Monday, November 23, 2015

Fostering New Beginnings

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), over half of the children adopted from foster care were adopted by their foster parents. Many of these families are inspired to continue fostering other children after the adoption is finalized. Preparing for and adjusting to having new foster children enter the home is no small task for adoptive parents. There are numerous considerations parents need to have when deciding to foster after adoption. However, unfortunately there is no “cookie-cutter” recipe for success as every child and family dynamic is different. So how do parents actually pull it off? We decided to do some informal research by asking parents and professionals what they see as the keys to their success:

ü Ensure that your current family system is settled. Foster children need parents who can listen, connect, and be responsive in order to meet all of their needs. If you feel stretched thin or always “on your heels,” then the fostering process will not be as successful. This falls on you to know when your family is emotionally and behaviorally stable before adding more factors that can contribute to dysregulation. It is not only permissible but important that adoptive families are stabilized and attached prior to fostering again.

ü Open and constant communication between the adults is vital. The adults need to be in constant communication so that confusion and mixed messages are minimal. This begins with the parents   being on the same page as you set the tone for the household emotional climate. There also needs to be open and honest communication between you and the social worker throughout the fostering process. The social worker will oftentimes know very little going in; however, the sharing of what is known can help you more adequately prepare for and adjust to the changes ahead.

ü Open and constant communication within the family. One parent explained that they sit down with their children individually ahead of time to talk about how they feel about bringing a child into their home. They also facilitate a weekly “talk around the  table” where every person can say what he/she wants to say in a safe environment.  She commented, “If the kids don’t feel comfortable, then the whole family isn’t comfortable.” She feels these family discussions are vital to their success as a foster family.

ü Be flexible and unconditional. It is becoming clearer that expectations and assumptions are the  undercurrent of disappointment and frustration for parents. Standards, values, and beliefs are very important for all families. However, it’s important to be aware of when they begin to inhibit the  attachment with your children. Having an open state of mind will 1) enable you to be more connected and responsive as well as less frustrated in the face of difficult behaviors and circumstances; 2) assist in understanding your limits more fully and respecting them; and 3) model an invaluable and timely life lesson for everyone in the home on how to gracefully navigate during turbulent times.

- Brock Sellers, LCSW, is an APAC Family Support Worker
(Special thanks to Raye Livingston and Donna Crow, LPC for their contribution)

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Better Together: A Weekend Retreat for Adoptive Parents

Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care about your children, it means you do! APAC is hosting an exciting event in the Birmingham area for adoptive parents. This fun and relaxing weekend will be a great opportunity for parents to get away and enjoy time together while learning about topics related specifically to adoptive parenting.

“Better Together," our FREE retreat for will help adoptive parent’s explore the deep value of family and community, while connecting together. Join us the evening of Friday, September 25 beginning at 6:00 pm and all day Saturday, September 26 until 5:00 pm, at The Church at Brook Hills (Student Center) in Birmingham. (Register here.)

We are very excited about our speakers and the sessions that have been lined up for this weekend! The workshops will cover the following topics:
  • How do I take care of me without hurting attachment? Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care about your children, it means you do.
  • Hungry for time as a family? Learn how to get the whole family involved in the cooking process.
  • Find out what it means to Keep Calm and change the future for your children!
  • One of the most essential aspects of any relationship is listening. Find out how to explore a deeper way of listening that can reduce defensiveness, promote honesty, and lead to effortless solutions.
  • Permed hair, kinky curls or straight locks? Experience hands on training how you can have your African-American child “rockin” their best hair in the healthiest way.
  • It’s often said that the best camera is the one you have with you! Learn all about how to get the best images from your smartphone!
  • Why is creating a safe place for your child so important and how can it benefit your relationship with them? Come learn all about connecting with your child by creating felt safety.
Find out more information about the sessions and register for this free event on our website For questions, connect with our event coordinator, Robbie Shockey, or call 256-539-5828.

Please note that child care will not be provided at this event.  It is our hope that this will be a time of rest and rejuvenation for parents!

We look forward to seeing you there!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bringing Home Bradley: One Adoptive Mom's Story

Any parent can tell you, having a new child come into your life changes everything. For the Jenks family their story is no different, other than the way Bradley came into their lives. Instead of waiting nine months to deliver, they waited four years to adopt! They expected the best and the worst, and still could not have anticipated the amount of love and joy that would transpire with bringing a child into their family through adoption.

Anna Jenks, along with her husband, chose to obtain training and preparation classes and to have their adoption homestudy written through APAC, a program of Children’s Aid SocietyShe is now sharing her journey with others so they can see what an amazing process it has been and to bring awareness to the 250+ children that are currently in the custody of the Department of Human Resources and are still in need of a forever family.

A segment of their story, "If It Weren't For Bradley" was featured on our website as part of our Family Stories series. More recently, Mrs. Jenks shared her story for the cover article of our APAC Newsletter. Here's how their family journey began:
We waited years for Bradley, four years to be exact. We got discouraged and plans changed over time but we were answering a call and knew it would work out eventually. Our daughter, Julie, was four years old when we started our adoption journey. She was all for it and prayed daily for the arrival of “her baby brother” even though I had always pictured a little girl. We had considered going the international route but after years of the ups and downs we decided that we needed to look back into state adoption. 
APAC helped us during the transition and having them on our side was so special. The ten-week classes were helpful and I liked how it was set up each week. The paperwork was made so much more manageable because it was on the same topic as what we discussed in class. After we finished the home study process and were approved we were put onto the wait list to be matched.
We waited and waited but we still had not heard anything. I actually started a new job because it was taking so long. And then it happened. We got the call from DHR about a child, our child. Our Bradley.
We didn’t know what to think when we went to meet Bradley for the first time. Julie saw him first. She was eight years old now and as soon as she saw him she turned to me and said, “Mom, he is exactly how I pictured him! That is exactly how I knew he would look!” He didn’t look anything like the second daughter I had imagined but her statement immediately brought tears to my eyes, it still does.
Adjusting was hard for all of us but everyone was determined for Bradley to be part of our family. Trust came slowly with each passing day but eventually it was like he had always been with us. He always had been a part of us. 
It has been three years since Bradley became a part of our family. But he has always been a part of our family because God placed him in our heart long before we knew him.  Much in the same way as you love the child as soon you know you are pregnant, we have loved Bradley since we first started our process. We feel very family- complete. 
When Bradley first came to us and he didn't understand we were keeping him, I made a story up about just him and me. I would tell it to him every night. It helped Bradley fantasize what it was going to be like for him today, tomorrow, and forever. Even though the story made me out to be a silly mamma and involves boogers (don't ask), it helped me too. Reciting even in a silly way that I was going to be there forever was very comforting. 
I recommend to everyone to make up a "Happily Ever After" story to rehearse to your new Forever Child, and I would be glad to help. Write me:
- Anna Jenks, Adoptive Mother
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the adoption process please call:
 You can also see photos and videos of some of the “waiting children” at our partner’s website:

Monday, March 30, 2015

One Social Worker's Path

To end our series highlighting social workers, Rita Friga, a social worker at Children's Aid Society, shares her path to becoming the social worker she is today. 

When I decided to become a social worker, I thought I knew where my focus would be. I had no idea that fate would step in and alter it. After my first job in my field of specialty of Employee Assistance (EAP), my course changed and I became an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. As it happens, it was exactly where I was meant to be. 

Through a series of changes and luck, I find myself advocating for children in the child welfare system who are victims of abuse. I also often become an advocate for the parents, who have a high probability of being abuse victims themselves.

Working with trauma victims has been happening for a long time. However, studies showing the impact of trauma on child development are relatively new, along with skilled instruction in helping victims heal from trauma. This is the basis of Trauma Informed Care, a practice embraced by Children’s Aid Society.

To be successful advocates, the best chance of helping our victims is to provide trauma informed services. This is relatively new approach and is in high demand.

Often we head to school, thinking we know where we want to focus. As I did, many social workers end up following a different course through choice or accident. I encourage new social workers to take a look at the area of Trauma Informed Care. 

What I’ve learned about childhood trauma’s impact on society is astounding! To learn more about it, review the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) at You can even get your own ACE score.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Intern's Perspective

In honor of Social Worker’s Month, Children’s Aid Society is posting articles written from the perspectives of social workers at different points in their career. Meet Caleigh Alevy, a social work student at the University of Alabama. Caleigh is an intern with the Project Independence Program at Children’s Aid Society. Read what she is learning about social work while serving clients at CAS.

Caleigh Alevy, Intern
My education, both on campus and online, has been helpful in preparing me for my internship. Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families has especially helped me in working with my clients in Project Independence. My top two priorities when counseling my clients have been to meet my clients “where they are at” and to “help them help themselves”.

My internship is teaching me dynamics that can only be learned with face-to-face training and experience. The time that my supervisor takes to review what is expected of me, what needs improvement, and what has been achieved is providing me with the desired education for a social work career. Receiving an A in my classes is one achievement, but working one-on-one with my clients and my supervisor is teaching me how to be the best social worker that I can be. While I still have a lot to learn, I am being given tools for optimal growth in serving clients and society, as well as working with colleagues and supervisors.

The most surprising thing I’ve learned from working in Project Independence is how cyclical the (teen pregnancy and homelessness) epidemic is. Most clients report being brought up primarily by a grandparent. Our clients come to us pregnant or as young moms that are now homeless because their parent or grandparent can no longer support them. These young moms want an opportunity to improve their lives and their children’s lives. Many times their role models during childhood did not set a good example or stable environment which plays a role in their resistance to change. This makes the work that we do more challenging. Our clients need strong, patient mentors who believe in them and encourage them to make strides toward successful, independent lifestyles. Project Independence prioritizes education and job training for the young moms. Attending a parenting class is also a requirement. The hope is that after 18 months, the client will be able to support herself and her child and move forward confidently in life. Their life experience makes it a challenge to help them overcome negative habits over the course of the 18 month program. Our goal is to help our clients know that with hard work, they CAN succeed in their efforts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Retirement, Diane!

On Friday, March 20, 2015, we say Happy Retirement to one of our most beloved social workers at Children’s Aid Society (CAS). Diane Daffron is our current Chief Operations Officer whose service at Children’s Aid began in 1981. In her thirty-four years with us, she has exemplified what it means to have the heart of a social worker. Our staff has many kind words to share about what Diane means to CAS and to them personally.

"Diane has been the heart and soul of Children's Aid Society. Her passion and dedication will be missed by the staff, the clients, and the community in which she was so involved. Diane always treats everyone with respect, whether they are clients or staff. She always encourages, supports and guides her staff."
Audrey Derevenko, LCSW
Adoption Support Program Coordinator

"What I admire most about Diane is her ability to make staff feel so important and loved. She values staff, their families, and children and has been so supportive of our personal lives, as well as professional. She would do anything for us and always shows us just how much she cares about us. She has taught me what is truly important in life and I am forever grateful."
Karla Lawrence, LPC
Director of Clinical Operations

"Although I am not a Social Worker, Diane has told me many times that I have the heart of one. She always encourages me by being in the trenches with me and not just telling me “what to do.” Her best advice has been to “never ask staff to do anything I won’t do myself. “ This is what live by daily when working with my team members. Diane is CAS…and she sincerely cares for “all” clients and staff. The history and stories she tells about her experience motivates you do go beyond the call of duty when doing your job. As my eyes well up with tears… I will miss her always saying good morning…her always asking how I am doing and how my family is doing…her smile…her advice…I will miss DIANE!!!!!"
Nikki Oakes Freeman
Independent Living Program Coordinator

"I’ll miss her objectivity. I can take ANY scenario to Diane, whether it is client or agency related, and she can always provide insight. And, she does it in a very empowering way. Rather than telling me what to do, she helps me to frame these scenarios within the context of social work ethics and best client practices. I, therefore, come out of each meeting having both a solution to my issue and better skills to make future decisions. Many people can solve others’ problems for them but, it takes a dedicated and patient person to teach someone to make comprehensive and fair decisions. She is also an endless source of knowledge about referrals for clients and staff, for everything from utility assistance to housing to counseling to grant partnerships. At any point, I can ask her about a proposed program or intervention, and she can tell me if CAS has done it and when, and if not, who in the community has done it and when. My coworkers and I often joke about wishing we could just “download” her wealth of knowledge to a computer, as she has so much to ever impart to any one other person!"
Catherine Alexander, LGSW
Director of Agency Initiatives/PQI

"I would describe Diane’s work at CAS and with clients as “all in.” Simply put she puts in 100%, from accompanying me and the Project Independence clients on road trips, to making midnight runs to the apartments to defuse problematic situations. She often works with our foster youth at camps and will take on cleaning up, mopping and other janitorial duties, and even has slept in the lodges when she couldn’t make it home. She truly has the mindset of “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do” and that’s what I will miss the most about her, along with her caring spirit of course."
Erika J. Williams, LGSW
Program Coordinator

"Diane is a consummate social worker and wears many hats but remains loyal to her roots of service and caring."
Kathy Hummel, MSW, LCSW, PIP
APAC Regional Coordinator

"Watching Diane’s energy and enthusiasm all day and into the night with the children at Camp APAC never ceases to inspire and amaze me. She is always smiling and supportive of all, whether at breakfast early in the day or at the evening activities! She made a difference in the lives of many children and all of our staff."
Debra Hawk Finley, LCSW, PIP
APAC Program Director

"I can always count on Diane to have my back. She has been my biggest supporter and advocate. She treats everyone with fairness and respect. Not only does that make her a great co-worker, but also a great social worker. She is also a person of great faith, and I will really miss our Monday morning sermon reviews. Best wishes in your retirement Diane, and God bless!"
Denise Cone
Vice-President of Human Resources
Our CEO sums it up when she says "Diane has the heart, mind, and soul of a social worker. She exemplifies what a good social worker says, does, and is. The social work profession is fortunate to have her as a member, just as Children’s Aid Society has been fortunate to have Diane as a long-time devoted staff member."
Gayle Watts, LCSW
Chief Operating Officer
Best Wishes, will be missed!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Honoring Social Worker's Month - March 2015

As an employee of social service organization, I would like to say thank you to the social workers and counselors that represent Children's Aid Society around the state.  Thank you for the countless hours of hard work and dedication to the clients and families that you serve each and every day. I hear stories from colleagues who are out there daily in the trenches. It is hard work that may feel like it goes unseen, but you give our clients a voice. You are advocating for them and helping them see that they can succeed. You are giving them the resources to make life changes, and from small seeds grow mighty trees. You are planting the seeds of strong and stable families in Alabama. Thank you for what you do each and every day serving children and families across the state!

In honor of Social Worker’s Month, Children’s Aid Society will post articles written from the perspectives of social workers at different points in their career. We hope you enjoy learning more about the differences they are making in our community.