March 30, 2011
"M-Power"ing Foster Children
By Tina McMinn, Fostering Families Committee 2010-11
I have had the great honor of being a part of the Fostering Families committee for the past two years. This committee works with a community partner, Help One Child to help children in foster care mastering some of life's basic skills. These children come from all types of circumstances and are hungry to learn in their very own way. The first year of this committee we spent time coming up with content and activities for each life skill (M-Power) and we delivered those to students during our 8 Monday night sessions. What I have loved about being on it in year 2 is how the tweaks we suggested as the program went along in year 1 have enhanced the year 2 sessions.
M-Power=Meal, Message, Model
I want to give you a quick outline of Session 5 - one of my favorites, the skills we worked on in this session were Relationships and Anger Management.
5:15-5:30 – Parents check kids in and they are sent to their assigned color coded table
The kids color and work on activity sheets at the table for about 20 minutes. Each table has 4 - 6 kids and 2-3 adults. Once you introduce yourself to the child you can give them assignments and we set the place mats, napkins, cups and forks on the table. The kids love to do this because they will earn STICKERS!!
We start eating around 5:45 and engage discussion with the kids from favorite subjects to favorite movies, characters etc.. Most of the children love to talk but some prefer to be quiet so we try to pull them out and help everyone at the table learn to be comfortable talking and engaging over a meal.
A little bit after 6 we do our exercises or Brain Gym to exert energy!!
We spend the next 30 minutes working within groups helping the children identify anger, its effects on their bodies, minds and what are positive alternates than "blowing up". One of the kids in my group said he was angry when he was grounded from his games another mentioned their brother made him mad everyday. We ask where do you feel that when you are mad? The children draw it for us on a worksheet and we spend time sharing with the group. Some of the kids share that their head or ears hurt when they are angry, another was very clear his feet hurt because he stomps when he is angry.
League Member Tina McMinn with her group
League Member Polly Neumann facilitating a discussion with her group
We share ways to alleviate anger through other outlets - one of them is bucket breathing - very deep breaths and then blow out like you are blowing through a straw. We end this time with drawing a fire pit and the kids write in what they will do to put the fire out next time they are angry.
We regroup as a large group and watch VeggieTales Angry Eyebrows and for the first time of the night we have complete silence – the kids are so attentive to the short movie. Once it ends we return to our tables and make our own Angry Eyebrows to use when we are angry (very fun craft) and we end the evening with a word search on Anger Management strategies and we continue discussing what we learned until the parents pick the kids up (around 7:30-7:45). The table leader briefs each parent and provides them a detailed packet of the night's activities and helpful tasks they can do to keep the lesson "alive".
The kids with all their hard earned stickers stop by the treasure chest to pick up a little toy on their way out. The Fostering Families committee is usually out the door by 8PM.
This night goes so fast, it is well organized and very detailed of what to do step by step. Help Once Child insures you are trained and comfortable not only with the materials but the children attending (they screen the families).
The families/guardians are appreciative and the kids look forward to their Monday night FF events- remember it happens only 8 times a year.
I can't begin to tell you the impact M-Power has on these children. Imagine being a six year-old and in your 4th or 5th home and finally having some continuity and people who are investing time in you.
Seeing the children session after session and witnessing their progress is absolutely amazing. If you haven’t seen it in action consider volunteering under DIAD for one session or consider the committee commitment for next year.
To volunteer through DIAD for the April 11th or May 9th Fostering Families workshops, sign up via Volunteer Shifts. To learn more about Fostering Families or more JLPA-MP Community Projects, click here.