At age 15 Rhonda decided to seek emancipation. One of the prerequisites was that Rhonda have a job, so she went to work for the first person who would hire her– an insurance agent. When her employer explained the concept of insurance, Rhonda learned everything she could about insurance. Despite being denied again and again, Rhonda repeatedly petitioned the Insurance Commissioner to allow her to sit for the insurance agent exam even though she wasn’t yet 18. An exception was finally granted, and Rhonda became California’s youngest licensed insurance agent at 17.
Successful survivors are strong, capable, resilient, tenacious, courageous, resourceful, and so much more—characteristics that are valuable in every relationship, every industry, and every profession. While each successful survivor may not have every one of the characteristics included here, each of them has at least one that has been instrumental in helping them through difficult times. The great news is that all these characteristics can be acquired, developed, and leveraged to unlock and unleash the potential trapped inside those who have survived trauma. More resources for survivors of trauma are available at www.rhonda.org.
Foster Care Alumni of America
Foster Care Alumni of America is a national non-profit association that has been founded and is led by alumni of the foster care system. We use the term alumni to describe those of us who have been in foster care during our childhood/youth.
“We wrote this book by asking ourselves, ‘what do I wish someone had told ME when I was 15, 18, 25?’ FLUX is our answer to that question. loved this book.” said Misty Stenslie, former deputy director of Foster Care Alumni of America.
“Unless you have actually lived the process of leaving foster care and trying to figure out how to be an ‘independent’ adult, you can’t really know what it is like.
For too many of us, learning how to care for ourselves and build our own lives is a messy process of trial and error. FLUX provides context to the emotions, challenges and opportunities in a very complicated transition. While it won’t make the process easy, it will help make some sense out of the journey.”
Catherine Marshall's stories about parenting and other real life adventures have been featured in several anthologies and magazines including the Noyo River Review, Foster Families Today, and Tales of Our Lives.
She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and Mendocino, where she has a consulting practice specializing in helping nonprofits and community groups effect social change. She is the author of Field Building: Your Blueprint for Creating an Effective and Powerful Social Movement.
Catherine Marshall's story reveals the heartbreak and hope of foster parenting. Thirty-eight and newly married, Catherine yearned to be a mother and adoption seemed a viable option. The county's Foster-Adopt Program was affordable, so she and her new husband were confident they could adopt and parent two siblings. But nothing was as it seemed. The birth parents used intimidation and the court system to sabotage the adoption. The social services agency wavered in its support. Even the children, three-year old Jenny and six-year old Robert, were unaware of the ticking time bomb of genetics and early neglect that would detonate in their teens.
Would the family survive intact? Would the marriage withstand the stress? Would the children overcome the same afflictions and addictions that had plagued their birth parents? The Easter Moose: One Family's Journey Adopting through Foster Care provides all parents, but particularly those adopting, fostering, or caring for children with challenges, the assurance they are not alone. Social workers, teachers, people who work in the family court system, and anyone who believes in nurture over nature will get a reality check.
Adam Starks, Ph.D. is a former foster youth who defied the typical outcome. Against the odds, he has been married for over 12 years to his wonderful wife, Emily and they have three children; Jayden, Isaiah and Susannah. Currently, Dr. Adam Starks is an aspiring social entrepreneur envisioning a better today for our society's most vulnerable children. His purpose includes advocating for and empowering at-risk youth to encourage our society to realize each student's potential instead of life-altering disciplinary action. As living proof to what it takes to break the cycle, Dr. Starks seeks to establish a more holistic education model by offering external services to assist the most disadvantaged youth in order to transcend the dismal statistics resulting from negative experiences during their formative years.
His unique perspective and life experiences allow his catalytic leadership style to thrive in the most challenging situations. Influenced and inspired by leaders past and present, he views the world through the lens of self-empowerment to enhance optimal learning opportunities. His level of self-awareness opens him up to listening effectively and integrating the best ideas from the entire problem-solving spectrum. It’s going to take ideas from all walks of life to address this crisis in education, and Dr. Starks is willing to do whatever it takes to help as many children as possible succeed in this uncertain world. For a more in-depth look into the life of Dr. AdamStarks, please purchase his book, Broken Child Mended Man.
Shenandoah Chefalo is a graduate of Michigan State University, holding a Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science, a Core Essentials Graduate from Coach U, and a member of the Foster Leaders Movement. She is a sought after speaker on topics surrounding youth in foster care, and has been featured as a guest locally, nationally and internationally.
She is also a survivor and alumni of the foster care system. Shenandoah Chefalo is also the author of Garbage Bag Suitcase about her time before, during and after foster care as well as her current advocacy work. She also wrote an e-book entitled Setting Your Vision and Defining Your Goals,and is also working on her next manuscript, Hiking for Stillness.
Garbage Bag Suitcase is the true story of Shenandoah Chefalo’s wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood with neglectful, drug-and alcohol addicted parents. She endured numerous moves in the middle of the night with just minutes to pack, multiple changes in schools, hunger, cruelty, and loneliness. Finally at the age of 13, Shen had had enough. After being abandoned by her mother, she asked to be put into foster care. Surely she would fare better at a stable home than living with her mother? It turns out that this was not the storybook ending she had hoped for. With foster parents more interested in the income received by housing a foster child, Shen was once again neglected emotionally. The money she earned working at the local grocery store was taken by her foster parents to “cover her expenses.” When a car accident lands her in the hospital with grave injuries and no one comes to visit her during her three week stay, she realizes she is truly all alone in the world.
Award-winning author Susan Traugh is a former teacher and holds a Masters in Education with an emphasis on curricula. Her Transition 2 Life and Daily Living Skills series have received acclaim from educators around the world. Susan is the mother of three incredible children, all with special needs. Working with both public and private schools to secure the best education for her kids, Susan realized the need for a comprehensive, age-appropriate transition program for at-risk and mildto-moderately affected special needs teens. The resulting program has received acclaim worldwide
Aging out of foster care can be a terrifying experience for teens—especially if they don’t have the skills necessary to tackle adult living. Transition 2 Life and Daily Living Skills meet federal mandates for transition education and provide the foundation teens need to address a wide variety of “real life” skills. Subject areas include Adult Living, Cooking, Social Skills, Job Skills and Character Building. Individual workbooks range from Cleaning House, Paying Bills and Grocery Shopping to Everyday Manners, Safe Dating and Making Conversation. Other titles include Interviewing Skills, Getting a Paycheck, and Time Management, to Building Character, Decision Making and Overcoming Failure. All books are written on a 3rd/4th grade reading level for easy independent use while honoring a young adult’s humor and sensibilities. All pages are liberally sprinkled with age-appropriate cartoons and illustrations and bullet-point information is used whenever possible. This highly affordable series includes assessments, grading sheets, answer keys, ITP Goals, and mandated Parent/Guardian information sheets designed to meet national standards.
Dr. John N. DeGarmo, Ed.D.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 10 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 40 children come through their home. Dr. DeGarmo wrote his dissertation on fostering, entitled Responding to the Needs of Foster Children in Rural Schools.
Children suffering from abuse. Neglect. Malnutrition. Even drug-related problems passed on from a mother’s addiction. Children rejected by those who were to love them most, their parents. When placed into a foster home, many of these children carry with them the physical and emotional scars that prevent them from accepting the love of another. This journey as a foster parent is the most difficult thing John DeGarmo has done.
Through the sleepless nights with drug-addicted babies, the battles with angry teens, and the tears from such tremendous sadness, John DeGarmo learns that to follow God’s call in his life means to take up His cross in his own home.
Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Journey is the true-life account of his experience as a foster parent, along with his wife and their own three children, as he followed God’s call to take foster children into his home. This is a story of heartbreak, sadness, and ultimately love as he came to find God in the tears and smiles of many foster children.
Rosemary Zibart is a former foster parent, an adoptive parent and an award-winning children’s book author. Prior to writing books for young people, she was a journalist for PARADE and Time Magazine focusing on issues relating to at-risk youth, foster care and adoption and was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition for Adoption Institute.
Told from a child’s point of view, KIT COYOTE: A BRAVE PUP validates the mixed feelings a child may experience in foster care and answers some of the tough questions children may wish to ask such as “Do my parents love me?" and “Why can’t I live with them?”. The book also promotes a sense of resilience and encourages children to express themselves to trusted adults in creative ways. Foster children usually have a lot new in their lives – foster parents, a CASA or court-appointed advocate, case workers, therapists, and possibly a new school. The imaginative illustrations depict animal characters including Kit, a coyote pup; social worker, Kathy Rabbit; foster mom, Rayna Fox, and therapist, Bruce Hedgehog in order to appeal to children and avoid stereotypes.
“ Kit Coyote: A Brave Pup is a beautifully illustrated story that will be treasured by child therapists, social workers, foster parents, recovering parents and others who help children heal and grow from family disruptions.”
— Deborah J. Tharinger, PhD Founding Member, Therapeutic Assessment Institute Author, “Therapeutic Stories for Children Generated from Psychological Assessments”
KIT COYOTE: A BRAVE PUP (Z Productions, ISBN 32 pages, ages 4-10)
Eileen Williams worked as a full time Support Worker at a homeless project for young people and also part time with ex-offenders living within a probation hostel. Eileen began to feel she could be more help to individuals by providing full time support within a home environment, she consequently gave up her jobs and became a full time foster carer.
Fostering didn’t go quite the way Eileen had planned, she had imagined many children of varying ages passing through her home. Instead, her and her husband, who also gave up his full time job to foster, were encouraged to focus on just one young person who had many complex issues in his life to deal with.
Despite having qualifications which included a B.A. Hons in Literary and Cultural Studies, a Diploma in Counselling Skills, NVQ in Advice and Guidance, and C&G Further and Adult Education Teacher’s Certificate, Teaching Diploma for both Yoga and Meditation, Eileen found the job of fostering one of the most challenging she had ever done. However, it was also definitely the most rewarding. The boy who moved into her home when he was eleven didn’t move out until he was nineteen, after gaining a list of qualifications which would enable him to choose further education or full time work.
Eileen felt her work was a success until she witnessed the trauma the boy went through as he tried to come to terms with independence and the withdrawal of almost all the support he had got used to. She remembered the same thing happening with young people at the homeless project and also with people much older at the probation hostel, they could not relate in any way to their new accommodation and therefore gained nothing from it, eventually using it as somewhere just to keep their stuff.
With heightened awareness of the struggles people moving to independence face, and knowing that many young people become homeless or get involved in unsociable behaviour within a short time of becoming independent, she determined to do something about it and began writing her book.
Eileen lives happily with her husband in the Suffolk countryside in the United Kingdom. She enjoys long walks, pottering around in the garden and treasures precious time spent with her children and grandchildren.
Moving To Independence is an educational and insightful book, written from the heart around three Core Concepts developed by the author. The easy to follow narrative will clearly speak to you if you are involved in any way in supporting a young person on their way to independence. It can be dipped in and out of whenever opportunities arise.
The book shares ideas and practical methods which help individuals to develop self-knowledge and self-respect, these then become the foundations on which they can build themselves a truly unique and stable home. Individuals are taken on a journey of self-discovery and support workers are able to fully engage with this.
After being guided through the book, young people will learn that they can be proud to own their own histories. They are encouraged to trust their own memories and feelings and have greater awareness of the validity of these. They are then able to build a future with confidence, optimism and a sense of belonging that will support them in their move on to the future.
Below is an excerpt from the section entitled Personal History – Cultural Identity.
CONCEPT TWO: Your Personal History Makes You Who You Are – Recognise It In Your Home And Create A True Sense Of Belonging
“Past, present and future are linked inseparably in the way we think and act.” Michael Jacobs
Your job in relation to my book is to enable your clients firstly, to identify aspects of their personal history which have contributed to their cultural identity, and secondly how to interweave these aspects into a home in a way that will provide a sense of self-worth and belonging.
Research has shown that individuals coming out of a supported living environment struggle to maintain their lives successfully long-term in the accommodation they are provided with. Over one fifth of young people leaving the care system become homeless within two years of becoming independent. (4)
As your clients move to independent living, their health and well-being will be paramount. Using personal history will help to underpin the foundations of who they are and reinforce the idea that they are truly within the margins of everyday life. In other words, they fit in.
The people you work with are complex, on the one hand they need to be seen and respected for their individuality while on the other, they don’t want to be on the outside and therefore treated as different. Pulling threads of personal history together and expressing it within a home will not only enable individuals to see themselves in a positive way but will enable them to have some control over how other people see them.
The way the homes of your clients evolve might appear to an outsider t be a random collection of unrelated items, but the reality will be a positive representation of their life so far. Their homes will be constructed through the inner feelings that have developed whilst being shaped by a mixture of influences.
Identity is an individual thing and is one of those areas that can seem daunting for any of us as we try to work out where we are with it. It is likely that your clients will see their pasts in a negative light and could easily be limited by it. They may also try to avoid acknowledging it altogether.
Our personal history and cultural identity is created by the influence of the people who contributed to our upbringing and through the structure of our day-to-day life. It doesn’t matter if the people you work with have experienced a wide range of differing cultural backgrounds or known just one. When it comes to their own homes, there may be some traditions they will want to take with them, some they will want to leave behind and some new ones they will create for themselves.
Specific activities or interests we have had also contribute to our cultural identity, so do the people we had in our lives who really cared about us. All of these aspects of the time your clients were growing up, and beyond, can be used to enhance the future.
Project: Personalised Picture – Significant Person
(4) Understanding Youth: Perspectives, Identities and Practices,P.300,Ed Mary Jane Kehily
S. T. Santos is the recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award for Muroc Unified School District in California. During her thirty years of teaching, she was blessed to have taught gifted, talented children—including some who lived in foster homes. Her goal is to teach everyone acceptance for who we are and where we come from. She is honored to have worked with dedicated teachers, and fantastic principals, who all placed children at the center of their hearts. Sylvia lives in California, has two grown children and seven grandchildren, and thoroughly cherishes the priceless moments they share.
MOM’S GONE...begins on the day that Frey’s mom doesn’t come home. Certain that she will return in a few days, Frey takes very good care of himself, makes food, goes to bed on time, and goes to school. But when his teacher realizes that Frey is living alone, she contacts Child Protective Services, who puts Frey into foster care.
First in the Foster Heroes Series, MOM'S GONE...takes you through Frey’s journey, and how he finally finds a home where he makes friends, and feels safe, until his mom can return home. First in the "Foster Heroes Series," MOM'S GONE... is followed by MY PARENTS MADE A MISTAKE, where Frey meets other foster kids.