B&GH Fayetteville Foster Parent Training a Success

August 15, 2018 

Fayetteville, NC – “You are a very special group. You are doing something not everyone will or can do. You have devoted your lives to children. I am honored to be among you and I thank you for the children.”

These passionate words of gratitude were part of the closing given by nationally recognized author and trainer Donna Foster during the 2018 Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina Foster Parent Training held Saturday, August 11, at the Bordeaux Convention Center at Ramada Plaza.

Foster was the keynote speaker at the annual event designed to provide training and support for foster parents. Funding for the event was provided through the support of the Cumberland Community Foundation, Walmart of Burgaw, the St. James Service Club and individual donors.

“It has been an honor to serve the children and families of Fayetteville and Cumberland County for the past several years,” said B&GH President Gary Faircloth. “To be able to have this event at such a fine facility in Fayetteville is a wonderful demonstration of the commitment to continue this service.”

B&GH Vice President for Community Based Services Donna Yalch agrees.

“This was our first large scale training event in Fayetteville and we are grateful for all the support we received to make the day one that made a difference,” said Yalch. “This is one of the ways our B&GH family works to support the most vulnerable among us – children who have suffered from abuse and neglect.”

The audience of 200 foster parents and trainers from across the region attended the event that included vendors, lunch, door prizes and school supplies in addition to the informational presentations. The school supplies were provided through the generosity of community donors. Prizes were provided by AMC Movie Theater, Bravery Kids Gym, Brenda Turner, Bubba’s 33, Candice Brown, Defy Gravity, Jessica Collins, Little Gym of Fayetteville, Mellow Mushroom, Nu Bella Salon, Round-A-Bout Roller Skating Center and Sherefe Mediterranean Restaurant.

“Our goal was to provide useful information for our foster parents to earn their training hours while also having fun among others who can understand what they are experiencing,” said Tracey Natale, director of family foster care based in the B&GH Fayetteville office. “We were thrilled to have three speakers who provided information that tied so closely together and can be implemented.”

Dr. Shenae Whitehead, clinical director of Heart to Heart Counseling and Wellness Center in Fayetteville, started the day with a presentation on the effects of trauma on attachment.

“As a foster parent you have to do a lot,” said Whitehead. “You have to be a teacher, a medical assistant, a therapist, and a parent. You are expected to do all that, but in the end it is really worth it.”

Whitehead shared both the scientific information and the personal experiences she has seen of the impact of trauma on children. As she serves a number of foster parents and families in her practice, she has seen the struggles up close.

“Their birth parents have instilled in the children that there is no safety,” Whitehead said. “It has taken their sense of security away. That is why it is so important for kids to have people like us. It is very important for us to meet them where they are and do everything we can to instill the sense of safety and security for them.”

Foster Care Licensing Worker LeeAnn Evans echoed Whitehead’s sentiment as she shared her own experiences as a foster child in North Carolina from age 5 to 18.

“The kids coming to your home aren’t okay,” Evans said. “They need to find a safe place where they can learn to trust. They need you to be predictable and follow through. We need people to fight for us. We need people who will show up for us. Keep planting the seeds of hope and love.”

Foster agreed, “We have to be trustworthy. We want kids to trust us, to feel safe. We have to be trustworthy every day.”

Having been a foster parent for 17 years, Foster learned to help provide that place of safety and trust through humor and meeting the children where they are.

“We have to learn to think outside the box,” said Foster. “You have to be different because the kids we serve are different. We have to remember what it is like to be a child so that we can help these children be children. There is something so joyful in meeting these children where they are.”

Foster explored several pieces of humor research that show an impact on dealing with stress and helping children grow.

“You could be healthier just by laughing,” Foster said. “Laughter yields creativity. Humor can ease the tension.”

Foster shared several stories including a story of one foster parent who took in children from toddler to 5. One day during a visit to the office, all four of the children in her care were running around the building, going up to the various desks and asking for candy. The woman excused herself to get her children under control.

“She stepped into the hallway and said, ‘Quack, quack. Quack, quack, quack,’” Foster recounted. “And all of the children stopped what they were doing and excused themselves to go. And all four of those children fell into line behind their foster mother and quacked.

“This woman later shared that she wanted to have a signal for the children that was fun but would also get them to behave. And she found it!”

In addition to using creative fun as a foster parent, Foster emphasized the importance of taking pictures and writing down stories for foster children.

“When we go to family events, there are always storytellers,” Foster said. “For these children, they do not have a storyteller. We have got to be the storytellers for them.”

Foster suggests taking lots of candid photos and writing down the stories to go along with them.

“You have to remind kids that they have happy moments,” she said. “Create the happy memories. They won’t remember how many meals you fixed. It is up to you to create the joyful, loving memories. And make sure that the kids hear over and over again how much you care about them.”

For more information about becoming a foster parent, contact Community Based Services at Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina at 1-877-211-5322 or visit our website http://www.boysandgirlshomes.org/Services/Community-Based/Foster-Care.

About Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina

Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, Inc., has been helping children since 1954. Since then, more than 7,500 children have benefitted from the services of the not-for-profit, 501(c)3 agency. Its mission is to provide a comprehensive array of services for children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or other family dysfunction. B&GH offers adoption, family and therapeutic foster care, as well as residential care on the campus at Lake Waccamaw. The campus features a SACS-accredited public charter school with a middle and high school curriculum, vocational education, recreation facilities, farm, chapel and cottage life. As many as 260 vulnerable children are cared for through the residential and community-based services provided by B&GH at any given time. B&GH is nationally accredited by the Council on Accreditation.