In Lieu of the Central Texas Flooding, I am Not Posting a Blog Today

Because of the tragic loss of property and life in the Central Texas flooding, and the fact that the majority of my readership is from Central Texas, I prefer to encourage readers to pray for these families than read a blog post from me today.

I recommend supporting financially or volunteering through the Red Cross or ADRN.

(mouse over the agency names to follow a link to their sites)

I will return to my regular schedule of Tuesday/Friday blog posts this Friday with the last installment of The Many Faces of Foster Care with an interview with Foster Parents, Brian and Sarah Kidd Miller.

4 Terrible Reasons to Do Missional Church

What Is a Better Way to Do Missional Church?

Missional church—a gathering of Christians devoted to the mission of Christ in sharing the Good News of who Jesus is by going to where the people do life entering their context and engaging them on their turf instead of expecting them to attend a church meeting on a church campus.

Photo Credit: SteveJM2009 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: SteveJM2009 via Compfight cc

Sounds appropriate right? What could be wrong with this approach to church?

I watched an interview with Steve Timmis, church planter, author, and missional thinker. You can watch the interview too by following this link—A Field Guide Conversation with Steve Timmis.

Steve Timmis fully advocattes the idea of a missional church.

The Gospel is a missionary word so the church must be mission – centered… The Church exists both THROUGH the Gospel and FOR the Gospel.Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, Total Church

However in the interview Steve Timmis comments that some reasons for “doing missional church” are not a good idea, in fact probably won’t work. I add two more reasons of my own.

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Foster Care through the Eyes of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

The Many Faces of Foster Care—An Interview with Everett Carmody, President of the Board of Directors of Travis County CASA

Everett Carmody is the current president of the board for the Travis County (Texas) Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) organization (www.casatravis.org). Counties across the country have CASA volunteer organizations some more successful than others. Here in central Texas we are blessed with some of the best in the nation. These volunteers play a very important role in the lives of foster children. Please take a moment to read this interview and learn about CASA. You just might decide this is how you want to invest in the life of an at-risk child.

Photo Credit: Gerard Fritz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gerard Fritz via Compfight cc

What is a CASA volunteer?

A CASA volunteer is a trained community member who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of a child or family of children in the court system. Volunteers spend an average of 15-20 hours a month advocating for these children for at least a year. They get to know the child while also gathering information from the child’s family, teachers, doctors, care-givers and anyone else involved in the child’s life.

CASA volunteers serve as the guardian ad litem, an official representative in a Child Protective Services (CPS) case entitled to access information about the child’s situation and required to make reports to the court in the child’s best interest. CASA volunteers speak for what is in the child’s best interest while the attorney ad litem speaks on behalf of the child’s wants or preferences – often these two opinions differ with serious potential consequences. (from CASA of Travis County FAQs)

What does CASA do?

CASA of Travis County believes every child who’s been abused or neglected deserves to have a dedicated advocate speaking up for their best interest in court, at school and in our community. To accomplish this, CASA educates and empowers diverse community volunteers who ensure each child’s needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system. (from CASA of Travis County FAQs)

Have you served as a CASA volunteer?

Yes, I have served as a CASA volunteer. The first case I was assigned to involved four little sibling boys ages six, four, two, and five months. All of the children were already in the child welfare system and had been taken away from their mother and everything familiar to them. Confidentiality prevents me from getting into more specifics, but I am very pleased to tell you that all of the boys have been adopted by terrific families and are doing well. These boys now have a bright future.

Why did you become a CASA volunteer?

I had participated in various CASA fundraising activities over several years and at one of these events a former foster child, now an adult, spoke about how important and impactful his CASA had been in his early years in the child welfare system. I followed up with CASA, and they were terrific at explaining how a CASA gets to help change the direction of a young child’s life. I was hooked to learn more.

What are some challenges and reward of being a CASA?

In my particular case, the rewards were many but what brings me the most joy is the fact that I got to help break the generational cycle of a family for who it was somewhat normal to have their kids in the child welfare system. Also, I got to experience the tearful joy of seeing the boys stand up in court and tell the judge that they wanted to be adopted by their forever family.

With respect to challenges, it’s none other than getting fully up to speed on the history and background of the case and meeting all of the various parties involved. The judges, lawyers, CPS workers, teachers, counselors, medical professionals, etc. are very accepting of CASA that this does not take much time.

What difference does CASA make for children recovering from abuse or neglect?

  • Children with CASA volunteers are more likely to end up with family. Of the 641 children’s cases closed with the help of CASA last year, 52% were reunified with their parents and 22% were adopted by or live permanently with relatives.
  • A study by Texas Appleseed, “Improving the Lives of Children in Long-term Foster Care,” reports that “If a child has a CASA, the CASA usually is the only person who truly knows the child and knows how the child is really doing.”
  • National CASA reports that children with CASA volunteers are more likely to receive therapy, health care and education, more likely to do better in school, less likely to be bounced from one place to another, less likely to get stuck in long-term foster care and significantly more likely to reach safe, permanent homes.
  • A CASA volunteer is often the child’s only link to maintaining family connections and can be instrumental in identifying family members as temporary or permanent placement options.
  • Most importantly, children themselves report that they know and can rely on their CASA volunteers.

(from CASA of Travis County FAQs)

How does someone become a CASA volunteer?

Volunteers complete a screening interview, background and reference checks, and 39 hours of intensive training and courtroom observation. After being sworn-in by a judge, volunteers are appointed to a child or family of children and spend an average of 15-20 hours a month advocating for these children for at least a year. Prospective volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, and must pass extensive reference, Child Protective Services, sex offender registry and criminal background checks. (from CASA of Travis County FAQs)

Ready to advocate for a child who needs you?

To find a CASA organization in your area go to CasaforChildren.org.

Understanding How Transitions Affect my Son

3 Types of Transitions

My adopted son just completed his second year of preschool. A few weeks ago some coping behavior resurfaced—chewing on his shirt, separation anxiety, etc. Danielle and I struggled to find the cause. Then on the way to his next to last day of school, he asked Danielle, “What if my teacher next year doesn’t love me?”

Photo Credit: TheaBredie via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: TheaBredie via Compfight cc

We then understood that this was most likely the cause of his behavior. I knew most kids ramp up at the end of the school year and wonder what the next year will bring. But this took me a little by surprise.

Honestly, I was frustrated by his regressed behavior especially his separation anxiety. I had to breathe deeply when he clung to my leg instead of going into his classroom or when he didn’t want me to leave the house. Part of the frustration was me not understanding the cause. I really shouldn’t need to always understand the cause. I know sometimes I never will understand. But it helps.

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Foster Care through the Eyes of One Who Aged Out of the System

The Many Faces of Foster Care—Bruce Moore's Story

Imagine your mother dropping you off at a children’s home at age three or four along with your younger brother. Then spending the rest of your growing up years moving from one foster home to another, wondering if you and your brother will stay together, learning that you really do have a mom and another brother when you are about age eight, then at age 18 meet two sisters for the first time. How would you make sense of it? What are the odds you would do well in school, much less in life?

Bruce (far right) with his brothers

Bruce (far right) with his brothers

That pretty much was Bruce Moore’s life. Bruce lived his entire life as a foster kid which means he was in the custody of the state. No one ever adopted him even though he lived with the third foster family for over 15 years. He found out around age 17 that his biological mother never relinquished her parental rights, and it seems that the state didn’t have a reason to terminate them.

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Foster Care through the Eyes of a CPS Employee

The Many Faces of Foster Care—Interview with Jennifer Burns

We fostered our son for 15 months before we adopted him. During that time, I interacted with several different employees of the Child Protective Services (CPS). Home visits. Parent visits. Family meetings. Court appearances. I now think that they have one of the most challenging jobs around.

Jennifer Burns, Adoption Supervisor with DFPS

Jennifer Burns, Adoption Supervisor with DFPS

Even though it’s the objective of the department to help families and children, they often are viewed as the “enemy”; not only by biological families but also by foster families.

Burn out and turnover is high. Caseworkers are overloaded and underpaid. Yet, most do their jobs well with passion and compassion for struggling families and children.

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How to Live in Community without Getting Hurt

5 Reasons We Find it Hard to Live in Community

Living in community is a lost way of life. We are aware that we don’t even know our neighbors much less live in community with them. And I understand why. It is a pain.

Photo Credit: safrinanoor via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: safrinanoor via Compfight cc

During the generation when families moved from rural farming communities into more urban settings, they brought with them a sense of community. They built houses with big front porches. They helped each other with projects, sick kids, errands…anyway they could. That was the “neighborly” thing to do.

But somewhere over time that way of life has all but disappeared. Sure pockets of it exist. But now people build their houses so that they live life in their backyards behind their privacy fences after they have pulled their cars into their garages opened and closed by automatic door openers. The only act of being “neighborly” is the head nod at “what’s his name again?”

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The Dirty Little Secret that Is Keeping You from Connecting with Your Child

I admit it. I am addicted to my devices. I obsessively pick up my smart phone anytime I have downtime. Sadly, I even will do this when I am with my son. For example when we are at a fast food restaurant, or when he is bathing, or I am “playing” with him in his playroom, within a few minutes I pull out my phone. There, I said it.

Photo Credit: bill.sarris via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bill.sarris via Compfight cc

I know I am not alone. It’s an epidemic really. People hardly look where they are going anymore because they are looking at their mobile device while they are walking, riding a bicycle, even driving a vehicle.

My wife and I went to a movie not too long ago. After the movie, we made our obligatory trek to the bathroom. We looked down the hall and both laughed out loud. Two men stood on opposite sides of the hall obviously waiting for their spouses. Both had the same pose leaning against the wall staring at their smartphones seemingly unaware of the other. I would have felt as if I were interrupting if I needed their attention.

I know that is how my four-year-old son feels when I pay more attention to my mobile device than I do him. Sometimes  he physically lifts my face up so I will look him in the eyes. Ouch!

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Who Are the Many Faces of Foster Care?

250K enter foster care every year. 20K age out of the foster care system each year without adoption. 1 family can change a child’s life forever.  The Forgotten Initiative

I know numbers can make our eyes glaze over. Especially when we discuss them in the thousands. The numbers overwhelm. We respond with a slow shaking of our heads and think that something ought to be done about it. But, soon we return to our own problems; ones that touch us closer. That is, until something grabs our attention. Or it involves someone close to us, maybe from our own family. Or, we hear a true story of a child that puts a name and face to one of those 250 thousand. Then we care.

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May Is National Foster Care Month

In 1988, President Reagan issued the first presidential proclamation that established May as National Foster Care Month.

A yearly proclamation from the President supports the Children’s Bureau in this effort by recognizing the work of foster families, social workers, faith-based and community organizations, and others that are improving the lives of young people in foster care across the country and by encouraging all Americans to take part in efforts to serve these children throughout the year.

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How to Overcome Fear by Taking Risks

Seems counter-intuitive. Isn’t risk taking what causes fear? Hmm…maybe not. Maybe the fear of the outcome is what keeps us from taking risk, not the risk itself.

Photo Credit: hdeb89 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hdeb89 via Compfight cc

I don’t consider myself a natural risk taker. For example the few times I have snow skied I resist going too fast with every bit of my mind and body. I don’t take the risk of trusting my equipment and ability. What ends up happening is a less than enjoyable experience and some extremely sore muscles. And, I probably have more “yard sales” (a crash where my skis go one way, my hat, goggles, and gloves go another way, and I am sprawled out all over the side of the mountain) than if I would just let go and ski!

What am I afraid of? Not the risk. I am afraid of losing control and crashing into a tree or flying off the side of mountain. Sure, some respectful fear of those things is proper, but…

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