Dear Supporters of CHI’s brand new Foster/Adoptive Parents:

Yay! Your friends or family members are a CHI certified family – & they have just welcomed a new kiddo (or six) into their lives. Here’s how you can play a vital role during this lovely yet extremely difficult time in their lives. When families open their hearts and homes to children in need of safe, nurturing care – there are almost always challenges. Rarely is it butterflies and rainbows – there are almost always times where it will be the HaRdEsT thing they’ve ever done before in their lives.

Pay special attention during the first few weeks of a new placement – as that time can be absolute chaos! The difficult work of adjusting to one another – is also impacted by an overwhelming amount of appointments, in-home social worker visits, medical/dental assessments, and maybe even court ordered visits with biological family members.

While you probably want to see the kiddo(s) with your very own eyes, it’s important that the child(ren) not be bombarded with visitors while the family is working on adjustment, bonding and attachment. So, let’s get practical with different ways you can support a family (instead of popping by to introduce yourself):

Here are meaningful ways you can support foster families:

1. Feed the family

You might consider preparing a casserole or family dinner, stock their freezer with meals, or pack a basket full of yummy snacks. Everyone’s schedule and abilities are different, so don’t feel pressure to perform like Rachel Ray – simply show up in the right moment. Even a simple coffee for a foster parent with a new placement could be just the boost they need. If you’re a terrible cook (like this author) – volunteering to complete grocery runs is another supportive option.

Consider taking your meal delivery to the next level by setting the family up with a steady stream of yummy support coming their way. This is especially important in the first couple of weeks after a new placement arrives. Sign up Genius, is just one of the many websites available to easily make this process efficient and helpful. You can easily enlist the family’s support network to help out.

3. Gather supplies

Be proactive and ask what the family needs before and after a new placement arrives. Maybe it’s diapers and a baby gate? Maybe its backpacks and school supplies? Be a hero and order those items to magically show up on their porch via Amazon. If their list is long, consider organizing an Amazon wishlist and recruit the family’s friends or church community to aid in filling it.

4. Welcome a new placement

When an infant, toddler, or teenager arrives to a new foster home, this time can be loaded with different emotions for everyone involved. Help the foster parents, as well as their own biological children, welcome the child into their home. Talk with them about how you can help with the transition. Oftentimes, kids in care arrive with very few belongings, so consider gathering clothing, personal hygiene items, toys, or school supplies. You could deliver a gift or activity that the family could enjoy together that first evening or week. You could offer gently used items that your own children have outgrown.

5. Give the gift of time

Understand that this should be a time of cocooning – the family is getting to know one another and appreciates when others respect their need for space. They should be focused on each other until a time where things are settled and they can start introducing new people to their child(ren).

Every foster family could however benefit from a few people stepping up into their primary support circle and committing to help when it’s needed most. Ways primary supporters can help are by:

  • If the family has other children, regularly providing transportation to those children would be extremely helpful. Children in the foster care system often have a significant number of additional appointments, so helping get their other kiddos to school, after-school activities, and appointments can be a huge blessing.
  • Rather than popping by for a visit – you could instead host the family’s former children so that they could have 1:1 time with the new arrival(s). You could also invite one child over to play and give the parent the option to choose who will go.
  • It’s always encouraging to a foster parent to hear , “I would like to get background checked so I can serve you without restrictions.” Yes, you can do a whole lot without getting a background check, but you will be available in an emergency to do overnight care, regular transportation, or regular babysitting. Getting a background check doesn’t obligate you to anything, but it does allow you to be a family’s back-up in a pinch.
  • Offer to do whatever the foster parent needs once a week for two hours. Basically, become Alice from the Brady Bunch. You could offer to: Fold laundry, read to a child, wash the dishes, run an errand, pick up prescriptions, make dinner, scrub a toilet, mow a lawn or sort through clothes. You could do whatever every day stuff they need at that very moment!

6. Check in and listen

This is a big one. Foster parenthood (and parenthood in general), and the busyness and complexity that comes with it, can often leave foster parents feeling isolated or overwhelmed. Regularly and proactively check in with your friends to see how they’re doing. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Pray with them. This might need to happen after hours, by text, phone or by facetime. Finally, try not to give unsolicited advice; just be with them and listen. If the family has specific questions or wonders, offer to do some Google research for them.

9. Gift them a membership or day passes

Foster families and kids in care enjoy the same activities that you do! If you’d like to give them a meaningful gift – consider a day pass to a nearby water park or activity center, a membership to the zoo or the city pool. This could be such a fun and unexpected way to brighten up life for a family — and could be a great choice for a family in your church or neighborhood you don’t know as well but want to serve.

Remember, you don’t have to do everything on this list, so choose what works best for you.

Just know that any gesture – will do!


Tips for Scholarship Eligibility: For former foster or adopted children & birth parents

On occasion, CHI is contacted by parents seeking financial aid resources for their child’s journey to college.  As result, we’ve compiled a list of resources relevant to individuals who have experienced being a foster, adoptive child or birth parent.

  1. It appears that resources change and evolve – please consider these links as a starting place for your own research.
  2. Talk with the schools you are interested in & overtly ask about award & aid for what they refer to as “unique” situations. These may include circumstances like being a single parent, orphan or foster care recipient. They may have a unique scholarship pool that your child may eligible for.
  3. Foster care recipient scholarships are typically awarded directly from schools or small organizations. Ask what’s available as you consider school options.
  4. Public and private scholarships originate at the state and federal levels, providing access to college for former foster children.  Each program employs unique application protocols, so specifics are best handled by individual program administrators and campus financial aid offices.
  5. Fresno State’s Renaissance Program offers grants and loans that are exclusively available to the subset of students who are adopted or currently in foster care.
  6. The National Foster Parent Association offers scholarships to NFPA members whose birth, foster and US adopted youth wish to further their education beyond high school, including college or university studies, vocational/technical school or junior college.  Scholarships are awarded to high school-level students who are graduating or getting their GED.  The parents, or adult, of a scholarship applicant must be a member, or join, the NFPA.
  7. Casey Family Programs is dedicated to improving the child welfare system and  providing educational opportunities for foster children.  Organizations like Foster Care to Success administer Casey Family scholarship dollars for needy foster children.  Applicants who were in foster care for at least one year prior to reaching their 18th birthday are eligible to compete for annual scholarships worth $1500 – $6000. Casey Family Scholarships enable foster youth under the age of 25 to attend national colleges and universities.
  8. Horatio Alger Scholarships disburses between $2,500 and $10,000 annually, to each qualified recipient. Funds can be used to finance undergraduate education for needy adopted students pursuing bachelor’s degrees at accredited American colleges and universities.
  9. Change a Life Foundation’s Scholarship Program is designed to bridge the financial gap for college-bound students. Scholarships assist economically disadvantaged students who excel academically to attend the university or college of their choice. Scholarships are awarded up to $5,000 for unmet university expenses in the areas of tuition, housing, meal plan, books, and health insurance. The Foundation awards college scholarships to amazing students from various counties as well as to Emancipated Youth from all over California. The Foundation also provides Scholarship Renewal Awards for scholars to reapply for a second year of funding.
  10. Research State-Specific Foster Child Scholarships and Tuition Waiver Programs which can be rich with opportunities for former foster care and adopted students seeking aid.
  11. The Adoption Network Law Center Scholarship Program gives back to the adoption community and shows support to Birth Parents and Adoptees who are interested in pursuing higher education. Adoption Network Law Center awards up to $10,000 in scholarships in November, in honor of National Adoption Month.Please comment on this post, if you find sources we should add to our list. Thank you and best wishes on your child’s journey to a higher education.

Talking about Hard Things is HARD.


You may have heard about a new Netflix series titled 13 Reasons Why, which is based on the novel by Jay Asher. The series portrays the story of a 17-year-old girl who takes her own life and leaves behind 13 recordings explaining the reasons (and persons) that contributed to her suicide. This show is rated TV-MA (not appropriate for children under 17) but we are aware that younger children are watching it as well. Even children who have not seen the show have likely heard about it at school. Due to the show’s popularity and mature content which includes scenes involving drugs, bullying, rape and suicide, we felt it was important to inform our clients of this social trend.

We strongly encourage you to consider the age, emotional health and developmental stage of your child before allowing them to watch. While the makers of the show have expressed the goal of raising important issues, there are concerns that it glamorizes suicide.

We also know that teens who were adopted have an attempted suicide rate that is higher than their non-adopted peers.   Of course, this doesn’t mean that ALL adoptees are depressed or have suicidal ideations – but it is true that those who were adopted have different, hard and confusing things to cope with and assimilate into their identities.  These hurts, struggles and curiosities can make it all the more hard for an adoptee to reach out with questions or requests for help.  The complexities of adoption might need to be part of your conversations about suicide in adoptive family homes.

We feel that children with a genetic risk factor for depression or a family history of suicide may be particularly vulnerable to this show’s messaging and imagery. Any teen who’s experienced a sexual assault should avoid the show, as those scenes will likely serve as emotional triggers. Be especially careful when considering whether children who have a history of suicidal thoughts, depression or mental health concerns should watch 13 Reasons Why.

If your child is watching this series, we recommend you watch it with them and discuss it afterward.   Follow-up conversations provide a good opportunity to talk with your child about important issues such as stress, depression, bullying, peer pressure and suicide. This can include how to support a struggling friend, or about their own feelings. If your child is expressing warning signs, don’t be afraid to ask them directly how they are feeling about suicide. We do know that an open conversation is the most important factor in suicide prevention.

You talk to your children about behaviors which can put them at personal risk -and suicide is no different. It’s something you CAN and SHOULD talk about with your children!  Contrary to myth, talking about suicide CANNOT plant the idea in someone’s head. It can actually open up communication about a topic that is often kept a secret. And secrets that are exposed to the rational light of day often become less powerful and scary. Through conversation, you also give your child permission to bring up the subject again in the future.  Approach this topic in the same way as other subjects that are important to you, but may or may not be important to your child.


  • Timing is everything! Pick a time when you have the best chance of getting your child’s attention.
  • Think about what you want to say ahead of time and rehearse a script if necessary.
  • Be honest. If this a hard subject for you to talk about, admit it! (“You know, I never thought this was something I’d be talking with you about, but I think it’s really important”). By acknowledging your discomfort, you give your child permission to acknowledge his/her discomfort, too.
  • Ask for your child’s response. Don’t do all the talking. Ask open-ended questions.
  • Be direct! (“What do you think about suicide?”; “Is it something that any of your friends talk about?”; “The statistics make it sound pretty common. Have you ever thought about it? What about your friends?”)
  • Listen to what your child has to say. You’ve asked the questions, so simply consider your child’s answers. If you hear something that worries you, be honest about that, too (“What you’re telling me has really gotten my attention and I need to think about it some more. Let’s talk about this again, okay?”)
  • Don’t judge. And do not offer quick solutions or fixes.
  • Don’t overreact or under react. Overreaction will close off any future communication on the subject. Under reacting, especially in relation to suicide, is often just a way to make ourselves feel better. ANY thoughts or talk of suicide (“I felt that way a while ago but don’t any more”) should raise a flag for concern and follow-up.

Here are some possible warning signs that should get our attention:

STATEMENTS that convey a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, or preoccupation with death (“ Life doesn’t seem worth it sometimes.”; “I wish I were dead.”; “Heaven’s got to be better than this.”)

BEHAVIORS that are different from the way your child acted in the past, especially things like talking about death or suicide, taking dangerous risks, withdrawing from activities or sports, or using alcohol or drugs.

FEELINGS that, again, seem different from the past like irritability, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest.

SITUATIONS that can serve as ‘trigger points’ for suicidal behaviors. These include things like loss or death, getting in trouble at home, in school, or with the law, or impending changes for which your child feels scared or unprepared.

If you notice any of these things in kids who have always been impulsive, made previous suicide attempts or threats, or seem vulnerable in any way, you really should get consultation from a mental health professional.

The 24/7 number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: is 1-800-273-8255.  Put it in your phone. We hope you never need it for yourself or for anyone else, but we hope you have it if you do.  Our social workers are always here to support our families ~ please never hesitate to make inquiry if we can be of use to you.


JOINT JOURNALING: A powerful communication tool between parent and child

As parents, we strive to help our children understand who they are & what they believe in. We want our children to understand and recognize their feelings, to be able to calm themselves when they’re upset, and to have the coping skills to overcome struggles. We need to help them grow into their authentic selves feeling loved and accepted.  Self-awareness exercises like the one I’m describing today, can help kiddos come to know themselves better.

A fun and useful exercise between parent and child is to pass a journal back and forth nightly.  Pre-teens and Teens really seem to do well with this concept.  My own daughter and I do this and I’ve learned so much about her sweet little 12-year-old soul.  I believe talking and journaling are not mutually exclusive – but they are mutually beneficial!!  Journaling has become a tool in our toolbox to be sure there is an open door communication policy and in helping my daughter come to “know” herself better.


If you choose to employ a journal, you’ll find you communicate a little differently when you write, because you have time to think.  It’s also quite possible that the child will “hear” you better when you write.  And, you might notice that she’ll be braver when she writes.  Sometimes writing and reading gives you just enough distance… to be totally honest!

This exercise can be especially important when children have difficult topics, memories or feelings they are struggling with. Remain aware that your questions can bring up strong feelings/memories for foster/adoptive children.   Remain aware that addressing these strong feelings in writing gives you ample time to process and formulate your best response.

When kiddos reach middle school, it’s becomes very typical for them to communicate through writing.  They don’t call each other, they text!! It’s exciting to see how your journal paves the way for your child to talk to you as they do their friends.

Mutually, you will find meaning in this exercise and will come to appreciate the time capsule you are constructing.  Everything, from what you’re writing about, to her handwriting and the expressions she uses, captures her in this moment.  Your journal pages can be more powerful than a photograph.

You’ll need to decide a couple of key things: 

Who is allowed to see this journal? For trust to be built, you both must honor this decision.  The journal is just between my daughter and myself in our house.

How will you pass the journal back and forth?  We leave it under each others pillow on most nights. 

When can you expect a response?  Sometimes life gets in the way and we just let each other know that we weren’t able to get our entry done.  We leave a sticky note that says “Response needed ASAP” if it’s urgent. 

Do you want to use a fancy journal or just use a standard notebook?  Either works great; although the blank journal or spiral notebook allows for more flexibility and the ability to come up with your own questions/topics.  We’ve used all three, including a wonderful journal called Just Between Us: A no-stress, no-rules journal for girls and their moms.  You can find it HERE.

What to write?  It’s up to you!  There are no rules for this activity.  Of course, you should do what feels right for you!  Some days you might feel like there’s nothing to say.  Don’t be afraid to doodle or share an inspiring quote instead. Consider using the below list of questions as journaling prompts.  As you get started, it might feel more comfortable to stick to the more “superficial” of these topics.

  • What are your strengths?
  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  • What are your goals for this school year?
  • Who do you talk to when you have a problem? How do they help?
  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • What are you worried about?
  • What do you wish you parents knew about you? What do you wish your friends or classmates knew about you?
  • If you could have one wish, what would it be?
  • What do you feel ashamed of?
  • Where do you feel safest?
  • If you weren’t afraid, what would you do?
  • Have you ever felt like a failure? How did you cope?
    How can you tell that you’re getting angry?  What does your body feel like?
  • What’s something that adults say to you that’s really stuck with you? Do you think their right?
  • What do you do when people don’t seem to like you?
  • What is your proudest accomplishment?
  • What things feel “in” your control? What things feel “out” of your control?
  • What do you like about your school? What do you dislike?
  • What do you do when you’re stressed out?
  • What’s something nice you can say about yourself?
  • What’s your happiest memory?
  • What do you do when you’re feeling down? Do you think it’s okay to cry?  Do you think it’s ok to yell?
  • What is your favorite book, movie, band, food, color, animal?
  • What do you like about yourself?
  • What do you like talking about? What do you find it hard to talk about?
  • What are three things you might like to be when you grow up?
  • Who are your best friends? What do you look for in a friend?  What are challenges you face in friendship?
  • Before you fall asleep, what do you think about? What do you dream about?  What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up?
  • Have you ever let fear stop you from doing something you wanted to do?
  • How are you and I the same? How are you and I different?
  • What do you need to know about crushes and dating?
  • What are things you’d love for us to do together?
  • If you could do one crazy thing without consequences, what would it be?
  • What do you love about school? What do you not love about school?  How do you feel about your grades?  What has your greatest learning experience been?
  • How do you feel about the activities you’re involved in? What takes up too much of your time?  What do you wish you could spend your time doing?
  • These are Compliments I want to give you… What compliments would you like to give me?
  • What have you learned from our journal?


In the event that you know journaling is NOT your thing, these questions have a lot of value as talking points too.  Talking with your children is one of the most critical steps of healthy parenting. Speaking honestly and clearly, responding calmly, and listening carefully will occur only if children are provided with models and opportunities to practice. Kids need to learn to share more than just their belongings…

~Stacy Dinkel, M.A.











Gratitude is the best attitude: A Thanksgiving lesson for families


Parenting foster and or adoptive children can be a challenge at any time of the year, but holidays can sometimes seem extra stressful (especially when adverse or negative memories surround previous holidays).  Practicing gratitude is a fantastic practice… but, it may be especially good medicine for kiddos (& their family members) who struggle with a light case of holiday blues. *

Practicing gratitude regularly not only helps kids to take a small break, it has scientifically-proven physical and emotional benefits.  Gratitude brings happiness, peace, relaxation, love, compassion, enthusiasm, confidence, and a sense of satisfaction with life.  All of these emotions reduce the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol – and can improve some aspects of mental health.

Here are some creative gratitude lessons to try with your kids, which will benefit the whole family:
1. Recognize that there are many different ways to cultivate gratitude and your older child will need to have some freedom to explore what works best for them.  Let them lead the way by asking them to create a new gratitude tradition for the whole family.  This allows for creativity and makes it feel less like a chore.
2. Go at it indirectly by fostering altruism.  Helping others or committing “random acts of kindness” leads to a feeling of gratitude.
3. Suggest a family 30-day (or even just 7-day) gratitude challenge and have everyone keep a hand-written gratitude journal where they have to notice at least 1 thing to be grateful for every day.  Buy a little journal for each family member to personalize and decorate along with a special pen to make it feel fresh and new. Click here for a link to fun gratitude journal prompts.
4 Create a fun gratitude conversation at dinner or in the car ride between activities.  Click here for a link to a conversation starter activity.
5 Challenge the family to a gratitude scavenger hunt.  Help your child actively find and name the abundance of reasons they have to feel grateful.  Click here for several gratitude scavenger hunts.

What are YOU thankful for? Honoring your gratitude is meant to make you feel GOOD, so be creative and have fun.  These gifts are all around us, but when we’re new to mindfulness, it’s often difficult to notice them.  Make it a family project!

(*If you’re managing significant holiday blues  – please contact your social worker for advice).