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Sleep is important to a child’s well-being

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By Denise Morganthall


Children do not get the sleep they did years ago. With our hectic lifestyles today it is so easy to forget the importance of sleep and what time little Johnny got to bed. Between working longer hours, after-school activities and late dinners, it is very easy to get caught up in this vicious cycle known as “sleep deprivation.”


Sleep deprivation is serious in that it can shave years off your life and wreak havoc on your child’s growth and development. Children who lack the required amount of sleep suffer a wide array of problems, from having trouble paying attention in school to behavioral problems such as hyperactivity to just being grumpy.


sleeping-girl-bear-kidspeaceResearchers have also found that children who lack sleep are at a higher risk for childhood obesity. It has been found that a child who sleeps one hour less than needed increases his risk of obesity by 80 percent. But how much sleep does your child need? School-aged children and pre-teens do best with 10 to 12 hours of sleep, whereas adolescents and teens do best on eight to nine hours.


How can I help my child get a good night’s sleep?

  1. Stick to a regular bedtime – If it is a school night your child will know he needs to start winding down at a certain time.
  2. Create a consistent bedtime routine, such as getting a bath, brushing their teeth then story time.
  3. No TV or electronics before bed.
  4. Try to avoid conflicts and create a quiet environment before bedtime.
  5. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise during the day, but not right before bed.

All of these factors contribute to a child receiving a good night’s sleep. Sleep is a child’s brainpower; let’s get all the zzzz’s we need!


[David De Lossy]/[Digital Vision]/Thinkstock

Helping your foster child succeed in school

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Dr. John DeGarmoBy Dr. John DeGarmo

Foster children typically perform poorly in school for a variety of reasons. Multiple displacements from home to home often results in foster children becoming dissatisfied with school, and quickly losing interest. Transcripts and school records are often missing or incomplete when a student enrolls into a new school, many times resulting in the children not being enrolled in classes designed to best help them, nor getting the resources they need to succeed. Along with this, many times, teachers and administrators are not aware that the student is a foster child, nor aware of the many emotional difficulties and traumas that foster children face, in general.


For a foster child to succeed in school, the foster parents need to act as advocates for the child. Everything about a new school, from the teachers, students, hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, and all that happens inside the walls of the building, will be a reminder to the student that he is in foster care, and not his own school, nor his own home. Foster parents can help this time of transition and displacement, as they help their foster child adjust to a new home and new school.


Often times when a foster child is enrolled into a new school, a period of time may elapse before the new school gets the transcripts from the previous school. This may result in the child being placed in the wrong classrooms and courses, or classes that the child is simply not equipped to succeed in. Foster parents need to ensure that all transcripts, grades and school records are sent to the new school as soon as possible. Foster parents can best aid their child by calling the previous school and having them sent over to the new school. 


At the outset, foster parents should meet with the child’s teachers, school counselor and administrators upon enrollment of the child. During this meeting, foster parents need to begin building a strong foster parent-school partnership. If possible, the foster parent should inform these school employees of the child’s status as a foster parent, and, if permissible by the caseworker, share some of the reasons why the child is in care. This information may go a long way in helping school employees understand the foster child’s background. Foster parents can also suggest that teachers set reasonable homework tasks during the first few weeks and months of the child’s placement.


Communication is vital in order for a foster parent and school partnership to work effectively. Foster parents must work more diligently at two-way communication between school and community via newsletters, phone calls, emails and a school website. Foster parents need to also embrace the newest technology in such communication modes as blogs, SKYPE and other virtual media that favor meaningful parental involvement. Also, foster parents can attend school functions, student activities and parent nights and find ways to volunteer within the school. 


Visitations with birth parents and biological family members can often be stressful emotionally for a foster child. Indeed, foster parents may find that they are “starting over again” with the child. This can very well carry over into school the day after the visit, or even the day of, as the child becomes anxious about the visit. Foster parents can help by informing teachers about any upcoming visits beforehand, as well as letting those involved know what transpires in a visitation setting, the possible outcomes afterward and how to best respond to them. This simple step of informing teachers and school administrators before-hand, can go a long way in helping all to understand the child’s behavior, as well as helping to diffuse any problems that may occur.


Foster children do indeed have a tremendous amount of challenges awaiting them as they move to a new home and to a new school. By setting up weekly contact, establishing homework strategies and creating a working relationship with teachers and school administrators, foster parents will be able to help their foster child be successful both in academics and behavior in school, in home and, later on, in society, as well.


Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, and he and his wife have had over 40 children come through their home.  He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations.  Dr. DeGarmo is the author of “Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story,” and the new book “The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home.” He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both in the United States and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted at, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website,

July is National Minority Mental Health Month

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By Denise Morganthall


National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month aims to increase awareness of mental illness, treatment and research in diverse communities. KidsPeace supports this cause, hoping to see improved access to mental health treatment and services for all.


It is reported that minorities are many times underrepresented in mental health research, often receive a poorer quality of mental health care, have less access to and availability of services and are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness.


Other facts to consider are that 20 percent of African Americans are more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites. The death rate from suicide for African American men was almost six times that for African American women. Suicide attempts for Hispanic girls (grades 9 -12) were 20 percent higher than for Caucasian girls in the same age group. Adolescent Indian/Alaska natives have death rates at twice the rate for whites in the same age group.


Mental illness does not discriminate against race, gender or age; however minorities seem to get lost in the system. There are many factors that have been found to contribute to this, such as cultural stigma, language barriers and resource limitations. Let’s all work together to prevent this from continuing to happen by creating awareness. We are all in this together; let’s show our support and hope to see some positive changes in the future!

Foster parents, birth parents must work together for successful reunification

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


When a foster parent shares the nurturing of a foster child alongside the birth parents and caseworker, reunification tends to happen at a quicker and more successful rate. Co-parenting sees you, as a foster parent, working alongside the biological parents of the child living under your roof, and with your family. This may be the more difficult part of your job. To begin with, these may be the people who abused or neglected your foster child. Helping them might just be the last thing you wish to do. Therefore, it is important that you do not prejudge them before you meet them. What is important to consider, though, is that many biological parents of foster children were abused themselves, and know of no other way when raising children. Also disturbing is that some birth parents were foster children, as well, and are just repeating the cycle they went through as a child. Certainly, there are reasons why their children are in care that we may never understand. What is best for your foster child, though, is that you work alongside your caseworker, as well as the birth parents, and try to determine what is best for your foster child’s future, as well as how to best meet his needs in the present.


For birth parents and family members, you might be the best example of what a good parent is.  Everything you do as a foster parent will send signals to the biological parents on how a parent should act, as well as how to treat their own children. When your foster child meets with his birth parents for visitations, he should be well dressed, clean, healthy and looking his best. As a foster parent, part of your mission is to support reunification with your foster child and his biological parents. Do your best to encourage reunification between the child and his parents. Find ways you can help the biological parents with their parenting skills. Discuss ways and ideas on how you can help them as they attempt to meet the requirements of reunification.


Your foster child’s family members will want to know what kind of family their child is living with, what his home life will be like, if he is being taken care of and many other concerns. After all, their child has been taken away from them, against their wishes, and placed in a strange home. They will have many concerns, and may not be as courteous to you as you might like. Be prepared for them to be hostile, rude, angry or even distant. Remember, they are hurting, and have been through a traumatic experience with the removal of their child. Respectfully encourage them to ask you as many questions as they would like. It is important that you answer their questions as honestly and as openly as possible, treating them with the utmost integrity, kindness and politeness. 


Your foster child’s biological parents and family members will know him better than anyone, and your meeting with them will offer you the opportunity to learn a great deal about him, as well as acquire important information you might need. When you ask questions about their child, you are showing the birth parents that you are interested in him and his well being. By indicating, with your questions, that his parents are the experts, you will begin to form an important relationship, one that will benefit all involved. A list of questions prepared beforehand will help you gather the information you need. 


As a foster parent, it is important to remember that your foster child’s biological parents are people in need, and they deserve your kindness and sympathy, not your anger. By working with them, and by showing them kindness and compassion, you will not only help them, you will teach your foster child an important lesson in love and humanity.

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, and he and his wife have had more than 40 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of “Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story,” and the new book “The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home.” He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both in the United States and overseas. Contact him at, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website,

How play affects mental health in young children

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By Denise Morganthall


With mental health issues becoming more common among young children today, we need to explore all avenues to reverse this trend. The answer might lie in something quite simple – play.


Play is essential in children’s development and overall health. Play helps children develop cognitively and socially. Unfortunately, children do not get to play as we did years ago. Today, as a society, we work longer and harder, making it more difficult to find the time and energy to play with our children. But we need to make time. Play promotes good mental health, which allows children to develop what it takes to thrive in an ever-changing world and grow into well- adjusted healthy adults.


There are many types of play: creative, make believe, quiet, cooperative and active. Active play is essential in children’s overall health, as it can release extra energy, tension and anxiety. It will also tire children out so they sleep better, which is also essential to their overall health. Active play can involve riding a bike, swimming or swinging at the playground.


Cooperative play is playing with other children, which teaches sharing, taking turns and obeying rules. Board games are an example of cooperative play, and aside from being fun, they teach children skills and knowledge they will need throughout life.


Mental health professionals have noted that play is as important to human happiness and well-being as work and love. Parents obviously want what is best for their children, so if you want your child to be healthy and whole, perhaps you should start with play.

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