‘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.

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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.

Meet FTSG “Super Donor” & Volunteer Elyse Heidelbaugh

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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!

Weekly Wish List — Books & Beds (and cribs!) For Foster Kids Edition:

This week (and through June 13) we’re collecting books — particularly books for teens — teensreadingby circulationfor our Busy Bee Book Fair For Foster Kids, which will take place on June 18 as part of Wayne County DHS’s “Summer Safety Extravaganza.”

In addition, we’re facing a critical, ongoing shortage of beds and cribs. These items are vitally important and can make the difference between a foster child being placed with a family member or with a total stranger.

(New/nearly-new books, beds & cribs only, please.)

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If you can help please contact Help Closet Coordinator Shirley Roseman at helpcloset@detroitlawyer.org — and please tell your friends!