Spring 2018, Issue 1

Welcome to the first issue of Department of Child Safety's e-newsletter AZ Families Thrive! We are so excited to move from the print world of the Arizona Statewide into the digital world. “This is an exciting time for the Department,” stated DCS Marketing and Communication Specialist for Home Recruitment Roxann Miller, who writes and designs both projects. “This comes as a direct response to foster parent’s comments.”

We hope that being more interactive will allow us to get to know each other better. Our goal remains the same as it was with the Arizona Statewide: To inform and support foster, kinship and adoptive families in Arizona. But it will be even better with your suggestions and ideas! Let us hear from you by emailing roxann.miller@azdcs.gov.

Welcome From Deputy Director Mike Faust

This video played at the recent Wait No More event (see below). We think it's also a wonderful way to welcome you to our new format and begin our first edition of AZ Families Thrive.

DCS Launches Campaign to Recruit Homes for Teens

As Deputy Director Faust mentioned in the above video, the Department of Child Safety has set a goal to recruit at least an additional 300 families to care for teens in 2018. To help reach that goal DCS is collaborating with our Home Recruitment Study and Supervision (HRSS) licensing agencies on recruitment campaigns. DCS has also created change2lives.com, a unique landing page supporting this campaign. Please share this message and help us spread the word about the needs of our wonderful teens!

DCS Partners with Focus on the Family to Host Wait No More

February 24, 2018, marked Arizona’s second Wait No More: Finding Families for Arizona’s Waiting Kids event, hosted by Focus on the Family’s I Care About Orphans ministry. Local members on the planning team included DCS and Arizona 1.27. Around 250 people attended the four-hour event, which was held at Heights Church in Prescott.

More than 4,000 Arizona children in out-of-home placements have a case plan goal of adoption. This unprecedented event brought together prospective foster and adoptive families, ministry leaders and DCS staff all focused on the one goal of finding families for waiting children. Following a brief time of worship, speakers shared personal stories about aging out of foster care, being adopted from foster care and the challenges of being an adoptive dad.

Following the program portion and a free box lunch from Chik-fil-A, prospective families attended a resource fair and had the opportunity to schedule their fingerprinting with Fieldprint.

The first Wait No More event in Arizona was held at Scottsdale Bible Church in 2012.

OLR Publishes New Policies

The Office of Licensing and Regulation has published three policies regarding the closure of an application or license and one providing guidance to both OLR and the private licensing agency when private licensing agency staff have uncertainty if a foster care applicant or licensee meets the “fitness” definition or if the applicant/licensee is a good “fit” with the licensing agency. They are:

15-01 – Closing a license/application when no licensee/applicant signature is obtained;

15-02 – Closing a license/application with a verifiable written communication; and

15-03 – Closing a license/application due to loss of contact with the applicant/licensee.

15-04 — License/Application Closure – Fitness/Fit

Historically, OLR required a signed Voluntary Withdrawal of Application for Licensure or Closure of License form to close an application or license without an "adverse action" (denial or revocation). These new policies allow OLR to close a license when there is a “verifiable written communication” from the applicant or licensee.

While the form will still be accepted, other forms of written notice will also be acceptable for closure including an email from the applicant/licensee. This will allow a "quiet closure"’ of the application or license and not reflect as a denial or revocation which may prohibit foster parent licensure in the future or even effect application for other licenses.

OLR prefers to use a quiet closure, however, without a signed closure form or a verifiable written communication, statute requires OLR to take an adverse action to close an application or license. If you decide to close your application or license, please work closely with your licensing agency.

Debunking Myths About Teens: An Adoptee's Perspective

In our previous print issue of the Arizona Statewide, we highlighted some of the myths people have about caring for teens. Following that article, Shayla Redford contacted us, asking to share her story.

Hi! My name is Shayla. I’m 22 years old and I’m in my second year of college studying psychology at Brigham Young University. I work part time as a receptionist at a local doctor's office. I love camping, hiking, hammocking, live music and laughing with my friends. For all intents and purposes I’m a normal college kid living the American dream, right?

What if I told you that I grew up in foster care? What if I told you that just 6 years ago I was standing in a courtroom on my adoption day? That I spent approximately 15 years in and out of the system. That my little sister and I were bounced from foster home to group home and were hardly placed together. That just 8 years ago I was staring down a path that led straight to aging out of the system and figuring out adulthood all on my own? Does that make my success more surprising? Lets talk about three myths and my first hand experiences.

Myth #1: Teens don’t want a family.

My Experience: In my many years living in different group homes and with different foster families, I found that the general consensus is NOT that teens don’t want a family — it's that they have come to the conclusion they will never have one.

My caseworker, my therapist, my lawyer, and all of the foster families and group home leaders made it very clear to me (and everyone else) that people want to adopt babies and small kids and our chances were very, very slim. Despite all of these people trying to convince me to lose hope of a family — I held on tight to the dream of a family for my little sister and me.

The first outing I went on with my parents I already had my mind made up that I wouldn’t beat around the bush because I didn’t want the hopes of finally having a family ripped away from me again. When there was a quiet moment and I found myself sitting with the woman who would eventually become my mom, I just opened my mouth and let whatever came out, which was “I’ve lived a lot of places. I don’t have a home. I don’t have a family. I want one. Can you and Chris give that to me and my sister?” to which she responded slightly hesitantly and with wide eyes “Yes, of course.”

I was pretty bitter when it came to the prospect of families — I was the one in the group home who was always very pessimistic about any of us older girls getting adopted BUT I never gave up. We yearn for connection, love, and belonging; we thrive when we are a part of a family. Some are bitter and think they will never be loved, but there are no teens who have completely given up the hope of a family, because they want to be loved.

The Redford Family

Myth #2: Teens in out-of-home care are too hard to parent and have a lot of significant problems.

My Experience: Even I believed this myth for quite some time. I believed that teens in foster care had experienced so much trauma that they were probably especially hard to parent, at no fault of their own. I even believed this about myself until my parents came along and helped me see my worth. Then, in my freshman year of college, I worked at a resident treatment center for adolescents and my whole perspective on teenagers shifted.

I worked with numerous teenagers who came from two-parent, middle- to upper-class homes, with lots of resources and no history of trauma or abuse. Those teens faced just as many significant problems — and sometimes more — than teens in the system, and they were due to a completely different spectrum of causes. These causes ranged from bullying in school, falling into the wrong friend group, drugs/alcohol, etc. I think the bottom line is that teens are hard to parent, whether they come from out-of-home care or not. The teenage years are hard for all of us, and having a family can make or break those essential teenage years.

Myth #3: Teens are too old to need a family. They will be out on their own soon enough.

My Experience: This is a rough equivalent to saying that teens in general are too old for a family, that once a child reaches their teenage years they don’t need a family anymore because they’ll be out on their own soon enough. Any parent who has raised a teenager knows that teens especially need a family. They need structure, enforcement, help navigating approaching adulthood, and they need love. Teens in the system are no different than teenagers anywhere else when it comes to these basic needs.

In conclusion, I don’t feel like my success is any more surprising or impressive than anyone else who has experienced hardship and fought tooth and nail to overcome said hardships. The traumas I experienced have shaped me into who I am today and they have given me a credibility to speak to the needs/wants of foster children around the world.

I can’t claim to have all the answers or to know the heart of every kid, but I can say that I know what it’s like to feel like you will never have a place to go home to for the holidays, or a mom to call a million times and ask questions about the transition into adulthood, or a dad to give boys a hard time and eventually grant one his blessing to marry me.

I can’t say what my life would be today if my mom didn’t say yes that day — but I do know numerous people who I lived with in placements throughout my years in foster care and I know what their lives have become.

The Children's Heart Gallery features Arizona children who are free for adoption and want a forever family. While it is a very effective tool for finding families for our waiting children, it also makes the children vulnerable to negative intrusions into their lives. Please help us protect them. If you recognize any of these children or see them in your community, please respect their privacy.

Meet Debbie

Debbie, an imaginative and intelligent young lady, enjoys thoughtful games such as puzzles and word searches. She also has a creative side, doing different types of arts and crafts and she likes to sing.

One of Debbie’s wishes is to be in a home with either dogs or horses — she really likes to be around animals. Another wish of Debbie’s is to be part of a close-knit family who will help her heal from the past while building positive new experiences.

An energetic, happy, caring, and thoughtful girl, Debbie needs an adoptive family who will encourage her to maintain her relationships with her aunt and sisters. Debbie was born in 2005.

Meet Dylan

Dylan loves to play games on his Xbox. Two of his favorites are WWE and Minecraft. In fact, Dylan says he is proud of his ability to advance to the fourth levels and beyond.

When he’s not gaming, you will likely find him outside, playing soccer, baseball or just burning off some energy running around. In school, Dylan’s favorite subject is science. He recently completed a science project on human DNA. Dylan also enjoys math, and he says that his math teacher is his favorite.

Mac ‘n’ cheese, hot Cheetos and lemon chicken are some of Dylan’s favorites. His favorite movies are Cars and Cars 2. He says he is a good friend because he takes the time to play with them — especially when puzzles are involved. Dylan was born in 2004.

Warmline Supports Kinship and Foster Families

The Foster Parent Warmline is available for kinship families and licensed foster parents. While not an emergency number, Warmline staff can assist parents with information, assistance with authorizations for services, timely communication, and support. It is not intended to discourage or replace direct and regular communication between the DCS Specialist and the foster parents. Call 1-877-KIDSNEEDU (1-877-543-7633) and select Option 3. Warmline staff are available during business hours. Callers also have the option of leaving a voice message.

AZ Families Thrive is published monthly by the Arizona Department of Child Safety to inform foster, kinship and adoptive families across the state. Roxann L. Miller is the editor. Sign up to receive email updates when new issues are posted.

Interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent? Call us: 1-877-KIDS-NEEDU (1-877-543-7633) or email us: FosterAdoption@azdcs.gov. Visit us online: www.azkidsneedu.gov.

To report child abuse or neglect: 1-888-SOS-CHILD

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