Foster Care and Sex Trafficking: What you need to know

Currently there are 40 million people world-wide trapped in slavery. The industry earns about $150.2 billion dollars a YEAR. One of the major forms of slavery is sex trafficking. Just this past weekend while many of us watched Super Bowl — 18 survivors were freed and 169 traffickers were arrested in Atlanta. One of the biggest holidays for the sex trafficking industry. This issue is a growing epidemic that’s not just impacting poor countries, but underage kids who are some how connected to the foster system.

According to Salendria Mabrey, with Foster Care Newsletter, foster kids are at a higher risk of becoming trafficked.

Huffington Post reported In a 2013 article that child sex trafficking victims who were recovered by the FBI in a nationwide raid — were children from foster care or group homes.

These are just a few eye opening statistics that show how human trafficking impacts the foster system.

If a child is in an abusive situation often times they may run away to protect themselves. However, this makes them extra vulnerability to becoming targets for trafficking. Reports submitted to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, 4,550 in foster care were runaways. Many between the ages of 12 and 17.

Sadly, as a foster parent I have heard stories of kids who don’t run away but are trafficked by family members. Another reason why these kiddos end up in foster care.

The longer I’ve been fostering the more stories I hear about kids being trafficked here in Indiana. In the first 6 months of 2018, there were over a 1,000 calls to report trafficking and over 700 victims in the state of Indiana. This is according to the Human Trafficking Hotline statistics.

I’ve even spoken to service providers who say its harder to place kids from sex trafficking situations. One reason is because many are teens.

Among the fostering world any teen is hard to place compared to a baby or younger child. Many foster families are terrified of teens so these victims linger in group homes. But what they need is a foster home willing to love them and help them heal. Another reason is because foster families have no clue how to deal with an older child who has been through that kind of trauma. Behavior issues are easy but how do you help a child who has been through sex trafficking?

I don’t have all the answers on how we as a country can tackle this issue. I’ve followed and advocated for sex trafficking victims for many years and will continue to do so. Now, I’m personally seeing the issue a little closer because of the foster system. I believe we can make a difference no matter if you are a foster parent or not.

6 Things you can do TODAY.

1. Educate yourself on human trafficking. Learn more about what it means and how it impacts victims.

2. Learn the signs. Understand the language used towards victims, ways they are lured into trafficking and how to recognize victims.

3. Spread awareness about why porn sites are a gateway to sex trafficking. Many of those girls are victims who are underage. When you engage in those sites you are supporting this.

4. Be open to fostering a child who has been through Sex trafficking. Educate yourself on what to expect and how to help them cope with the healing process. Take training on the topic. Talk to survivors if you can about ways to parent a child overcoming that trauma.

5. Be open to fostering teens. Many statistics show most victims are teens girls. Yes, younger kids as young as 2 can be trafficked but the main targets are pre-teen to teen girls. Don’t be afraid to foster teens. They have so much to offer if they can only find a loving family and a place to heal.

6. Join the EndIt movement. Today, February 7th is where people come together to spread awareness about human trafficking. Many people mark their hands with red x’s and post photos on instagram and Facebook. It doesn’t seem like much but just making people aware is huge. It’s the easiest thing you can do right now.

Please join millions of others as we spread awareness and educate people on this issue.

Entering the Season of Leaving: When Foster Parents say Goodbye

To Foster Parents Who Take it Personal

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

Entering the Season of Leaving: When Foster Parents say Goodbye

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Our days are numbered as our time with one of our foster teens is nearing the end. She has been in our home for over 6 months and sadly, she will soon be leaving. This is not our first time saying goodbye to a foster kid. It’s actually our sixth time saying goodbye.  But this time may be one of the hardest.

This dear girl came to us with amazing behavior but a lot of baggage. Ironically, I saw her in a dream about 4 months before I ever knew she existed. I still remember the day she got out of the car and I saw her through the window. My heart dropped because that was the same girl I had a dream about. I didn’t know what our relationship would be like but I knew it would be special.

Over the last 6 months, Steven and I have had the chance to show her love, teach her about God and watch her grow. She is not the same girl who came to live with us months ago. She has a happy facade now. Even though she is still struggling in some areas she has learned a lot. She even gave her life to Christ and got Baptized while here. I would like to say we can take credit, but it was a group of people who really showed her what life can be like when you have God.

Fostering is hard, especially when you have to say goodbye to kids who have impacted your life. She has become like a daughter of mine and it’s hard to see her leave. But I also have a peace about it. I feel ready to let her go because as a temporary mom — I feel like she is ready. We have taught her as much as we can while she was here. She has learned how to have God as her foundation — so I am proud to see what she will do as she gets older.

I have many people come up to us and say, “Oh, I couldn’t be a foster parent. I would get too attached. It would break my heart when they had to leave.” It’s funny because when people say that it’s as if they think we some how are NOT impacted by it. That we have a characteristic that allows us to say goodbye with ease. I am here to tell you we don’t. It hurts us all the same. But you know what, I don’t regret showing them love in the small amount of time they were in our home. Our home may be the only place they ever feel that love or are taught what a real family looks like. Why keep that from them? It will forever change their lives. Like our foster daughter — this experience has and will change the outcome of her future. Because we chose to love her and teach her about God.

As parents, we get 18 years with our kids. Yes, that’s a long time but your days are still numbered with them as well. We have a small time to make an impact and prepare them to leave. Yes, God calls every parent to prepare their children to leave their home. To teach them how to handle their own battles they will face as grownups. That’s why it is crucial to take every moment for granted. So really, fostering isn’t much different than parenting your own kids. You just get less time with them.

I am ready to see our girl enter her next journey. She will always have a seat at our table. She knows she is always welcome in our home. Even when she grows up to have a family of her own. I’m so thankful for the time God gave us with her. I pray that we really did make a big impact. That she will always remember us as a good memory in her life. Truth be told, foster kids need that so much. Many have childhoods filled with trauma and they need to see there is hope.

Even though it hurts to see her leave — it also opens ups another opportunity to love another teen girl who needs to hear she is worthy. I will always pray for all the girls we’ve had in our home and the ones yet to come.

I encourage you to open your home to kiddos who could use hope. Don’t be afraid of getting hurt because you have to see them leave so soon. Just love them and teach them as much as you can while they are with you. You never know how much their life may change.

When I Doubt, God Sends a Sweet Reminder

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

 

How Sleep Impacts Pregnancy

I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter. The first trimester I slept during the  day and was wide awake at night. The second trimester was better and by the third I was up several times the night peeing or trying to get comfortable. Let’s face it. Pregnancy takes a lot of energy out of us.

Now that I’m on my second pregnancy, I’ve dedicated more time to rest. Especially since I’m always running around after a toddler and mothering foster teens.

That’s why it’s important to know how sleep impacts our bodies while we are pregnant. I wish I would have known this information while pregnant with my daughter.

I’m partnering with Tuck Sleep to share some awesome scientific information on how you ladies expecting can get better sleep.

Sleep and Pregnancy

When Little is Good Enough

Last week my family and I celebrated one awesome girl. One of our foster girls turned the big 1-6. A big milestone for her no doubt. For months we’ve been planning on what party she wanted. We budgeted out what we were going to do. Sadly, the original plan didn’t happen because of the weather. But we still found a way to throw a party.

The day before the party I sent her and my husband out to get party snacks and decorations. Here I was expecting a huge bag of party decor because that’s her personality. But when they came back, all they bought was food and a birthday banner. I was shocked. Didn’t she want more?

The day of the party comes around and we got our girl two cakes. One was an ice cream cake and one a regular. Her guest list was about 20 so we wanted to be prepared. Hours begin to approach the party and I felt unprepared. If it was up to me I would have covered our whole downstairs in sweet 16 decor. But she wanted simple.

The time of the party came and only 2 people showed up other than us. I was so sad for her. How could this sweet 16 not be amazing?! My perfectionist side was coming out. I started to feel like a failure. Why didn’t I just decorate the party my way? I started focussing on the expectations of the world. I felt like I could have done so much more. While in the middle of my thoughts our girl came up to my husband and I. She threw herself on both of us for a group hug. With a huge smile she said, “Thank you for my party and presents. It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

What?! How could it be? There are little decorations, few guests and you’re still having a great time? I realized in that moment she was just happy to be celebrated even if it was a simple Sweet 16 Birthday party.

Later that night she told us why she thought this birthday was the best. She explained that being surrounded by people who cared about her made it the best.  To the world and to me, this party was basic. But to her…it was a party to remember.

Our 16-year-old reminded me the meaning of being grateful for what we have. She reminded me that a party with decor, party favors, matching cups and plates doesn’t equal a perfect party. It’s about those who are around us. It’s about those who show up to celebrate with us throughout life. It’s about finding the joy in daily life.

To Foster Parents Who Take it Personal

Exhausted Children: Why Your Kids May Not Be Getting Enough Sleep

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

Exhausted Children: Why Your Kids May Not Be Getting Enough Sleep

Good parents know what makes their kids happy, sad, laugh and angry. But often times there are other needs that can easily be overlooked despite our best efforts. One of the big ones is sleep. We need it to survive, but our kiddo’s schedules can make it hard to make sure they are getting enough sleep every night.

Tuck Sleep has done studies that teach parents about their children’s needs for sleep. Follow the link below to find out if your child is getting the proper amount of sleep.

https://www.tuck.com/parents-guide-healthy-sleep/ 

Pregnant? You May Need A New Mattress

Ladies, we know pregnancy comes with many aches and pains. The closer you get to your due date the more things hurt. For me a lot of my problems came from my mattress. It was over 15 years-old and had no support. I remember how much my body hurt when. I was pregnant with my daughter. I had terrible back problems up to a 2-years after I had my her. Now, I am pregnant with my second baby and those aches and pains are minimum.

Before you get too far along — check out these mattresses that are great for your pregnancy. Remember, you’re sleeping for two so you’ll need all the help you can get. Tuck Sleep has some top choices you can choose from.

5 Mattresses that will help you through pregnancy

To Foster Parents Who Take it Personal

“Don’t take it personal.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard more than a dozen times in the last few months. I hear it when I call my agency for advice. I hear it when I cry about the recent attitude my foster kiddo got with me. It’s a phrase I grew to hate. How could I NOT take it personal?

To me, fostering and raising kids is one of the most personal things I will ever do. I pour my heart into these kids daily. I wake up and immediately hit the ground running. I go to bed after everyone else. I make the meals, clean the home, haul kids where they need to go. I sacrifice my own wants and needs for others. How could I NOT take it personal?

Foster parents, this job is personal. Loving these kids is personal. But there is a difference between taking the attitudes to heart and the job to heart. This is something that has taken me several months to realize. The actions of these kids have nothing to do with us. They’re just being kids. But it doesn’t mean it won’t hurt along the way.

I finally see that the outbursts and yelling has nothing to do with me. Like any family or close friend, foster kids will let out their frustrations towards you.  Why? Because we are the closest people to them. It also means that they are comfortable enough to be vulnerable. They may not scream their actual struggles but they are telling you in their own way that they are hurting.  Consider it an honor that these kids feel like they can say what they feel.

Now I’m not saying yelling and cussing is tolerated. You do need to let them know they need to be respectful. But remember it has nothing to do with you. I wish I had understood that sooner.

In those tough moments I want you to remember that you are probably one of the few people fighting for them. Even if they feel like you’re against them. Remember, on top of all of that trauma — they’re just kids. It’s normal to get eye rolls and whining. I know I did it when I was young.

Most importantly, be kind to yourselves. If your foster kid calls you names or says you suck as a parent — know that it doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. The fact that you opened your home to love someone else’s child is reason enough to know that’s not true.

Don’t take the behavior issues personally. Instead, take the job personally. Keeping loving them. Show them you’re not giving up.

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

Looking Beyond the Mess

What Foster Training Taught Me About My Own Trauma

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

fullsizeoutput_417eIt’s no surprise that my husband and I are followers of Christ. Each day we try to put God the center of our marriage, home and lives. But when you have new people coming into your home to live… it can get difficult.

During our foster training we were told that some kids will reject the idea of church and God. As foster parents we cannot force them to go to church. We were warned that we may have some kids who come into our home that have had bad experiences with religion. Here are some ways we’ve talked to our teens about God.

  1. Be open. We had the privilege of meeting all of our girls before they came to stay with us. During our meetings we talked to them about how we do go to church and that we are a Christian home. We talk a little bit about our values and let them know what that means. This was really helpful because they can know what to expect. Especially if God is a sore subject.
  2. Practice what you preach. If you are a follower of Christ then you know the Bible talks a lot about grace, mercy and forgiveness. You may even have your kiddos ask you questions about what they mean and maybe even giving examples of it. But when they get in trouble or talk back you cannot waver from what you’ve talked about. Meaning, you can’t talk about forgiveness and grace and then not show it in the midst of struggles. That will not only destroy your relationship but it will create a bad experience for these kids.
  3. Don’t push. My husband and I are strong believers that we show God’s love through our day-to-day actions. We talk about God but we don’t pressure our foster kids to read their Bible daily or force them to do things that are uncomfortable. You have to remember, these kids probably never grew up in that type of home. So you can’t expect them to adopt your habits over night. You have to slowly introduce them. A great way is taking them to church if they want to go. Let them get involved in youth group. Maybe have family discussions about stories and meanings of scriptures from the Bible. Find a way to educate and teach but don’t push. Let them make their own choice to follow Christ.
  4. Have the tough conversations. Many foster kids that come in your home have different beliefs. Even if they are accepting of this relationship with God they still struggle understanding what God says about things like sin, being gay, cussing and divorce. Many foster kids have seen more than we will ever see or know about. You may have to have a deep conversation about topics most christians fear to have. Like explaining why a loved one died. Or talking about what God considers a sin. Sin is a big topic because you don’t know what these kids have done. So telling them they sinned and they’re going to hell — may not go over too well. These kiddos have enough guilt so you will have to be careful with how you word certain things. Most importantly you need to remind them that no matter what we as humans have done, Jesus paid the ultimate price for us to be free. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing that we should be teaching and demonstrating in our homes everyday.
  5. Share your testimony. The best way for your kids to see how God can work in their lives is by sharing your own experiences. I talk to them about having an abusive father. I talk them about mistakes with guys I’ve dated. I talk about my personal struggles and what brought me to where I am today. I am very open about my life and what I have been through. I even talk about my daily struggles with faith, stress and fears. This is probably the best way to share your love for God without being pushy.

These are just a few ways you can share and discuss God with your foster kids. It may vary depending on the child and how they take up. Be open and transparent about your walk with God. Let them see christianity is not about perfection. It’s about having a deep relationship with God.

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

When I Doubt, God Sends a Sweet Reminder

Preparing a Place for Our First Foster Child

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

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“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” — Audrey Hepburn

I love gardens. There is something about walking around and taking in the beauty of the flowers and plants. Seeing butterflies and bugs use the plants to meet their needs as well. But one thing I always think about, is how much work went into making these gardens beautiful.

My husband, 2-year-old and I went to a botanical gardens this morning. Our foster teens were at school so we took a family trip just the 3 of us. It was so needed. I kept thinking how much I wish I had gardens that looked like this. Just with my small garden I know the amount of work that must go into it. I thought how amazing it was see other people’s hard work pay off so I can enjoy something beautiful.

Last night, one of our girls reacted to a situation, that caused several foster agency workers to show up. Nothing violent, but let’s just say it was stressful. I cried most of the night. Thankfully, we got it resolved and I think everyone is calm. So this morning’s garden retreat was much needed for my soul.

As my husband and I were driving home, we were talking about how much we would love to have property with a large garden. Then we can use it to maybe even teach foster kids how to grow and nurture plants. I began to tell Steven how I would compare that to them working on their own struggles. That’s when he stopped and said, “this is what you need to hear.” He was right.

Last night, I found myself feeling responsible for my foster teen’s actions. I felt like a failure. I felt like all the hard work I’ve been putting into their lives has fallen by the wayside. But as I listened to my own advice, I realized I needed to hear that. Especially from myself. Here is what I was telling myself.

When we get to the point where we realize we need to start over with a new attitude, lifestyle, and friends we get excited and plant the seed. We add new dirt and water it. We even can see it start to grow in our lives. But once we start seeing the weeds we get frustrated. Once we start seeing the bugs attacking we want to give up. That’s the same way I felt last night. I felt like I had watered the plant, added new soil, gave it plenty of sunlight and STILL it was struggling. I put so much hard work into growing this beautiful flower. But I forgot that no matter what I do there will always be weeds.

These 3 foster teen girls have grown since they’ve been in our home. I’ve seen their smiles get bigger each day. I see them thriving and working through issues. I see them embracing a loving home. But throughout the growth I understand that there will be outbursts. I forgot that growing 3 teen girls will take a lot of hard work. A lot of repetitive weed pulling before I see the fruits of my labor.

I have to constantly tell these girls I love them. I have to constantly sit down with them and help them work through their emotions. I have to constantly referee fights because of how much they argue. It is an endless and tiring process. So when I see outbursts or major shifts I get frustrated.

After today, I reminded myself that I have to expect a lot more weeds. I have to be prepared to pull them as needed. Help them recover when they feel others eating away at their leaves and blossoms. Why? Because this is what I signed up for. This is what it’s like to be a foster parent. I pray one day I will see them bloom to their full potential. But for now, you’ll find me on my knees. Pulling the weeds and praying over their lives.

***I want to thank my amazing husband for all he does for us. I know I write most of my blogs from my perspective. But he is a major part in making these girls grow as well. So please, don’t think I am doing it all. I could not do this without him. ***

Attention Shoppers, Please Be Patient With My Screaming Kid

For many, the grocery store is a place where people go for a peaceful stroll while they shop for food. That is until my daughter walks through the doors.

My 2-year-old is pushing the buggy fast through crowds of people, nearly running over several toes along the way. Once she spots the crackers she grabs them off the shelf and throws them in the buggy. A snack I don’t mind giving her later but my daughter wants to eat them now. I tell her not until we check out, which causes a huge dramatic reaction. I look around at fellow shoppers as she screams “crackers.”

I bend down to calm my daughter but it only makes it worse. It takes about 5 minutes to explain she can have crackers once we get back to the car. Once that issue is resolved we continue to shop for the handful of items I came for. The next isle, the process starts over again. By the time she gets to the checkout I’m straining to hear the cashier reveal the total. My child is out of control because all she wants is “crackers” and of course it continues on the way to car.Before I can put her in the car seat – I spend another 5 minutes explaining what needs to happen before she gets a cracker. She finally calms down, I get her strapped in her seat and she enjoys her cracker.

This happens a lot. I see those looks from fellow shoppers who cringe when my child screams. I see the people who try to calm my child down but are rudely rejected by my 2-year-old’s, “No”. I see frustrated shoppers trying to grab items off the shelf where my child is throwing a tantrum. Please, just be patient.

It’s not because I won’t discipline my child. It’s because I am trying to teach her patience without whipping her into submission. Yes, she does receive spankings on occasion but as parents we also learned that the more she gets spankings the more she hits. My child responds to timeouts, not hitting.Shoppers please don’t get frustrated, I know my kid is acting like a wild animal. I know she needs to calm down but sadly, 2-year-olds don’t listen to reason. They react based on emotions.

I want my child to learn she can’t get what she wants when she screams for it. I want her to learn the meaning of patience. I want her to be okay waiting for something even if she wants it REALLY bad. Why? Because those teachings start now.

One day I want her to be a great person who impacts others, to be faithful to God and trust him even when she doesn’t get her way. I want her to be able to calm down without always spanking her. I also want her to have a calming spirit towards her children one day. So shoppers, I thank you for being patient. I thank you for giving me the space to discipline my child. I thank you for understanding that I am trying as a mom.

I am working daily with my child’s reactions to her world around her. For both of our peace, I pray one day I can walk in a store with my toddler and not fight a battle. I pray she will help me grab items off of the shelf and place them in the buggy but for now she needs to learn how to act.

So until then shoppers, please be patient, offer me a smile instead of a grimaced look. Try not to be quick to judge the situation and my lack of parenting skills. For now, try to shop around me when I am in the middle of the isle dealing with a toddler’s attitude. I promise one day, I will offer the same grace when you find yourself handling a toddler of your own.

***DISCLAIMER: This article represents my views on tasing my child. This article is not meant to criticize or point fingers at parents that choose other ways to discipline their children.****

Looking Beyond the Mess

Parenting Through Grace

Why I Don’t Want My Children To Say Yes, Ma’am