Foster Care and Courage

May is National Foster Care Month, a time of thanks for our nation’s foster care system and prayer for the 415,000 children in foster care in the US today. Who are these children and who are the many people committed to caring for them every day?

Being part of the foster care system requires love and courage. Read on.

Foster Kids

It takes courage to be a foster kid. To be removed from your biological family, through no fault of your own. To be placed with a family you don’t usually know and to be uprooted overnight, literally, to a new house, new address, new neighborhood, new bus, new school, new classmates, new teachers, new coaches, new rules, new family, new expectations, new everything. Statistics say kids in care move an average of 8 times in their young lives.

Each move means you lose things that matter to you. Pictures, mementos, clothes, favorite CDs, books, connections, sometimes even your siblings who are moved to other families … all a part of your personal identity. Everyone else controls your life and you don’t have a say. Why is this happening? Does anyone you care about even know where you are?  Do they still love you and want you back?

It takes courage to ‘age out’ of care without the love and support of a family and to make it in life anyway. To not become a statistic for homelessness, incarceration, or early pregnancy.  It all takes courage.

Families

It takes courage to be a family in the foster care system. It takes courage to be a biological family who temporarily relinquishes their child to foster care so they can get their life together and become a good parent. Sometimes temporary turns into permanent relinquishment.

It takes courage to be a foster parent or adoptive parent and raise kids who are not your own. Kids who are hurting, confused, lashing out. It takes courage to love them unconditionally through their pain. To be the heart that listens and the voice that reassures. Foster parents know they will likely return to their biological family or move on to another foster family. Adoptive families know that connection with biological families isn’t always easy but important.

It takes courage to volunteer as a respite family and provide the needed breaks so foster families can re-charge their energy and then go at it again. Thank you to all families who love and care for these vulnerable children. We admire you. It all takes courage.

The Village & Daily Life Support

It takes courage to step up and take a stand, to pay attention. Thank you to teachers, coaches, club leaders, doctors, nurses, classmates, mentors and businesses who pay extra attention when they see a child who is hurting and in need. Thank you for ‘saying something’ whether it is a word of encouragement or reporting a suspected abuse. It takes guts to step up and take a stand, to risk possibly being wrong and the labels that go with that. You didn’t look away. Thank you.

Thank you to classmates and friends who stood apart, saw the new kid with clothes in a trash bag and reached out anyway. You are stronger than you know. It takes courage and you did it.

The Legal Support System

It takes courage to defend the rights of our most vulnerable citizens, those with the least power and least influence. Children in the foster care system have little, if any power. They rely on the knowledge and passion of lawyers, judges, child welfare professionals, court appointed advocates, law enforcement officers, elected officials, counselors and life coaches to work on their behalf, to understand what they are up against and make the right decisions. Kids in care are often frustrated and hurt. They push back and they push hard. Adults who have the lives of these kids in their hands must see through that, to be bigger than the easy call and risk the tougher call. It takes courage to slow the system down and take a stand. Call it for what it is. Decide. The least powerful need the strongest shoulders and the most courageous spirits standing with them. Thank you.

It all takes courage

There is an African proverb that says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. In society today, we know that to be true. The primary responsibility is carried by parents and guardians, as it should be. And every member of the broader village must do his or her part to support, encourage, stand up for and defend children. Sometimes it takes great courage to make that choice. I’m blessed to know there are many of us willing to do just that. Our society and our children are worth it.

 

Leadership and Courage

We interact with a wide variety of strong, smart and inspirational leaders throughout our life time, from every part of our world.  Leaders of all kinds are abundant. As I grew in my corporate career, helping people figure out how to use their talents to contribute and to lead, AND as I became an adoptive parent myself, I began to see links between leadership in the world and leadership as a parent.

Parenting is absolutely, hands down the greatest leadership job on earth. It is also the hardest job on earth; the job with the greatest risks; the job with the most rewards and the job that lasts a lifetime. Parenting is the leadership job with the least amount of preparation and almost no training. The fate of the free world is in our hands and we are learning and adapting ‘on the fly’.  We are remarkable, aren’t we?

Where I see an opportunity to make something better, I act. I developed The Parent’s Profile to help parents see and appreciate their natural leadership abilities.

Leadership and parenting are more aligned than you might have thought. Let me explain.

First, a simple definition of leadership. Let’s assume that leadership is the ability to influence the thoughts and direction of fellow decision makers. Yes, I believe that everyone leads and everyone is a decision maker (including our spouse, parenting partners and kids). More about that later.

Second, no two leaders are the same, lead the same way or share all the same interests, talents and values. Authentic leaders know who they are (and who they aren’t) and they lead consciously and mindfully.

Third, leaders of teams look to engage, encourage and reveal the leadership capabilities of co-leaders and team members especially in areas where the leader is not gifted and/or not interested. (When you think teams, think families.)

Are leadership and parenting starting to come together for you? If you are a parent, you are likely nodding your head. We are born to be leaders. We are just not born to lead the same way.

What does your ‘Born to Be’ leadership look like?

We are each born with instinctual preferences for pace, priority, energy and environment. From our first breath, we become calmer or more distressed depending on the match between what we experience and who we are. That natural, hardwired, gut instinct remains with us through life. We learn to adapt to either ‘fit in’ or to ‘obey’. The stress reaction we feel when we are out of our natural preferences, however, sticks with us.

TPP Grid PhotoHow we are hardwired or ‘born to be’:

Pace is the speed at which we move through the world, our own internal motor. We are born with instincts for either a faster or a slower natural pace.

Priority is the motivation of our direction. Some lean first toward task accomplishment and others toward people connection.

Energy is how we expend energy and re-charge our batteries. Some draw energy from crowds and groups. Others draw energy from a small group of friends or solitude.

Environment is the setting we live best in . We are naturally wired to accomplish life best in either a flexible or a stable setting.

One instinct is not better than the other. They are just different.

We have natural instincts (faster/slower, people/task, inward/outward, flexible/stable) and we have an intensity for each. When we know who we are, both our instincts and their intensity, we can lead and partner in leadership from a place of strength. We can’t always live in our own perfect little world, live in our preferences our way. Successful parents consciously choose when to live outside their natural instincts.  Parents who are conscious about their own instincts and intensities and understand those of their spouse can choose when and how to give and take.

A real example: Workshop

In a recent debrief for The Parent’s Profile, a couple lit up as they described how their natural instincts, their give and take, worked for them. They are a foster family. She is a stay at home mom and he works away from home and does not travel for work. She has a fast pace and task orientation priority. He has a slower pace and a people orientation priority. They described how they handed the baton back and forth as needed to keep both in the energy and effectiveness to parent their family. Because they knew and appreciated the other’s natural gifts, they shared leadership. The Parent’s Profile gave them shortcuts in language to enhance their give and take.

Kids as leaders – Are they really trying to push our buttons?

Whether biological, fostered or adopted, our kids are born with instinctual preferences for pace, priority, energy and environment. When they are born to be different from us, we can feel pushed or resisted as our kids exercise their natural instincts. It can feel like they are pushing our buttons, on purpose. Increased understanding about who they are born to be and a common language to talk about it helps parents encourage the leadership abilities of their kids and enable them to learn how to give and take as needed to lead and to live their values.

A real example: Coaching session

A single mom came in tired and warn out. “She pushes my buttons all the time. I get so frustrated with her. She goes from wonderful and cooperative to nit picking and demanding. Ugh…”.

This mom knew that she was faster paced, flexible and spontaneous. We looked closer at her daughter’s preferences and intensities. Yep, her middle school aged daughter was also faster paced but wired to be stable and structured in her living preferences.  Mom set house rules and followed them but liked to keep the schedule fluid. Daughter followed the house rules most of the time but wanted more structure in the schedule so she could anticipate what was coming and make plans with her friends (no surprise, daughter is also people oriented). The daughter was always asking mom about the how, when, and where of the schedule and mom was frustrated with the constant questions.

Through the session, mom voiced what she loved about her daughter and what she wanted to see from her daughter as she grew into her own natural leadership abilities. Mom planned for a conversation to introduce her daughter to the preferences and instincts that she has and to engage a discussion about how they can give and take more successfully at home. The Parent’s Profile gave this mom a way to understand her daughter better and the language and format to talk with her daughter.

Leadership and Courage

A mentor once told me that all of us lead from where we are. It is not about title. It is about courage. Sometimes we are comfortable at the tip of the arrow, carving a specific path for others to follow. Sometimes we are comfortable leading from behind the scenes, enabling the outcome that all seek. It is all leadership. Stepping into who we really are takes awareness and sometimes courage. Choose to lead courageously from where you are.

If you are interested in knowing your ‘Born to Be’ leadership abilities and those of your family members, The Parent’s Profile and Kaye O’Neal Coaching can help. Reach out at kayeonealcoaching@gmail.com

Love and Courage

I invite you into a conversation about adoption and coaching, both powerful and both contribute to our world in a very positive way. I am the adoptive Mom of two twenty something young men. While I am here to tell you that adoption is powerful, I am also here to broaden that view and bring coaching into partnership to ensure parents and children build the strong, long term relationships both desire. Parenting is wonderful and not for the faint of heart. Raising adopted children can take that a level deeper.

Why the interest in adoption?

Like many couples, infertility was a reality for my former husband and I. When we realized that giving birth ourselves was not imperative, adoption became a real possibility.

The interesting thing is that while I always knew I wanted to be a Mom, I never pictured myself pregnant or caring for an infant like many young girls do. I always pictured myself holding the hands of these two dark haired, dark eyed young boys. That was quite a vision for a young blond haired, blue eyed girl.

As an adult considering adoption, I stated thinking about those boys again. Turns out they did exist and little did I know I would travel twice to Bulgaria to find them and bring them to our home in the US. Dreams and visions do come true.

What I learned early on is that raising adopted children is different from raising biological children and very few people get that. The most common reaction from friends and family is, “Come on. Raising kids is raising kids. They all go through stuff growing up. It’s all the same.” I am here to tell you that it is not. As adoptive parents we love and guide our kids, as other parents do, and we also:

  • work to build healthy bonds following relinquishment, abandonment possibly even abuse
  • help our kids understand adoption and talk about it with people who sometimes ask bold or hurtful questions
  • help them cope with the real sadness that loss brings when they often can’t explain it or talk about it themselves
  • accept that their future search for self is not a rejection of us as parents or a pushing away from the love they have for us. It is their instinct to follow a biological need

Adoptive parents do what all parents do but with an added layer of complexity. It is about both love and courage.

As I faced times of challenge and complexity myself, I sought resources who truly understood adoption, deeper than the textbook descriptions. Finding few, I decided to take on the extensive training and certification needed to be a certified coach. I did something about the lack of resources and Kaye O’Neal Coaching came to life.

Why Coaching?

Coaching is client focused and client driven. Everyone at different points in their lives wants something better or stronger than what they experience in the present. People often want more clarity, more peace, more confidence or less worry, less guilt, less frustration. We feel emotionally stuck and unable to get moving in a direction we want to go. We seek  knowledge and self understanding, actions we can get behind and effective energy to fuel achievement. We want to be coached. Parents want to be coached too.

Coaching is not counseling or therapy. These modalities are powerful and on target when a client seeks greater mental health and the stability needed to function well in life. Coaching is something different. Coaching serves emotionally capable people who seek help in sorting things out, getting unstuck and drawing from effective energy to get started.

I love it when clients discover how to get unstuck and move forward in a positive way. Clients step into a course of action that they create. Their momentum is underway.

Love and Courage

Parenting is a wonderful and challenge gift. It comes with mountain top highs and deep valley lows.  It pushes us to learn, evolve and grow. Parenting biological, fostered and adopted children is love and courage in action.