Foster parent education sessions

As it’s National Adoption Awareness Month, all through November you can expect to see a lot of stories about the processes, challenges and outcomes involved with adoption.

TODAY, for one, is running a week-long series on adoption. Today’s segment, “Adoption challenges: It’s worth it – but it’s not easy,” includes some tips from adoption experts for prospective parents. The third tip made me laugh: “Keep your mind on your end goal. Therese thinks the pain of labor must be similar to the grueling adoption process: It’s horrible while you’re in it, but the memory of the pain fades away when your baby is in your arms.”

As someone who’s been lucky enough to experience both birth and adoption, I think that’s totally true. Although we finalized our adoption in August and I still have nightmares about missing paperwork.

If you’re interested in sharing my nightmares, another TODAY segment lists a few suggestions to help you get started. The first step, it says, is to decide which kind of adoption is right for you.

But how do you decide?

My family went with the Dan Fox Family Care Program at Youth Homes, and we highly recommend it. The awesome staff there offers a regular series of Foster Parent Education sessions, and it’s a great way to learn more about this particular kind of adoption without any commitment or cost.

Watch this short (eight and half minutes is all!) documentary featuring actual parents who have worked with the program, try not to cry, then call 541-1664 to sign up for the next session.

The next series will start in January. Here’s the full schedule.

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Long time no blog

Regular Missoula Mom readers may have noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lotta activity on this site in recent months. Why the long silence?

The short story: I’ve been busy growing my family!

Long story: Let’s save that for another day. Suffice to say that my family has a lot of gratitude for the folks at Youth Homes‘s Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program right now.

Funny enough, Youth Homes has been busy expanding lately too. The new Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home will feature 10 bedrooms for teens (ages 16 to 18) who are aging out of foster care. The new 5,000-plus square-foot building will replace the old one which, as Youth Homes executive director Geoff Birnbaum has been saying for the past four years or more, was never designed to function as a group home.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need places like this. I’m not happy we need them, but I’m so grateful we have them.

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Missoula treating childhood trauma on several fronts

“We are destroying ourselves as a nation by not paying attention to childhood abuse and neglect.”

So says Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who has studied post traumatic stress disorder in children and is widely regarded as an expert on childhood trauma. In fact, he founded the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network. Van der Kolk was speaking to an audience at the University of Montana to help launch a partnership between local schools and the university’s Institute for Educational Research and Service.

“As one of the leaders in the emerging field of childhood trauma, UM is helping these schools use behavior therapy to help children review traumatic experiences and reduce behavioral problems in a safe environment – and in a way that doesn’t create acute anxiety,” today’s story in the Missoulian reads.

And speaking of treatment for childhood trauma, I would be remiss not to mention yesterday’s excellent article noting that Youth Homes is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Over the course of those years, the organization has helped some 9,000 at-risk children through a variety of programs and services.

About Youth Homes’ work and fundraising efforts locally, executive director Geoff Birnbaum had this to say: “I can’t think of a better place to do this than in Missoula. I sometimes wonder if anywhere else can match the generosity of this community.”

Let’s hope the next 40 years more than matches the generosity Youth Homes has experienced thus far.

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New documentary features real Missoula foster families

The folks at Youth Homes’ Dan Fox Family Care program recently put together a stirring yet short documentary aimed at encouraging more people to consider becoming foster or adoptive parents. It’s worth 10 minutes of your time. Check out the video below or go to the Dan Fox Web site for more information.

– MM

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Run for kids with Youth Homes team

Last month, fellow Missoula mom Kim Anderson, a mother of three children and a former development director for Youth Homes, started a personal quest and a blog called The Reluctant Runner.

“I’m going to run a half marathon in July and I’m doing it in honor of a kid at Youth Homes,” Anderson explains on her blog, where she writes eloquently of being inspired by Youth Homes children as well as her own kids.

The Missoula Marathon is approaching quickly – it’s scheduled for July 11, 2010. Until then, Anderson is using her blog to help raise awareness about the Youth Homes Run 4 Kids team, explaining, “We’re trying to get more participants this year to run or walk either the half or whole in honor of a kid at the Youth Homes – each participant gets their registration and training fees paid for in turn for getting pledges for YHI. MT Rail Link sponsors this so they flip the bill for the participants. Its very cool.”

If you can’t run, consider giving a donation instead. Anderson is trying to raise at least $500.

– MM

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The whole foster care/adoption thing

Right now there are a lot of good kids – too many, in fact – in need of good homes. This story in Sunday’s Missoulian pretty much sums up the situation.

Charlie and I took the series of classes offered through Youth Homes earlier this year, and they were amazing. They answered all of our questions plus many more we hadn’t thought of. I highly recommend them to anyone thinking about fostering or adopting a child – even if you aren’t committed to the idea of fostering or adopting just yet.

You can call Missoula Youth Homes at 721-2704.

– Tyler Christensen

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