May 2018, Issue 2
Thank You for Your Service to Children
With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month and May being Foster Care Awareness Month, this is an especially appropriate time to thank you for all that you do every day for our children! You provide love and stability to children who have experienced trauma. You are a role model not only to the children in your care, but also to their parents. You are all-around rock stars! In fact, you're worthy of a proclamation from Governor Ducey (and so much more)!
Registration Opens for AZ Families Thrive Prescott Conference
Register Now to Earn Your Required Renewal Hours
Registration is open for the Prescott AZ Families Thrive Conference. It will be held Friday, June 8th, at Heights Church in Prescott. You can register for the free conference here.
This is the first of three AZ Families Thrive conferences hosted by the Department for licensed foster families and unlicensed kinship caregivers in 2018. Licensed foster parents who attend the entire day can receive 6 hours of advanced training that qualifies as their required renewal hours.
While unlicensed kinship families are not required to take training, DCS believes that these trainings will be valuable and will help support their placement needs.
The second AZ Families Thrive Conference will be Friday, August 17 in Tucson. Plans are underway for the Phoenix AZ Families Thrive Conference, which will be in late October.
Shine Bright Like a Dimon: How Adoption Made a Difference
According to Dimon Sanders, the abuse started when she was 6 years old. She recalls being locked in a freezer and tied to a tree. She said she watched her sister get thrown across the room. It was a daily occurrence for Dimon until she was removed from the home of her biological parents at the age of 8 after the abuse was discovered.
She entered the foster care system and between the ages of 8 and 13 experienced 13 different placements — 13 placements with different rules, different curfews, different family dynamics, different values. She stopped caring about her grades. Adoption opportunities fell through. She acted out.
She was barely a teenager but was having to make decisions that could impact her future success. Would she run away from her group home? Would she shut down?
And there, at the crossroads, she met Apache and Joshua Sanders, two incredible people who stepped up.
Apache had known from a young age that she wanted to adopt. “I always knew that I wanted to adopt, just at the time I didn’t know it would be a teenager,” she said laughing.
At the time Apache and Joshua met Dimon, then 13, Apache was only nearing 30. “I was like 28 or 29, so having a 13 year old wasn’t a part of the plan,” she said.
Nevertheless, Dimon and the Sanders family began to get to know each other. Then they began to trust in one another. The process took about a year.
“At first, I felt skeptical because it’s not common for someone to want to adopt a teenager,” Dimon said. Plus, Dimon was worried that her at-the-time undiagnosed ADHD and need for supervision would affect the Sanders’ desire to build a bond.
Dimon said Apache learned more about her, including the need for medications and supervision, and still wanted to proceed with the adoption process.
“That gave me hope that maybe this one wouldn’t fail like my other ones did,” Dimon said.
And the hope continued. Dimon and Apache’s bond grew stronger. Apache was able to be there and provide understanding and support for Dimon.
When Dimon joined the Sanders family, she was also given the opportunity to pursue a passion she has long-loved: dance.
“I started dance classes three years ago when I got adopted,” Dimon said. “I’ve always had a love of dancing but never had the money to take classes.”
Prior to joining a dance class, Dimon taught herself the basics thanks to the internet. “YouTube was my best friend,” she said.
For all the credit Apache and Joshua deserve for helping Dimon find a permanent home, Apache also credits Dimon for her impact on the immediate and extended Sanders family. “Just as much as we changed her life, she changed ours. We can’t imagine a time when she wasn’t a part of our family.”
Last summer, Dimon was crowned Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen, the first African American to win the competition. She is succeeding in school and has plans to attend college. She is open and honest, using her story to speak out as an advocate for foster care youth and the importance of community involvement.
“For the past three years I’ve been working diligently to make sure there is awareness about the foster care system, that we increase the number of CASAs, and get more foster parents,” Dimon said. “[I want] people to know how many kids are in the system so they can make a difference in some way.”
Increasing the number of volunteer court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) available to foster care youth is especially important to Dimon as her CASA, Cynthia Dean, was there to support her starting when Dimon was 9 years old. And they continue to stay in touch today.
“If I didn’t have a CASA, I probably would not have ended up where I am today,” Dimon said. “She was my ‘constant’ on my journey through foster care and my biggest advocate.”
Dimon is now a loving older sister to Akeelah, 8, and Joshua, 7, and has come a long way from the standoffish teen that Apache and Joshua met five years ago.
“I would like to encourage people to take a chance on a teenager,” advises Apache. “Don’t write them off and feel like they can’t be helped or are so damaged. Everybody wants and needs a family. Make your decision on a case-by-case basis and get to know the child; keep your heart open, don’t write off an age group.”
Perhaps you've seen one of the Department's "Change Two Lives" teen recruitment posts on your Facebook feed. The current post, pictured below, features Dimon and her dad, Joshua. We'd love to have you share it with your friends!
OLR Updates Immunization Policy
The Office of Licensing and Regulation has updated its policy regarding immunizations. Licenses issued to foster parents who don’t immunize their own children are generally restricted to children 5 and older, however OLR has been able to successfully review statute and policy and craft a procedure which will allow the license to be amended to accept children under 5 years of age under certain conditions. If the placement is deemed in the best interest of a child by the field, and if a licensed health care provider will certify on the Immunization Exception for License Amendment form that the “placement does not result in a heightened health risk for the foster child,” and other conditions required to amend the license are met, OLR has the authority to amend the license. Review the new policy here.
AFFCF Announces New Award Guidelines
Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation has made significant changes to their award guidelines. This means that kids in foster care will have more opportunities to participate in every day activities!
In 2017 AFFCF gave more than $1 million for children in foster care to participate in extracurricular activities and get a post-secondary education. Their award goal for 2018 is $1.5 million. Highlights from their new and improved guidelines include:
- New funding maximums for classes/lessons, bicycles, and theme park admission;
- Added new funding categories including books, bus passes, and in-state theme park admission.
Anyone can apply for an award on behalf of a child in care. AFFCF cannot reimburse for anything paid for prior to receiving approval for that specific request. AFFCF always needs to receive the completed application as well as the required response from the DCS Specialist (confirming the child is currently a ward of the court in Arizona) and supporting documentation (displaying what is being requested and the exact cost). See all the award guidelines.
Strong Families — Stronger Arizona Coloring Book
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the ADCS Office of Prevention is highlighting ways parents and local communities can help prevent abuse in this one-of-a-kind coloring book! Each protective factor is illustrated by a different animal found in the Sonoran Desert. Download a printable copy.
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. You can reach the Warmline by calling 1-877-KIDSNEEDU (1-877-543-7633) and selecting Option 3. Warmline staff are available during business hours. Callers also have the option of leaving a voice message.
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.