Who is Foster Kent Kids?
Foster Kent Kids is comprised of staff from WMPC, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and staff from each of the five private foster care agencies in Kent County: Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities West Michigan, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, Samaritas, and Wellspring Lutheran Services. You can learn more about each agency, and how you can support them, or how to become a foster parent through the agency by clicking the logos below.
Parenting Through Trauma: educating, providing and inviting
To celebrate Foster Care Awareness Month, Foster Kent Kids and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are hosting a panel discussion and a four-part training series. All trainings and discussions will be FREE and open to the public.
We will host educational “Lunch & Learns” trainings specific to parenting youth with trauma. We will also provide resources ensuring our foster families are supported and anyone considering this journey will be prepared. And lastly, we will be inviting community members to begin this journey of becoming a foster parent.
Panel Discussion : Dismantle Myths about becoming a foster parent. Sunday, May 2nd from 2:00pm – 3:30pm. Register at Eventbrite.
Lunch & Learn Trainings: Every Wednesday in May starting at 11:30am. Register at Eventbrite.
There are so many myths around foster care and becoming a foster parent. We have pulled experts to help dismantle these myths. We are excited to have our very own Myama Locke from WMPC as a foster and adoptive parent sharing her insight as a panelist, as well as a Resource Family Development Supervisor, former foster youth and the perspective of a sibling to youth in foster care. Let’s meet our panelists!
Myama Locke is an adoptive mother of two girls adopted out of the Michigan foster care system. She is a Care Coordinator at WMPC and is deeply invested in the lives of children and families in the Grand Rapids community.
Trina Kent is the Resource Family Development Supervisor at Samaritas. She has worked in child welfare for over 16 years, 10 of those years have been with Samaritas as a foster care caseworker and licensing worker focusing on resource family development.
Katie McCuen is a Western Michigan University graduate and foster parent recruiter with Samaritas. Katie is also a former foster youth who loves sharing her experiences to help change and educate about the foster care system.
Alyssa Huyser is the oldest sibling of 4 and has been a foster sister to 5 kids over the last 5 years. Her parents’ “yes” to foster care has led her to say yes to foster care as well, and she is currently in the process of becoming a licensed foster parent. Alyssa works as a nurse in downtown Grand Rapids and in her free time enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading and camping during the summers.
Parenting Through Trauma: Four- Part Training Series
Each Wednesday in May we will host FREE, open to the public, trainings starting at 11:30a.m. Check out what we have planned:
Cole Williams is the co-founder of the Delta Project whose mission is to break the generational cycle of incarceration by reconnecting youth of color and their families to community relationships through mentorship, coaching and storytelling. Cole is the creator of Cole Speaks LLC. which is a workshop series facilitated by Cole and his adult son Nate. In conjunction to ‘Cole Speaks LLC, Cole Williams provides mandated parenting classes for families receiving Juvenile Justice Services through the 17th District Family Court Division in Kent County & the 20th Judicial Circuit Court in Ottawa County. Find the full training here:
You have been called to care for hurting children and at-risk families. If you are interested in being a foster parent, are currently fostering, or are a child welfare professional, secondary trauma is a very real experience. As foster parents, adoptive parents, therapists, and child welfare workers, we daily serve children who have been deeply impacted by traumatic life events. Their experiences have resulted in significant mental, social, emotional, and behavioral challenges that are impacting their everyday lives. As we care for and support children who have experienced trauma, reading their case histories, listening to their stories, and witnessing the painful effects of their experiences, their trauma becomes our own. This presentation will help you to identify the signs of secondary trauma and provide you with strategies for protecting your mental and emotional health.
Lying is a common- and challenging- protective behavior for all people, but can feel especially baffling in our children who have experienced trauma. Families often get stuck in a vicious cycle of difficult behavior, parent reaction, and then more difficult behavior. I will help you understand lying as a trauma driven behavior and will give you ideas on how to respond in a way that will actually increase trust and decrease fear- the very thing that is driving the lying in the first place. This webinar will help you get to the root of the lying without relying on short-term behavior fixes or fear-based compliance. We will cover:
- The cycle of behavior that is difficult…but not IMPOSSIBLE…to break
- What parents and caregivers can do to stop their part of the cycle
- Actual scripts on how to respond to a child who is lying as a fear-based, self-protective behavior
This training will provide information about the CAC and our role in the community. The training will focus on addressing the spectrum of sexualized behaviors displayed by children, and what differentiates between curiosity and concerning. In the training, attendees will learn how to manage caring for a child who has displayed or experienced sexualized behavior. Attendees will also learn how to create safety plans and identify community resources.
Join us throughout Foster Care Awareness month for FREE trainings and discussion. All are open to the public, simply register at Eventbrite. Come to one event or all five!
Foster Kent Kids and local foster parents have created a Kent County Foster Parent Resource Guide to help local foster parents. This guide covers Foster Parent Trainings, Diversity Equity and Inclusion as a foster parent, Items needed for your first placement, Kent county community resources, hotlines, and support groups as well as Staple Skin and Hair products for trans-racial placements.
Stand for Teens is recruitment campaign to help educate the community on the needs of teen foster homes in our community. Hear from our loving, resilient teens at our Live Panel Discussion on November 8th.
As we navigate these uncertain times, it is crucial to build a village around our foster families. Originally intended to be featured in ArtPrize 2020, Project 99 highlights tangible ways that YOU can support our families.
Watch the video above to get an inside look of the lives of foster parents, the struggles they face and what YOU can do to help. If you can’t find at least one thing from the video, here is a list of 99! Find a way that you can #BeMyPerson for a youth in foster care/foster family.
Foster Kent Kids and CASA of Kent County launched the #BeMyPerson campaign during National Foster Care Month. Research shows that the single most common factor for developing resilience in children is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. And for youth in foster care, someone to be this “person” is all the more critical.
We shared real-life #HumansofFosterCare stories of those who have stepped up to #BeMyPerson to youth in foster care. We highlighted tangible ways that you, too, can #BeMyPerson. Be sure to read the stories on Facebook and Instagram.
#BeMyPerson for youth in foster care:
Become a Foster Parent
Become a foster parent! We need caring homes for all children who have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. Foster parents are crucial supports to children who are in crisis, and they can instill hope and a sense of belonging. Our greatest need is foster parents who will care for teenagers, sibling groups, and medically fragile youth.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, we can refer you to one of our partner agencies who will assist you with training and licensing each step of the way! Some of the steps are:
- Attend a three-hour orientation that provides an overview of agency policies and licensing rules
- Fill out an application
- Participate in home visits and interviews
- Complete criminal background checks
- Fulfill foster parent pre-licensing training
- Become licensed – licensing takes four to six months to complete!
Children in foster care range in age from newborns to teenagers and often are in sibling groups. They may remain with you for a short time or for a long duration as their parents work on the issues that brought their children into foster care.
WMPC provides foster care through our five partner agencies: Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities West Michigan, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, Samaritas, and Wellspring Lutheran Services. You can sign up to become a foster parent with our partner agencies directly. Visit their website by clicking their logos from above.
If you have a heart for children in care, but foster parenting isn’t possible for you, you can fight for the rights and well-being of the 400,000+ in the U.S. foster care system simply by raising awareness of the state of the foster care system.
First learn about where the system falls short. Talk to foster parents, read the stories of former foster children, listen when you hear about foster care on the news, and reach out to your local agencies. Then, use your voice to educate others about what you’ve learned. The children who suffer because of our collective negligence are voiceless. They need us to speak for them.
Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a volunteer who is authorized by the court to speak on the behalf of a child in foster care. A CASA spends time with the child, gets to know him, and speaks with everyone in the child’s life, including foster parents, birth parents, relatives, teachers, social workers, attorneys, and medical professionals. They then take what they have learned to the judge and make recommendations in the best interests of the child.
CASAs can be a source of stability and hope in the life of child and many volunteers find the experience to be rewarding. Find out more at https://casakentco.org/.
Become a Mentor
The opportunities to volunteer with kids in foster care are endless. You could become a mentor by taking a vested interest in the life of a child in care that you know personally or you could sign up through local programs to volunteer or become a mentor here in Kent County:
Become a Respite Caregiver
A Respite Parent provides periodic weekend or short-term care to foster youth being served full time by another foster family. Do you know a foster family in your community that could use a break? Consider asking if they have a respite caregiver. Or contact any of the five foster care agencies for how to become this resource.
- Single or married, and at least 25 years old.
- Live in a home that passes health and fire safety inspections and has room available for at least one youth.
- Clear state, federal, child protective services and driving record background checks.
- Financially stable beyond a foster care stipend.
- Complete 27 hours of pre-service training, and 28 hours of annual in-service training thereafter.
Make a Donation
Most children in foster care arrive at their first placement with little to nothing in their possession. Child welfare agencies try to help by collecting the most needed items, such as clothing, suitcases, duffle bags, back-to-school supplies, and Christmas gifts. Whether you can give gently used items or a gift of cash, donations to a local agency are almost guaranteed to be put to good use immediately.
Consider donating to Foster Kent Kids. A coalition made up of all five private foster care agencies. Our goal is to recruit and retain foster parents in Kent County. Reach out at www.fosterkentkids.care today.
Support a Local Foster Family
Foster families need all the support they can get. Foster parenting is much more than loving on the kids (that’s the easy part). Often, it is the day-to-day hardships and complexities of working with a team of people within a government entity that is the biggest challenge.
Family visits, doctor appointments, school meetings, counseling, trainings, caseworker visits, emails, phone calls, reports, logs, and endless stacks of paperwork keep foster parents on their toes. A community supporting a foster family can lessen the burden. Offer to do a particular task that you could do weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly:
- Mow the foster family’s lawn!
- Make a freezer meal for a foster family!
- Fold laundry every Tuesday morning while the foster parent watches the Price is Right and drinks a Mocha Frappe!
- Read with a fourth-grade foster child for 20 minutes after school twice a week!
Committing to helping a foster family for even an hour a week can be the difference in a parent barely hanging on and finding the balance they need to be their best selves for their family.
For a list of 99 Ways to Support Foster Families in the community, check out our ArtPrize page.
Enhanced Foster Care
WMPC recently launched a new service, Enhanced Foster Care (EFC), designed to provide an intensive community-based approach by stabilizing current youth in foster care, diverting youth from being placed out of the community, and deliberately returning youth from residential care back to the community.