Friday, June 9, 2017

What is a Permanency Pact?

Written by: Ebone Kimber, Independent Living Program Director
I worked at a residential facility for 2 ½ years engaging with young people in the foster care system, who felt forgotten by family and had little to no plans for the future.  I often reflected on my own life, remembering how difficult it was for me as a teenager to navigate life, even with both my parents present; I couldn’t fathom how difficult it must be for the young people I provided services to.  They would tell me, “no one cares about me, why should I care about myself.”  I spent countless hours convincing young people that they mattered and were important. But, they need someone consistent in their lives telling them these things. That’s when I found something called “The Permanency Pact”. It’s a free tool created by Foster Club to encourage life-long connections between a foster youth and a supportive adult.  It’s a sense of hope for a young person who may not have strong connections. In Alabama, permanent connections for older foster youth are becoming a major focus of the state.  These youth are in residential facilities, often moving around every 3-6 months, sometimes labeled as “problem children.”  They aren’t problem children. They are in a situation that no youth should have to face without a caring adult to help them. Mentoring programs are limited and many adults are often unaware of the challenges older youth in foster care experience. I realized that education was key, so I began to present The Permanency Pact as an option to these youth, stressing to them the importance of making permanent connections.

With a Permanency Pact, the youth identifies all of the adults in their life that could possibly be their life-long connection.  It’s important that the youth choose their permanent connection and it WILL NOT WORK if the individual is chosen for them. Once chosen, the adult and youth should read through the thorough packet.   A facilitator should be present, which could be the DHR worker, a therapist, or caseworker.  The adult chosen should look through the detailed list of suggested supports.  Once the adult chooses their level of commitment, the youth should review it to determine if they have additional needs to discuss.  Youth are encouraged to choose more than one supportive adult and complete a pact with each one.  Once the details have been determined, each party should receive a completed copy of the Permanency Pact and certificate.

I am practicing what I preach and am currently completing a Permanency Pact with a youth I met two years ago when I was her camp counselor.  She and I have continued that relationship and she confides in me when she needs a friendly ear.  I was willing to make the commitment to be a supportive adult in her life for the rest of her life.  While I cannot provide her a permanent home, I feel the next best thing I can do is support her through life’s crazy transitions.  I am honored to be her supportive adult. 

How amazing would it be if every adult in Alabama made this commitment to a youth in foster care?  No matter where the youth ends up, it would be great for them to know they have someone to call. Sometimes they need somewhere to do laundry, somewhere to go for Thanksgiving, someone to ask questions about car insurance, or someone to call when they feel their case is going all wrong.  These are some examples of what these youth may need and this is what the Permanency Pact provides, assurance that someone will be there.  Permanency Pacts are not widely known in Alabama at this time, but there are efforts to spread the word and I’m doing my part to share the message. 

Click here to download the Permanency Pact created by Foster Club.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Happy 105th Birthday!

 In honor of our 105th year, we're sharing some important milestones from our history.

Did You Know?
  • CAS was formed in 1912 by a group of prominent citizens in Birmingham to care for dependent and neglected children in Birmingham and Jefferson County.
  • The incorporation papers were signed on February 21, 1913.
  • CAS helped care for children in need before the existence of the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
  • In 1917, CAS organized as the "Alabama Children's Aid Society" to serve as a state-wide organization.
  • In 1924, the Children's Aid Society became part of the Community Chest Fund, what is now United Way of Central Alabama.
  • One of our former Executive Directors, Will Gaines Holmes, also celebrated her 105th birthday this year.
  • Immediate past Executive Director, Joyce Greathouse, shares her birthday, February 21, with Children's Aid Society.

Thank you for being a part of our 105-year history!

Gratefully accepting birthday gifts!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Considering the Future For Youth in Foster Care

What’s the Point of Adopting a 17-year-old Kid?
It might be easy to think, “They only have another year and then they’re out.” 
But it's not that simple. 
Article by: Jessica GoodCited from

A quick story about young-adult me: When I was in college, I got a scholarship and grants to cover most of my tuition. I worked the night shift at a grocery store to pay for insurance, transportation, and my phone, and I took my classes during the day. At one point, I got into a car that cost much, much more to maintain than I had anticipated. I was at a loss—I needed a car to get to campus, I was working as much as I could while still leaving time for class, and I didn’t have enough money to keep my car running.

Insert mom and dad. They helped me trade the car for something more reliable, and paid the difference. They stepped in so that I could have the transportation and the time I needed to attend class. I thanked them endlessly, stayed in school, and graduated on time. The end.

It’s not a terribly noteworthy story, and it comes from a person who has always had the security of a family backing me up. But, in researching for this article, I considered what the outcome might have been had I found myself in that situation, at 18, with no parents to help me. Honestly, something as ordinary as a high-maintenance car that I couldn’t afford could have meant dropping out of school and losing my scholarship.

But that’s the thing...

My parents helped me apply for that scholarship in the first place. They helped me study for my SATs, helped me decide on a school, and helped me apply for jobs. I lived at home to save on housing costs. I grew up knowing security and protection. When it comes down to it, it is impossible for me to imagine what my life might have been like at 18 without the influence of my parents, because they helped me, quite literally, all the time. I knew that if I failed, they would help me recover and move on. I just knew it. And I still know it. So how could I ever fully understand living without that?

It’s an impossible hypothetical for someone who has not lived with an utter lack of support.

In 2012 in the United States, 23,439 children in foster care “aged out” before finding a forever family.

That’s 64 kids a day who turned 18—a rite of passage that should be relished and celebrated—and found themselves alone. No support. No family to fall back on. No one to help with the bills or to bail them out of a bad situation like so many parents have done for so many young adults throughout time.

I think it might be easy, when considering adoption, to think “Oh, they’re 17 . . . they only have another year and then they’re out” and turn attention to a child with more time left in the system. It might seem to make better sense.

But whether or not it makes sense doesn’t much matter to the thousands of kids who face the world with no family, no support system, no security net.

Less than 3% of those “aged out” kids failed by the system will earn a degree, but 75% will deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

More than two thirds of the young women will be pregnant by their 21st birthday.

Half of them still won’t have jobs six full years after being emancipated.

The most unsettling statistic of all: 20% will find themselves homeless. 20%. That means that the emancipated teens of 2012 will result in over 4,600 homeless young adults.

That is staggering. Truly.

Imagine what help with college applications and SAT prep would mean to one of the teenagers in care. Imagine what it would mean for a parent to step in and say “I think you need help and we’re going to find it together.” Just think of what could happen if someone sat down with them and helped fill out job applications and practiced for interviews.

The difference a dedicated parent can make in the life of a child is no less significant if that child is 17 days old or 17 years old. And to a child who has endured the trauma of being permanently removed from the care of his or her biological family, who was placed into state care with the expectation that they would be given a more secure, safer situation, the need for that protection is all the more urgent.

Adopting a 17-year-old isn’t about giving them the childhood they never had crammed into one year; it’s about giving them a family to turn to for the rest of their life.

And we never, ever outgrow the need for a family.

Click here to read the full article from Jessica Good at 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hungry and Hoarding

Surprisingly food “issues” are one of the most common and easily solvable challenges that we see, as APAC Counselors working with adopted children.  To understand how to treat hoarding behavior it is important to first understand the primary cause behind it. Children that have experienced early neglect will often fixate on food because their brain is constantly reminding them of when they were hungry. They could have just eaten a large, delicious, well balanced meal and 10 minutes later you could “catch” this same child stealing/hoarding/eating more food when they could not possibly be hungry. Please know that it is not a result of a conscious decision to hoard/steal/hide/the food, nor are they choosing to disobey/defy you - this is purely the survival portion of their brain dictating their actions. In fact, when they are in this mindset, there is little to no engagement from the frontal cortex which is the executive/decision making portion of the brain. This is purely a survival tactic.

The solution: Access, access, access. The last thing we want to do is limit food, which further perpetuates feelings of shame, fear, and insecurity which drives the resulting maladaptive behaviors such as stealing and hoarding to ever increasing levels.

What we recommend: Provide two “YES” baskets of food. One that sits on the dining room table/kitchen counter, the other placed in their bedroom along with a bottle of water. These baskets should be filled with healthy, appropriate snacks: apples, oranges, bananas, trail mix, dried bananas, dried apples, peanuts, etc. The child/children are able to access this food at any time. They do not have to ask permission to have some, nor are they ever told “no” that they cannot have a snack. If mom/dad is literally five seconds from serving dinner and that child grabs a baggy of peanuts, parents need to be ok with that. No comments, no correction, no sighing….no reaction. For this behavior to dissipate, the message has to be clearly communicated to the child that they will always have access to food. This may require quite a bit of deep breathing from the parent in the beginning, but remind yourself each time you see them taking food from the basket that they are in fact healing their brain and also that everything they are eating is healthy….so no harm done.

What you may see: The first day the child may eat every scrap of food in those baskets. The second day the child may eat every scrap of food in those baskets. The third day they child may eat every scrap of food in those baskets. But I assure you, if this intervention is done correctly you will quite quickly see that food is no longer an issue for your kiddo. Once the signal to the brain is sufficiently received, this behavior can (and usually does) disappear for good. However, in order for this to work there are two critical elements to remember:
  1. The baskets have to remain full at all times. Make Costco your new best friend. You need to always have a stash of backup in your home so that you can keep it filled. The minute you allow the basket to be empty the effect is severely diminished.
  2. It has to always be a YES. You cannot say no, at any time, for any reason. It can never be punitive, or taken away or discouraged. When this strategy is first implemented into your home it is important to have a short conversation with the child regarding the new policy in your home. “Hey sweet girl, dad and I have been talking and we decided something new! You may have anything you want from these two baskets at any time and you don’t even have to ask permission! Even if you wake up in the night and you are hungry you may have anything you want from your baskets.” Etc.…
Also, here is a wonderful book, “Love me, Feed me” by Rowell Katja, MD, that is available in the APAC Resource Library for free! Or find it on Amazon.

As always, the APAC Counseling staff is here for you! We are more than happy to help out by answering questions and are a great resource as you navigate the complexities of raising a child from a hard place.

-Sonia Martin, MSW, LGSW
APAC Family Counselor
Sonia Martin is our APAC Family Counselor in Montgomery. She is also a seasoned adoptive mom, with seven boys! If you would like to get connected to our free APAC Counseling service, call 866.803.2722.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Parenting Outside of the Box

I’ve heard many people say the life they have now is not at all what they thought it would be when they were younger, you know, the time when they used to dream big dreams. When my husband, Jeremy, and I married 13 years ago, we were ready to take on the world, we envisioned many things for our lives, one being that we both desired to grow our family through adopting older children.

~The Sauder Family~

Life rolled along with careers and unexpected fertility issues. We endured the loss of a baby through miscarriage and learned what it meant to grieve something you never had the opportunity to fully know. God heard my cries in the night for children and often I begged him for twins. Almost a decade of infertility guided us back gently to our original desire- adopt older children. I would learn later how God used our sorrow in the infertility, waiting and uncertainty to soften our hearts towards children we could adopt who would know more than a thing or two about grieving loss. He would show us how we could use all of these things to better know our family and identify what we were prepared to offer children who came from hurt places. We would need this perspective in order to become loss and attachment experts…meaning as you go through your own pain you realize you can build on your strengths, ask for help with your needs and have the compassion to open your eyes to someone else’s pain.

We discovered we could work together in partnership through the wonderful services of APAC and were drawn to the children available for adoption. Learning all we could from the GPS (adoption preparation classes) offered, we were excited, nervous, overwhelmed, terrified. We took things to heart, every good and bad story and all the what-ifs, truly ensuring we got to know the children waiting for us. The ponderings were endless as we assessed the impact this would mean for our family… What would our child/children be like? We knew we could provide the crucial necessities like help them build self-esteem and assure their health and safety…But could we also effectively communicate God’s love to them? Could we be patient, offer a listening ear and not be defensive as the child grieved his/her past?

I remember the night we found the boys’ profile on the computer. It was a gentle whisper in our hearts that led us to inquire about them. Armed with all the information we had learned and leaning on the prayers of friends and family, we felt assured we were making the best informed decision for our family. And deep in our hearts, we just knew this was “it.” We were thankful beyond words to be matched to twin fraternal boys, 7 years old, full of life. As we all adjusted to being a family of four, there were many times I marveled at how we had been perfectly matched to our children.

Becoming instant parents to 7 year olds has its unique set of challenges and more days than not I ask for their forgiveness when I screw up in parenting and we grow, learn, try to communicate effectively and work at this thing called life together. Parenting also opened my eyes to see when you talk of managing behaviors that definitely includes starting with your own.

Following the adoption of our boys, a few years later we attempted fertility treatments. Since God is in the business of doing more that we imagine, I gave birth this past October to our second set of fraternal twins. I believe the sweetest part of this is that both of my big boys prayed unceasingly for more siblings. One boy prayed for sisters, another prayed for brothers. So God gave them a boy and a girl.

My oldest children are my heroes. They have taught me how to both embrace, remember and honor the past and still enjoy the present and future. That you can love and belong to many people, and that connections to those we have loved never die and they never should.

And so to those who think big dreams are only for the young, I would say that it is less about age and more about follow through. That life isn’t what you expect but cherish the ride. That somebody somewhere needs your story. For when God places a desire deep in your soul, He intends for it to be nurtured, sought out and explored. And maybe when you embrace your own story, you can open your heart to others who do not yet have a voice and are just waiting to be heard.
- Tonya Sauder, Adoptive Parent

Tonya is the parent moderator for our APAC Adoptive Parent Facebook group! If you are an adoptive parent living in Alabama, and would like to join in the conversation, receive encouragement and gain support from other adoptive parents, join our group! For more information on how to get connected, email Tonya at or visit our site,

If you or someone you know is interested in adoption, contact our APAC Adoption Support Team, 1-866-4-AL-KIDS or visit our website,