Entries from July 2016 ↓

But Wait! There’s More

Well, this might be the latest I’ve ever posted to my blog. I’m going to count that as a win because I’ve been at this internship for 8-ish weeks and next week is the last. I thought this might happen a lot more often.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I have in store for this next to last post. Spoilers but next week is going to be a reflection of my time at DSS so this week is my last information based post. My makeshift nest is in Foster Care still and let me tell you, I could have written for the full nine weeks about foster care and still not been able to cover everything. Foster Care has a lot going on and my FC supervisor made a comment some time ago that there’s always something someone can do to help out and that’s the inspiration for this blog post.

Maybe you read “Who Wants to Be a Foster Parent” and thought it was a worthy cause but foster parenting didn’t play to your strengths or any other reason (your reasons are your own and are valid) but you still would really like to help these kids out. Great! There are ways you can do that.

Do you like planning parties/are you good at planning parties/do you have space for some fun event like a party?

If you answered yes, then you can help out foster kids. I know that in Orange (and I’m sure in most counties) the foster care workers like to have parties or fun events for the kids to participate in every few months. In fact, just yesterday we took foster kids and their families to the Orange County Fair but we couldn’t have done it without a group generously donating tickets (shout out to Crazy Pets Club). It’s really hard to find time to plan a party and contact families and find a space for it AND provide food AND get everybody there. Or if it’s not a party, it’s hard to find an activity that is affordable and a large amount of the foster kids can go to. If you would like to do something nice for foster kids and help out a foster care worker, plan a party or donate a space or donate some food for an event or donate some tickets to an event you’re already having. This may seem like a strange way to help, but events like these show that it’s not just the department that cares about these kids but also their communities.

Are you a part of a large organization like a club or a church/are you good at things like clothing and food drives/are you super organized?

This is another great way to help out. Donations from large groups of any variety are a blessing for foster care workers. Yes, certain amounts of money are set away to provide kids with clothes and toiletries but having the right things on hand at the right time can be a challenge. If you want to set up a clothing and toiletries drive with a group you are a part of in order to make the transition for kids a little easier, I highly recommend looking into it. They need basics like shirts, pants, socks, and underwear but sometimes people don’t think about winter clothes until it’s already cold. Stock up on coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. Donate shoes! Find clothes in all sizes (most kids in foster care are over the age of 8 so keep that in mind). If you’re looking at toiletries diapers are always appreciated as are soaps, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. And in an effort to make a FC worker’s life a little easier if you could have things organized by what they are that would be amazing. The last thing I have to write in this section is the biggest so I want people to pay attention: DONATE CLOTH TOTE BAGS. I hear you asking why. Well, these bags are often a new start for these kids. They’ve just been moved out of their homes with their biological parents and a lot of the time, if they have anything, their stuff comes in trash bags. There is nothing more upsetting or demoralizing than leaving your home and having your things treated like trash so we do everything we can to make sure they have a real bag to put their clothes and toys in and the more bags we have, the better.

Do you want to donate your time or space but you aren’t really a party person?

Here’s what you can do: babysitting and support groups. Kids in foster care are only allowed to be looked after by people that have been approved by DSS so sometimes it’s really hard to find someone to babysit if you’re a foster parent. Additionally, sometimes as a foster parent you need to get advice from other foster parents and take some time to decompress. Support groups are great for foster parents and many areas like Orange would like to implement them but they need space and babysitters for foster kids. If you want to help out these foster parents for a few hours a month by getting background checked out to babysit or by donating some space, then that’s a very simple way you can have a huge impact.

Do you have desktop publishing skills/would you want to write up a newsletter?

If you said yes, then you might be volunteering to do most of the battle of a foster care worker (as my supervisor says). Most of the issue with getting a community involved with the foster care system is being able to advertise well. The first thing my FC supervisor had me do when I came in was make some fliers for a training and come up with a brochure to give out at the front desk and around town. It was something simple for me to do that didn’t take more than 10 or so minutes of my time and now there’s a vehicle for people in town to have information about what’s going on at the foster care branch of DSS. A great way to get involved with foster care and then get the people in your community involved is to call your local DSS and say “Hey, do you have someone making your fliers? Could I take some of that off your hands?” or “I own a printing and copying business. I’m passionate about helping foster children, so I’d like to donate 100 free copies of your next brochure.” Anything along those lines just helps spread the word even farther and allows more people to help out.


Those were all of the major ways my FC supervisor told me people could help out without being foster parents. I’m sure there are plenty of other location specific ways you can help your town’s foster care workers. Simply making a phone call and sticking to a commitment can make a world of difference.

More next week!


Hold on Boys/Girls/Friends Outside the Binary

Like I mentioned last week, I’m officially relegated to Foster-Care-Land which means the rest of my posts may have distinct foster care flavor to them. This week I went to a PRIDE foster care parent training (I would have gone to two but I had a very serious traffic problem in which I found myself on a road that just ended with no way around construction). At this training, there was a lot of discussion of how things have changed across this training and how now there should be a discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation. I thought, “Well great! I’m glad we’re talking about it! Foster parents are supposed to take in all kids regardless and they should have tools to know how to be respectful of who a child is no matter their age.”

That’s not exactly what happened.

Now, I get that these trainings have a lot to cover and it may seem more pertinent to teach someone how to handle a crisis situation where a child has experienced very serious trauma physically and mentally than to talk to potential parents about pronouns. I also get that more mental trauma can be created when when a child feels like who they are is not respected by the authorities in their lives. There are 4 online sessions that last 3 hours apiece and 5 in-person sessions that last 3 hours apiece so I think that somewhere in there could be a slightly more thorough explanation of gender and sexuality.

I’d like to provide potential foster parents with more accurate terminology than I saw in the training just to give this information a bit more of a nudge into gender studies territory.

  1. Sex and Gender are not synonyms. Sex typically refers to the biology of a person (genitals, hormones, chromosomes, etc.) and can be described using terms like male/female/intersex. Gender is the psychological element of a person or how they describe themselves and terms like woman/man/agender/genderqueer/third gender/bigender/polygender and many others can be used. You may not need to know these variations for every kid you encounter but if a kid tells you they are one gender or another, you should learn something about it.
  2. Gender and Gender Identity are synonyms. The training I went to used gender when they should have said sex and gender identity in the place of gender which isn’t really accurate. Using terms in this way suggests that a child is really one thing even though they identify as something else which can be harmful to the child and how they perceive themselves and their relationship(s) with their foster parent(s) in the long run. A child is not a boy who thinks he is a girl. A child is not even a boy who identifies as a girl. This example child is a girl who was assigned male at birth. Who a child is and who they think they are is the same thing. Remember, they probably know themselves better than anyone else could.
  3. Just because your foster child is young does not mean they don’t know. If you’ve got a kid who can form coherent sentences, then they know. The ability to understand your own gender develops around age 3. While interacting with other children, your foster child may have some sense of who they are attracted to (most likely in the context of holding hands or spending extra time with playing). Some kids don’t know until later because it just hits them later or they don’t learn the word for who they are for a long time but some kids just know and they know early. So don’t think because you’ve gotten a 4 year old girl that she won’t tell you he’s a boy. And don’t think that because you’ve got an 8 year old girl that she won’t tell you she has a crush on another girl and maybe a boy at the same time. And just because your foster kid is still in elementary school doesn’t mean they won’t come home one day and say they don’t really feel like a boy or a girl. Kids are people and they know these things about themselves.
  4. Just be respectful. If a kid is in your care, they’ve already suffered some trauma. They don’t need any more trauma caused by someone being disrespectful of their gender or sexuality, especially since you’re supposed to be taking care of them, nurturing them, and loving them. The previous trauma could be related to their guardian’s responses to their gender or sexuality so keep that in mind. Questions aren’t inherently bad, especially if you’re really trying to learn about who this child is and how you can best support them. Pointed questions that are really just ways of trying to convince them they’re wrong are bad. Don’t do that. Be better than that. Just know that this is their body, their identity, their life and they are the expert on who they are just like you are the expert on who you are. And for the love of all that is decent in the world, do not complain if the child uses a word that you don’t know. Don’t tell them how you’re going to screw up because the world is changing too fast for you and people are just making up words nowadays to feel special. What that says to a child is that who they are does not matter enough to you to be respectful to them. You would rather not change than support their understanding of themselves. Like I said, they have already sustained trauma and have been hurt and disappointed by adults, they don’t need any more of that.
  5. IT DOES NOT MATTER IF THEY CHANGE THEIR MINDS. I wish I could make that last statement flash in neon. People change all the time! They grow and learn and make decisions. Those decisions about who they are are right for them at the time. That doesn’t mean they were wrong, it just means they’ve changed. If they change their hair, it will grow back. If they stop liking their clothes, they can get new ones. If they find a word that better describes their sexuality than before, you should support them and use that word. They can go off of one kind of hormone and supplement others. And, yes, they can even go back on surgeries if that’s something they want. It has happened before. Some of these issues you may never have to encounter because of a lack of funds or insurance issues or rules from medical people about procedures on minors but know that when your foster child is willing and able to make these decisions for themselves that they know what is best for who they are.

So, I think these 5 points sum up the major things I would want foster parents to know about gender and sexual orientation that I feel weren’t really talked about in the training. My foster care supervisor at DSS wants me to talk about these points at the next training session to kind of make up for it. I think it’s important to be up to date on any sort of information that can help kids flourish and so does she, which is why she’s more than happy to have me share what I’ve learned through GSWS. We’re a more open society now, so I think we should be able to talk about gender and sexuality especially with kids. They need that kind of information so they aren’t blindly going through changes and feeling scared to ask questions. I want to be a resource for kids and I really want to let these families know how to be respectful of what kids know and who they are because it’s really that simple.

I hope this post has been helpful to someone. It’s another that means a lot to me. I’ve only got two more weeks left at the DSS so that means only two more posts.

More next week!

Busy Bees

Well this blog post kind of snuck up on me this week because of how busy everything has been at DSS. In addition to that, a popular game at DSS seems to be musical offices. My original office buddy left me a few weeks ago, I was alone for a little while, I got a new office buddy who needed the space to do interviews of some variety, and I got moved to someone else’s office where I have limited access to a computer. So, I’ll be honest and say that this has left me unprepared for a blog topic this week so I’m going to do a bit of an update about my plans for the rest of my internship and then that should lay the groundwork for the rest of the blog. Fingers crossed anyway. So here’s the basics:

  • I signed myself up for a foster parent training that will go through the rest of this month. I’ve already started the online element and my first in person session is this Saturday.
  • I learned how to laminate and I built most of a cabinet by myself.
  • I’m full time with the foster care worker now so I’ve done a lot of filing and working with receipts.
  • My first office buddy, the APS worker, asked me to compile a list of realtors and available rental properties in the county for anyone looking for housing. In addition to my trip to New Orleans where I saw far more homelessness than I expected, this has gotten me thinking about a post on housing, affordability, and homelessness.
  • We’ve had several calls about parents doing drugs with children around or having drug paraphernalia in the home. I’d say most of the CPS reports that I’ve heard about have something to do with drug use so I thought I could write something about drug use in a community like Orange County and the effect that can have on children and families.
  • One of the homes we work with that is involved in many departments of DSS had a church group come to their home and repair a ramp on the front of their house so everything could be fully accessible. Volunteers and church groups, while not a long term substitute, are invaluable for people who need help reconstructing their homes and making them safer when they can’t afford a regular contractor or maintenance person. These volunteers work directly with DSS and we greatly appreciate their time and effort.
  • Because of a series of retirements and a struggle to fill positions here, I’m thinking of writing a post about misconceptions of doing social work. I can’t think of another reason for the lack of people (other than maybe pay). There’s always a need so if someone thinks they’re interested in social work, they should do some digging.
  • Finally, I talked with both of my supervisors and I have WAY over exceeded the number of hours people usually do for an internship so I’ll be finishing up at the end of the month so that I can get a little more information on my blog before I’m done. That’s just three more posts! Where has the time gone?!?!?

This is mostly what I’ve been up to, other than what I’ve already reported on in my blogs. I’ll have more heavily researched information next week, I promise. Until then, I hope you liked the update and feel free to suggest a topic I could make a post on.

More next week!