April 12, 2010

Guest blogger: Jim Scherrer, CEO Child & Family Services

I’m honored to be Mary’s guest blogger this week…. Glad she is home in the “Rogers Spa,” and best wishes for a speedy recovery. Maybe if I do a good job, she will promote me to guest hosting the show someday!

We at Child and Family Services are fortunate to have Mary’s commitment, expertise, not to mention sense of humor on our Board of Directors, as well as Marigold’s and Mary in the Morning’s partnership on our 9th Annual Festival of Tables, set for Friday and Saturday, May 14 and 15, 2010, at The Hagerty Center.

The Festival of Tables celebrates good food, good company, and the art of entertaining at home. It includes dozens of exquisitely designed dining tables—all to inspire but some to be taken home with lucky raffle winners! You will also have an opportunity to win one of five fantasy raffle packages such as “”Room Re-Do” or “A Year of Fine Dining,” each with a value of at least $2,000! And the Festival of Tables will host one of the best silent auctions you’ll see anywhere. Back this year for the Friday Night Gala will be the popular “(Not) Just for Men” Tent, with all sorts of great fun for the fellas, and those who love them. And Saturday will be the traditional Ladies’ Luncheon with all the fun, friendship, and creativity you’ve come to expect. Visit www.festivaloftables.org for all the details.

The Festival of Tables is a great event for a great cause—that cause being our foster care, adoption, counseling, and advocacy programs for children and families throughout Northwestern Michigan. We’ve been at this work since 1937—quite a long, home-grown history.

As I thought about what to write about here, one of our staff members perceptively noted that most often we celebrate the adoptions that take place at Child and Family Services, the creation of new “forever families.” We don’t give as much time or attention to those biological families whose children are placed in foster care because they have not been able to keep home safe. We forget that foster care is a means to an end, that the reunification of families is its main goal. And we have been seeing enough reunifications of families that it seemed, in this spring season, worthy of celebration. I’d like to tell you a couple of stories that illustrate this success.

“Nicole” is a single mom of three children, Adam, 5 years old, Sierra, 3, and the 18 month-old boy, Andrew. Nicole had become pregnant with Adam as a junior in high school, and now at the age of 24 she looked 10 years older, probably mostly due to the alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine she abused. She was living with a man who was not the father of her children and who was physically abusive toward her and them. As a result of his traumatized family life her older son had severe anger and anxiety issues.

The children were placed in foster care when it became clear that Nicole was about to become homeless. The foster family with whom the children were placed were very seasoned, having been foster parents for more than 15 years. Dave and Karen spent a good deal of time with Nicole, talking with her about effective parenting techniques and using love and reasoning to deal with behaviors. She began to say things like “I cannot accept the words you are using” to Adam when he cursed at her, or used loving touch, held him close and stroked his hair and back when he threw tantrums. At the same time, Nicole made the personal decision to fight to get her children back. She took advantage of the community resources available to her to get off drugs and alcohol. She kept up her appointments, left her abusive companion, and found temporary shelter for herself while she looked for a home. In short, she did what the court required of her. At her three-month court review, she had met all her goals. At her 6-month review, her workers were so impressed with her that they recommended unsupervised visits. It has been nearly a year since Nicole’s children were in foster care, and while we don’t always know exactly what happens after children leave us, I’d guess the family is probably still doing pretty well.

A trend in the past year or two is that of relative placements—licensing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other kin to foster children within an extended family. This process helps maintain family ties and builds on family strengths in the best interests of the children. After a young mom died of an accidental drug overdose, her husband was so distraught he was unable to adequately care for their children James, 15, Jesse, 12, and Joshua, 9. He began drinking heavily and lost his job after several warnings about tardiness and other issues. His late wife’s parents, as grief-stricken as they too were, were up to the task of caring for their grandchildren while their son-in-law worked to confront and overcome these terrible life challenges. They became licensed foster parents and the children lived with them for nearly a year while dad got the counseling and support he needed to parent well again.

It is this work that your support of the Festival of Tables helps make possible. Not only will you be lending a hand to children and families as they heal and grow, you will have a blast. We promise! Buy your tickets at www.festivaloftables.com. For more about Child and Family Services visit www.cfsnwmi.org.

Thanks, Mary, for giving me this forum to share a little bit about Child and Family Services with your readers and fans!

Jim Scherrer, M.A.
CEO Child and Family Services
3785 Veterans Drive
Traverse City, MI 49684

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