Was Dorothy in Kinship Care?

Most everyone knows the story of the Wizard of Oz, a children’s novel written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum.  It became a Broadway play in 1902, and then a film musical production in 1939.  The film is famous for starring Judy Garland as Dorothy and for the beautiful song, “Over the Rainbow.”  However, most of us probably do not think of the Wizard of Oz as having a kinship care connection.

This is a kinship care story from long ago, about an orphaned young adolescent living with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry in rural Kansas in the early 1900s. You may remember that Dorothy has run away from home to save her little dog, Toto, from an unpleasant neighbor when a tornado approaches.  Unable to get into the storm cellar with her aunt and uncle, the house with Dorothy and Toto in it gets spun away.  This crisis results in Dorothy and Toto being separated from her family.  They ended up not initially as some would think.  But first, they landed in an emergency shelter known as Munchikin Land.  Actually, it was a cross-cultural situation because the Munchikins had  different clothes, voices, language, customs, etc.  They were kind, compassionate, and wanted to help Dorothy and Toto get want Dorothy desperately wanted.

What did Dorothy want more than anything else?
To go home.

In order to go home, where did she have to go and who did she have to see?
She had to see the Wizard, in other words, the Judge, and Oz was actually Juvenile Court.

Now how did Dorothy have to get to Oz?
She had to travel the Yellow Brick Road, which was the paper work….a lot of paperwork.

And who did she meet along the way? 


She met the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion who were looking for brains, a heart, and courage. We could say she met three caseworkers.

She also met the bad witch and the good witch.  The bad witch is a child welfare system and community that does not put children and families first, it does not provide children, birth parents, kinship families, foster families, and adoptive families, and staff, with the policies, programs, and services and supports they need.  But a good witch system does.  It has leaders with the political will to make children and all their families the centerpiece of public policy.  We have child care, health care, education, safe neighborhoods, and good schools and excellent child welfare services.

In the end, Dorothy was able to be reunited with her family – which is the first goal of child welfare.  And her support system, they had what it takes all along to reunite children and families:  they had the brains, the courage, and the hearts.  Like them, each of us has what is needed to connect children to relationships that are safe, nurturing, and enduring – and intended to last a lifetime.


 Don’t let anyone take this away from us.  We need it for what CWLA’s Kinship Traditions of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice states are the three most important words:  FOR THE CHILDREN. 

The above analogy was shared at the closing session of the 2016 National Foster Parent Association – National Kinship Alliance Convention in Las Vegas this past June.  It was told by Eileen Mayers Pasztor, a member of the NFPA Board of Directors, who also is a trainer/consultant/curriculum developer for CWLA; this Wizard of Oz/kinship care story is described in CWLA’s Kinship Care:  A Tradition of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice curricula (www.cwla.org/kinship-care).

The Trauma Informed Classroom

The Trauma Informed Classroom
Using Emotional Regulatory Healing in the Schools


Written by: Denise Rice (written originally as Leffingwell) MSW, LCSW, LAC; Article published in Fostering Families Today magazine 2013

FACT: One out of every 4 children attending school has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning and/or behavior. (NCTSN: Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators 2008)

In order to understand the importance of trauma, it is only necessary to look around the world in which our children are growing. In an age when a child can witness violence just by turning on the television, listening to music, playing a video game or logging onto the internet, it is no longer possible to ignore that our culture of violence affects every child, every family, every teacher, every classroom and every school.

FACT: Trauma can impact school performance. Examples include: lower GPA, higher rate of school absences, increased drop-out, more suspensions and expulsions and decreased reading ability. (NCTSN: Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators 2008)

Our classrooms are full of traumatized children who require a trauma informed and a trauma sensitive approach, in order to effectively meet the student where they are at. Emotional Regulatory Healing, or ERH, is a trauma informed and mindful paradigm for the healing of our schools, our classrooms, our staff and our students. The objective of utilizing ERH as a trauma informed paradigm in the schools is to provide:

Physical Safety in the classroom

Emotional Safety in the classroom

Psychological Safety in the classroom &

Moral Safety in the classroom in an effort to increase the capacity for learning in a safe environment for all students.

In addition, a trauma informed and  sensitive environment in the schools is one that maximizes the student’s sense of safety and acceptance, reduces overwhelming emotions, decreases the sensory overload for students and provides ongoing education and training for all staff on the impact of trauma as it relates to development and relationships.

FACT: Trauma can impair learning. Single exposure to traumatic events may cause jumpiness, intrusive thoughts, interrupted sleep, moodiness and social withdrawal. Chronic exposure to traumatic events can adversely affect attention, memory and cognition; reduce a child’s ability to focus and organize; interfere with problem solving and may result in feelings of frustration and anxiety. (NCTSN: Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators 2008)

Building a trauma sensitive environment is a never-ending, evolving and creative process that has the power to change the life of everyone involved.  Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a committed and united trauma sensitive education system to provide the opportunity for wounded children to learn, heal and thrive.

A traumatic experience impacts the entire person—the way we think, learn, remember, the way we feel about ourselves, about other people, and the way that we make sense of the world…

The childhood reaction to trauma:

Trauma affects how children feel, behave and think. Trauma affects a child’s beliefs about themselves and adults, but also impacts their beliefs about the larger community, the world, and relationships. Trauma and chronic traumatic stress interrupt a child’s learning, overriding their higher level reasoning skills at a time when they are just developing. Regardless of the source of the traumatic stress, the outcome is the same. Children develop reasoning and behavior that is illogical and sometimes dangerous.

FACT: Traumatized children may experience physical and emotional distress. This may include headaches and stomachaches, poor impulse control, inconsistent academic performance, over or under-reacting to bells, physical contact, slamming doors, lighting or sudden movements. (NCTSN: Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators 2008)

Children who have experienced trauma develop coping mechanisms during times of increased stress and trauma, many of which are later viewed as unhealthy or maladaptive, but these mechanisms or strategies are what kept these children alive when they were faced with fear and threat. These mechanisms have a lasting impact on how children understand and respond to various situations throughout their lives.

Think of these mechanisms as “tools” that traumatized children carry with them through their life in an invisible suitcase.  These tools are all the children know and when they enter a new home, classroom, family or situation, the children will open their suitcase and grab a tool to help them survive or cope. Think about what tools might be in some student’s backpacks?  If we want to create an educational environment that is trauma sensitive ask yourself, “How can we re-pack this suitcase with safe, positive experiences?” and “How can we promote healing and resilience in the student by helping them feel safe, capable and likeable/loveable?”

Understanding how children respond to trauma is the basis for creating a place of sanctuary in which children can learn. Creating safety and security in the schools is only possible when we all understand the nature of both individual and organizational trauma. Everyone in the entire school system must actively work together to build and nurture a community and environment where healing and learning can thrive hand in hand.

In summary, here are some TIPS, Trauma Informed Proactive Strategies, for Educators and the school systems:

  • Educators recognize that dysregulated students can engage in the learning process only when they sense emotional and physical safety and security.
  • Educators are aware that a child who is in a state of fear or threat does not have the neurological, cognitive nor emotional ability to understand cause and effect.
  • Educators understand that behaviors are an external manifestation of an internal dysregulation. Calm the brain, calm the behavior!
  • Educators appreciate that students who have experienced trauma need to be in relationship with regulated adults who can help support the students own regulation.
  • Educators recognize the importance of creating an environment with soft lighting, opportunities for movement, and decreased sensory stimulation with the goal of calming the stress response system in the student’s brain.
  • Educators are aware of the healing power in relationships. Students who have been traumatized in the context of a relationship will only heal in relationship!
  • Educators understand that students who have experienced trauma will be more in tune with the teacher’s non-verbal cues than spoken words. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and body movements provide a traumatized student with fear or safety. Learning how to create safety non-verbally is easy, effective and healing for both the teacher and the student.
  • Educators are aware of secondary or vicarious trauma symptoms and how important it is to re-examine their own lens through which they see, respond to and understand traumatized children. I cannot give away that which is not mine to give!

For more information on Emotional Regulatory Healing, or ERH, go to www.alvaradoconsultinggroup.com. You can reach Denise Rice at DeniseRice@hotmail.com




Six things to master before becoming a Foster Parent-Basics to Being a Foster Parent



The following 6 statements describe the basic knowledge base of successful foster parents. Of course, there is more to being a foster parent, but these 6 points are a great place to start.

Foster Care Skill #1 – Know your home and family.

Before jumping into foster care, most families spend two or three years just thinking about it. Here are a few points to consider before making the final decision on whether or not to do foster care.

Foster Care Skill #2 – Know how to communicate.

You will be communicating with many different people as a foster parent. This list may include:

  • birth family
  • teachers and other school officials
  • therapists
  • social workers and other agency staff
  • judges and other court personnel, like a GAL or a CASA worker
  • other foster parents
  • your family and friends, who may just not understand your role as a foster parent.
  • the child

Foster Care Skill #3 – Know that working with foster children and the foster care system can be challenging.

The children in foster care have often endured extreme abuse and neglect. A child’s way of communicating is often through behaviors. The foster care system is also often a new entity for many foster parents.

Foster Care Skill #4 – Know how to successfully manage behaviors of challenging children.

Due to the past abuse and neglect, corporal punishment is not allowed to be used on children in foster care. If the discipline method causes physical discomfort, it is not OK. For example: going without a meal, withholding bathroom breaks, push-ups, or standing in the corner on tip-toes.

Foster Care Skill #5 – Know how to manage a child’s losses as well as your own.

Many times a child’s grief and loss (grieving the loss of their home and family as well as the past abuse) can trigger responses in foster parents.

Foster Care Skill #6 – Know how to work with others.

As a foster parent, you will be working with many different professionals. This really goes along with communication, but there is more to being a good team member.

Words Matter: A Strengths-Based Approach for Family Foster Care

Words Matter: A Strengths-Based Approach for Family Foster Care


Staff and board members from the National Foster Parent Association and the Child Welfare League of America contributed to this article: Eileen Mayers Pasztor, DSW, member of the Board of Directors of the National Foster Parent Association, consultant/trainer with Child Welfare League of America, and professor at California State University, Long Beach School of Social Work; Irene Clements, executive director, National Foster Parent Association; Donna D. Petras, PhD, MSW director of training and models of practice, Child Welfare League of America; Jean Fiorito, consultant for the National Foster Parent Association; Karen A. Poteet, MPA, member of the Board of Directors of the National Foster Parent Association.

Mindfulness for Carers


Mindfulness For Carers

How to Manage the Demands of Caregiving while Finding a place for Yourself

• ISBN-10: 1849056544
• ISBN-13: 9781849056540
2015, ePUB, 96pp
ISBN: 978-1-78450-147-1

Caregivers are particularly vulnerable to feeling stressed, worried and worn down by the vast demands that often come with caregiving, be they physical, psychological or emotional. Mindfulness can be enormously beneficial to those providing care, whether professional or voluntary, as a means of developing greater inner stability, resilience and gaining more control over their thoughts, feelings and emotions. Mindfulness is an evidence-based approach that is proven to help protect against stress, anxiety, depression and burnout.

Dr. Cheryl Rezek provides an accessible introduction to mindfulness, and explains how simple mindfulness practices and psychological concepts can be used to manage the day-to-day demands of caring effectively, helping caregivers to gain a greater sense of control and maintain a more positive and balanced outlook. The book includes easy-to-use and enjoyable mindfulness exercises, short enough to fit into a busy day, as well as accompanying audio tracks to support and guide the reader through these exercises.

An essential read for all those involved in caring for others with acute or long-term health and mental health conditions, disabilities and other support needs, including relatives and other informal caregivers, adoptive and foster parents, as well as professional medical, health and social work staff

The Amazing You


The Amazing You By Leyla Hekmatdoost PerkinsAmazing You
Blurb Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1320454667, 24 pages, $14.99
Reviewed by- Denise Rice, LCSW, LAC (DeniseRice@Hotmail.com)

Leyla Perkins debut book provides an opportunity for children to navigate and explore their feelings in a creative narrative format. After having worked in the education system for a number of years, the author has been working at a local hospital with children going through hardships and trauma and used pieces of the book to help children cope with feelings and encourage healthy self- expression. Children are often more comfortable community through words. Don’t be fooled by the book’s simple presentation as it offers the experience for the reader to go beneath the surface and explore their own feelings and individual gifts. “The Amazing You” is a tool that can assist and support children in a variety of situations including bullying, children in healthy families, children of divorce, victims of trauma, grief/loss, abuse, neglect and children who could benefit from improved self-esteem and empathy.
“The Amazing You” can be used individually or to enhance relationships between adults and children working collaboratively. Exploring the readers “Personal Power” and how it has been used in a negative way or to enhance coping, the reader is offered a unique insight into themselves. The book is written in a way that all children are provided with a safe place to explore their opinions and beliefs. “The Amazing You” is a beautiful introduction to Life book work with children who need a starting point to document their story and experiences. The pages in the book allow for the reader to write, draw or attach relevant pictures, school work or other documents that support their personal narrative. This book will assist therapists, biological parents, foster, kinship or adoptive parents, school counselors, teachers and case workers or any adult who values the healthy development of children and youth.
As a clinician it is difficult to engage children in “talk therapy” but this book provides the foundation from a strengths based perspective to engage them and honor their experiences. The book emphasizes the importance of a support system and surrounding the child with people who understand the importance of healing in the context of relationship.
The colorful pages, illustrations and varying fonts are appealing to the reader and the cover art is whimsy and adorable. This book has been added to my personal and professional library and I hope that others will find the “The Amazing You” useful, relevant and ideal for children from all backgrounds.

From the desk of the NFPA President: President’s Award goes to Cate Hawks

Cate Hawks

One of the privileges that I have as the NFPA President is the opportunity to award an NFPA member who has given their all to the cause of our organization in the previous year with the President’s Award.  This year I am honored to share with everyone of you the contributions of Cate Hawks who has worked above and beyond the past two years to bring an outstanding training convention to foster, kinship and adoptive parents.

In addition to her position as the Director of New Found Families of Virginia, and her commitment to kinship families through the National Kinship Alliance for Children, Cate worked countless hours on both the 2015 and 2016 NFPA conventions. Her unwavering dedication to excellence stems from her desire to make sure that the families she serves always get the best she has to give and she never disappoints.

In her years of working with and for families Cate Hawks has earned the respect of professionals and the gratitude of the families that she serves with endless energy and genuine caring.  Cate not only takes on whatever challenges that will further the causes she cares deeply about, she also raises up everyone around her, casting the light on those working with her and the people they serve rather than herself.

It was with immense appreciation that I presented Cate Hawks with the 2016 NFPA President’s award at this year’s NFPA convention in Las Vegas, NV.

Thank you Cate for all you have done for the NFPA and all you strive to do for families every day!

Pat Llewellyn, NFPA President


Is your foster care “Village” on the same page as you?

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Reprint Article for Fostering Families Today-Advocating for your Child
Issue for Oct/Nov 2015
Denise Rice, LCSW, LAC DeniseRice@Hotmail.com

Is your foster care “Village” on the same page as you?

Part of advocating for all children in foster care is to make sure that your extended family, friends and social support network, aka the “Village,” are all on the same page as you. On one hand it is important people know that you have decided to embark on this journey, but the “Village” must also have a deeper understanding of what this journey truly involves. Here is an example of a way to communicate to your “Village.”
Greetings to All,

As you are aware, we’re nearing the completion of our foster parent training and certification process! Thank you for the role you have played as we embark on this new and sometimes trying road. We are grateful and so appreciative for your support and (even if you have lots of questions and concerns).

We know that this decision to foster will impact not just us but all of you as well. Our goal is to lay a solid foundation that promotes awareness and success for all involved. If you read this and have any questions, please let us know – we know this is A LOT to take in!

Placements to Expect
We anticipate being fully licensed/certified and waiting for a placement very soon! We are approved for _______foster kids, ages ________, including siblings. We have been very thoughtful about what children we feel most equipped to handle. Please know that we have not taken this step lightly and have spent many hours trying to identify the needs of children that we feel we will be able to effectively meet. We don’t know how long it will be before we get a call, but we know you are just as excited. The children could be staying with us anywhere from a few days to several years.

When we get a placement we will share with you the children’s names, ages, birth dates, personalities, and other such details. However, the family history, reasons for placement, medical status, and other aspects of the foster children’s story are confidential and we will not be able to share these details with you. We appreciate your concerns for us and these children but the child’s history and story is not for us to share, its private and we all need to respect it. If you would like to become a certified/approved respite provider for us, then you will be allowed to know a bit more and you would help us be able to take some breaks in the future…Just a thought!

Human Services policy is that pictures of foster children may not be posted online in any format. We won’t be able to post or email pictures of the kids, and we’ll need your cooperation in not posting pictures that you may take of the kids.

If you do take pictures of the children, these would be extremely helpful to have as I will be creating or building a Life-book for all the children placed with us. Let us know if you would like to know more about Life-books and how you can contribute.

Behavior and Discipline
You may observe unusual, bizarre or sometimes alarming behaviors from the children as a result of their trauma (abuse and neglect). Accordingly, you may also see us utilizing a variety of parenting or discipline techniques. We ask you to remember that we’re working with a team of professionals to address the child’s trauma and behaviors. This is a process and takes time. We will have to parent differently that we did with our biological children. We have read books, taken webinars online and attended some amazing training’s on how trauma impacts brain development and understanding the functions of behavior from a trauma informed perspective. We would encourage all of you to do the same. We are happy to suggest some books, websites, online training or in person training’s coming up if you are interested.

You may not agree with what we are doing but please know that we are also working within the parameters of regulations and rules. If you have concerns, please bring them up in private with us, away from the child.

Holidays, Vacations and Celebrations
We enjoy the time together with you on holidays and vacations. However, some foster children may have difficulty with the stress of large groups, new people and environments, travel and a change in routine. We ask for your patience when we have to miss an event, arrive late, leave early, or one parent has to stay home. We are committed to meeting the needs of these children and that means we will not be able to attend everything we did before. This may be only temporary. We have already learned that FLEXIBILITY is a major key to success in the world of foster care.

What Will They Call You/Us?
Our foster children will have the option of calling us by our first names, “Mr. and Mrs.” or “mom and dad,” if the child chooses. We’ll invite them to address you with the same names that our biological children use (grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, etc.). If you would like to discuss this ahead of time, we welcome the discussion.

How Do We Address Them?
No child wants to be known as “the foster kid.” We will refer to any children in our care as “our kids”. We ask you to please be sensitive and do not refer to a child or introduce them as a “foster child,” particularly in that child’s presence.

Supporting Attachments
We understand that the primary goal on all foster care cases is return home or reunification. We have also learned through training and in talking to other foster parents, that the children have far better outcomes when they are placed with adults who know the benefits of attachment for the children. We also know that a child’s connection or attachment to just one adult (does not have to be a family member) increases the child’s capacity to develop resilience. As children attach to us they gradually learn how to trust safe adults, and it builds their own sense of self-worth.

The challenge for us as foster parents is to connect and love the child, fearing the pain of losing the relationship when they leave. We have learned that the more people who love these children the better, even if for a short period of time. We are planting seeds that convey the message that connecting to adults through relationship is “Ok” and can be safe. The children will take these seeds with them and hopefully repeat that attachment process with others throughout their life.

Thank you for joining us on this journey. We will all help children who have been traumatized in a RELATIONSHIP, begin to heal in a REALTIONSHIP!

*Adapted from Foster Care Q&A, How do you explain foster care to your friends and family?

Remind your Representative to #PassHR2434

Please join the effort of the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group to protect the adoption tax credit and make it refundable.  You can learn more about the tax credit from the fact sheet or from the letter submitted in April 2015 to leaders working on tax reform.


Read the bill at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2434

The adoption tax credit helps children who need families!

Be the reminder your Representative needs to #PassHR2434. Visit www.adoptiontaxcredit.org for resources to get you started. #DontForget #Jointhe100

 Thanks for your commitment to #PassHR2434