What Fostering Teens Has Taught Me
by Janier Caban- Hernandez
If you asked six years ago if I wanted to be a foster dad, I would have said, “NO way Jose!” Being a single, Latino male I had no idea what I could offer a child, especially as I generally don’t like little kids. As I was going through the PRIDE (Parent Resource for Information, Development, Education) classes, I became increasingly nervous as I learned more and more about the needs of these children. Could I deliver, am I ready and what about the “what ifs”…?
I was ready to speak to the trainer and drop out, until I befriended four Latino foster teenagers who lived in another foster home. After raiding my refrigerator and asking me to cook them Puerto Rican food, they encouraged me to become a foster father as “there aren’t any Latino men.” All the teens that come to my home are Latinos because from the start, we have something in common: a cultural connection and understanding of the importance of “familia” (family), “respecto”(respect) and “confianza” (“trust”).
Little kids always drove me crazy, but teenagers are an age group that I can talk and negotiate with. What I have learned about living with teenagers, I learned by attending post-licensing training, participating in roundtable discussions with other foster parents and foster teenagers and mostly by talking with the boys in my house (…and at times, “therapeutic yelling” helps!).
I tell the boys that come to my home that:
- You don’t earn my respect or trust, you only lose it.
- When you get me upset, you’ll be the first to know and when I get you upset, I want to be the first to know.
- I’ll make mistakes, so help me out.
- Help me understand how to use my cell phone, please!
- Being courteous is never old fashioned.
- Women like to be respected and not treated as “one of the boys.”
- I’ll cook dinner, but you clean up.
- As we need to communicate, I’ll get you a cell phone and pay half the bill, you pay the other half with your chore money.
- Your education is NOT an option, you HAVE to go to school and if you need school related items, I’ll get it.
- You’ll get $10 for every “A” grade.
- Don’t tell me you are proud of being a Puertorriqueño, show me by your actions and deeds.
My boys are part of my family. Some have moved out but we still contact each other and when they need help, they know they can call me. Now that I co-facilitate PRIDE classes and open houses, I challenge the participants to consider teenagers, as there is such a need for them to be welcomed to a nurturing and supportive foster home. After all, those cute little kids eventually become teenagers!
Janier Caban-Hernandez answered our call for real stories from foster parents. Have a story to share? Send to email@example.com.
Spread the Word about Foster Care in May
Janier's reflection on foster parenting is the perfect story to share with your family and friends for National Foster Care Month! Direct them to NFPA's "Becoming a Foster Parent" page for a comprehensive overview of what it means to be a foster parent. Remember, you don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent (courtesy of our friends at North American Council on Adoptable Children).
NFPA President to Testify in Support of Normalcy
President Irene Clements will be traveling to Washington, DC, to testify at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on May 9. Irene will talk about the need for children in care to experience the "normal" things that other kids experience. This wonderful opportunity comes on the heel of Florida passing its own normalcy law for children of Florida.
Irene will also be visiting with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Columbus, Ohio, on May 16. This meeting will allow the three organizations to discuss ways to improve the outcomes of children placed in care and to address the needs of all caregivers, including foster, kinship and adoptive. What a great way to celebrate National Foster Care Month (NFCM)!
Show Your Support of National Foster Care Month
Blue Ribbon Showcase
The National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) is a proud supporter of National Foster Care Month. And you should be too! Develop creative ideas to promote National Foster Care Month this May: you can tie blue ribbons around a tree, on your mailbox, in a door wreath or any other place it will be noticed. Take a photo of your showcase and send it in. NFPA will display your works of art on our blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds and you could win $100! Deadline is April 30.
A big THANK YOU to all who supported our blue bracelet sale! All 4,500 bracelets have been distributed.
2013 NFPA Conference -- Long Beach, June 5-8
The 2013 NFPA Conference will be held at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, Long Beach, California (thanks Kim Hansel for the great timeline photo!).
Our conference theme for 2013 is "Oceans of Opportunity ... Catch a Wave to Permanence!" Visit the conference page for all registration information -- early registration ends April 30.
NFPA Conference Awards
The National Foster Parent Association would like to take a moment to announce the winners for our 43rd annual conference awards!
* Foster Family of the Year Award
(recognizing an outstanding and deserving foster family)
David and Brandy Fajen, Warsaw, Missouri?
* State Foster Parent Association of the Year Award
(recognizing an outstanding and deserving state foster parent association)
Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parent Association
* Local Foster Parent Association of the Year Award
(recognizing an outstanding and deserving local foster parent association)
Palm Beach County Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, West Palm Beach, Florida
* Social Worker of the Year Award
(recognizing an outstanding direct service worker in a public or private child-placing agency)
Alicia Yokum, Princeton, Illinois
* Gordon Evans Merit Award for Service to NFPA
(recognizing noteworthy service to NFPA)
John Bertulis, Ellicott City, Maryland
* NFPA Regional Vice President Award
(recognizing a regional vice president with the greatest increase in NFPA membership)
Doris Marshall, Region 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)
Volunteer Photographer Needed
The National Foster Parent Association requests photographers to capture the moments during our annual conference June 5-8 at the Renaissance Long Beach in Long Beach, California! We will have an opening ceremony and there will be luncheons with keynote speakers, a meet and greet, and an awards ceremony celebrating our parents. These captured moments will be a great way to raise awareness of the foster parents through our website and social media efforts. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in volunteering.
Reducing Family Stress Available on FosterParentCollege.com
by Lisa Siegle
Families need to maintain a healthy, nurturing home in which a foster child can grow and thrive and where everyone feels safe and comfortable. Bringing a foster child into the home means a big change in lifestyle, and all family members feel the impact of the change.
Reducing Family Stress explores the challenges families face when a foster child enters the home and offers insight and advice for helping manage the added stressors that accompany a new family dynamic. The course also touches on parental expectations and stress reduction strategies.
Leading the discussion are Richard Delaney, PhD, psychologist, author, and foster care consultant; and Betsy Keefer Smalley, LSW, Director of Foster Care and Adoption Training, Institute for Human Services (IHS), Columbus, Ohio.
The class is part of a series developed as online versions of the Ohio Institute for Human Services standardized pre-service training curriculum in use throughout the United States. The project is funded through a Phase II SBIR grant (#2 R44 HD054032-02) awarded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.
NFPA receives a donation when:
- you are registered with FPC
- you enter FPC through the NFPA website link
- you pay for your FPC training by credit card
There are more than 40 self-paced courses and two Advanced Parenting Workshops available at this time. Titles include Substance-Exposed Infants, Child Abuse and Neglect, Grief and Loss in the Care System, Culturally Competent Parenting, Caring for Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused, and Child Safety and Supervision. To watch previews of classes and learn more, please visit www.fosterparentcollege.com.
Have You Checked Out the Blog Lately?
NFPA has some great articles popping up on the blog, including: