Making art, making progress

The goal for most youth in foster care is reunification with their biological families. While apart from each other, bio parents focus on their own healing work while our staff and foster parents provide safety and therapeutic care to the kids. It’s complicated work helping kids process confusing emotions and trauma as well as helping them navigate relationships and family visitation.

One of the preteen girls in our program recently demonstrated huge progress and a kind heart. “When someone receiving treatment can see outside of themselves to want to help others—that is a significant marker in their treatment,” said Shawn Pedani, director of Encourage.

Here is Veronica’s* story.

Veronica is very smart, caring and sweet. She was welcomed into care by an Encourage foster family last summer. The goal for her and her siblings is reunification, but their bio parents are struggling a lot, especially with visits. Sometimes they don’t show up, sometimes they do, but then don’t behave like they’re supposed to. When this happens, Veronica gets understandably upset.

However, she recently came up with an idea. Being very artistic and crafty, Veronica has been working on a project to identify and recognize her emotions and better cope with her anger. She has been representing her daily emotions with emojis through construction paper art. This creative expression helps her keep busy and forget about her anger, which also helps her manage anxiety.

Veronica asked her foster care coordinator to show her art project to other kids so they could try it too and be comforted. “I am so proud of her,” said Maria Reina, foster care coordinator at Encourage. “It’s amazing that a child can come up with an idea like this by herself and she is so kind to share with others in order to help them.”

Learning how to manage emotions and behaviors is challenging for youth from hard places. Our team and foster parents come alongside our kids to teach and model this important work. When we see children implement strategies and experience success, we are overjoyed! These life skills are so beneficial to their healing and overall well-being.

If your family tries Veronica’s emoji art project, would you kindly let us know? We’d love to share your story with her so she can be even more encouraged. Send us a note at inquire@encourage.family.

*Name changed for privacy.

Children’s books about foster care and adoption

We don’t always have the vocabulary to name or describe our feelings or situations. Sometimes emotions are strong. Other times we trip over our words. Having a tool such as a book or a story can be a helpful way to start a conversation especially with children. Molly Woods, LSW, a school-based Encompass Christian Counseling therapist serving students and families in Orrville, recommends these children’s books to help you talk with your kiddos about foster care, adoption and diversity.

Emma’s Yucky Brother” by Jean Little (ages 4 to 8)
This children’s story is about a young girl and her family who are adopting a little boy. The book discusses many important factors for children, such as their expectations and what to do if/when reality doesn’t match the process, sibling relationships or social workers. Within the pages, the reader will also look at life from the new brother’s perspective. This warm-hearted story gives a realistic outlook on adoption with a child from foster care.

“Heartfelt and honest; an adoption story from the viewpoint of the older sibling [with] simple words and clear, expressive illustrations.” ―Booklist

A Mother for Choco” by Keiko Kasza (ages infant to 5)
This spin off of “Are You My Mother?” follows the journey of a little bird named Choco on his quest to find his family. Choco starts looking for someone who looks similar to himself, but realizes that looks are not the most important thing in a family. Choco decides to join his new mother after she shows him she can make him laugh and comfort him like he wishes his mother would. This story is a great conversation starter on differences and how they can be celebrated. We hope you’ll find this book to be a great teaching tool that families do not need to “match” to be the right fit.

“The message is warm and reassuring, particularly to adoptees, stepkids, and other children who for various reasons don’t resemble their caretakers.” ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz (ages 4 to 8)
This feel-good story is about a young girl named Lena who wants to paint pictures of herself. As she runs into friends during the day, Lena realizes that not everyone’s skin tone is the same. This story promotes acceptance and how our differences are part of what makes us each uniquely beautiful. The author created this book for her daughter, Lena, whom she and her husband adopted from Guatemala.

“Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love.” ―Kirkus Reviews

For additional resources in talking with kids about foster care and adoption, please reach out to us today. Or if you have a book you love, please share it with us. Message us at inquire@encourage.family.

Myers-Briggs: Is It Me?

Earlier this month, Encourage welcomed Rebecca Ryder, MA, NCC, LPCC-S, Managing Clinical Supervisor for Encompass East Counseling to present at our First Friday training for foster parents. Her topic for the evening, Myers-Briggs: Is It Me?, engaged parents on how our unique personalities impact our parenting styles. She shared such valuable information on connection and communication that we asked her to condense her talk into a blog post for all of you. We hope you enjoy it.

“I learned that not everyone thinks like me!”

This was one of the simple, yet profound comments made by a parent that recently attended a workshop to learn how personality types affect parenting and relationships.

Participants in this workshop completed a short inventory at www.16personalities.com to determine their personality type according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This widely-used, reliable and valid assessment is one tool that is helpful in gaining self-awareness. Self-awareness is so important if we are pursuing our own healthy identity and relationships with others. Self-awareness is NOT being self-absorbed or declaring inflexibility by communicating “that’s just how I am.” Instead, it is the ability in real time to recognize the affect you have on others and monitor and regulate yourself accordingly. It can help you to be a better servant and improve relationships.

The MBTI identifies 16 different types which indicate how a person will most likely behave in a given situation. All of the types have equal value, and none are preferred over the other. When an assessment is completed, the person will be given a profile that marks their preference in 4 different categories. Participants were able to process how this information can help them be better parents as summarized below.

Introversion vs Extroversion
This category indicates your favorite world. Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or your own inner world?

Parents focused on how “I”s and “E”s can work together to provide what the same or opposite needs to restore their energy on a daily basis by processing the following questions:
• What drains you? Your spouse? Your kids?
• What do you/they find pleasure doing?
• What do you naturally need when you come home from work?
• How do you feel after taking kids to visits with bio-families?
• What can you do differently as a spouse or parent based on this insight?

Sensing vs I(N)tuition
This category indicates how one seeks information. Do you prefer to focus on basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?

Parents were able to evaluate how they may need to modify the way they give directions, set rules or assist a child with their homework depending on their type. Imagine an “N” parent giving directions to an “S” child who needs and prefers to have concrete and step-by-step instructions. It was highlighted that an “N” is good at recognizing why a child is behaving a certain way while an “S” excels at coaching a child through a project or learning a new skill.

Thinking vs Feeling
This category indicates how one makes decisions. When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?

Both types have value when a person is making decisions for themselves or others. We focused on making a best guess of which category each of our children fall into and then identifying what we could appreciate about them, especially the ones who are opposite of ourselves.

Judging vs Perceiving
This indicates a preference for structure. In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?

Parents shared ideas about what would make good gifts or routines for “J”s and “P”s! For example, having bedtime rules/routines were important for all kids, but a “J” would likely appreciate it being very specific and exact every night while a “P” would prefer to be given the freedom to decide when and how to complete the routine within a given time frame.

Self-awareness can lead to other-awareness which can lead to adjusting and modifying expectations that are realistic, meaningful and effective to all members of the family.