Sunday, December 3, 2017

Could It Be Yours?

Be sure to watch this first before reading.

What an AMAZING story!  While this one got media attention because of the situation I wish in some way every story like this would receive the same spotlight. But that would be overwhelming. Possibly hard to grasp for all those who don't see it going on around them. Plus, I don't think there would be enough air time on TV to handle the sheer volume of similar stories that exist like this today.

As of right now a majority of children coming into Children services/ foster care is because of drug addiction. Many are drug addicted babies.  This is now the NORM. Just this week our adoption agency held a Christmas party for the kids in care through their service. As I surveyed the room of close to 50 families almost all were placements because of drug addiction. I would guess that just out of that group at least 40 of the families had babies or toddlers that were all drug addicted at birth. When we started fostering 4 years ago we were told that you typically don't see a lot of babies coming into care. Now, that is the majority and there are not enough families in place to help.  So, if you have ever felt the nudge to make a difference or be involved in foster care now is the time. These babies need loving homes. It's that simple. This story makes it look easy but this (in my opinion)is a rare case.  It's hard.  It takes all your resources and can be an emotional roller coaster. When you open up your home to these babies some of your personal relationships suffer because of your involvement with foster care while others are strengthened. On the outside your family will seem to be withdrawn and less interactive than before.  Loved ones or close friends will think you've become selfish and don't do the things you used to do. But what they don't see are the sleepless nights of loving on these babies because (for some) they are going through withdrawal.  Their cries are heart piercing. Their tremors are scary to watch. The onslaught of doctors visits and specialists at first is daunting.  You see, when you have healthy kids you go through phases and for the most part healthy babies are predictable thus why you have routine Dr visits. Drug babies are each unique depending of the severity of their addiction and if they were properly treated at birth. Your family is not avoiding traditions or living in isolation(though it may feel like it) your simply putting everything you have into helping and loving these babies.  Stopping  at nothing to see them become healthy and a success. You'll  become part of a new TRIBE with other foster families and learn to lean on each other to get through the day to day. You brace yourself for Parent visits each week. Yes, if the family is still involved you'll have visitations. Birth Mom's work on their case plan to get sober and hopefully find routine life but the drugs don't allow them. Visits start off hopeful.  You the foster parent bringing in their baby to try and bond. Visitation looks like a busy doctors office with multiple small rooms off a large area where birth families meet and interact with their kids in a supervised environment. Here, once again, you are reminded of the drug problem. You are reminded of how good your life is or how your upbringing wasn't really the bad. The smell of hopelessness fills the room. Faces full of despair and arms scared from drug abuse overload your visual senses. The visitation center is always busy. Each room full and like a revolving door. One after another families try to connect. This could go on for a couple of months or a couple of years. During this time you're  also meeting with case workers in your home. One from your agency and one from children's services. They have to do in home visits to check on the progress of the baby and if they are connecting with your family. Then one day you go to visit and Mom is not there.  Her attendance  becomes sporadic at best and then she just quits showing up. The drugs win...again.  At first you can't understand how she could give up.  Then remember conversations about their past and family life and realize you can't believe they made it this far.

Did you notice that? Not once did I mention Dad. For the most part they bailed long ago. Are in prison.  Dead or not even known. It takes two. While we deal mainly with the mothers I tend to get more upset over the absent father and believe a majority of this problem lies on the fact the men are not being men. They treat these women like sex slaves and drugs are the currency.  In the end the babies suffer. It's not what they have done that place them in your home but what has happened to them. A choice not their own.

In the end we need more families to help these babies.  We need a better system to do what's best for these little ones. Foster families need more resources to better equip themselves. It's hard to  work full-time and meet all the requirements, go to all the meetings, be at all the visits, show up to court cases, and get them to the specialists they need to overcome their parent's addiction.

It's all worth it! The day you hear their 1st laugh.  They say their 1st word.  When the Doctor's tell you the blood work came back normal for the 1st time. When they sleep through night and you realize you haven't seen a tremor in days. Sure there will be more too come in the future because we yet know how the drugs will affect them as they develop. But for now all they need is a loving home! Could it be yours?

God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm a Minority

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I'm A Minority

To read that title than look at me one might laugh. One might get upset. 6’5” Caucasian white man calling himself a minority.  Some would stereotype me and call me the man….the reason they can't get ahead. But stay with me….As I sat this past weekend at the EdRising National Conference in Phoenix…...Yes it was Hot…..really Hot….I surveyed the large room of over a thousand students proclaiming they want to be the future of education. It was a very diverse room. One that reflected well our current student population in the U.S. According to EdRising statistics 51% of their 30,000 student members are of diverse ethnic backgrounds. These students competed in numerous activities to showcase their amazing talents and dedication to the profession. What was more amazing is that they basically ran the conference. The future of education is looking good. Hedieh, our student from the ILC, took 5th in the nation in her category.
Super proud of her hardwork and dedication. Not many seniors give up a week in the summer after they graduate. 

Then my attention shifted to the teacher leaders. What were their backgrounds? You guessed it….a majority in the room were white females. The minority of lead teachers  in the room were male. So there….. I’m a minority! Are you?  

I had aspirations of going into the medical field. I then decided to become an environmental scientist. I even worked with the EPA in Florida for an internship. Lined up a job out of college but soon realized I made more money working in distribution. When the EPA offered me half of what I was making working at a warehouse through college. I stayed the course with distribution, was making great money and landed in management in my mid 20s. But something was missing. I discovered teaching. Made the sacrifice to go back to school and teach at a private school which offered me a third of what I was used to making in a warehouse. But now I can honestly say that if I did anything else I would be settling. Teaching…..Education…. that's my calling.

We need to toughen up. Teaching is not a one gender profession. Men are needed on this field. Students are coming to us fatherless and empty.  Young men are looking for their role models.  I'm not saying female teachers can not fit this bill. Many of them do and that is amazing.  But men need to realize that students need us. Not just to teach but to be there. And not just to be a coach. Far too many believe that males only teach so they can coach. Then these teachers only care about their sports and players. I'm not saying you need to be a big teddy bear and hug every student.  But you better believe that offering a simple affectionate gesture to a student in need could go a long way when they've never had a positive male role model in their life. 

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Tough love is in fact the opposite of what you think. It's when we love because it's hard for us. Its showing love to the hard students.  To the ones that society says don't deserve it.  That's tough love!

The pay is terrible…...I don't have the patience for kids….teachers are not respected….I hate bureaucracy….this generation is soft....I can't stand the technology….I’m too smart to teach...teaching is beneath me….please stop with the excuses! I'm tired of it!  The greatest sacrifice anyone can make is to neglect their own comforts for the sake of others.  That means you find a way to squash every reason not to do it and realize that you teach for the kids. You teach to help others discover how to build their legacy. Yes….teaching is at the beginning of all other professions. It's the spark igniter! There is something special about being the one to fan the flames.

Keynote speaker Nate Bowling opened the EdRising conference with a unique perspective.  His passion is advocating for the underdog. His research... studies.... life have lead him to the conclusion that a student's housing situation can set the tone for their future. Again, I'm in the minority. Growing up in a divorced family and living with my mother...who at times worked three jobs before remarrying just so we could live in a small rental trailer or with my grandmother. On free and reduced lunch. I grew up in the foothills of eastern Ky along the Ohio River. Not a very affluent area. If anything it was a quite depressing area in which many of the local steel mills along the river were shutting down. We didn't have much but we made the best of it. I was one of the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, the first to graduate with a Master's, and the first to pursue my Doctorate. the minority. While Mr. Bowling’s research is interesting and I'm sure we could all learn from it.  I want make sure we don't allow ideas like this to become a crutch. Yes….we should empathize with those less fortunate and for those that struggle.  As a foster parent I've seen kids born into circumstances beyond their control. Addicted to drugs and exposed to pain far greater than I've ever imagined. But yet when you ask the pediatrician what is the one thing that will change their life the answer is simple. A loving environment! 

So….let's do that. Let's recognize that the playing field for our students is not the same. Their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds will affect them but it should not define them. Let’s love our students for being uniquely different and bringing with them whatever baggage they carry. Let's be encouragers. Let's be mentors for the next generation of influencers. Let's make what the public envisions as a minority….caring teachers…. the true majority. Because if that is what being a minority in education is all about then yes…..I'm a minority!

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