are able to grow and change. You don’t have to do much more than be consistent with them. A lot of people think it takes a lot of work or effort to raise a foster child but it doesn’t, it just takes being consistent with them because they really appreciate it.

 

What are some of the needs that you have seen with foster youth? They need a lot of different things. But the most important thing is consistency. They need role models, someone to show them rather than always telling them. We get so caught up in telling them things that we never seem to think of how important it is to show them how to do things. And if we can do the first two things then we have demonstrated the third thing that they need, which is love. But a lot of times adults get it wrong. We think we are to give love or say love when we need to show these kids love by being patient and kind. We cannot expect them to love us just because we are their foster parents and that they know they are loved just because we tell them.

 

If you could talk to policymakers and taxpayers about where funding should go for foster care, what would you tell them?  I’d tell them that the stipend we receive covers their basic daily living needs so it is not about putting more money in the hands of the foster parents. It is about putting money into sponsoring foster children in programs and activities that help provide them with a full life. Education is not just what they learn in school but what they are able to experience outside of school as well. If we are to give them the best chance in this world, we have to give them access to the best activities that help support their growth and development. And if there was something they wanted to do to help support the families, then fund respite homes to help give the foster parents a chance to reenergize and reconnect with why they became foster parents.

 

Why is it important for the community to care about foster youth?  Foster care youth are a part of our communities no matter where they got their start. They need to feel whole and they need to feel supported. People need to stop assuming that kids in foster care will destroy our communities. People spend too much time judging and we need to stop that way of thinking.

 

How would you describe your experience as a foster parent?  I have always had a wonderful experience as a foster parent. I have had a lot of different experiences, but overall it has truly been wonderful. Working with the kids has always been easy. Sometimes working with the adults and the business of fostering has been a challenge. I know it is for a reason that there are so many different people involved and so much paperwork but it can be overwhelming at times. A way to fix that would be to include foster parents in on the process of developing the forms and policies that they have to abide by.

 

Talking with this mom reminded me that we all are called to this field for different reasons and in different capacities but at the end of the day we are all working toward the same goals. 

 

To learn more about how to become a foster parent with KidsPeace please visit us online and like us on Facebook.

 

Written by: Ericka Chukwuanu, LGSW

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart to attend Lehigh Valley event to help KidsPeace children

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NASCAR driver Tony Stewart will be in the Lehigh Valley on Thursday to hand out donations to KidsPeace children.

 

The Office Depot Foundation has generously chosen to include KidsPeace in its National Backpack Program, an initiative to help students start the school year with confidence and prepare them for ongoing educational success.

 

The Foundation will donate 100 sackpacks to KidsPeace during a “Back-to-School” Celebration at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Office Depot store, 480 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., South Whitehall Township. Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will attend the event.

 

Since 2001, the Office Depot Foundation has helped more than 2.9 million children succeed in school. This year alone, the Foundation will donate 3,000 new sackpacks to nonprofit organizations and schools in the Allentown and Pocono areas. The sackpacks are zippered pouches containing essential school supplies and are designed for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Sign up today for KidsPeace's community yard sale

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Is your basement or garage overrun by clothing that doesn't fit, toys your children have outgrown or household items that no longer fit your style?

 

If so, it's time to clear the clutter and turn it into a profit. The KidsPeace Family Center is hosting a community yard sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 11, and time is running out to reserve a spot.

 

A $20 donation will get you a 19-by-8-foot space in the parking lot of our campus at 1650 Broadway in Salisbury Township. You may even purchase more than one spot. The only catch? You have to sign up by Wednesday to guarantee participation. Vendors must bring their own tables.

 

The sign-up fees will go toward costs associated with our community programs, and participants keep the proceeds from what they sell. The event will be held rain or shine, with an indoor location in case of inclement weather.

 

Anyone interested in purchasing a space should contact Jen Mucellin at 610-799-8659 or Jennifer.mucellin@kidspeace.org.

Give blood Wednesday at Miller-Keystone Blood Center's drive at KidsPeace

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KidsPeace is once again holding a blood drive this week and time slots are still available for associates who want to donate.

 

The drive, organized through Miller-Keystone Blood Center, is scheduled for 9:10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Donley TEC parking lot.

 

Did you know that someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, and more than 300 units of blood are needed each day in our regional hospitals? Most people who are 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds are eligible to donate.

 

If you're a first-time donor, you may not realize how simple the process is. Just register and bring valid photo identification. Then, a trained staff member will take your temperature, blood pressure and pulse and a drop of blood to check your iron level and ensure you are able to donate. You will be asked a series of health and lifestyle questions, the answers to which will be kept confidential.

 

The actual blood donation only takes five to 10 minutes, and all supplies used in the process are sterile and disposable, so there's no risk of contracting any disease. After donating, you'll be asked to stay for 15 minutes and have a snack to replenish the sugar and fluids in your body.

 

As an added incentive to donate in the summer, Miller-Keystone is giving donors the chance to turn pints into gallons. Through Aug. 19, all registered donors will be entered into a drawing to win a $100 gas card (two will be awarded each week). You will also have the chance to win one of two four-packs of tickets and a parking pass to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs or the Reading Phillies. One lucky winner will also snag a four-pack of tickets and a parking pass for a Philadelphia Phillies game.

 

Contact Beta Bogaert, employee health nurse, at 610-799-8228 or gilberta.bogaert@kidspeace.org  to make your appointment today. Thank you in advance for your continued commitment to saving lives.

Volunteers, teams needed for 15th Annual KidsPeace Soccer Invitational

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There's still time to register to play or volunteer at the 15th Annual KidsPeace Soccer Invitational.

 

The tournament will be held Aug. 18 and 19 on our Orchard Hills campus in North Whitehall Township. Proceeds from the tournament benefit two KidsPeace websites: TeenCentral.Net and ParentCentral.Net.

 

Teams may submit online applications before July 30. The tournament is open to girls league teams U9-U19 and boys league teams U9-U15 playing in the upcoming Fall 2012 season. The cost is $410 for teams playing 8v8 in the U9-U12 divisions and $490 for teams playing 11v11 in the U11-U19 divisions.

 

We’re also looking for volunteers to help with the event. Help is needed for various tasks, including concession stands, field marshaling and traffic control. Volunteers will be used from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days and may choose to give as little as two hours or stay the entire day.

 

Check out our YouTube video.

For more information or to register, email kpsoccer@kidspeace.org

Foster care youth's struggles depicted in Long Island Children’s Museum exhibit

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KidsPeace knows that it can be an extremely difficult time for foster care children on the brink of aging out of the system.

Where will they go when they suddenly have independence thrust upon them? Will they pursue higher education or find work? Did anyone properly prepare them for the moment they would truly be on their own?

 

Statistics show the odds are stacked against foster care children:

  • Only 46 percent graduate from high school, and fewer than 2 percent complete college;
  • Forty to 50 percent are homeless within 18 months of emancipation;
  • Twenty-five percent are incarcerated within 24 months; and
  • Forty-two percent (60 percent of females) become parents within 30 months of leaving
    foster care.

At KidsPeace, we realize the need to reach out to this population. This is why, in Maryland, we have the KEYS (KidsPeace Empowering Youth to Succeed) program, which aims to prepare foster children who are about to leave the haven of the system. They learn life skills like how to balance a checkbook, they explore their career and schooling options and they receive mentoring to help launch them successfully into the next phase of their lives.

 

But what about all the young adults who don’t have access to this program? It can be a scary time of transition. In June, the Long Island Children’s Museum, along with SalaamGarageNYC, unveiled an aging-out of foster care project entitled “Everybody Needs Someone.”

 

The storytelling exhibition runs through Sept. 2 and is intended to shed light on this often forgotten population. Photographs provide visitors a look at the struggles and triumphs of 15 young adults as they start their lives after foster care.

 

The museum is located at 11 Davis Ave. Garden City, N.Y. The exhibit is free with regular museum admission of $11, and visitors who have smart phones with QR reader applications will be able to read stories that accompany the photographs.

KidsPeace rallies associates to help colleague left homeless after fire

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KidsPeace is seeking donations in the aftermath of a house fire that left an associate and her family homeless.

 

Christina Warfel, a mobile therapist in our New Cumberland, Pa., office, lost all her family’s belongings when a fire broke out at their Harrisburg home on June 25. She, her husband and their three children – two boys ages 11 and 5 and a 3-year-old daughter – have been living with relatives since the blaze. The few rooms of their home that were not destroyed by fire sustained heavy smoke damage that prevented the family from salvaging any belongings.

 

If you would like to assist Warfel and her family, please consider donating to the Associate Assistance Fund. Checks should be made out to KidsPeace, with the memo line reading “Associate Assistance Fund (Christina Warfel),” and mailed to Gina Stano at KidsPeace, 4085 Independence Dr., Schnecksville, PA 18078. A lump sum check will then be written to Warfel.

Tennessee man, 78, recalls childhood at KidsPeace

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It's not often that we hear from someone who has left our care.

 

It's even more unusual when the person calling is now 78 and spent four years at KidsPeace (then Wiley House) as a child.

 

But that's exactly what happened recently. Richard VanStrander, who now lives in Tennessee, called simply to say thank you for the care he received after he and his brother were pulled off the streets of Allentown when he was only 8 years old. VanStrander's father had died of Parkinson's disease, and his mother broke her hip and was unable to care for him.

 

He said he was not appropriately grateful at the time; he described himself as a child angry at the world. But years later, he's able to look back at his life and acknowledge that it could have had a very different outcome if not for the kindness and care he received during those four years.

 

"They took good care of me there,” he said. “Most of the time, except for the belligerence of my own self, it was a good place to be.”

 

Read more of VanStrander's story in the next edition of KidsPeace's email newsletter, "For the Kids," which will be distributed later this summer. Not yet a subscriber? Sign up now for our mailing list.

 

Do you have your own KidsPeace-related story to share? Post a comment or email kpinfo@kidspeace.org.

 

 
   
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