When my partner and I began our adoption journey two years ago, we were terrified of fostering. We were scared of getting too attached and of having to give a child back. They're valid fears, especially if you've struggled to start your own family or don't yet have kids. However, 18 months later, we not only have a daughter who is ours and fully adopted, we've fostered four babies. You might be surprised to learn that fostering was just as big a blessing to our family as adoption. There are things no one tells you about being a foster parent, but I'm more than happy to.
Throughout Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties we are fortunate to have local businesses / organizations and faith communities that believe in engaging in activities to support and strengthen children and families. Through connecting with Heartland for Children’s business and faith-based initiatives, some ways they are able to assist are: raising awareness about the importance of promoting healthy child development, child abuse and neglect prevention awareness, recruitment and support of quality foster homes and the need for forever homes for children waiting to be adopted.
The availability of quality foster and adoptive homes is an ever present challenge within child welfare. Historically, homes for teens and large sibling groups are even more difficult to recruit. There is an added challenge, currently, in that the number of new foster homes being licensed is outpaced by the numbers of children being removed from their homes. Removals are at a ten year high within Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties. Heartland for Children is committed to innovation in the approaches used to recruit and retain quality foster parents.
Heartland for Children coordinates the Annual Rudolph Round-Up Holiday Toy Drive to benefit local children who have experienced abuse and neglect and are receiving services through the foster care system. Last year 1,410 children and teens were able to be served through generous donations from our local community. Our goal for the 2016 12th Annual Rudolph Round-Up Holiday Toy Drive is to help to ensure that at least 1400 local children who have experienced abuse and neglect have holiday gifts and joyful celebrations. Our greatest need each year is for child wish list and toy drive donors for children ages birth to two and teens, ages 13 to 17. It is through the continued and valued support of individuals, groups, organizations, faith communities and businesses - Rudolph Champions - that the children’s holiday wishes come true!
Case Manager's Corner by: Bill Nunnally
Thank you to all of these awesome representatives from their agencies and to everyone who’s out there every day doing amazing work.
- One Hope United
- Kelly Valk: Clinical Engagement Specialist at Neighbor to Family
- LaShandra Thomas West: Family Care Manager at Neighbor to Family
- Lauren Wolf: Family Care Manager at Neighbor to Family
- Kathy Sangster- Senior Case Manager, Gulf Coast Unit 35.
- Katherine Galvis, Certified Case Manager, Devereux
- Kristina Goderich, Children’s Home Society
- Vereuch Simmons, Children’s Home Society
CLICK LINK TO READ DETAILS ABOUT EACH
This is why my family chose to become a foster, and eventually adoptive family in Polk County, Florida. As a foster and adoptive brother, I have been allowed the opportunity to help shelter ten different children within our home over the past eight years. During this time I have been able to develop patience and empathy for those who have experienced great trauma. Since I was an only child for the first six years of my life, these experiences led me to share my space, toys, time, and even my family. With every child that was taken in, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure they didn't leave without knowing that there was someone who cared. I have helped prepare numerous meals, organize clothes, provide safety and fun at the park, entertainment at home and in the car, reading of books, bedtime prayers, and much more. Although some of my foster brothers and sisters stayed for only a short time, I believe that each day counts.
We hope you'll enjoy these fabulous guides to free and affordable family fun in central Florida! From the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast and everywhere in between, families of all sizes and budgets will be able to make the summer of 2016 a memorable one without breaking the bank!
“Mom, are you coming?!” my youngest daughter wailed, “Come on! We’re ready to FREE it!” In order to understand what is taking place, let me rewind to about eight weeks ago.
It was a normal Sunday afternoon and the family was outside working in the yard like we do twice a month. As we were weeding the flower beds, our cat, Rasputin, appeared from around the corner, carrying something that was moving in his mouth. My daughters, knowing that the little creature was facing an untimely death, started to scream at Rasputin. Rasputin immediately dropped the creature from his mouth and ran the opposite direction. My youngest daughter had made it to the wiggling animal first and exclaimed “Oh Mama, it’s a baby bird!” As I approached, I could tell that the bird appeared to be in very bad shape. “Mama, you have to help the little guy!” Looking first at the little shivering mess of feathers, then at the two pleading faces before me, I caught myself saying ”Go get a towel and a box. We’ll take it to the ER vet down the road.”
Now that April Child Abuse Prevention Month has come to a close, we wanted to first and foremost thank our entire community for their support of the Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign here locally. Hundreds of individuals wore their pinwheel lapel pins, displayed the blue and silver pinwheel, distributed parent resource guides, displayed signage and bulletin boards, and shared the message about the importance of child abuse prevention. Many of our community leaders, Mayors, and Commissioners proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month as well.
On Friday, April 29th, 2016, Heartland Prodigy had our first annual Showcase. Over 60 of our kids, from both of our sites in Eloise and Florence Villa, were present along with their families. We are known for our diversity, serving Hispanic, African American, Caucasian, and Asian families; so it was a beautiful night celebrating one of our favorite traits, Unity in Diversity! As a community, we celebrated our children’s creative accomplishments in Mixed Media, Ceramics, Acting, Dancing, and Keyboards.
I began looking around, and saw something amazing. A group of people, all completely different, had found a place where they could be themselves, build relationships with other parents, let their children learn valuable social behaviors, and know that they aren’t doing this alone. A mom in pajamas just happy to be there, a dad whose wife passed away before their child was a year old, a grandpa wanting to spend some time with his grandchild, a stay-at-home mom, a stay-at-home dad, along with many other parents and caregivers, all had found a place to belong, sharing the one thing they had in common, caring for that child.
I left class that day in tears. Tears of joy. Joyful because I had seen families strengthened to take on the rest of their week.
Heartland for Children would like to thank the following individuals for their outstanding service to children and families in Circuit 10 this quarter.
Graneshia Glover has been employed with Children’s Home Society for over 4 years. In that time, she has proven to be one of the most sincere and dedicated case managers in the entire system of care. Even with all the incredibly complicated and multi-faceted tasks that a case manager faces each day, Graneshia has managed to shine – even while often carrying a caseload twice the size of many of her peers!! She recently completed her nursing degree. Even though she could step away from case management at this time to pursue nursing, she has decided to stay here...
Heartland for Children was pleased to host three film screenings of the much anticipated documentary, Paper Tigers, here in Lakeland, Sebring, and Winter Haven in November 2015. HFC partnered with Prevent Child Abuse Florida to bring this film to our community. Paper Tigers intimately examines the inspiring promise of Trauma Informed Communities – a movement that is showing great promise in healing individuals struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Through their partnership with Heartland for Children’s faith-based initiative, Grace Bible Church, under the leadership of lead Pastor Dustin Woods, has been instrumental in impacting the lives of children and families throughout Circuit 10 – Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties.
For the second year, Grace Bible Church committed to being Rudolph Round-Up Champions and through the generosity of the church and its members, hosted a toy drive to specifically benefit teens who are receiving services through the local foster care system. The toys and items donated through the Church-sponsored toy drive exceeded expectations and helped to meet the holiday wishes of our teens in care.
Waypoints Financial has been a wonderful partner in our community, opening their hearts to helping children in need through Heartland for Children’s Rudolph Round-Up Toy Drive.
For several years, the staff at Waypoints Financial has committed to being Rudolph Champions, purchasing specific wishes for teens and hosting a toy drive to specifically benefit children and teens who are receiving services through the local foster care system.
We'd like to recognize the following Case Managers this quarter:
- Barbara Hester | One Hope United
- Sylvia Matteo | Children's Home Society
- Mary Thomas | GCJFCS
- Cemico Green | Neighbor to Family
Thanks to the generosity of all the donors who chose to be Rudolph Champions in 2015, contributing financially, purchasing items from children’s wish lists and/or sponsoring one of over 60 toy drives in our community, we were able to not only meet our goal, but exceed it!
Did you know that our biggest adoption month each year is National Adoption Month (November)?
On November 18th, 2015 (National Adoption Day) alone, we had six children (all girls) finalize their adoptions! We had one additional adoption at the end of November, making a total of seven total children and teens adopted during the month of November.
In 2015, 32 children and teens throughout Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties were either matched with a family, or finalized their adoption with a family they were matched with!
Case Manager’s Corner for the 1st Quarter includes:
- HFC Case Management Goes “Green”
- Supervisors Setting the Bar
- Frontline Heroes
- Psych Meds Shout Out
- Special Mentions
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Heartland for Children will be bringing you information and resources throughout the month of October on how you can help prevent domestic violence or get help if you are in an abusive relationship. However, if you or someone you know needs help right now, there are many resources available locally to help you today.
Watch the 2015 ABC Action News Taking Action Against Domestic Violence Prime Time Special here.
Black widow, Spider Girl and the man of the day, Thor. We wanted his day to be special. After all, you only get adopted once, and it's a super big deal. So, we let them put on their costumes because superhero costumes, rather than fancy clothes, represent our children and their personalities. All three of them share characteristics that every superhero has, from their extraordinary powers and abilities to courage, being energetic and bravery.
We can't believe that the 2015-2016 school year is already just around the corner! Here are some local resources and important information to help get your back to school planning go off without a hitch.
On June 26th, the first QPI Mini Conference was held in Lakeland, FL at Polk State College. Attendees, including case managers, protective investigators, Guardian Ad Litems, foster parents, children's legal services and many more were invited to learn about the Quality Parenting Initiative and the "re-branding" of the foster care system at these two mini-sessions. Each conference culminated in an awards ceremony. Below are each session's award winners!
Meet Rachael Bowen, Heartland for Children's new Recruitment Specialist. We are happy to welcome Racheal to our team!
Rachael is a former HFC foster parent and brings an exciting and dynamic work/life history to her new position.
“I could never foster a teenager”. I’ve heard it time and time again during my twenty two years working in child welfare. Why are people so afraid of teen agers? We were ALL teenagers at one point…is that why you don’t think you can do it, because you’re afraid of a child like yourself? (insert funny photo?) I have met some of THE most amazing teens during my career. These kids are earning athletic and academic scholarships to college, they excel in their high school sports and community clubs…but they couldn’t do this without a caring foster parent by their side to support them every step of the way.
While some of you are busy planning your best and most epic April Fool’s Day pranks today, we wanted to take a minute to remind you that today is also the first day of the Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign celebrating Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Heartland for Children is a proud supporter of this national campaign and will be promoting it throughout the month. Please display your pinwheels, share our posts and participate in our events taking place throughout Polk, Hardee and Highlands County. We want everyone to know how they can be a part of the solution.
After researching, reading, and researching some more, I was amazed to find that many fathers have benefitted from learning to use infant massage with their babies. By implementing the techniques taught in an Infant Massage Instructional Class, these fathers had created a one-on-one bonding experience with their child(ren). This study highlights that the stress level of the fathers who participated was greatly reduced after implementing an infant massage routine.
Looking back, many teenage girls would admit to dancing in their mom’s high heeled shoes as young girls, wearing sheets as robes, and practicing to curtsey in front of the mirror. They were princesses, and one day they were going to marry Prince Charming and live happily ever after. There were Cinderellas, who were abused and neglected, holding out for their invitation to the royal ball. Then, there were Sleeping Beauties, born into royalty, but eventually life happened, putting their dreams on hold.
I am strong, intelligent, determined, focused, funny, sassy, and energetic. Well, at least that is how my family and friends describe me. I specifically asked them to describe how I was as a teen and young adult, as opposed to now, over 20 years later, and their answers were much the same. I can remember how I felt back then, and I believed all these things about myself (perhaps because I was lucky enough to have family and friends who wholeheartedly believed those things, too). I also knew I was loved and supported by my family and friends and that if I confided in them that I was in trouble, they would have done anything they could to help.
It is that time of year again. High school football teams are playing with an intense passion, hoping that their team can still make the playoffs, NFL teams have found their rhythm and are working their way through injuries, and people of all types have embraced a bold and bright pink as part of their normal wardrobe.
The cooler weather brings with it the occasion of dressing up in costume. Some people do this on Halloween, and others dress up to go to their local church’s fall festival. Wearing a costume can be quite exciting. If you are anything like me, once the costume begins to take shape, my personality becomes that of the character I am portraying. It only happens once a year, so I make it count.
Ghandi expressed the essence of love when he made one of the most simplistic yet profound statements, “Love never claims, it ever gives” (Frank, 2001). This statement merely suggests: love that claims, isn’t really love at all. To claim something one asserts, declares, and alleges the item or person in question belongs to them for one reason or another. Many hold the belief that love is a choice, even among the cultures where arranged marriages still exists. In his book, The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis discusses some of the different loves described in Greek thought: familial or affectionate love (storge); friendship (philia); romantic love (eros); and spiritual love (agape) in the light of Christian commentary on ordinate loves.
We mentioned in our last blog that an estimated 90% of car seats are used incorrectly. Nationally, that statistic is around 75%, which means parents and caregivers in Florida need a little extra help when installing their car seats. There was a time in my life that I would have thought installing a car seat couldn’t be all that difficult, and I would have bet money that I knew how to install one. It wasn’t until my first experience with three, not just one, that I realized my worst nightmare had just come true.
In 2012, among children under the age of five in cars, an estimated 284 lives were SAVED by child restraints, also known as car seats. That is a lot of lives saved. Car crashes, however, are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-12. Our goal is to see the number of deaths decrease while the number of lives saved increases. Unfortunately, we also know that approximately 90% of child restraints are installed incorrectly, putting children at risk. In order for us to help increase the number of children traveling safely, we need your help.
After a suicide or suicide attempt there are many emotions that affect those that survive. There are the stages of grief we move through and it can come sometimes take quite a bit of time to move through a stage. I’ve heard comments full of regret such as “If only I’d known he was so sad” or “I wish I had known, I would’ve tried to help” and comments full of anger such as “That’s such a selfish act” or “How could he do that to the people who loved him”. Unless you understand the absolute despair that leads to the moment of an attempted or completed suicide, you will probably struggle with understanding the “why”.
As we continue our blog series for National Suicide Prevention Week, we felt it was so important to discuss the warning signs that may be present when someone is considering suicide, as well as explore the actions that can best help someone in crisis, as well as those reactions that are not helpful.
Suicide claims more lives than HIV and homicide combined...
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and, Wednesday, September 10, 2014 is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day. To show our support of this important topic, we are embarking on a series of blogs that should help others to be more knowledgeable about the risk and protective factors for suicide, along with what warning signs can be indicative that someone might be considering suicide. We will also equip readers with the knowledge of what to do when facing warning signs and what actions may not be helpful. Lastly, we will address the difficult topic of surviving suicide.
Find out what free back-to-school events are going on around Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties in 2014!
My family was blessed with Shania six years ago. We loved her from the moment we saw her. She has three brothers, including a twin! Being the ONLY girl in a house full of boys is not easy. One of Shania’s best qualities is her incredibly strong spirit. Her no-fear attitude led her to not only enter her 5th grade speech competition, but come in 2nd place for the entire county! She is now in her middle school's law program. We are so proud of her and so blessed to call her out daughter.
Here is the beautiful speech she wrote specially about adoption, based on her personal experience of being adopted:
Swimming is one of the most popular summertime activities, and living in Florida, we are never at a shortage of bodies of water to swim in. Between pools, lakes, oceans and water parks, there are plenty of ways to cool off from the sweltering Florida heat. With the pool and beach season now upon us, it is important to be mindful of your family’s safety in and around water. (As my mom always reminded us... "SAFETY first!
Forming relationships and attachments with others is inevitable even among the most shy and isolated individuals. So long as one lives and interacts with others, a form of attachment or relationship is established. There are different types of relationships that the average person can associate with: parent to child, foster parent to foster child, grandparent to grandchild, and sibling to sibling, spouse to spouse relationship along with extended family relationships. There are also the romantic, friendship, colleague, and the roommate relationships. The list can go on and on. A relationship, simply put, is being related to or interrelated with another individual on some level.
Many children in school know how many days are left in this school year, and if they don’t know, they can always ask their teacher. Soon, they will have a lot of time on their hands, so parents are given the monumental task of helping them find ways to pass the time. If you’re like me, you know it won’t be long before you hear those two words that every parent dreads – “I’m bored!” What if I told you there was something you could put in their hands to help with that? I’m not talking about the latest smart phone, tablet, or video game controller; this is even better than that. I am suggesting that you put a book in their hands, and if you plan it right, they can actually have fun reading it!
As summer quickly approaches, children will be needing summer activities and parents will be seeking energy outlets and learning experiences each day to prevent boredom and unnecessary chaos. Children thrive on structured activities and new experiences. My five-year-old grandson vividly remembers the treasure hunt we had last year. Ironically, he was grounded from his bicycle, so I planned an activity that excluded his bike but offered him an outlet for his energy. His energy, most of the time, is twice that of mine. We went for a walk instead. While walking, I asked him to locate specific items such as flags, flowers, colored leaves, and different types of insects.
Our journey first began long before September 2011; it began about 16 years ago with kinship care. We were contacted by the department and asked if we would consider taking in our nephews who were going to be removed from their home. My husband and I said yes. About two years later, there was a TPR hearing and the boys came up for adoption. Again, my husband and I said yes and adopted. After having previously being involved with the system through kinship care and adoption...and having two empty bedrooms (can’t have that!), we decided to take the leap and attend foster parent classes. We will soon celebrate our three-year anniversary as foster parents.
After nearly 10 years of being opposed to the idea of fostering, I finally decided to take the first step back in 2009 to learn more about the need and exactly what my commitment would be if I were to foster.
HEARTLAND FOR CHILDREN - [Foster Care Blog] - Today, our foster parents are highly skilled volunteers that work in partnership with biological parents, case managers and other child welfare professionals to ensure that while the children are away from their parents, the parents still feel supported and connected to their children.
The best car seat will be the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and the one that you will use correctly every time. If a car seat is not installed correctly, your child's safety could be in danger. Every car seat has different installation instructions. Here are key items to keep in mind when installing a car seat.
By the time a student finishes high school one third will experience some type of abuse in their relationships. Who does this happen to? Dating Violence can happen anywhere and to anyone. The only thing that victims of abusive relationships have in common is that they have nothing in common. Dating violence happens regardless of socio-economic status, geographic area, age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or physical size. Even men can be victims of dating violence.
We are fortunate to live in the tri-county area of Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties where local businesses are not only a part of the decorative landscape but their business practices demonstrates they believe in giving back to support and strengthen children and families.
Through your ministry you inspire and touch the lives of so many children and families. We are in need of leaders of faith based ministries throughout our local communities that will partner with Heartland for Children in implementing a faith-based initiative. This partnership will encompass both universal and targeted efforts to provide family and community supports that will build protective factors for the families within our communities.
For going on nine years, Heartland for Children has helped to provide holiday gifts for thousands of children and teens throughout Polk, Highlands and Hardee Counties in Central Florida. 1,360 children and teens received presents last year alone through generous donations from individuals, groups, and businesses.
The Florida Baptist Children's Homes values the partnership with HFC as we serve children & families together. Heartland communicates well with our agency, keeps children and families central to its goals and works to empower our agency to improve services.