From One Child to Another – Trombly Elementary School Comes Through for Metro Detroit’s Foster Children

…it’s powerful to have one child buy something they love to give to another child.
-Walter Fitzpatrick, Principal, Trombly Elementary

Last month, the students at Grosse Pointe Park’s Trombly Elementary did something very special.

The small school, with only 270 children, collected 332 brand new clothing items to Detroit-area foster children during their annual “Valen-Twin” charity drive!

FTSG Volunteer Ena Moor picking up the Trombly donation

FTSG Volunteer Ena Moor picking up the Trombly donation

The President of Trombly’s Parent-Teacher Organization, Michele Lindsay, said that they selected For The Seventh Generation for this year’s efforts because, “…your mission aligns with one of our PTO’s primary goals of helping our students become better global citizens. At Trombly we have a strong history of peer-to-peer service programs and the Valen-Twin concept fits right in with the ideal of kids helping kids.”

This year’s “Valen-Twin” instructions were simple: the children were asked to purchase something that they would like to wear to donate to a Detroit-area foster child. And they definitely responded! When everything was counted there were seventy tops, fifty-seven “bottoms” (pants/jeans/skirts/etc.), ninety-two pairs of underwear, ten pairs of shoes, and much, much more.

According to Trombly Principal Walter Fitzpatrick,

Our theme for these drives is ‘Just Like Me’ – we try to find the children opportunities to help children like themselves so they can relate. Having them donate to adults just isn’t the same, but it’s powerful to have one child buy something they love to give to another child.

How do Trombly’s students feel about their efforts? Let them tell you in their own words:

It was good, because I was able to give someone an outfit who didn’t have one.

I was happy for the kids. They can have clothes like we have!

I was happy for the kids. They can have clothes like we have!

It felt good to donate clothes to people who had to dress in the same clothes every day.

I was happy for the kids. They can have clothes like we have!

All too often, metro Detroit’s foster children arrive at their new homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs – or, at best, a garbage bag filled with some hastily thrown-together possessions.

To make matters worse, the system only pays a fraction of what it actually costs to send a child to school looking and feeling their best.

But thanks to the children, PTO, and staff of Trombly Elementary, many of “our” kids in foster care will be able to fit in with their friends – and shine.

Metro Detroit’s foster children and teens constantly need clothing, shoes, and other items that most of us are fortunate enough to take for granted. But you can make a huge difference with just one donation! Register your donation of new/nearly-new clothing or other items on our website. Or simply drop by our Help Closet.

Or, make a cash donation and we’ll do the shopping for you as needs arise.

Just do one thing for a single foster child, and you’ll change that child’s life for the better. And that’s why For The Seventh Generation exists — to help you make that difference.

FTSG Announces: 1,000 Detroit-Area Foster Children, Teens, & Families Served in 2014

The headline says it all – thanks to you, For The Seventh Generation was able to support more than 1,000 foster children, teens, and families in 2014.

ThankYouKids

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 115 served through our website, which works by matching online requests by foster care workers with the goods and services offered by members of our community
  • 303 foster children and families benefited not just from the 2014 Holiday Bazaar event, but from gifts we collected and distributed both before and afterwardvolunteers helping childrenEdit
  • 203 foster children and teens received winter coats courtesy of the Detroit and Grosse Pointe Rotary Clubs’ Operation Warm
  • 155 teens in foster care were able to go to Prom thanks to your contributions to the 2014 PromPalooza
  • 172 young ones received books to read over the summer through the Busy Bee Book Fair
  • 70 “shoppers” visited our Help Closet to pick up free items ranging from clothing to bedding — much of it brand new
  • 50 permanent wards of the court in Wayne County received orthodontic screening thanks to the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Dentistry and the Detroit Health Department.
Meritor helped by clothing for foster teens in 2014!

Meritor helped by clothing for foster teens in 2014!

These miracles didn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, FTSG is really just the conduit – we alert our wider community when foster children and teens are in need. But you are the ones who come forward to meet those needs.

And come forward you did – as businesses, organizations, and individuals. It is with deep gratitude that we send our thanks to:

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    • Every business and individual who sponsored the 2014 In Seventh Heaven. Grants will fund specific programs and items, but In Seventh Heaven keeps the doors open and the lights on (so to speak).
    • Shirley Roseman, who has literally taken For The Seventh Generation to the next level. Not only was she the Superwoman behind our Help Closet, but Shirley also pioneered our Holiday Bazaar, PromPalooza, and Busy Bee Book Fair events.
    • Individual businesses like S+R Event Rental, Kids’ Planet Resale, Costco, McDonald’s, Roy O’Brien Ford, Milano Bakery & Cafe, Better Made Snack Foods, Meritor, Happy Belly Bakery (and so many more), which provided individual requests and/or made one or more of our events possible.
    • Detroit-area nonprofits We’ve already mentioned the Detroit and Grosse Pointe Rotarians. But our area’s foster children have also benefited from the generosity of groups like Main Street League in Northville, the Foster Care Alumni of America/Michigan Chapter, the Detroit Optometric Society, the Joy of Jesus Christian Center, Bethel Lutheran Church, St. James Lutheran Church, the Brightmoor Tabernacle of Novi and Hospitality House of Walled Lake, and so many more.

In addition, we received grants from the Detroit Industrial School, the TJX Foundation, the Young Woman’s Home Association, and the Village Club Foundation – grants which allowed us to purchase desperately-needed beds.

  • …and, of course, we can’t forget the Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care or the Samaritan Center, which hosts our Help Closet without charging a cent.

Finally, though, we can’t say enough about individuals, like you, who have come forward to change the life of a child or teen in foster care. Here are just a few of the many, many people who did extraordinary things for “our” kids last year:

    • When our teens needed summer clothes, Mary Snell, the Minister of Family Life at 5.22.14 St. James Clothing Donation Shirley and Mary SnellSt. James, was one of many who came forward to be sure they were able to step out in style! (And speaking of the Spring/Summer clothing drive, let’s not forget the kickball tournament organized by Sara Richards and Shawn Franklin!)
    • Elyse Heidlebaugh purchased brand new beds and cribs, came through for two high school seniors and made it easier for a college student to move in, and was an all-round angel in so many ways, including contributing two posts to the FTSG blog
    • Jennifer Hichme has been another force of nature for “our” kids in foster care, purchasing beds and contact lenses, donating bedding, and more.

Kathy McComb of Dearborn purchased a brand new crib for a baby entering foster care. Thank you, Kathy!

  • When we posted an urgent need for a crib, Kathy McComb went out and bought a brand new one the very same day – and in doing so, made sure that an abused toddler and her baby sister were able to stay together with a loving relative in foster care.
  • …and we can’t forget Melissa Turner Covell, Christina Delpizzo, Jennifer H., Sharon M., Robert Thomas, Saba B., Debbie M. and her daughters Hannah and Shannon, all of whom stepped forward in a big way with donations of goods, services, or cash to help make miracles happen.

Looking Ahead – Serving Even More Foster Children & Teens in 2015

Now that it’s 2015, look for big changes here at For The Seventh Generation designed to serve even more foster children, teens and families:

Soon we’ll be introducing you to the team that’s come together to manage the Help Closet, facilitate donations, and more. (Why yes, we need a team to fill Shirley’s shoes – and no one who knows her would be surprised!)

We’re gearing up for this year’s In Seventh Heaven and PromPalooza … and we’ve got a special surprise for both that you’ll be hearing about this week!

So hold on to your hats, and get ready for a HUGE 2015!

‘It’s Love … It’s Just Love’ at FTSG’s Holiday Bazaar for Foster Children

Sign and TreeOn December 11 more than 140 foster children, foster parents, and foster care workers enjoyed an evening of treats, activities, and presents during For The Seventh Generation’s 2014 Holiday Bazaar.

While the children enjoyed making Christmas cards, snacking on pizza and other treats, and picking out presents for a loved one, their foster parents were able to “shop” for new children’s winter coats courtesy of Operation Warm.

Due to state law we can’t show you photos or videos of the foster children who came, but we can offer you this video to give you a small taste of what the event was all about – both in images and in the words of a few of the foster parents who joined us.

Many, many thanks are due to the Detroit and Grosse Pointe Rotary Clubs for once again including “our” kids in their yearly Operation Warm. We’re also grateful to our event’s sponsors:

S & R Event Rental;
ECS Partnership McDonalds;
Milano Bakery & Cafe;
Happy Belly Bakeries;
Little Caesar Enterprises;
Better Made Snack Foods;
Roy O’Brien Ford;
Costco Wholesale;
Computing Source; and
Dollar Tree

for everything they contributed to make the Bazaar such a roaring success. volunteers helping childrenEdit

In addition, we’d like to thank the Samaritan Center for opening up their space well beyond the boundaries of our Help Closet, which they also host – not to mention the generous volunteers who gave their time so the foster parents and foster care workers could enjoy the event, too!

And, finally, we’re grateful to you – each and every person who bought and donated an extra gift, made a monetary donation, or even “just” helped us spread the word on Facebook.

Thanks to you, many Detroit-area foster children will have Christmas this year. So as you watch this video, please take just a moment to give yourself credit for the light in “our” kids’ eyes this holiday.

CuteToys

Help ‘Our’ Kids Stay With Their Families While in Foster Care

By Elyse Heidlebaugh

Imagine going through this as a child or teen: Through no fault of your own, you’re being taken away from your parents – and, quite possibly, separated from your siblings. You’ve got nothing but the clothes on your back and possibly a hastily-packed trash bag with a few of your things. And a strange adult, whom you may or may not even know well, tells you that you’re going into foster care.

But what does that mean? Where are you going, and who will you live with? Just what does “foster care” mean for the Michigan children and teens who are effectively being raised by the state?

Children and teens being placed in foster care aren’t the only ones with questions – a lot of us adults aren’t clear about what’s involved either.

So let’s take a look at the four kinds of foster care placement. And then talk about what we

A bed or crib can be the difference between living with your family or a stranger while in foster care!

A bed or crib can be the difference between living with your family or a stranger while in foster care!

can do to support the best possible option – family placements.

1. “Traditional” Foster Families

For most people, the term “foster care” invokes images of strangers opening up their homes to kids in need, or “non-relative foster family placement.” However, only 32% of Michigan’s foster kids enter into this form of care.

This may seem like a great outcome. After all, the people who sign up to be foster parents must really love children, right? Well, of course – but the fact is, the situation is complicated:

First, imagine being sent to live with strangers and told that you need to follow their rules.

These people, no matter how kind, may not live in the same neighborhood as your birth parent/s – so everything is strange to you.

Your foster parents may or may not be the best “fit” for you. You may be a tomboy and be sent to live with adults who have strict ideas about gender roles, for example. Or maybe they don’t practice the same religion, or hate the foods you’re used to, or any number of other factors that leave you feeling very much like a total outsider.

Finally, your first placement will almost certainly not be your last. In other words, you’re going to have to get used to new adults, new rules, and new everything else over and over again.

Sound depressing? Wait – because, if you go into foster care at age 16 or older, you may well be one of the sixteen percent of Michigan foster teens (Thirty-six percent nationally) who end up being placed in a group home with anywhere from seven-twelve other children.

Group Homes

While the vast majority of adults who own, manage, and operate group homes for foster children and teens are wonderful people, the fact remains that such a placement is about as far from a family upbringing as a child can get.

Try to imagine this setting: You’re a teenager who’s been taken away from your family and sent to live, not with another family, but with an ever-changing group of strange adults and children in an institutional setting. Not only does living this way make you really different from the other kids at school — it also means that when you “age out” you’re even less likely to have any kind of supportive safety net.

“Other” Placements

And what happens if you decide you’re tired of living with different foster families or in an institution? In Michigan, that means you’re likely to end up as one of the seventeen percent of foster children/teens living in what’s called “other” placements.

HomelessTeenSmallOn the scariest end of the scale, you may have run away and are couch-surfing or worse, living on the street. Or, you may be relatively lucky and have an independent living situation; meaning that you’re on your own but receive some financial support from the state.

If you haven’t run away from foster care and aren’t in an independent living situation, chances are you’ve found the best possible world – you’re living with a family that’s eager to adopt you.

In other words, most of the scenarios faced by Michigan’s foster children, and particularly teens in foster care, are challenging to say the least! They involve a revolving-door of strange care-givers and all too often grow up to face the outcomes we’ve all heard about – an inability to complete school or find a decent job, homelessness, and incarceration.

Now, let’s imaging something drastically different:

The Best Foster Care Option – ‘Kinship-Relative’ Foster Care

In this scenario you’re still being taken away from your home by a social worker. But now, the social worker is driving you somewhere that’s already familiar to you.

And when you arrive, a loving family member is there to greet you.

Yes, you’re still in foster care – but your family identity is intact. You feel safe because Black mother with childyou know your new “parent/s” already know and love you. Best yet, while they may live differently than you’re used to, you probably already have an idea of what they expect of you.

When you age out, you’re also far more likely to receive ongoing support from your foster family — because, after all, you’re family.

Currently Michigan finds family placements for just thirty-six percent of our children and teens in foster care. We can and must do better.

And that’s where you and I come in.

How?

By donating the items that families need when they get that last-minute call saying that one of their youngest members needs a new place to stay.

Specifically, I’m talking about children’s and teens’ beds, and cribs.

For one thing, a bed or crib can determine whether a foster child or teen ends up with a family or complete strangers. And for another, ask yourself what would make you feel most secure – sleeping on a couch or air mattress, or having a bed of your own?

The challenge is that beds and cribs are expensive. Few families can afford to go out and purchase one or more of them on the last-minute notice that is so frequently the case when a child or teen is taken into foster care.

For The Seventh Generation faces ongoing, urgent requests for beds and cribs from foster care workers who desperately want to place foster children and teens with loving family members. I am among the many people and institutions who have come together to provide our most vulnerable children with a place to sleep, but we need your help to continue to filling this essential need!

Elyse, Shirley Roseman, and the new children's beds that Elyse donated last summer. Thank you, Elyse!

Elyse, Shirley Roseman, and the new children’s beds that Elyse donated last summer. Thank you, Elyse!

Please consider visiting the “current needs” link on For The Seventh Generation’s website. I guarantee you’ll see several requests for beds and/or cribs! Ask yourself if you can provide a bed, crib, mattress, or bedding for a child or teen in foster care today.

And if the entire cost of a bed or crib is too much, please make a financial contribution that FTSG can use to purchase these and other essential items.

After all, home is where the heart is – not where the bed is. With your help, we can make sure metro Detroit’s foster children get to keep all three together. Let’s follow their hearts so that in what every way possible, we can get and keep “our” kids at home.

Source: acef.org “data snapshot on foster care placement” (2011)

Elyse HeidlebaughElyse Heidlebaugh is a long-time FTSG supporter who is definitely walking her talk –among other things, she has personally purchased several brand-new beds and cribs for foster children! We’re very grateful for everything Elyse has done for “our” kids, including her wonderful blog posts.

School Clothing Drive 2014 a Huge Win for Our Foster Kids!

Take one corporation, a locally-owned business, a community organization, and countless individuals, and what do you get?

In our case, the result was a very successful 2014 school clothing drive for metro Detroit-area foster children and teens.

Thank you, Meritor!

Thank you, Meritor!

Troy-based Meritor raised more than $3,400 during their September Jeans Day. Kid’s Planet Resale of Royal Oak collected several boxes of clothing and supplies. And Northville’s Main Street League, a social-service organization, included For The Seventh Generation in their September 25 clothing drive at Silver Springs Elementary School.

We also received several individual donations, whether they were dropped off at Kid’s Planet Resale, the Main Street League drive, or at the Help Closet itself.

As we said in our post at the beginning of September, the state of Michigan

Northville's Main Street League collected a Huge amount of back-to-school clothing for "or" foster kids!

Northville’s Main Street League collected a Huge amount of back-to-school clothing for “our” foster kids! Thank you, Main Street League!

Thank you, Kid's Planet Resale!

Thank you, Kid’s Planet Resale!

provides foster families with less than $250 per year per child for clothing. That’s barely enough to cover the basics, let alone any “extras” like gym shoes or a few really nice outfits for special occasions.

But thanks to our generous community, the foster children and teens For The Seventh Generation serves were able to go back to school wearing the same styles and quality of clothing as their peers.                  In other words — they went to school looking like any other student.

And as we hear time and again, that’s one of the main things “our” kids in foster care crave.

The Drive may be over, but we’re still accepting donations of new/nearly-new clothing, school supplies, and other items (including furniture) at our Help Closet, as well as monetary donations to purchase items as they’re needed.

You’d be amazed by what a big difference even a small gift can make!

Register to donate items to foster children or teens here, or give a financial gift of $25, $50, $100 or more here — or, if you want to give more, support For The Seventh Generation with a monthly gift here!

School Days Can Be Difficult for Foster Children & Teens, But YOU Can Make Them Easier!

2nd graders CT DemocratsRemember those first days of school every year? When you couldn’t wait to show off your new clothes and shoes, see your friends – and maybe even learn a thing or two?

Those of us who grew up in stable families fortunate to be able to remember our school years in terms of new clothes, old and new friends, and trying out the latest trends in school supplies.

For too many of our area’s foster children, though, school is just another source of stress. First because they’ve already had their entire lives uprooted and they might be starting over at a brand new school – or the second, third, or even fourth new school, sometimes within the same year!

But school can also be very stressful for foster children and teens because their foster families just can’t afford the clothing, shoes, and supplies to help them fit in with their peers. 8th grader Bryan Person

Imagine facing the first weeks of school (or first weeks in a new school) in ill-fitting or inappropriate clothes,  shoes that may be too big or too small, and without any of the supplies the other kids have – on top of dealing with the trauma of past abuse or neglect and getting used to the latest in a string of new foster families.

Sadly, this situation isn’t imaginary. According to the January 2014 “Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Education of Children in Foster Care:”

  • The average number of living arrangements during a child or teen’s first foster care stay is 2.8. In other words, they’ve been moved almost four times (including separation from their birth families).
  • Thirty-four percent of foster teens have experienced five or more school changes.
  • Michigan’s foster care system only gives foster families $214 per year for clothing for each infant – twelve year old and only $244 for each 13-21 year old child in their care.

(Granted, not even every stable family is able to send their children to school in the latest and greatest fashions. However, what such families lack in finances can be more than made up for by providing their children with a permanent, loving home.)

As a result of the instability in foster children’s home and school lives:

  • They’re twice as likely to be absent from school.
  • Older foster youth (ages 17 and 18) are twice as likely to be suspended and three times as likely to be expelled as other children.
  • Only fifty percent of foster children complete high school by the time they’re eighteen; only twenty percent attend college, and only two-nine percent graduate from college with a degree.

You Can Make a Huge Impact on a Student in Foster Care – and It’s Easy!

Something as small as this would make a foster child's day!

Something as small as this would make a foster child’s day!

If you’re not ready or able to adopt a child or teen from foster care, you can still give them one of the things they crave most: the ability to look just like any other kid, at least while they’re in school.

How? By making a donation of (new/nearly-new) clothing, shoes, school supplies, and/or money to For The Seventh Generation’s 2nd Annual School Clothing & Uniform Drive for Foster Children & Teens!

The name is long, but the concept is simple:

Want to give, but don’t live near our Help Closet in Detroit? Not a problem!

Kids Planet Resale in Downtown Royal Oak has a drop box just for you, OR

Novi’s Main Street League is including “our” kids as recipients in their own back to school drive, which will be held from 6-8 pm on Thursday, September 25th at the Silver Springs Elementary School Cafeteria.

Contact Shirley Roseman, our fabulous Help Closet Coordinator, to arrange a pickup: helpcloset@detroitlawyer.org

None of us can save every Detroit-area child from the hardships and challenges of foster care, but every single one of us CAN help change the life of at least ONE child or teen in care. What small miracle will you make happen today?

Do Just One Thing and YOU Can Lower the Poverty Rate, Prevent Homelessness, and Keep People Out of Prison

By Elise Heidlebaugh

(Ed. Note: This is the first in a series of posts by FTSG super-volunteer and donor Elyse Elyse HeidlebaughHeidlebaugh. Elyse is eager to start a conversation, so comments are open on this post but will be moderated to keep the spam level to a dull roar.)

Warning: This blog post may make you feel as though you’ve downed one too many Red Bulls. Other symptoms might include a ‘save the world’ complex and a determination to change our community that’ll beat like a war drum inside your chest.

Your life may never be the same again.

Are you ready? Because I’m about to give you THE secret to drastically reducing homelessness, incarceration and poverty.  Learning this secret transformed my life, and I hope it does the same for you.

Before we get to the secret, though, you need to know the following:

There are approximately 500,000 children and teens in foster care nationwide, and about 13,000 here in Michigan. When they age out of the system:

  • 51% will be unemployed
  • One-third will be on public assistance
  • 25% [will]become homeless …, and
  • 25% will be incarcerated.**
There's a good chance that this woman is a former foster child

There’s a good chance that this woman is a former foster child

This information may well want to make you literally explode. You’re probably as shocked and furious as I was to learn that so many of “our” children, children who have already been neglected or abused to the point of having to go into foster care, aren’t receiving the support they need to become healthy, contributing adults.  Or, as the National Commission on Children put it in 1991:

From Foster Care to Jail Cell -- but there is a solution!

From Foster Care to Jail Cell — but there is a solution!

“If the nation had deliberately designed a system that would  frustrate the professionals who staff it, anger the public who finance it, and abandon the  children who depend on it, it could not have done a better job than the present child-welfare  system.”**

 

 

But no matter how shocked or furious you are, you may also feel overwhelmed. And that’s where the secret comes in:

The only thing each of us needs to do to have an impact on poverty, homelessness, and our overcrowded jail system (and become a real, legit superhero) is to make a difference in the life of one foster child or teen! And if you want to earn a cape to go along with your superhero suit, convince one of your friends, co-workers, or family members to do the same.

Can you see where I’m going here? Is your mind blown yet? Let me blow it for you just a bit more:

Making a positive impact on the life of one of our area’s foster children or teens is easy.

Detroit Rotarian Ray Opezzo serving up the popcorn.

Detroit Rotarian Ray Opezzo at an FTSG Holiday Bazaar for Foster Children

Here’s just a few examples:

* Donate new/nearly new school clothing or supplies to this year’s School Clothing & Uniform Drive for Foster Children and Teens;
* Provide a teen or child in foster care with a new pair of glasses;
* Sign up to teach guitar (or pretty much any instrument) to a foster child for one year at a reduced rate;
* If you’re an orthodontist or dentist who does orthodontic work, provide one service to one child or teen in foster care for just a single year.

Believe me,  I share your anger at the system that creates such bleak outcomes for “our” kids. I share your passion to right the wrongs. Most importantly though, I share your immense hopefulness. Because if we each focus our powers on making a positive difference in the life of just one foster child or teen, we will give “our” kids the boost they need to avoid  homelessness, incarceration, and poverty.

We can prevent the sort of baggage that creates a lifetime of struggle.

Now that you know how easy it is to serve a foster child or teen, and by doing so make a huge impact on our area’s poverty, homelessness, and incarceration rates, let’s latch on to For The Seventh Generation with both hands and start changing lives, one metro-Detroit foster child at a time.

Till next time, please carry on the conversation…

ThankYouKids

 

** Source: DISRUPTING THE PATHWAY FROM FOSTER CARE TO THE
JUSTICE SYSTEM—A FORMER PROSECUTOR’S
PERSPECTIVES ON REFORM by Miriam Aroni Krinsky

Available as a .PDF here.

Photos of the homeless woman and the jail cell courtesy  Rob Slaven and Fernando Silviera via Flickr

Helping Our Foster Children & Teens Enjoy the Gift of Music: Play It Forward

by Sonya Mastic, Play It Forward Committee Chair Sonya

Even though I grew up with my birth family, we had a very limited income. This meant that I didn’t have the same options as the other kids, including the chance to make my dream of taking music lessons come true.

But at least I had my family — “our” kids in foster care today don’t have any options. They don’t get to choose where they live, or with whom, and they’re wards of a state that’s fiscally stretched to the max. PIF Girl Trombone Jerry Wong

And that’s why Play It Forward was born: as a woman who grew up to be a musician and music teacher, I have an intimate understanding of the positive impact that making music can have on children’s lives. I also know what it’s like to be a child who can’t take music lessons. I can’t think of a better cause than giving foster children & teens the gift of making music.

How does Play It Forward work? Good question! We provide one year of FREE music lessons and a free instrument to children and teens in foster care! We also follow their progress closely to make sure that they’re a good match with their instructor and instrument – and if we see that a child is really interested and excelling at their instrument, we will find a way to continue their musical education after the one year deadline is up.

In most cases, these music lessons are the only extracurricular activity that Play It Forward students are allowed to participate in. This is the one thing these foster youth are allowed to do to help them feel like “normal” kids.

PIF Pic Boy Piano woodleyworksThe idea for Play It Forward came from my own experience watching children grow as they learned how to play their instruments. In 2011 I owned my own private lesson facility, and I watched first hand as our students blossomed, gained confidence, and functioned at a much higher level in other areas of their lives.

After learning that there weren’t any existing programs in Metro Detroit to provide foster children with music lessons and instruments, one of my friends connected me with For The Seventh Generation Executive Director Lorraine Weber – and the rest (as they say) is history.

The past three years have been fantastic! We have a committee filled with compassionate folks who have worked tirelessly to create the structure for Play It Forward and raise funds for the program. A host of music teachers, volunteers, and foster care workers have also been a tremendous help – without them, we wouldn’t be here.

Carole Hoste from the Detroit School of Music is one of our biggest supporters, and teaches many foster children and teens at her facility.

PIF pic musical scale Internet ArchiveOn paper, Play It Forward looks simple. Find a foster child or teen who wants lessons, give them an instrument, and connect them with a music teacher. In reality, though, the program is fairly complex. In addition to providing lessons, we collect donated instruments and raise funds to pay our instructors (PIF music teachers accept half of their usual rates), buy the necessary books, and pay for bus passes or other transportation to make it possible for the students to get to their lessons.

Our goal – like For The Seventh Generation’s goal – is to do whatever is necessary to actually invest, in a long term way, in our area’s foster children and teens.

Help A Metro Detroit-Area Foster Child or Teen Start Music Lessons This Year

playitforward logo for Sonya's blog

Play It Forward needs your help if you can do any of the following:

Provide music lessons at a reduced cost
Donate a new or gently-used instrument
Make a monetary gift of $25, $50, $75 (or any amount) to give “our” kids in foster care the gift of making music.

Questions? Suggestions? Wonderful! Email me (sonyamastick@sonyamastick.com) and I’ll be happy to help!

I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning. – Plato

About Sonya Mastick:

In addition to her work with Play It Forward, Sonya Mastic is a musician, writer, researcher, entrepreneur, poet with twenty-plus years of experience that have taken her not only to every bar and club in metro Detroit, but throughout all of North America. She has had a hand in every aspect of the music industry, from live gigs and studio work to promotions and booking.

Meet FTSG “Super Donor” & Volunteer Elyse Heidelbaugh

Image

She Gives Her Time, Her Money and Her Passion —  and Starting This Month She’ll be Blogging About “Our” Foster Children

For The Seventh Generation lets me ask what our foster Elyse Heidlebaughchildren want, and by doing that it helps me extend my motherhood.

Elyse Heidelbaugh of Berkley has been an FTSG donor and volunteer for about a year now — and what a donor! She has purchased brand new beds and cribs for metro Detroit children in foster care; donated to last year’s School Uniform Drive; and most recently, Elyse made it possible for a young girl in foster care to join a cheerleading team.

Why does she do it?

I would never look at my daughter and ask, ‘What’s the bare minimum you need to survive?,” and be content with that. I’m always thinking, ‘How can I make you happy, and what do you want?’ For The Seventh Generation lets me ask what our foster children want, and by doing that it helps me extend my motherhood.

Of course, given that she’s a full-time parent and in school, some people might also ask HOW she does it.

Elyse, who found FTSG while doing an Internet search for a charity to be involved in, says that our organization’s flexibility makes it easy for her to be involved, even with a toddler at home and homework to get done.

I didn’t want to just write a check and be done — I wanted to do something more personalized for foster children, and I love going out and buying the things they need. What I really like about For The Seventh Generation is that you get to pick which opportunities you want to help with.

For The Seventh Generation is the only organization with the flexibility to let me be involved the way I want to be involved. With my little girl at home I can’t commit to volunteer specific hours or days, but (Help Closet Coordinator) Shirley asks what I want to do and then works to make that happen.

Elyse, who is originally from Sydney, Australia, has been in the US for seven years. Elyse’s husband, Mike, works as a resident in emergency medicine. Elyse was working as an assistant preschool teacher while studying at Wright State University when both her work and her education were happily interrupted with the birth of their first child, Ella, in February 2013.

But being a stay-at-home mom is just part of the great work Elyse is doing; in addition to supporting For The Seventh Generation she has returned to her Theology studies.

Finally, we asked Elyse why she was drawn to help foster children given that, before finding For The Seventh Generation, she had never met anyone connected with the foster care system either in Australia or here in Michigan.

“The birth of my daughter really busted my heart open,” she told us. Parenthood doesn’t stop at your own child; any one of these children in foster care could be one of ours.”

Elyse has become so passionate about foster children, in fact, that she reads “everything I can get my hands on” and as a result has learned a lot about foster children, families, teens — and the foster care system as a whole. When we heard that, we naturally asked if she would be willing to blog for For The Seventh Generation about the rules, regulations, and challenges “our” kids face — and she said yes!

With that in mind, look for Elyse’s posts on the third week of every month, starting this August 20 when she’ll share how helping foster children can be the most efficient way of helping society. Until then (and always), please join us in thanking Elyse for everything she has done, and continues to do, for “our” kids!

Do you have a foster care story to share?

Are you a former or current (over 18) foster child or teen, a foster parent, or a foster care worker? If so, we welcome your story! Our goal is to educate as many people as we can about about the world of foster care in SE Michigan, our state, our country and beyond. If you’re interested please contact Dawn Wolfe for details by posting a message on our Facebook page. Dawn will be happy to interview you or to help you write your post. And don’t worry, she’s a gentle editor!

Dearborn Woman Buys New Crib for Baby Entering Foster Care

One Crib, and Two Foster Children’s Lives are Changed…

I have always … truly believe[ed] that if a small gesture of kindness or opportunity is given to someone, it has the potential to multiply into great things. I hope that this crib is just the start of good things to come — for both the children their new foster mother.”

— Kathy McComb

Ed. note: This story happened in March 2014 – right in the midst of our preparations for In Seventh Heaven. We apologize to our wonderful donor and volunteer Kathy McComb for taking so long to acknowledge her generous gift!

In March of this year we received an urgent request from Shana Williams-Gordon of
GEE Edmonson Academy, a K-8 public school academy in Detroit:
A volunteer in her program needed a crib, and she needed it now.

Why? Because she was in the process of becoming a foster mother to her two cousins; a five year old girl and her baby sister. The abuse in these children’s original home was so horrific that the five year old may never walk normally again. 

Kathy McComb of Dearborn purchased a brand new crib for a baby entering foster care. Thank you, Kathy!

Kathy McComb of Dearborn purchased a brand new crib for a baby entering foster care. Thank you, Kathy!

Allowing their cousin to become the foster mother to both sisters would seem like a no-brainer, right?  However, there was a catch: Shana’s volunteer was already a mother of four, and she couldn’t afford to buy a crib – a crib that DHS required her to have in order to foster her baby cousin.

Unless someone donated a crib that week, the baby would be placed with a stranger – and the older girl, who had already suffered so much, would be separated from her sister.

We posted the request on our Facebook page in the hopes that a kind parent out there would be able to donate a nearly-new crib; maybe an extra one they’d received at their baby shower.

Instead, Kathy McComb of Dearborn emailed us the very same day and said she was planning to the store after work that evening to buy a brand new crib, and could we tell her whether the baby in need was a boy or a girl?

We were floored! And we had to ask Kathy why she stepped in to help so generously.

“I saw your post on Facebook,” she says, “and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I’m a single mother and raised my daughter (who is 17 now) by myself.”

“When she was a baby, times were very tough and money was extremely tight, and I never imagined that I would ever be able to make it.  Fortunately, I was given a job opportunity that really turned my life and the life of my child around. I have always been grateful for the chance that I was given, and truly believe that if a small gesture of kindness or opportunity is given to someone, it has the potential to multiply into great things. I hope that this crib is just the start of good things to come — for both the children their new foster mother.”

Sometimes we’re asked whether or not For The Seventh Generation makes any real difference in the lives of foster children, families, and teens. The truth is, though, that we’re just the conduit – in this case, Kathy McComb’s gift kept an abused five year old foster child and her sister together, and allowed them to make a fresh start with a loving family member.

And really, that’s all it takes: one gift or gift of service, one foster child (and sometimes more), and miracles happen. Miracles that will impact the foster child, that child’s eventual children, and onward … through the seventh generation.

Seventh Generation