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Brian Bolick had his arms wrapped around his 7-year-old daughter, playfully hugging her captive.
“What’s the magic word?” he asked.
She wiggled a bit before yelling “please,” but he only hugged her closer.
“It’s peanut butter,” Bolick exclaimed, as he opened his arms and the giggling little girl went running.
From watching them, it’s unlikely anyone would guess they aren’t biologically related.
What not even the Bolicks would have guessed, though, is the path that brought the family together.
Brian Bolick and his wife, Vicki, had been hoping to adopt an older child for years but didn’t know where to start.
“It’s a weird chain of events that got us to where we are,” he said. “To me, it was kind of fated in a way.”
It began when Bolick signed up in 2009 for Leadership Forsyth, an educational program that helps community members learn how to get involved.
Each year’s class selects a service project, and Bolick recalled hearing from many nonprofits with suggestions.
He felt a personal call to help when listening to the executive director of a then-emerging organization called Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together, or SAFFT.
“I remember Ashley [Anderson] up there making her presentation,” he said, “and just me thinking, well this is exactly what we’ve been talking about. There’s no excuses. Here’s a way.”
They had planned on having a child naturally, Vicki Bolick said, “but it just never happened.”
Feeling happy as a family, but not whole, the couple had floated the topic of adoption for years. It wasn’t until hearing Anderson speak that they really began the process.
Brian Bolick decided to get involved with SAFFT even if the group didn’t select that project, but apparently others were as moved as he was with the organization’s work.
The class voted to renovate a home to create a safe visitation center for families. When the project was complete, Brian Bolick continued his work with SAFFT by joining the nonprofit’s board.
The couple had learned a lot about adoption through volunteer work with SAFFT and the friendships they formed. But even so, they had little success at first working with a private agency.
“We had more resources at our disposal than I would say the average person, and yet it was still very difficult,” he said. “Months and months would go by, and we would never hear from them about any children. We couldn’t understand it.”
What they eventually learned was that the path to adopt a newborn baby and an older child isn’t the same.
Older children are in foster care, and are typically reunified with a biological family member or adopted by their foster parents.
“If you want to adopt an older child, you pretty much need to be a foster parent,” Brian Bolick said.
Anderson, SAFFT director, suggested they work through the Department of Family and Children Services, or DFCS, instead of the private agency.
“Why don’t you guys just foster,” Anderson recalled saying, “and if a child is meant to be, it will happen.”
They started as a respite foster family, or one that is approved to care for a child when the primary foster parent cannot or needs a break.
In spring 2012, the Bolicks first began to spend time with the girl who would eventually become their daughter, whose identity they chose to keep private for this article.
They were about to leave for a cruise that April when they received a call from DFCS asking if they could take the girl for a week while her foster parent was out of town.
They canceled the trip.
“We knew that we were a possibility for her, and we loved her so much,” Brian Bolick said.
The couple got to spend more time with the girl. By June, they were approved as her foster parents.
Vicki Bolick said the months afterward were an emotional wait, wondering if the adoption would happen or if someone would come forward for her.
“You just don’t know,” she said. “So we took a chance because we felt like even if it didn’t work out, at least we would have made an impact and otherwise we were always better because of her.”
In March, the wait was over. They became a family.
There’s no doubt in their minds that they were “just meant to be,” Vicki Bolick said.
The years of waiting and of confusion hadn’t been without reason.
“It never felt right until we met her, and then I just knew,” she said. “I remember the first time I saw her. It was at the SAFFT Christmas event.
“We were just looking over at the playground and she was playing. I didn’t even really know much about her story, but I remember just looking over and I told Brian, ‘That’s going to be our child someday.’”
The Bolicks have continued their involvement with SAFFT — only there are three of them now.
The organization recently moved into its new, larger building on Castleberry Road, and Vicki Bolick lent her interior design talents — with the help of her daughter — to make the place a welcome one for children, the one their girl remembers.
The two are also willing to share their story, in hopes that others thinking of fostering or adopting can learn something about the difficult but rewarding journey.
Foster care, they found, still has a stigma. Some people would question why they were doing it.
Brian Bolick said he also thought people didn’t understand the true benefits of adoption and fostering.
“People say, ‘Oh, that’s a great thing you guys are doing,’” he said. “It’s really, we’ve gotten a lot more out of it.”
As Vicki Bolick recalled, Forsyth County Juvenile Court Judge Russell Jackson told them early on in the process that they didn’t need “a child,” but “the child.”
We want to thank Lisa Sternberg a member of the Foster Care Kids Need Love Too Family! for sharing her story. Meet Lisa, 27 years ago this day, DEC 20th 1986, five days before Christmas, I became a foster kid. I entered the “system”, set to be another statistic. The cards stacked against me, set to fail by society standards. Just another kid with a messed up life thanks to the sickness of a father. And it sucked…. a lot….and it hurt….still does. I spent years holding my breath waiting for life to go back to the way it was before, not understanding then that that life would have destroyed me even further than it already had. I almost gave up, I was ready to fail, I was ready to let the cards fall, I was part of the system…..
But what the system and the cards and society didn’t know is that there was this seed planted in me, long before anyone knew my name. I had this power to be an overcomer. I had this strength that no one else saw in me but God. I ran from Him, hated him, tried everything I could to destroy his creation…me. I drank as a teen, long before sixteen. I smoked. I attempted suicide, more than once, more than twice, more…, I was raped, I was promiscuous, I did drugs, I did all the things the world was telling me would make me feel better…and if I did them I would be normal, loved, not a number….all lies. Truth, God was there thru it all, waiting for me to fall.
Even thru all the turmoil I tried to put my best face and foot forward, and I had goals. I have traveled a lot and seen enough to feel life. I graduated high school with high honors and a full scholarship to College (from the system DCFS). I served my country (GO ARMY). I have a good life and great friends. I finally stopped being mad at God and let him have my life, he had it all along, and I just had to realize it would be better if he was in control. But perhaps the best thing I have ever done and the greatest lesson in life is the fact that I gave life to three beautiful children who will, God willing, never have to say on this day….I became a foster kid. Please support our movement. It takes a brave person with courage to share a sadden story. send your monetary donations to our cause https://www.wepay.com/donations/fostercarekidsneedlovetoo “Drawing Success” for the youth of our nation Happy Holidays!
Foster Kids Need Love Too® is an organization that has the best interest of foster kids of this nation at their heart. As a nation we obsess over the bringing up of our children. We make sure to provide them with the best quality of education for their mental growth; we provide the best food to our children to give them a healthy lifestyle; we provide them with the best medical facilities; and all this very rightly so, they are our children after all who will take the mantel of running this nation tomorrow, all this is their right and all of this will be provided by any parent worth their salt.
But take a moment here and consider those children who are the same age as your very own kids. Unfortunately for them there is no way to get all the best treatment in the world because they do not have any family that takes care of them and because they are all alone on this planet.
Think of the consequences for such a child. Lost in the world, they could end up on the wrong paths of criminality or abuse. If they make to a mature age, with their past marred with trouble and nothing good, they could end up in a lifelong destructing cycle of crime, of substance abuse and even of violence.
Think for a moment that just because they did not have a person in their life to guide them, these young minds which could have been put to great use of the civilization have gone rotten at the cruel hands of the unforgiving society.
That kid could have been you.
If not for that person who was there for you when you needed them the most; the person who listened to you and gave you a hand when you found yourself seeking a way out of a mess. At Foster Kids Need Love Too® we want to be that family for the unfortunate and underprivileged kids of our nation who are out there as we speak trying to navigate through the adversities of life, in need of person to look up to. We love foster kids and we want them to be our family. We want them to be a part of the bright future of our nation and we are determined in our quest to provide such children with food, care, education and above all, love.
Foster Kids Need Love Too® can only achieve this with your help. You can impart a child with a once in a life time fighting chance to turn their life around for better. Don’t you want to be the person to change a child’s future for the good? Don’t you want to be the person to hold the hand of one young child that may not be your own but will reply to your generosity with the impartial love of a child?
Foster Kids Need Love Too® will continue down this path of empathy and love and with your help we can keep on ‘Drawing Success’
Lasting connections for foster children is one of the new goals for Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, Secretary Suzy Sonnier said Thursday in Alexandria.
A new initiative the department is rolling out, called “Faith in Families,” looks to safely reduce the number of children in foster care, decrease the amount of time children spend in the system and ensure that each child has a permanent connection when they leave foster care, Sonnier said.
“Children deserve strong and loving families. This initiative will bring positive and life-changing impacts to children in our foster care system,” she said.
Last year more than 7,500 children were in the foster care program in Louisiana, according to DCFS statistics. About 3,710 were discharged from foster care during the year and about 3,180 children were placed in foster care in 2012. There are currently 4,031 children in foster care across the state.
Additionally, DCFS plans to work aggressively to improve permanent connections for youth on the verge of aging out of foster care.
DCFS, Sonnier said, “will work to identify family or other community members who can provide lasting relationships for young people ensuring that no children exit the foster care system without someone to call family.”
Research shows that children who age out of foster care without a permanent connection face significant challenges including homelessness, unemployment, mental health and substance abuse issues and involvement with the criminal justice system.
“Life-long connections are key to ensuring that these children have a place to live, stay in school and make positive decisions about their lives going forward,” Sonnier said.
The initiative sets the following goals to be met by 2015:
» Safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 1,000.
» 95 percent of all children returning home will not return to foster care.
» 85 percent of children will exit foster care within 24 months of entering — either through reunification with family or adoption.
» 50 percent of those in foster care will be adopted within 24 months, exceeding the national standard of 37 percent.
» 75.2 percent of children will be reunified with their family within 12 months, achieving the national standard.
» 85 percent of all children will exit foster care in a permanent placement — adoption, reunification, guardianship.
» All children exiting foster care will do so with permanent connections.
“DCFS’ over-arching focus is to keep children safe,” Sonnier said. “We will build partnerships with a variety of organizations that can assist us in accomplishing our mission, use existing best practices and tools and drive performance to continue to improve the way we provide services.”
The new initiative follows a record year for DCFS in adoptions. Last year, DCFS saw 652 children adopted by 468 families. Today, there are 638 children who are immediately eligible for adoption.
Foster care placement is one of the childhood risk factors, which predicts adult homelessness. A mother with a childhood history of foster care is far more likely to become homeless than one who has never entered the foster care system.
Darlesha Joyner is one such mother who comprises more than 6,500 District residents without permanent homes.
“I’m tired and frustrated,” said Joyner, 22, who entered Maryland’s foster care system at 14 years old. Her 18-month-old son rested on her hip with his legs akimbo. “My issue is not only with living in the shelter but even before. I don’t want to be here.”
Since January, Joyner, a mother of two, has lived in the old D.C. General Hospital, which was repurposed as a family shelter in Southeast. Recent reports indicate it houses 284 families with nearly 600 children, more than half of them under the age of 12.
Joyner experienced a series of losses over a short time. At four years old, her mother died. Her father followed at seven. One grandmother died when she was 10 and another at 14. Since the age of seven, she was bounced around by family members, living from house to house, until she entered foster care, the native Washingtonian said.
“My family said I was hard headed,” said Joyner who has a learning disability. At 18, she emancipated herself by leaving the foster care system, got into domestic violence situations, lived in hallways and slept outdoors.
She joined several persons who testified at Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham’s public oversight hearing on D.C. General’s services and management onsite at the shelter on Feb. 28.
“These children are wards of the city and we have special responsibility for them,” said Graham, chair of the Committee on Human Services with oversight authority over D.C. General. “In the process, we become their parents, and we should anticipate their needs when they’re emancipated.”
One woman revealed she was a foster child from 2 to 21 years old, and now lives at D.C. General.
The D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), the city’s child welfare agency, reported in 2008 that more than one-third of the youth leaving the system at 21 did so with “few or none of the supports and resources … to ensure sustainable independent living.”
This vexing national problem of foster care becoming a breeding ground for future homeless adults isn’t new.
The 1994 Green Book from the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, reported that mid-1980s surveys indicated significant numbers of homeless shelter users were recently discharged from foster care. The book provides data under the committee’s jurisdiction.
Children “age out” of the system when they’re discharged from government care, between 18 and 21. As young adults, they’re forced into pseudo independence with little resources to assume adulthood.
Earlier this month, the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA), a coalition of youth-engaged organizations and residents found that 40 percent of D.C.’s homeless youth were in the foster care or juvenile justice systems.
“Young adults, under the best circumstances, don’t turn 18 or 21 years old and magically become rational, self-sufficient adults; and a history of trauma, abuse or neglect further impacts their social-emotional development,” said Maggie Riden, a DCAYA senior policy analyst at a council oversight hearing. “To achieve lasting stability, this population needs an array of supportive resources … not defined by age, but by scope of need.”
Young people in foster care leave placements due to conflicts, or they seek more familiar surroundings, Riden said.
But, to Ressurrection Graves, reasons for leaving are more ominous. She said national evidence-based studies maintained that 20 to 30 percent of children in foster care are sexually abused, which leads to early emancipation.
“Child sexual abuse has its own set of traumas, which are linked to adult homelessness,” said Graves, a child sexual abuse expert and survivor, and a homeless mother for three years. Due to her traumatic experiences Graves, who was raised in the D.C. area, will launch in August a nonprofit that offers alternative shelter solutions for those seeking transitional housing.
“The trauma of being removed from the home causes disruptions, and those build over time,” said Nicki Sanders, a Columbia, Md., social worker. “Children in foster care move on average about seven times. They have new schools, rules to follow, values, academic and social challenges. There’s instability in the life of a foster child on a consistent basis, in many cases.”
This cycle will probably continue for Joyner’s children. Her three-year-old daughter is in foster care.
“Our child and family welfare system continues to be a pipeline into homelessness and instability for hundreds of youth each year,” Riden added.
Good afternoon Foster Care Kids Need Love Too family please send your monetary donations by clicking the make a difference donate picture. Year-Round we are in need of backpacks, diaper bags, school supplies, hygiene items, stuffed animals, books for all ages, toys, address books, journals, coloring books, strollers, pack and plays, baby clothes, games, socks, shoes & clothes. Every donate count so please help us today! “Drawing Success” for foster care youth of our nation. Have bless day.
ST. GEORGE – Utah Foster Care Foundation is hosting a public forum for those wanting to know what it’s really like to be a foster parent or a child in foster care. The public is invited to meet foster families face-to-face at the free public forum in St. George on Feb. 20.
St. George and Cedar City families have a chance to hear the experiences of actual Utah foster families
Through Utah Foster Care’s latest outreach campaign, St. George and Cedar City families have a chance to hear the experiences of actual Utah foster families. In southwest Utah, there are 270 children in foster care, nearly half of them age 11 and above.
“We have a new effort underway to find foster families in the St. George area,” the Foster Care Foundation Communications Manager Deborah Lindner said.
The integrated media campaign, “Utah Foster Care Changed My Life,” features teens adopted through foster care and their foster parents in 30-second spots appearing on social media and in movie theater screens in St. George and Cedar City. The spots direct viewers to “hear more” in online videos on Utah Foster Care’s website.
“Foster families are the best people to recruit other foster parents,” Foster Family Recruiter Debbie Hofhines said. “They offer perspective that no one else can give, through their own experiences, in their own words.”
Event Recap and Resources
What: “Foster Care Changed My Life” Public Forum
When: Feb. 20, 6-7:30 p.m.
Where: Utah Foster Care offices, 491 East Riverside Drive, #2B, St. George
Contact and registration: 435-656-8065
Dinner provided. RSVP by Feb.18. Free and open to the public.
Good Morning Foster Care Kids Need Love Too Family! Today we are hitting the ground running. We are accepting applications for a “Vice Chair”, “Treasurer”, and “Secretary”, Please send your curriculum vitae to firstname.lastname@example.org “Drawing Success” for foster care youth of our nation.
Who should report the suspected abuse of a child in Florida?
The Department of Children and Families has teamed up with sexual-abuse survivor Lauren Book to get that message out to the public through a new multimedia awareness campaign called “Don’t Miss the Signs.”
“We not only have a moral obligation to report child abuse, we have a legal obligation to report child abuse,” DCF Secretary David Wilkins said at a kick-off media event Monday.
In the past, only so-called “professional reporters,” such as doctors and teachers were required to report suspected abuse to the state’s child abuse hotline. But since a sweeping new reporting law went into effect last October, all Florida residents are obligated to make the call if they suspect a child is being abused — including abuse by a parent or primary caregiver as well as a coach, teacher or neighbor.
The first month the law was enacted, calls to the hotline increased 16 percent. While DCF receives about 300,000 hotline calls each year, Wilkins said thousands of cases still go unreported.
So far, no one has been charged under the new law with a first-degree misdemeanor for knowingly failing to make a report, but he and Book stressed the importance of community members to step up.
“At the end of the day, it’s a call to protect children,” said Book, who, as a teen, was sexually abused for years by her nanny. She plans a second 1,500-mile walk around the state this spring to raise awareness of the problem. “All you are doing is calling someone to come out to investigate. You are saving a life. Kids don’t have to suffer as long as I did.”
The $500,000 multimedia awareness campaign, funded through a $1.5 million appropriation to DCF last year for reporting system improvements, will feature television and radio public service announcements, billboards, posters and brochures describing the signs of abuse as well as a website, DontMissTheSigns.org that includes an online petition pledging to report abuse.
Book, who created the foundation Lauren’s Kids, and developed a kindergarten curriculum intended to prevent childhood sexual abuse, urged state residents to sign the petition and do their part.
“All Floridians need to know the signs and know what to look out for,” Book said. “We need all Floridians to commit their eyes and voices to protect our kids.”
To report abuse call the hotline at 800-962-2873 or file a report at DontMissTheSigns.org