Between Families – September 2021

Creating a Safe & Open Home Environment

The need to feel secure and stable at home is important to everyone, but children especially need to feel this. Having a place where they are physically, socially, and emotionally secure is imperative for healthy development and a successful future. Children who feel a connection with their caretakers and their home go on to exhibit fewer at-risk behaviors later in childhood.

To establish a meaningful relationship with your child and prepare them for what lies ahead, you must provide them with a place that feels safe at all times. First and foremost is a child’s physical safety. In addition to providing a home free from neglect and abuse, it is important to keep children away from household dangers. These include open windows, electrical cords and outlets, hot surfaces, toxic substances, weapons and sharp objects. To ensure child safety, check your smoke detector regularly and make sure your child knows what to do in case of a fire, earthquake or another emergency. Have an escape plan and practice it!

The key to creating a safe and open home environment for your child is about more than just meeting their fundamental needs for survival. Food and shelter form the foundation essential for nurturing a child. However, it’s sometimes easy to underestimate or overlook the little things we can do to offer an open and supportive emotional environment. The people and the world around us have an immense effect on us and how we grow. Building an atmosphere of openness and an overall feeling of comfort and trust is imperative for raising a happy, healthy child ready to take on the world.

There are many simple ways you can help make a child feel whole and happy in the home. Here are a few to consider:

Don’t yell.
Take a moment and think back to the last time someone yelled at you. How did it make you feel? It probably made you feel sad or angry or maybe even both. No one likes to be yelled at, and children are certainly no exception to this.

We all get things wrong sometimes or make a less than perfect decision. Children should be taught it’s okay to make a mistake without worrying about feeling shamed or mad at. Shouting can cause fear and reciprocal anger in children and may adversely affect your future lines of communication with them.

Try having them repeat back to you what you’ve said to them; saying these expectations out loud will not only help them to remember what you’ve told them but will help them to do better next time.

Let them be kids.
Playtime is absolutely necessary for learning good motor and social skills. That’s not to say they should be free to hang off the ceiling fan or draw on the walls, but the freedom to explore their surroundings and express themselves in an appropriate physical way is crucial to proper development. Encourage their curiosity and creativity by allowing them to discover their world in a safe, controlled manner. Nurture their sense of adventure while making sure anything unsafe is out of the way. Take care to make sure any potentially dangerous items are put away (e.g. cleaning products, choking hazards, things with sharp edges, etc.) and allow them room to play, imagine, build and dream.

Contrary to what they’d have you believe, children don’t need boxes full of the latest and greatest toys and novelties – just a few special ones. Make sure the books, toys and games available to your child are age appropriate and interesting to them. Stimulating and engaging toys and activities allow them to learn better and grow.

Give them opportunities to play with other children too. Spending time interacting with their peers can be good for their social and emotional wellbeing. They’ll see how their actions can affect others and learn a lot about themselves in the process.

Read to them. 
Reading aloud to young children is often cited as the single most important thing you can do to ensure they develop the language skills they’ll need to be an effective communicator later in life. You can start even before they can talk. Exposing them to books at a young age will better prepare them for school and grow their imaginations. An added bonus is that the intimacy involved in this activity can provide you and your child an opportunity for some prime bonding time.

Set good examples. 
Children notice everything. They hear and see things we sometimes think they don’t. Always be aware of your actions and words in the presence of children. We may not think they are concerned with everything we say and do but in reality, they absorb much more than we sometimes give them credit for. These quickly-developing little mimics look to adults for direction in life, and setting a good example can mean anything from being honest and kind to others, to not smoking or eating healthy foods. Let them see you making good life choices and you can expect to see healthy growth and success in return.

Stay positive.
We all face challenges in life and often we respond to those challenges in a negative way. When unexpected difficulties arise, it can be easy to forget but having a negative attitude will likely only lead to further negativity in the future. Don’t let it become a pattern. If your children see you respond to something negatively, they will be more inclined to react negatively as well. Trying to look at the bright side and remembering to use encouraging words allows them to be hopeful. Even when disciplining, it’s important to always use kind words to avoid further feelings of hurtfulness or a lowered sense of self-esteem.

Be consistent. 
For patterns of good behavior to develop, be consistent in your approach to childcare. These strategies will do no good if a child is confused about what is expected of them. It’s important to know how they behave in external environments, too, so take some time to get to know their teachers, day care staff, or afterschool program leader – wherever they spend the most time out of the home.

Be honest and straightforward.
Phrases like “because I said so” or “those are just the rules” are unhelpful to a child trying to navigate the confusing intricacies of how to be a part of society. To be a model of respect for kids, explain to them why these things are important. Although it may feel easiest to rush through awkward conversations with your child, try to resist the urge to do so. Build your bond by leveling with them. They’ll respect you for it and relate better to others as a result. Children can ask a lot of questions, and none of us have all the answers. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. What’s important is to nurture their desire to learn about the world around them. Fuel their curiosity. Use these questions as an opportunity to bond with them and suggest you find out together. They’ll respect your honesty and begin to develop a love for learning and new knowledge that can last all their lives.

Display appropriate affection.
The importance of this can’t be overestimated. Hug. Cuddle. Show concern when they are upset and ask questions about why they are feeling that way. Talk to them about their day or things they like. Allow them to express their feelings and let them see yours. Showing your child that you love and care for them helps foster their ability to develop empathy for others. Displaying kindness and encouragement will allow them to build healthy, lasting relationships as they grow.

So much of a child’s success in later life depends on their early experiences in the home. Don’t just give them the basic tools they need in life. Give them the extraordinary advantage of healthy emotional development by knowing your unwavering support is there for them every step of the way.

Source: All4Kids.org

Kansas Care Provider of the Month

Steve and Dawn Snyder received their license in February of this year. In May, they didn’t hesitate to accept their first placement of two children, a 15-month old boy and his four-month old medically fragile sister. Initially unaware she was on a feeding tube, Dawn immediately stepped up to the challenge. She spent the night in the hospital to learn what she needed to do and how to care for the baby. There have been other obstacles, countless doctor appointments, never-ending documentation and lots of travel time, but the family does it without hesitation.

Dawn has taken a lot of time off work to be able to care for the baby and lost many hours of sleep! Steve has done his share by helping out with the 15-month old during this time, and together they have done an amazing job of caring for these children. We would also like to give a special shoutout to their daughter, Mariah, who plays a huge role in helping with the children and loves them just as much.

Oklahoma Care Provider of the Month

Tyler and Rebekah Roberts opened their home to fostering in 2015 and have had numerous placements they have loved on. During that time, they have grown their family with two sons, Elijah, age four, and Jaxon, six months. Currently, they have one little girl who is two years old. Tyler works as a Youth Pastor and Rebekah as the Children’s Pastor at H2O Church. They enjoy helping with bridging, attending court sessions for their placements and completing the court reports to give their valuable input for any child placed in their home. They have family and friends in their support system who help them when needed. This family always goes above and beyond for any child placed in their home.

Oklahoma News

As of August 15, 2021, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services will no longer be allowing virtual visits in lieu of face-to-face monthly home visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Foster care workers are now required to complete a monthly face-to-face visit in your home. Our foster care workers have been given all necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) to ensure the safety of your family and our workers. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please feel free to reach out to the supervisor for your unit.

Texas Care Provider of the Month

Thomas and Betheny Hargrove of Wylie, Texas, have partnered with TFI as certified foster parents since 2019. The Hargroves provide a loving and nurturing home environment. Mrs. Hargrove shares her love for the development of youth in her role as a high school science teacher. Their decision to foster was a family-made one, and their biological children are very involved as all treat the children in foster care as family.

While they currently await their next placements, the Hargroves have shared their home with several foster children and enjoyed sharing family outings visiting such places as the animal shelter, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the community pool, and local park. They are eager to open their home to additional children in the near future. We look forward to continuing our partnership meeting the challenges of the needs of Texas children in foster care.

From Foster to Adoption

We are Adam and Brandi Aragon. We have five beautiful children: three biological, one from an international adoption and one from foster care adoption through TFI. Our journey has not always been easy, but it has been worth it!

When we decided to have children in foster care, we knew it was vital to have a good agency on our side. Choosing TFI was the best decision we could’ve made.

In December 2018, we got a phone call for a nine-day old baby boy. We said yes without hesitation. When we signed up to serve children in foster care, we were all in no matter what that meant. If it was taking a child in for one day, one week, one-year or forever – we were in.

Our first goal was helping children reunify with their biological family. With our little guy we fought hard for that to happen, but we would soon learn that would not be the case. The goal changed to permanency and adoption. So, we buckled up because we knew it would be a long journey.

Everything was delayed about one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but TFI was right by our side the whole time. Finally, last month we were able to finalize our adoption, and now there is one less child in the custody of DHS.

Training Corner

Mental Health in Kids With Chronic Illness

When a child has a medical condition, families are, naturally, focused on finding and maintaining the most effective care. Concerned about the child’s physical well-being, it’s easy to overlook the emotional toll a chronic illness can take.

Whether it’s a food allergy or asthma — conditions that require long-term vigilance — or a cancer diagnosis, kids may need help to handle it in the healthiest possible way. Parents, too, may need help processing a child’s condition and their own feelings about it. In fact, parents are often more upset than their children, and if they are struggling it can impact their child as well.

Read the article below, fill out the quiz and send to your worker for credit. 

Need Additional Training?

Check out these other training opportunities in September

Recruitment Spotlight

We just want to take a moment and thank all of our foster families who referred a new family to TFI this last year. Our Foster Families were once again our No. 1 referral source for new TFI Foster Families.

We wanted to remind everyone about our Ambassador Program and all the great benefits that go with it. Here are some of the great things you can earn!

Silver Level – 1-2 families referred: $500 per family referred and one entry into the $1,000 gift card drawing
Gold Level – 3-4 families referred: $500 per family referred, $50 gift card and one entry into the $1,000 gift card drawing
Diamond Level – 5-7 families referred: $550 per family referred, $100 gift card and one entry into the $1,000 gift card drawing
Platinum Level – 8+ families referred: $600 per family referred, $150 gift card and one entry into the $1,000 gift card drawing

If there are any questions for any of our referral programs please reach out to our Recruitment Supervisor, Curtis Anderson at [email protected].

Have a great rest of your summer!

Jason Cecil
Director of Regional Recruitment

Fund Development

Hello! A quick update on fund development – the fall is a busy time for us. Coming up on Sept. 11, we will have our 2nd Annual Blues, Brews, and Bites Festival in Topeka, Kansas! We are super excited to have a great time with the community and raise money for kids in care. We’d love to have you join us at Ward-Meade Park in Topeka!

After that, we will have a “Ball Drop” to raise money for Christmas presents for kids in all of our agencies. Be on the lookout for the opportunity to participate next month!

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any contacts, questions, or fun stories of generosity at 918.728.3378 or at [email protected]. Thanks for all you do!

Oklahoma/Texas: Steven Mandeville | 918-728-3378 | [email protected] 
Kansas/Nebraska: Sheila Kearney | 785-213-6161 | [email protected] 
Events & Volunteer Coordinator: Libby Hayden | 785-294-6606 | [email protected]

The winner of this month’s newsletter giveaway is Ray and Lori North. To claim your $25 Amazon gift card, please email your foster care worker and tell them you won the giveaway. You must email your worker within the month of September to accept your prize.

Happy Anniversary

Thank you for opening your hearts and homes to children in need.

16 Years
Jason & Crystal Owen

12 Years
Karen Rogers
Harold Brown & Cheryl Heaggans
Kelly Meyer
Donna Daniels

10 Years
Melinda Douglas

5 Years
Dante Threatt & Malia Smith

1 Year 
Clinton & Crystal Frederiksen
Chet Van Sickle & Lakesha Rogala
Elizabeth Antonacci
Josh & Rebecca King
Nicholas & Colleen Casey
Corey & Brandy Craig
Brian & Sarah Webster
Brett & Sarah Buchanan

Amazon Smile

Every time you make a purchase on Amazon, TFI Family Services can earn money and participating does NOT increase the price you pay for your purchases. Visit smile.amazon.com or click the picture above and select TFI Family Services to support youth in foster care.

Dillons Rewards

Every time you make a purchase at Dillons, TFI Family Services can earn money. Please visit dillons.com/communityrewards or click the picture above and select TFI Family Services as your nonprofit to support youth in foster care.