Coping With Empty Nest Syndrome

It’s that time of year again: back to school. While August and September are difficult for any parent sending their child back to school, it can be especially challenging for those with college students. Whether you have one child entering their first year of college, or the youngest of three beginning their freshman year, coming home to a quiet house can leave you feeling like an empty nester.

Having an empty nest is tough, but there is a way to turn feelings of loneliness into something positive for you and a child in need of a loving home. If you’ve sent your child off to college this year, it is the perfect time to consider becoming a foster parent.

When your child leaves home, you have the extra space, you have the years of knowledge and experience, and if you have a desire to help better the lives of those in your community, foster care may be the choice for you! Foster care can certainly be challenging and the idea may seem overwhelming at first, but for those who are eager to help and are looking for fulfillment after their own children have flown from the nest, it is an amazing journey.

Of course, potential foster parents never go through the process alone. With the many resources available from the Norfolk Department of Human Services and Norfolk Friends of Foster Care, foster parents in Hampton Roads have a full support system behind them. If you think you might be interested in becoming a foster parent, take the foster/adoptive parent self-survey, and contact Norfolk DHS today.

News and Updates From NFFC

We hope you are having a great summer. For Norfolk's foster children, summer means it's time for camp, through our partnership with the YMCA. 

With the help of your generous donations, we have sponsored 22 campers so far this summer, amounting to 48 weeks of camp. Here is a closer look:

12 campers are spending 14 weeks total at Camp Silver Beach

4 campers are spending 5 weeks total at Camp Arrowhead 

7 campers are spending 24 weeks total at Camp Red Feather

1 camper is spending 5 weeks total at Camp Opotenaiok

4 sibling groups have been able to attend camp together

All of these YMCA camps are in great locations where the campers are able to enjoy nature and explore new activities like ziplining, kayaking, archery, crafts and more! It has been an amazing camp season so far, and we look forward to seeing what the rest of the summer will bring. 


Watch the video below, which was featured at the YMCA Annual Dinner, to see how Listene and Isaisha enjoyed their time at Camp Silver Beach last year: 


The overnight campers at Camp Silver Beach received care packages as well, put together by our Birthday Project Coordinator, Diane, and her friends! 

Foster Care Awareness, Year-Round

Foster Care Awareness month has passed, and we are so happy to have been a part of it with our Foster Care Aware Block Party. We were blown away by the amount of support from the Hampton Roads community and the people interested in taking the next steps to become foster parents. Though the official month has ended, we know that foster care advocates are always looking for ways to spread awareness about the need to good foster parents.

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So, what else can you do?
 
Stay in touch.
 By liking and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and signing up for our monthly newsletter, you receive updates from us, the Norfolk Department of Human Services, and other organizations that hold events geared towards recruitment, education and providing resources for foster parents and children. Don’t forget to share our posts and invite others to like our page.
 
Get involved. There are a number of ways to get involved and help us with our mission of enriching the lives of foster children while they are in care. Whether it’s shopping for birthday or holiday gifts, in-kind donations, corporate sponsorships or pledges, we always greatly appreciate any efforts to help our community’s foster children thrive. Browse our website to find out more information about how you can get involved.

Use your voice. Your voice is one of the most powerful tools for recruiting new foster parents, and spreading foster care awareness is something you can do year-round. If you have friends, family or acquaintances who have expressed their interest in becoming a foster parent but aren’t sure where to start, introduce them to the many resources available through NFFC and the Norfolk Department of Human Services. You can also share our page on Facebook to increase overall community awareness.
 
We welcome anyone interested in or supportive of foster care, and look forward to expanding knowledge and opportunities for children in our community.

Writing A New Chapter

What does it feel like to start a new chapter after a tragedy?

When Karen was 13 years old, her and her brothers were sent to live with their aunt, and then placed in foster care. In this video, Karen describes her experience navigating loss and writing her new life chapter:

The Life Book

What is the Life Book? In this video, NFFC's own Audra Bullock and her family connect with her adopted son Kaden and his biological family to create meaningful relationships and document his journey. Making the Life Book requires both the biological and the foster family to unite and put together the pieces of Kaden's life, in hopes to help him navigate his past and experiences in foster care.

Permanency

What does finding permanency mean to a child in foster care? In this video, Mahogany describes her experience in foster care, exploring the paths she took and the effects of so many moves before finding her permanent home: 

Foster Care Aware Recap

What a wonderful weekend! The 2018 Foster Care Aware Block Party was a great success. We were thrilled to help families learn more about what it takes to foster children and teens in Hampton Roads. 

Thanks to all who participated, from current foster families, to those interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, to City of Norfolk officials and employees and finally our generous sponsors.  We so much appreciate the support for increasing awareness about the need for foster parents in our community.

Click through the gallery below to see some of the fun: 

How Your Voice Can Help

Have you ever had a friend of coworker sharing glowing reviews of a restaurant, and you suddenly find yourself making reservations for the weekend? If so, this is an example of how powerful and effective word of mouth marketing can be. Words from a friend that you trust are more likely to motivate you to take action and try something that you otherwise wouldn’t. This theory is true when it comes to finding prospective foster parents.  

Becoming a foster parent is certainly a big commitment, and those who have considered fostering or becoming respite care providers can become overwhelmed by the amount of information available in the media and online. Some of these potential foster parents may feel more prepared to move forward under the guidance or advice of a foster parent who has been through every step. This is where your voice can help.

For those foster parents or those who have fostered in the past and want to continue to make a difference in the foster community in Hampton Roads, your voice is one of the most powerful tools for recruiting new foster parents. If you have friends, family or acquaintances who have expressed their interest in becoming a foster parent, your experiences, stories and advice can inspire them to move forward with the process! Knowing that they have someone who they trust and know will be transparent about the realities of foster care to turn to can be a huge factor in making the decision to foster.

You can also introduce potential foster parents to the many resources available through Norfolk Friends of Foster Care and the Norfolk Department of Human services at our upcoming annual Foster Care Aware block party! This fun event is free and open to the public, and includes seminars on foster care and the opportunity to mingle with our foster care heroes.

We cannot express enough our appreciation for foster parents and all that you do. Together with the power of your voices, the foster parent community in Hampton Roads will continue to grow and provide safe, loving homes for foster children.

Year in Review: 2017

This year, Norfolk Friends of Foster Care has worked diligently to help the foster children and foster families of Hampton Roads!  As 2017 draws to a close and we reflect on the things we are most grateful for this year, we at Norfolk Friends of Foster Care are thankful for your generous support.  Because of you, we have been able to make a difference for more foster youth in more meaningful ways this year than ever before.  We are so very appreciative of your belief in our mission and your partnership to improve the lives and outcomes of these children, who through no fault of their own find themselves in very difficult circumstances.  Please know that as a direct result of your contributions, the face of foster care in Hampton Roads is changing for the better.  


Hampton Roads Foster Care at a Glance: 


As of December 1st 2017, there were a total of 741 children in foster care in the cities of Hampton Roads, which is down by nearly 15% from the beginning of the year. Of these foster children, over 80% were placed in non-relative foster homes and approximately 11% were placed in congregate care (aka, group homes).  The vast majority of these kids have spent over two years in foster care and at least 25% have been in 4 or more different homes during their time in foster care.  These numbers drive Norfolk Friends of Foster Care’s mission to actively recruit the next generation of foster parents to ensure that family placement is always an available option for these kids in their time of greatest need and that a child’s first placement in care is the right and last placement before permanency.


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2017 Highlights:

Foster Care Aware:

In line with our mission, we teamed up with other local non-profits to organize the first annual Foster Care Aware Block Party, an event aimed at recruiting new foster families through education on what it takes to foster children and teens in Hampton Roads. Foster Care Aware was the largest event of its kind and proved to be successful in recruiting a significant number of new foster parents in Hampton Roads!  Keep an eye out for upcoming information about 2018 Foster Care Aware!

 Left to right: Denise Lipscomb, Mayor Kenny Alexander, Audra Bullock

Left to right: Denise Lipscomb, Mayor Kenny Alexander, Audra Bullock

In addition to recruiting good foster homes, our second, but equally important mission is to enrich the lives of the foster children while they are in care.  We do this through providing one-on-one, in-home tutoring to improve educational outcomes, giving these kids a higher likelihood of transitioning to productive adulthoods, and by facilitating involvement in extracurricular activities to help build healthy relationships, social networks of support and diverse skill sets. Here is what we did in 2017 to accomplish these missions:

Academic tutoring: This year Norfolk Friends of Foster Care provided tutoring for 68 foster children, with 53 children tutored on an ongoing, weekly basis. That is over 50% of school-aged foster children in Norfolk!  Our objective is to improve high-school graduation rates from the current 25% for those in care at time of graduation to be more reflective of the overall national average of 89%.  Additionally, we aim to help better prepare foster youth for post-secondary education, so they have skills required to support themselves as productive young adults.

Extracurricular activities: We also sponsored a large number of extracurricular activities this year, with 64 different program participants and 46 kids enrolled in YMCA memberships. In 2017, foster children in Hampton Roads look lessons in piano, swimming, soccer, driver’s education, cosmetology, basketball, dance, and kickboxing! We believe that through this program children are not only building important skills, but also are engaging in activities essential to living happy, healthy lives.

Gifting projects: 2017 was the most successful yet for our gifting projects.  The Birthday Project this year had 100% sponsorship, fulfilling the birthday wishes of over 170 kids and this year’s Holiday Project was expanded to include foster children from Chesapeake and Portsmouth in addition to Norfolk.  Thanks to our sponsors, we have guaranteed that over 235 foster children will receive gifts this season, helping bring holiday cheer to kids who need it and alleviate pressures that the holidays can bring for both the children and foster parents.  We could not be more thankful for your generosity!


On behalf of the Norfolk Friends of Foster Care team and the children we serve, I express my sincere and heartfelt thanks for your partnership in making a true difference in the lives of these kids!   I wish you the gifts of love, hope and good health over the Holidays and in the New Year!

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Norfolk Department of Human Services 2018 New Foster Parent PRIDE Schedule

The new year is just around the corner, which means new sessions for the Norfolk Department of Human Services New Foster Parent PRIDE training classes! Potential foster parents must contact NDHS to register for these classes to acquire licensing as a foster parent. 

Session 1:

Saturday, January 27                      9am-2pm

Saturday, February 3                       9am-2pm

Saturday, February 10                    9am-2pm

Saturday, February 17                   10am- 2pm

 

Session 2:

Saturday, April 14                              9am-2pm

Saturday, April 21                               9am-2pm

Saturday, April 28                              9am-2pm

Saturday, May 5                                10am-2pm

 

Session 3:

Saturday, September 22                9am-2pm

Saturday, September 29                9am-2pm

Saturday, October 6                      9am-2pm

Saturday, October 13                     9am-2pm

Holidays with Foster Children

While the holidays are meant to be filled with cheer, they can also be an incredibly difficult time for all involved in foster care. Foster parents may have trouble connecting with their foster children, biological parents may not have their children for the holidays, and foster children may struggle in a variety of ways based on situational factors. It is important as a foster parent to be sensitive to your child’s wants and needs during the holidays, and to be prepared for what the holidays may bring.

Here are a few ways to prepare for the holidays with a foster child:

Be informed: Find out what the holiday circumstances will be and prepare your foster child early on for what they can expect. Scheduling can be tough during the holidays, so set aside time in advance for the child to make visits or phone calls with biological family or old friends as allowed by the agency.  

Explain: Let the child know early on what your own family’s customs and traditions are to avoid any confusion or stress about uncertainties they may have. Explain to friends and family what to expect if you are hosting holiday gatherings at your home or planning visits, so that your foster child always feels welcome and like they have a place in the family. If possible, introduce the child to family before holiday events to help them feel more comfortable.

Ask questions: Be sure to ask about the child’s own holiday customs, traditions and expectations, and find a way to incorporate these into your own holiday activities to help your child feel at home and reiterate his or her importance. Ask them about their own concerns or expectations about the holidays, and check in on how they are feeling throughout November and December.

If you aren’t a foster parent but are still looking for ways to help foster children during the holidays, be sure to check out our 2017 Holiday Project to help bring cheer to kids who need it! 

Foster Children Receive over 285 Pieces of Luggage through Tiffany Haddish’s Appearance at The Funny Bone!

Comedian Tiffany Haddish, breakout star of this summer's #1 comedy Girls Trip, performed five sell-out shows September 22 through 24 at The Virginia Beach Funny Bone.

As part of her performances, Haddish encouraged ticket holders to bring a new or gently used suitcase to the performances to benefit local foster children, organized by Norfolk Friends of Foster Care, Norfolk Department of Human Services and One27 Initiative. 

Attendees to Haddish’s performances at The Funny Bone donated over two hundred eighty-five suitcases and luggage pieces, in an amazing display of benevolence for the foster youth of Hampton Roads.

 The luggage will be distributed to foster children throughout the Hampton Roads region because, as Haddish says, “Every child that is removed from their parents deserves to have a suitcase and a safe place to lay their head, I want to help with the suitcase part.”

 Known for her role in the box office hit “Girls Trip,” Haddish was nine years old when her mother suffered brain damage as a result of a car accident. Two years later, Haddish and her siblings were split up and placed into foster homes. Growing up as a foster child, she recalls the empty feeling of having her belongings carried out in trash bags as she moved from home to home. Haddish’s experiences inspired her efforts to help prevent similar feelings in foster children with this drive that will provide suitcases and duffel bags for children living in foster care so they will never know the indignity of having their possessions stuffed into a trash bag when they are relocated.

 

August Spotlight

Norfolk Friends of Foster Care is off to a great start in part due to our close relationship with the Norfolk Department of Human Services. Through our contacts there, we are able to guide potential foster parents in the right direction and provide resources for foster parents and children after placement.

This month we’re highlighting some of the wonderful people we work alongside at DHS.

Meet LaCora Harris:

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LaCora is the Family Services Supervisor at DHS. In her current position, she strives to reunify foster children with their biological parents or relatives.

LaCora hasn’t always worked in Family Services, though. She first became interested in working in foster care when she interned in Culpeper, Virginia, and realized she wanted to move on to an area where there were much more foster children in need of assistance. After her time at Old Dominion University, she progressed from working in the resource department to a Family Services Worker II, and then to where she is now.

Because of her path through DHS, LaCora is well-versed in almost every aspect of foster care. She has worked with potential foster parents, training them and providing resources so they are well-prepared to take in foster children. She has provided assistance for foster parents after they have taken in children, making sure they work through difficult situations so the children remain in a stable home. She has also worked with foster teenagers as they prepare for independence, and with mothers who are in foster care to help them prepare for their and their child’s future.

“My favorite part of my job is finding permanency for foster children, whether that means reuniting them with their biological family, or facilitating an adoption,” says LaCora. She is clearly passionate about making sure foster children feel a sense of stability, explaining that the process of moving from home to home can be a huge stressor for children. Emphasizing the importance of focusing on the effects of being in foster care on children, she says that getting the biological parents back on track and maintaining an open line of communication between the parents and foster parents can make all the difference.

Thank you, LaCora, for all that you do for Norfolk Friends of Foster Care and the Norfolk Department of Human Services!