The holidays can be extremely stressful for those impacted by the foster care system--even under the best circumstances. For example, kids may struggle with (intensified) conflicting emotions toward their biological and foster families. Biological parents may struggle with more pronounced depression, shame, and anger at being separated from their children during this "festive" time. Transitional Age Youth may struggle with loneliness and unresolved trauma (in addition to the challenges faced on a daily basis). Social workers and caregivers may need to juggle visits, and grieving children, while planning their own holiday traditions. I can tell you from experience ... it can be overwhelming!
If you're looking for ideas that can help ease the stress felt by caregivers, take a look at this article written by Beverly Nelson from Stand Up For Caregivers.
Image via Pixabay
Self-Care Gifts Caretakers Will Love
by Beverly Nelson
Everyone has someone in their life that gives more than they could ever take: a caregiver. Caregivers or caretakers help their loved one (or more than one) live their day-to-day life. They act as an advocate for the person’s health and well being. They are a point of contact for other friends and family and assume responsibility for making sure their loved one is properly fed, clothed, sheltered, and emotionally cared for. Needless to say, this is incredibly time consuming and can become pretty stressful. If they do not take time to also care for themselves, it can take quite the toll on their physical and mental health.
This holiday season, gift the caretaker in your life with something that allows them to indulge in some well-needed self-care.
Why We Need Self-Care
Caregivers spend all their time thinking and doing for others. As noble as this is, it will eventually wear them out, keep them feeling stressed, and run them down until they can’t function. By taking out a little time each day to do something for themselves, they’ll be able to refresh and recharge so they can keep fulfilling their responsibilities without risking their physical or mental health.
Self-Care Gifts for Caretakers
When picking out a gift, use what you know about the caretaker to help find something that appeals to their interests. We are more likely to take time caring for ourselves if we look forward to doing it.
A Journal & Pen
While penning an epic may be out of the question for their busy schedule, everyone has time to do a little micro-journaling that documents what they do throughout the day and encourages them to do something for themselves. It’s a perfect way to unwind and reflect at the end of the day. All they need to do is write the date, 10 things about their day, and one thing they are thankful for… simple! Encourage them to always have at least one of those things be an act of self-care so they can challenge themselves to make it a daily habit.
A Meditation CushioN
Some of the brightest minds on the planet use meditation to stay centered and reduce stress. Gifting your caregiver friend with a meditation cushion encourages them to set up a little space in their own home where they can sit in quiet and focus on the breath or their intention. Anytime they see the cushion you give them, they’ll be reminded of how their friend wants them to take time for themselves in order to care for their overall well being. Namaste.
Sitting down with a hot mug of tea is the easiest way to unwind after a long, hard day. Sipping on something warm promotes comfort both physically and mentally. Plus, teas have various health benefits including disease-fighting antioxidants. Important: avoid any kind of tea that has caffeine which can actually increase anxiety and restlessness. Look for herbal tea blends that include ingredients such as:
Caregivers are amazing human beings. To help a person who has lost capabilities to take care of their own day-to-day needs is one of the most selfless and loving things one can do. Show the caregiver in your life some appreciation with a gift that promotes their own self-care. It’s important that they do things in their own lives to care for their mental and physical health. Gifts such as a journal and pen, a meditation cushion, or even a lovely set of herbal teas for relaxation can promote their well-being while expressing your gratitude for what they do.
I’ve come to the realization that I am a horrible blogger - which probably comes as no surprise to anyone who happens to glance at the date of my last entry. I've had a number of things to share, but for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to do so until now. Here’s a summary of the events that have transpired since August of 2015:
Now that my blog is current, I can officially say that blogging is NOT my thing. I may still post from time to time, but my only consistent writing will likely be novels (and maybe Facebook).
Exactly one year ago today, I lost the ability to bear children. After a 15-year battle with fibroid tumors, multiple abdominal surgeries, a late-term miscarriage, and many months of hoping … a pregnancy is simply no longer an option for me. That realization would have left me devastated five years ago, but today … not so much.
It’s been an interesting journey. I started out with absolutely no desire to have children, only to discover that my husband had other ideas. Was that something we should have discussed before the wedding? Absolutely. I shared my thoughts with him, but for some reason, he thought I would change my mind. Did I? Absolutely - although I don’t recommend our “tie the knot and hope it changes” method of planning for the future. Two years into our marriage, I was dealing with a host of reproductive issues which ultimately lead to infertility.
I’ve received tons of advice from a lot of well-meaning people over the last ten years:
Just do in vitro … Try acupuncture … You just need to have more faith …
Stop trying so hard … Just lose weight … Just do yoga ...
Just take vitamins … Just use a surrogate …
All you need to do is ask God … It’ll happen, you’re a good person …
Sometimes I appreciated their attempts to help (although I did not appreciate the lady from church who told me that I could get pregnant without a uterus if I really believed in God), but more often than not, I was just frustrated because I was unsure of the path that God had for me. We decided against fertility treatments early on, so I prayed about it regularly (in spite of what that lady from church thought), and went on with my life. I went back to college, I discovered a passion for social work, and we parented teens in foster care.
In hindsight, I can see that this was the path that God had for us. During the journey, I developed a desire to help abused and neglected kids. At times it’s been frustrating and terrifying, but I was able to get through it because He gave me the heart to do so. He also gave me a better understanding of abusive parents. I still get upset with parents who mistreat their children, and sometimes I lose it when kids are treated as an afterthought or an inconvenient consequence of an old relationship. The difference is I’m learning to have more compassion for people – even those who behave badly.
Today is an unusual anniversary for me because instead of grieving like I expected, I'm actually feeling optimistic. I have no idea of what the future holds, but some of my paths are becoming more clear and it's allowing me to breathe much easier.
Some of these ads do not belong:
German Shepard Lab Mix Puppy Needs a Home
Hello thanks for viewing my post. We are looking for a nice home for our dog. He is very friendly and energetic unfortunately we don't have the time for him... We are expecting a baby soon and we feel it is best to find him a good happy home. If anyone is interested please text me. He is 2 and a half years old.. Doesn't bite and weighs around 52 lbs.
We are trying to find a new home for our puppy, she is a Mini Pinscher, light brown, 1 year old. She needs a lot of love and attention, she's very smart and playful. Great for kids.
Fiona is a 2 yr. old black lab mix that we adopted when she was a puppy. She is current with all of her shots and is spayed. She is very energetic, loves attention, and is good with kids. Fiona is an outside dog that has been trained with and utilizes an underground fencing system. We can no longer keep her as she loves to bark and gain attention of anyone outside, and is bothering the neighbors
In the past, term "re-homing" was applied to the process of giving away a pet for another person to care for. Today the term can be applied to pets or children - particularly adopted children whose parents are no longer willing to care for them.
Last year, Reuters released a five-part investigation into the re-homing of internationally adopted children. What they discovered was a secret world that few people were aware of.
“… parents were transferring custody of their unwanted adopted children to strangers met on the Internet, often with no government oversight and sometimes illegally. No state or federal laws specifically prohibit the practice, which is known as ‘Re-homing.’ And state laws that restrict the advertising and custody transfers of children are often confusing, and rarely spell out criminal sanctions.”
“In the absence of government safeguards, boys and girls have been placed in the care of abusers and others who escape scrutiny. In one case, a mother gave her nine-year-old adopted son to a pedophile in a motel parking lot in Wisconsin within hours of posting an advertisement for the child on a Yahoo group.”
The state of Wisconsin responded to the investigation by passing a law to stop private custody transfers of children. Wisconsinites are now required to get permission from the Court before turning over custody of their children to non-relatives. The new law also makes it illegal for unlicensed people to advertise a child online (or in print). Several other states have followed Wisconsin's lead by passing similar legislation, and federal intervention is now being considered after a Senate subcommittee hearing in July.
Why would someone re-home a child?
The re-homing cases that I've been involved with have been extremely eye-opening. I've learned that the parents aren't evil monsters who lurk in the shadows and trade in human flesh. They are typically caring people who have good intentions. Many of them are moved by the estimated 132 million orphans* around the world whose parents are absent as a result of war, extreme poverty, or the unrelenting tide of the AIDS epidemic. They are also people who have spent thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours, in an effort to give a child a new life as a member of their family. In those cases, the decision to re-home their child(ren) could be summed up with two simple words:
Adoptions are extremely emotional and good judgment can sometimes be impaired during the process. At the same time, some people adopt for the wrong reasons. These are some of the issues that those parents have struggled with:
The re-homed youth that I've worked with have indicated that being "thrown away" was the single worse event that has ever happened to them. Their feelings of betrayal and of being rejected have impacted them more than losing their biological families or experiencing abuse in their orphanages. Each of them have struggles with anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. They also tend to isolate themselves from others in an attempt to avoid future rejection. This is especially damaging to those whose native culture rely on the interdependence of an extended family. They often feel as though they are alone in the world, even when surrounded by people who care about them.
I often wonder if the adoptive parents of these young people understood that they were signing up for a long-term commitment. That the phrase "forever family" isn't just a sound bite - it's actually supposed to mean something. I also wonder if they understood that their responsibilities don't end simply because a child is acting out or they, as a parent, have become weary. More importantly, I wonder if they received adequate training before the adoption. I'm hoping that all prospective parents know that there are only two circumstances that would allow them to legally (not ethically) back out of their obligations to their child:
*UNICEF and its global partners define an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. Adoptive families are often surprised to learn that their newly adopted child has a living parent and/or extended family members.
These cases are disturbing; however, let's not forget that there are amazing agencies out there that have successfully helped people expand their families through adoption. If you or someone you know are considering an international adoption, talk to people and find out who and where those agencies are. Referrals are priceless when it comes to this process.
By the way, if you're adopting because it's trendy or because Brangelina, Sandra Bullock, and Madonna look cool with kids of color ---- please contact me ASAP.
My first contact with a (known) victim of human trafficking occurred back in 2010. I was familiar with her case because I had spent the weeks before our meeting brainstorming with the Probation department on ways to help her. I had some background, I had some (very limited) resources, and I had some semblance of a plan, but what I didn't have was a face.
As she sat in my office, on her eighteenth birthday, she filled in some of the gaps that were missing from her file. For example, she had spent the past four years working as a prostitute, but she assured me that it wasn't a big deal. Her drug-addicted mother had introduced her to the life when she was twelve. As she shared portions of her story, I remember thinking about how much she looked like Tinkerbell. She should have been getting ready for prom or graduation, not trying to figure out how to live without her pimp (which incidentally was our goal, not hers).
I remember feeling powerless as I handed her a $25 gift card for groceries - especially when I knew she could have easily earned hundreds of dollars in one day (whether she was able to keep it or not was a different story). I remember the ache in my heart when she told me that she missed her pimp, because even though he beat her, he could be sweet. Sometimes he would give her a flower; he even took her to the beach once.
We were absolutely unprepared to help her and I knew it. So what did I do? As soon as she left my office, I prayed … and then my staff and I went into social worker mode. We looked for more resources. We tried to find better counseling and a whole bunch of other things we thought might help; but ultimately, we knew we were over our heads. We also knew that she wasn't going to wait around for substandard resources.
On my way home that night, I had one of many conversations with God. I got mad, I cried and I grieved for her lost childhood. I also grieved because she longed for a man who seemed to view women as little more than profitable Kleenex. So, was I surprised when she ran away and went back to her pimp several days later? No, but I was surprised at how many Tinkerbells we discovered after that - and let’s not forget about the Tianas, the Jasmines, the Mulans, and the Pocahontases. In fact, there were so many that we started collaborating with other agencies for help:
We spread the word and educated people about human trafficking and sexually exploited children in our communities. We also rallied behind Prop 35 and saw it pass with an overwhelming amount of voter support. It seemed like we were doing quite a bit at the macro level, but at the micro level … it didn’t seem like we were really helping the kids. By the way, I say kids for two reasons:
It was overwhelming at times, and it was frustrating to see so many young people trapped in that lifestyle, but I was optimistic.
So where are we four years later?
Earlier this year, a colleague discussed her attempts to help a young victim of sexual exploitation. There were some differences between her client and the young adult who sat across from me back in 2010, but there were also some frustrating similarities. My client didn't have long-term housing or ongoing services. She ran back to her pimp within a week, leaving behind her clothes and some documents. Her client had housing and supportive services that included a Life Coach. She ran back to her pimp after a year, leaving behind her 1 year old child.
So what’s the problem … what are we doing wrong?
Earlier this week, I attended a training by Melissa (Missy) Bradley-Ball entitled, Restoring Life After Sexual Trauma – Treating Adolescents, Adults and Couples. The entire seminar was informative, but I had a light bulb moment during the last 20 minutes. She used some of Dr. Jim Fogarty’s work on Emotional Manipulation and provided a diagram of how victims tend to be ensnared:
She then discussed Primary vs. Secondary Trauma and how we often confuse the two – even when we know better. In our case, we were providing services that attempted to address the Isolation and Assault, but those were Secondary Traumas. The Primary Trauma usually occurred during the Grooming Phase. That was when they became attached to their abuser. That was when they usually lost faith in their ability to judge right from wrong. That was when their defenses were removed, and that was when the betrayal happened.
I realized that the resources we provided weren’t necessarily substandard, they were just incomplete. Victims of sexual exploitation need specialized counseling, or some other form of assistance, that can help them deal with the emotional manipulation that occurred when they were being groomed. If that area isn’t addressed, they’ll likely return to their abuser - or find another one to take their place.
How would you know if someone were targeting your child? What about your sibling, niece, nephew, cousin or neighbor? There are no easy answers when it comes to human behavior, but I remembered something this week. If I don't take the time to observe (and guide) the young people in my life, there are some pretty wretched people out there who would jump at the chance to do it for me.
I loved learning about Best Practice Methods in grad school. After all, it's the way social work should be done in the real world. The idea of providing services efficiently and effectively. "That's all we need to change the child welfare system." Minimum resources but maximum results - that was the ticket.
I actually remember thinking that as a student. After graduation, most of us learned that best practice methods are frequently tossed out the door. In the real world, certain policies, budgets, case loads, and ideologies don't allow Best Practice Methods. By the way, exactly who are we supposed to be serving? Is it the parents, the child, the family as a whole, our agency, or society? Honestly, sometimes I forget. Sometimes I try to do it all ... and sometimes I just wanna play Bejeweled. Maybe that's why this quote is posted on my desk.
"Burnout comes not from work, but from not achieving expectations."