Posts Tagged With: Volunteering

Christmas Gifts & Foster Children

Angel Trees. Those trees you see every year around the holidays, covered with tags on which are written the names, ages, and wishlists of children in need.

You’ve seen them, right??   They can typically be found in the malls as well as at your local Walmart, Kmart, and various other department stores.

Name: Michael  

Age: 10  

Wish list: Skateboard, Xbox games, iPod…

For a number of years I bought gifts for the children on these trees.  I turned it into a family event.  I would take my children to the mall where we would carefully choose one or two children from the tree, then we would go shop for those children together.  I had this image in my head of these poor children who aren’t going to get anything for Christmas, and those children deserve a good Christmas.  What a simple thing I can do to put a smile on those kids faces.

My husband and I relied on charity once for Christmas.  I was shocked by the number of gifts they gave us for our children.  We felt like we had hit the jackpot, and we were incredibly grateful that so many people were willing to give of their time and money to help us out in our time of need.

When we reached the point when we could afford to give back, we did so.  Every year.

At this point I never thought to distinguish between a one-time need or temporary situation vs. more long-term situations.  I also never considered the difference between low-income families vs. children in foster care.

Recently I have been working for companies that do gift drives for foster children every year for the holidays.  They “sponsor” a foster child, and everyone in the office buys for that child.  Some organizations just buy gifts for an organization that passes them on to foster children.

Until recently I always tried to help out with these drives.

I’m going to express to you what is likely to be a very unpopular opinion on giving gifts to foster children.

I will start by saying that I believe that everyone should give in whatever way they feel is appropriate and in whatever way they can.  Whether that be by giving gifts for the holidays, as is so popular, or by giving money to, or volunteering your time at, these organizations that work with these children.

I do not criticize the manner in which people give, and I applaud any efforts that are put towards helping innocent children who have been affected by horrific circumstances beyond their own control in their lives.

Personally, my family has decided to no longer give gifts to foster children.

I think we all have this image in our heads of these poor children, and we have this desire to provide them with a wonderful Christmas.  It’s what we want for our own children, and it is wonderful to imagine the smile on their face when they open those gifts.  And these children most certainly deserve a wonderful Christmas, I’m not denying that.

However, these kids don’t *need* gifts.  These children need stability, they need people in their lives who truly care and want the best for them, they need adults to encourage them and increase their feeling of self-worth, they need to feel loved and valued and important.  They do not need an iPod, an xbox game, or a skateboard.

We can never know the particular circumstances of a child we give to, so the end result is entirely out of our control, which is why I say it’s still good to give even though I personally choose not to.  But, unfortunately, some of these children are showered with more gifts than you can possibly imagine.  And our own experience of Christmas, if we’ve never lived in foster care, is not adequate to process the potential end result of such a focus on materialistic things.  The excitement and satisfaction we experience when we open those longed for gifts while surrounded by loving and supportive family members, it’s nothing like the short lived satisfaction that those same gifts will bring to an overwhelmingly unhappy child who is searching for happiness and can only seem to find it in that iPod.

Studies have been done that show that children are highly susceptible to being influenced by advertisements when they are unhappy.  Children who do not have a solid basis in life, who are not satisfied with their home life, their family, friends, school, etc., are much more likely to search for happiness elsewhere, and are much more likely to believe the TV commercials that tell them that happiness can be found in a Barbie Doll.  This can lead to materialism, a search for acceptance and status based on the clothes a person wears or the electronics they carry in their pockets.  This materialism may seem harmless in a child, and it may lead to a temporary happiness in an extremely difficult time, but it leads to a much less than satisfactory adult life.

I’m not a psychiatrist, and I don’t claim to have all the answers.  But if foster children are not unhappy with the foundation of their lives, I don’t know who else would better fit this description.

Yes, the kids deserve Christmas.  No, you can’t know what affect those presents will have on whatever child receives them.  Yes, giving is good.

So continue to give.  The children thank you.

I choose to help in different ways.

Please respect that.

If you are able to give in other ways, I encourage you to research the various ways you can make a real difference in the lives of these children.  Be a volunteer or a mentor.  Foster.  Adopt.  Or give financially to the organizations that contribute to this cause in ways other than just giving gifts.

Categories: Adoption, Children & Parenting | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I emailed the Guardian ad Litem program this morning to let them know that I was no longer interested in volunteering with their program.  I was disappointed in a way, but relieved at the same time.

A Guardian ad Litem, in case you didn’t already know, is a volunteer who works with children in foster care.  They are assigned to the child, hopefully from the moment they enter the system, and they are involved with that child through everything.  They aim to be a consistent figure in the child’s life, sticking with them through multiple placements if necessary, and they act as that child’s voice in the court system, always keeping in mind what is best for the child above all else.

But to really understand how I’m feeling at the moment, I need to start a little further back…

I can actually remember wondering about adoption all the way back in elementary school.  I used to say that I would never have my own children because there were so many children already who needed homes.  I always thought that if I ever wanted to be a mom I could just adopt instead.  Helping children is something I have wanted to do even when I was still a child myself.

Three biological children later, I have decided that I still wish to adopt.  So we started the process.  During this process I have learned a lot about how the system works, and I decided that I wanted to get more involved.  What better way to get involved with helping kids than to become a Guardian ad Litem?

So I filled out and submitted the application for the program.  The application asked whether or not I have ever been involved in a DCF investigation.

I’m honest.  I had to answer “Yes”.  And I had to fill out the explanation section.

See, a few years ago there was a misunderstanding. My oldest child wrote a story depicting an abusive situation and shared it with a friend, who then showed it to someone else, and that someone else showed a teacher.

And the investigation begins…

And the investigation was quickly closed showing no indication of any abuse.

The Guardian ad Litem program has this rule that states that if an applicant has been involved in such an investigation then they must do their own investigation into the facts of that case before they can consider approving that application.  They have to have a copy of the closed report, it can only be closed with a status showing there was no indication of abuse.  But, even that isn’t enough…  they also have to have a written statement from the applicant explaining the situation, they have to speak with the investigator who handled the investigation, and they ask if you can provide them with any additional information, documentation, references, etc. that will back up your story.

So this morning I withdrew my application.  I don’t wish to go through that all over again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past week or so.  I’m not sure I agree with the concept of “Mandatory Reporters.”  Or, at the very least, I think the system needs to be tweaked a bit.

This investigation was the result of a complete and total misunderstanding.  My child wrote a story and showed it to a friend, who showed a friend, who told a teacher.  The teacher is REQUIRED to report ANY suspicion of abuse to DCF.  If a report is submitted, DCF is required to investigate it.  Once we have been investigated, those records stay on file at DCF, with no way (that I can find anyway) to have them sealed, deleted, expunged (whatever word you want to use), and any time I want to do anything that involves working with children I have to defend myself and subject myself to an investigation all over again.

We are not perfect parents.  We make mistakes, just like everyone else does.  However, we have a safe and happy home, free from abuses of all kinds.  And it makes me so angry that four years later, with an approved adoptive home study in my hands showing that the state is willing to trust us to adopt a child from foster care, I am still being asked to defend myself against these false allegations.

If a family is investigated and absolutely no indication is found of abuse, that family should not be forced to reveal that to anyone.  If DCF wants to keep it on file to show that they have, in fact, been called to that house in the past, fine.  But other agencies should not have access to that data, and I should not be required to mention it.

I understand the need to protect the children, but we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that if someone is falsely accused of a crime that doesn’t have to do with children they are NOT required to tell anyone and continually defend themselves against those allegations.

So, why do I have to?

Categories: Adoption, All About Ellen Cabot, Children & Parenting, Government & Politics | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Should volunteering really be this difficult?

I went back and edited my original post regarding the inefficiencies of government, where I included a bullet point list of the things I have been struggling to accomplish lately, and I combined two of my goals.  Helping out local crime watch and volunteering at the sheriff’s office are close enough to be considered one, I think.  They both have to do with my desire to give back to my community as well as put a stop to crime.

We have, unfortunately, had a number of run-ins with local criminals.

Two years ago our house was broken into, while my children were at home, and my laptop and external hard drive were stolen off of my dining room table.  My daughter happened to walk out of her bedroom and find the thief half in/half out our back door.  She actually spoke to him; he claimed to be looking for a friend.  She later identified him for the police, and he is currently serving time for a string of break-ins in our town.  And, yes, I got my stuff back.

Back in September, my bicycle was stolen right out of my driveway.  This wasn’t just any bike.  I purchased that bike instead of a car.  It was my primary form of transportation.  I rode it to work, I rode it to the grocery store, I rode it for exercise, and I rode on the bike trail with friends for fun and as a social outlet.  I put a couple hundred miles on that bike per month, and for that reason I actually spent quite a bit of money on it; I wanted, and needed, a nice, comfortable, easy to ride bike. I never did get that one back, and have only recently accepted that I never will.

In addition, we have noticed certain things have come up missing from our garage (which we used to be in the habit of leaving open for brief periods of time in the past… though that does NOT happen anymore), like the grill set that my sister had given to us for Christmas a couple years back.  It had never been used, and was just sitting in the garage near the grill waiting for summertime…  *Poof*… Gone.

One day, in the middle of the night, a car drove up onto our lawn, the driver jumped out and ran between the houses to disappear into the *woods* behind our house (the woods being maybe 100 feet of trees and a retention pond).  The windshield of the car was cracked.  No, not just cracked, seriously broken.  We called the police and we were informed that someone had run down a motorcyclist right around the corner.  The windshield of the car was broken where the motorcyclist had hit it.  The driver of the car had taken off, and apparently thought our front yard was a good place to dump the vehicle (which was, obviously, stolen).

I started to get mad.  I considered moving.  Then one day I realized that you can’t run away from crime.  Unless you live in a really dangerous neighborhood, which we don’t.  The criminal activity we were noticing was the sort of criminal activity you find anywhere and everywhere.  If you try and run from it you will ALWAYS be running.

So instead of running I decided to fight back.  I thought that maybe if I become closely involved in local law enforcement, got to know the local sheriff’s deputies, became more familiar with the area, and with what to watch out for, that I would be less likely to be a victim.  I researched what it would take to start my own neighborhood watch program, and how to build an effective one.  I searched out crime watch groups already established in the area.  I signed up for, and completed, the “Citizen’s Academy”, a program our local Sheriff’s office offers to give citizens an inside look into how the local police operate.  I filled out a volunteer application for the Sheriff’s office, and I also found a local crime patrol that was in need of volunteers and I filled out an application to work with them as well.

Turns out the crime patrol and the sheriff’s office require you get fingerprinted and background checks must be completed before you can work with them.  In addition, the Sheriff’s office has a volunteer orientation that you have to attend.

These aren’t really unreasonable requirements.  Until you find out that they only do fingerprinting during regular Mon-Fri business hours, and they only offer the orientation from 1pm – 4pm.

I have a job.  I work during those hours.

So I asked, “Can’t I get fingerprinted at the police station near my work?  Then I could go at lunch.”

Nope… you have to come here, and it has to be during those hours.  😦

We have an approved adoptive home study!  We’ve been approved to adopt a child from foster care!  Can you just trust their background checks?!?

No! You have to come here, and it has to be during those hours!

I can’t, and won’t, take time off of work to attend orientation or get fingerprinted so that I can volunteer.  I am already taking time off of work and altering my schedule on occasion for the adoption.  My employer is absolutely understanding when I have to take time off for meetings with social workers, but a person’s employer can only be expected to be understanding for so much…  My job has to take priority.

I noticed on the Sheriff’s office volunteer application, where they ask you what areas you would be interested in volunteering for, fingerprinting was one of the options.

I hereby volunteer to assist with fingerprinting and coordinate volunteer orientation sessions in the evenings, after 6pm.  When I, and the rest of the working world, can make it to the office to get it done.

Categories: Government & Politics | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Blog at