This June is a perfect time to celebrate three causes that are dear to our hearts; PRIDE, FAMILY REUNIFICATION and JUNETEENTH. It is quite fitting that that these three important causes and events are celebrated in the same month. LGBTQ youth, communities of color and parents with children in foster care have all endured bias, inequality and often heart-breaking hardships.
Spaulding for Children is proud to support and celebrate the resilience and accomplishments of each group. June is a special time for raising awareness of the overrepresentation of minority children and LGBTQ youth in the foster care system. At the same time, we shine a spotlight on the amazing commitment of foster and adoptive families who are successfully parenting and affirming young people who are members of a minority group and youth who identify as a member of the LGBTQ community. And in June we celebrate wholeheartedly the hard work of families involved in the foster care system who have worked diligently to be reunified with their children.
I’d like to recognize Spaulding’s staff whose passion and hard work are all about advocating and supporting young people’s right to be safe, valued and respected, independently of their sexual orientation/gender identity or expression, the color of their skin or their families’ circumstances.
Supporting and embracing differences has been a core element of Spaulding’s culture. It is our great honor to work with members of the LGBTQ community, families of color and parents with children in the foster care system.
While communities have made remarkable progress toward recognizing the richness of diversity, bias and discrimination still linger today. Now, more than ever Spaulding is committed to work hard to ensure the children and families we serve feel included, supported and celebrated. They all can thrive with the support of a caring community.
Juneteenth Celebrates Our Freedom
In the historic image above: Two women celebrate the end of slavery in the United States of America aboard a "Juneteenth Buggy" in 1908 Texas. Posted courtesy of the Houston Public Library.
There are many events celebrating freedom and Juneteenth at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit in the coming days. See the related article belowor click herefor more information and links to details.
June is Reunification Month
Working to Make Families Whole
Celebrated in June each year, National Reunification Month recognizes the people and efforts around the country that help families to stay together.
When children must be removed from their families to ensure their safety, the first goal is to reunite them with their families as soon as possible. Child welfare agencies implement multifaceted strategies that build on family strengths and address concerns. Such strategies may include family engagement, maintaining family and cultural connections, connecting families to evidence-based services in the community, regular and frequent visits among family members and with the worker, and parent education, among others. Returning children home often requires intensive, family-centered services to support a safe and stable family. Services should be tailored to each family's circumstances and should address the issue(s) that brought the child and family into the child welfare system.
Source: The Children’s Bureau
Profiling a Reunified Family
Micah and Darren’s family was reunited last September. As is often the case, the children had been cared for by a grandparent during the separation which gave them a sense of comfort and was credited as a reason that helped them stay positive throughout the process. It was important that they were able to have visits and stay in contact with their children. So, it’s no surprise that Micah says it was her mom who she first told that their family would be reunited. They celebrated with a weekend of fun including an outing to Dave and Busters.
Micah and Darren shared that among lessons learned, two of the lessons were that you can recover after a misstep and there are people who can help you. Micah says, “I learned to ask for help. My generation has a hard time doing that. But now I say go for it.”
According to Micah many people may believe that Child Protective Services (CPS) and others are intent and focused on separating children from their families. After this process Micah has come to understand that, in fact, they work with families to reunite them and can be a source of help.
“Spaulding played a big role in our life during this process. They even offered to help with our rent and moving expenses.”
When a child is removed from their home and put in foster care, the number one goal is to return that child to his or her family! The birth family, foster/ kinship family and foster care agency work together to rectify any safety concerns to get that child back to their family.
June is Pride Month
A Forever Home,
Full of Love and Acceptance
Rhiannon knows much of the intricacies about fostering as she is a Foster Home Licensing Supervisor through another child placing agency in the area. Rhiannon and her wife Kristin were raising their two young boys and had talked about fostering in the future.
As the couple continued to explore and discuss the foster home licensing process, they learned of a 2-year-old who had been placed in six different homes, one of the homes was licensed by the agency where Rhiannon worked. The child was available for adoption.
Rhiannon and Kristin knew the little girl needed a forever home. Learning about this toddler’s unusual circumstances became a strong motivator to start the process of becoming licensed foster parents and they began working with a professional at Spaulding.
Fostering does not always lead to adoption. Supporting reunification of families with children in care is the primary purpose of licensing families. Having a toddler available for adoption is highly unusual, this was a special circumstance.
When asked what made her want to become a foster parent Rhiannon replies, “I have seen the critical impact a good foster parent can make on a child and their successful reunification with their family of origin.”
While the couple was well trained to understand the impact of trauma on children’s overall development, they recognized they still need to learn more about available supports and resources as well as develop skills needed to address all the needs of their soon to be adopted daughter.
“We may have been confident in our abilities, but we, as most families embarking on this life-long journey, underestimated how critical were her needs. It is more challenging than we expected.”
During the process and thereafter Rhiannon and her wife-maintained contact with the last family with whom the youngster was placed.
“That’s the home she’ll remember. They have been a great resource to us, and we know, the previous foster family has an important emotional connection to the child.”
Rhiannon and Kristin’s advice for those interested in becoming a resource family for children in foster care is to be patient and resilient. “There are many delays in the process and COVID added months to this process. There are many things that can come up and there can also be surprises.”
There are many informal supports and professional resources to support families and the couple has accessed many of them including reaching out to other families who have fostered children with a history of trauma, occupational and speech therapy and resources designed for young children who have been separated at an early age.
In Michigan same sex couples can become licensed for foster care and also adopt. Spaulding’s focus is on recruiting, preparing and supporting families to foster and adopting children, regardless of their membership in a group of individuals that have been discriminated against for a very long time.
“I see a big shift in attitudes about same sex couples fostering and adopting. Spaulding was very welcoming to us. There are so many children in need of a home. And there are same sex couples, some who may have waited until they are a little older that can make great parents.”
The couple is opened to fostering another child in the future. There is a huge need for more loving foster homes; Spaulding for Children believes that any family that can safely care for traumatized children can make a great foster family! Sexual orientation nor any other discriminatory fact does not factor in the licensing determination process.
Upon successfully completing the licensing, the family celebrated with extended family and will plan more celebrations when the adoption is finalized.
Children’s Rights.com reported that, Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people are over-represented in foster care, where they are more likely to experience discrimination, abuse, neglect and the risk of harm. A 2019 study found 30.4 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ and 5 percent as transgender, compared to 11.2 percent and 1.17 percent of youth not in foster care.
LGBTQ youth are more likely to suffer from consistent harassment and abuse in foster care, juvenile justice settings and homeless shelters. At times, they’re subjected to dangerous efforts that falsely claim to change their orientation or gender identity, including so-called “conversion therapy.” These incidents are particularly pervasive with transgender youth, whose very identities are rejected in state care, and who, when bullied and abused, are often criminalized for acting in their own self-defense.
Without safe foster care placements, and without the vital support of caseworkers and other child welfare professionals, LGBTQ youth often flee abuse in foster care only to face homelessness and sexual exploitation.
Changing the Way People Think
Urgent Action for Our Black Boys
Kelvin Brown wants to see young African American males live their dreams and succeed in life. And while a number of obstacles stand in the way, Brown and his team have a plan. And it’s a good one, for it helps change the way people understand and think about our children.
“It’s called ‘Crisis to Connection: An Imperative for Our Black Boys,’” said Mr. Brown, who serves The Children’s Center of Detroit as a Program Manager. “It is not a project or program. We are intentional about branding Crisis to Connection an Imperative because it speaks to the urgency and importance of the work.”
Compared to all other males, Black boys are:
1.5 times more likely to receive an in-school suspension.
2.4 times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension.
1.7 times more likely to receive an expulsion.
Have a graduation rate of only 68% compared to 80% for white males.
“Every child deserves to dream and become the amazing person they were born to be,” Mr. Brown said. “But undiagnosed trauma, implicit bias and systemic racism cripples the life trajectory of Black boys in Detroit.”
The system is created by the political, sociological and economic world that formed Detroit and the United States, currently misshaped by racism and misunderstanding. What we must do, Mr. Brown said, is to apply planned solutions that are sustainable.
Mr. Brown provided an overview of the Imperative to the Spaulding staff. He reported that Black boys have a graduation rate of 68% compared to 80% for their white counterparts and 60% percent of high school dropouts will go to prison. Nationally, the statistics indicate:
Black men ages 30-34 are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of white men.
In 99% of US neighborhoods, Black boys in adulthood earn less than white men who grew up in households with similar incomes.
Black men 18 and over have the highest adjusted all-cause mortality rate and worst health status of any ethnic group-gender in the United States.
Misperceptions and other factors are addressed through information and raised awareness on the part of all members of the community, including educators, service providers, law enforcement and neighbors. Studies have shown that Black boys often appear older to people who are not African American.
“Society sees Black boys through a lens of ‘What is wrong with you?’,” Mr. Brown said. “If they knew about ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – and the trauma so many children have experienced, they would ask, ‘What happened to you?’ The resulting answer could make all the difference in the world for a child, as well as for the entire community. All children have the potential for greatness.”
For many Black boys, that potential can be hidden by layers of neglect, impoverished circumstances, and by physical, emotional and sexual abuse by adults in their lives.
Mr. Brown, who was raised in Detroit, was studying journalism at Wayne State University when he took a summer job as a coach in a Detroit Parks and Recreation program. He found that he was more than a coach, he was a role model and mentor to youngsters.
Using a trauma-informed and anti-racist framework, Crisis to Connection: An Imperative for Our Black Boys calls on reimagining and transforming systems that service Black boys. State and local legislators, law enforcement officials, physical and mental healthcare providers, teachers and administrators, parents and care givers, and others in society must evolve in their beliefs and practices in order to take positive steps. To speed the process, the Imperative brings awareness, facts and training.
“Systemic change is necessary to improve outcomes for Black boys,” Mr. Brown said. “Each of us has a responsibility and a duty to ensure that Black boys receive every opportunity to reach their full potential. And in the process of helping our Black boys realize their dreams today, we will create a better community for all tomorrow.”
The photo above shows Barack Obama around age 3 with his maternal grandfather, Mr. Stanley A. Dunham, at play on a beach in Hawaii. Mr. Dunham and his wife, Mrs. Madelyn Payne Dunham, helped raise the future 44th President of the United States.
Celebrate Freedom at the Charles H. Wright
Museum of African American History Spotlights 156th Anniversary of Juneteenth
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit reports the celebration of “Juneteenth” refers to June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger of the United States Army landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War ended, and that the enslaved were now free.
This announcement was more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all the men, women and children who had been held and owned as slaves in the United States.
This year marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth. The Wright presents a series of Juneteenth activities this weekend, June 17-20, 2021. The theme of Jubilee Freedom Weekend is “Education, Economic Independence, and Engagement.”
Due to precautions around COVID-19, The Wright will celebrate most events online, with some in-person elements. The Jubilee Weekend includes the Jubilee Stroll and a Movie Night, "Concrete Cowboy," starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin (R-rated). Click here for details.
Please Tell Us if You Can Join by June 21.
Spaulding KINDERCARES Program Set to Help Foster Families in Macomb Succeed
Children in foster care placed with relatives in Macomb need our help! Often, the families face unexpected challenges and expenses that come with opening their home to a new member.
To better support families in Macomb County who are caring for relatives’ children in foster care, Spaulding for Children, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan State University (MSU), is developing a grant proposal.
The program is called KINDER-CARES. The acronym stands for “Kinship Network Development, Empowerment and Resilience plus Connection and Relationship Enhancement through Shared Parenting.” In short, KINDER-CARES provides critical support to families caring for related foster children when they most need it.
If selected for funding, this program will increase Macomb County families’ access to vital supports and critical resources that can lessen the challenges of taking in a child. While we’d like to count on you for help, we are not asking for donations at this time. What we now ask are pledges from organizations and individuals who are willing to support the goals of the project.
If instituted, we would need donations like grocery gift cards and gas cards. To succeed, we also need volunteers, tutors and mentors to support kinship caregivers throughout their journey. If you can help, please contact Cheryl Gist via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (947) 224-8467.
Please respond by "End of Business" on Friday, June 18, to add your organization’s name or your name to the Macomb County Community Supporters List. This list will be included on the grant proposal scheduled to be submitted by the end of June. Thank you!
Join us now by contacting Cheryl Gist by email at email@example.com or phone (947) 224-8467. Please be part of this impactful network of support for kinship foster families.
Turn off the screens. Turn on the fun.
Summer is 'On!'
Turn off the screens and turn on the fun. Summer is “On.” And it’s happening “Live,” all around us. In fact, there is so much to see and do this summer, it takes a computer for us to list it all.
At the page, you’ll find links to fun places, special events, art exhibits, concerts, and a good many fun activities for families, kids, and grown-ups. The listings include links to summer camps, parks, beaches, zoos, museums, libraries, art fairs and attractions in Southeast Michigan.
Click on the link above or on the button below for complete information.
Become a Fellow of the Minority Professional Leadership Development program
The Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program at AdoptUSKids is accepting candidates now through June 21 for the next cohort, which will start October 2021. This fellowship is designed for emerging minority leaders working in the fields of child welfare. The fellowship includes hands-on experience, exposure to national adoption experts, and mentorship opportunities. To learn more about MPLD, and to apply for the fellowship, click here or on the button below.
Spaulding for Children will be sponsoring a Recruitment Resource Fair on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The resource fair will bring together important community organizations and/or businesses with the public to share an array of available resources for families and their children.
We are inviting you to be a part of this event as an Exhibitor to share your organization’s valuable information, unique resources and professional expertise. If you or your organization would like to participate, please email Stacey Oakes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping Team Members Connected
Spaulding Cares Committee is an internal program designed to ensure staff stay connected and up to date with each other and with staff working remotely as of late, it’s been especially vital.
Each year in January the committee chooses a theme and 2021 is Connectivity. Connectivity is designed to be among coworkers and ways one can get/keep healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Each month has a related topic around which a different committee member then designs activities for all staff members.
February: Black History Month – included films to see and destinations to visit including restaurants and museums.
March: Literacy – Several lively book discussions.
April: Morale – crazy hats, silly tattoos, and an Easter egg hunt.
May: Break – stress balls, desk stretches, puzzles and word search games.
June: Preparation – Prepare Emergency Packages for house and car.
Upcoming months will include activities, not yet selected by committee members.
November: Giving Back
Doretha Morgan heads up the Spaulding Cares Committee. She has been with Spaulding 6 years.
"Spaulding has a real family feel. Everyone values work/life balance. And these types of activities are a perfect example.
Communication among staff is key for this program to be effective with the greatest level of participation. And it literally keeps everyone connected. A monthly eblast is sent to all and at month end everyone meets on zoom to compare notes.
“Those who love to compete – and most of our staff does – can get highly creative with the activities,” Ms. Morgan said. “They might share photos of their progress or challenge other members: ‘Here's how far we are on our project. Hey! You across the hall! How about yours?’ People get really energized.”
These activities and others also are a chance to earn points throughout the year that go towards one additional PTO – Paid Time Off. Doretha also serves on the Strategic Planning Committee on the Human Resources subcommittee.
Programs like Spaulding Cares are examples of a company's ethos. It is especially important to Spaulding’s goal of attracting and retaining good talent.
“It's important to future employees that things like the Spaulding Cares activities exist because it says: ‘Spaulding is a group of people who care about each other.’” Ms. Morgan said. “And for professionals in the social services sector, that is especially important.”
They Just Want to Be Free
Veda has two children who identify as LGBTQ, a biological daughter and an adopted son. Neither came out to her nor announced their sexual orientation. But, they have told her she had to have been blind not to have seen it.
“My daughter dressed like a boy and my son wanted to be Ru Paul at age 5,” Veda said. “Later, he dyed his hair purple – which at the time 15 years ago – was shocking.”
It was a friend of his who told Veda that her 15 year old son was gay. The news did not change her relationship with her children. But Veda knew she needed to learn more. She did then what she encourages parents to do now when they first learn of their child’s sexual orientation: Get educated.
Veda went to the Ruth Ellis Center and sat in a couple of classes. She also developed a support group of parents with whom she is still in contact. Veda also got involved with volunteering at the Center. Her son attended a support group there too.
“Get as much information as you can and be open to all,” Veda said. “They are still your children.”
She references a quote she’s seen which says: “It’s not a crime to have a gay child. But it is a crime to disown a gay child.”
Both of her children have taken new names. But, she still calls them by their given names.
“These kids want to be free,” Veda said. “That’s why they change their names. But kids are just kids. And you gotta just prove you love them every day.”
“I don’t treat them any different. They have the same rules in my house and I emphasize that they need to be independent and have a backup plan.”
As a gay black male, her son faces multiple challenges and some safety risks, “Just because of who he is,” Veda said.
Veda has seen attitudes change and has several foster and adoptive parents in her network that are same sex couples. She has fostered many children, some of whom no one else would take, including transgender youth. It is difficult to find permanent homes for them and many end up homeless as young adults.
When asked what motivates her through all these years of fostering, Veda replies that it’s knowing what really matters. “You can help someone else,” she said. “I love what I do.”
The image above depicts the new LEGO construction set, "Everyone Is Awesome." The company produced the 11-figure, 346-piece set to support inclusivity and to "Inspire the builders of tomorrow."
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In partnership with families, communities, organizations, states and the nation, Spaulding for Children’s mission is to assure that all children grow up in safe, permanent families and have the help they need to be successful in life.