March 08, 2011

An Evening with Fostering Families

By Summer Brill, Web Marketing Assistant Chair (Social Media) 2010-11

I was so excited to get a peak at Fostering Families and am so thankful we get this opportunity through Done in a Day (DIAD). I knew from reading the fall Piper article that our Fostering Families committee (2010-11 Chair Kyla Eller) partners with Help One Child to run workshops to help foster children with a variety of life skills:

Personal Development: Self Esteem, Self-Talk
Interpersonal Communication: Assertiveness, Conflict Resolution
Relationships: Respectful Behavior, Anger Management
Community Development: Cooperative Behavior, Personal Support Systems

The night I volunteered, the workshop topic was Relationships: Anger Management. As I waited to learn my table assignment, I observed the children walking in with their parents. This was the sixth session so the kids were well versed in the routine. They arrive, get their table assignment and get right to coloring while they wait for their table leader to get started.

Help One Child volunteers run the check in table and direct us in timing for the night. They are also on hand if we need any support whatsoever and they have an incredible ability to calm antsy children with gentle attention. League members on the Fostering Families committee are the table leaders and League DIAD volunteers are table helpers. I was working on the Blue team led by Megan Olesk and we had five kids at our table, ages ranged from six to 10. All the children seemed to want to be there and when asked about their favorite activities, one little girl said coming to these workshops was one of her favorite activities!

Megan lead an ice breaker and I got a chance to get to know the kids at our table shortly before Cathy Lewis (Help One Child) led us in Brain Gym. We stood up and did some calisthenics to get the wiggles out! The kids know the drill and participate enthusiastically.

After our Brain Gym, we got ready for dinner. The kids helped set the table and cleaned their hands. We all sit together at our tables and have dinner together. The kids all had great table manners, my oldest child is four and this experience gave me hope that we will be able to have a civilized dinner table sometime in the future!

Over dinner we had casual conversation and I got to learn more about each of our Blue team members. Once dinner was over we started our workshop on Anger Management. Each table hosted a different activity to illustrate the lesson. Our table illustrated "Safe Anger Release", physical ways we can handle our anger. We did some calming self-hugging and tapping, breathing and we squeezed a pillow as tight as we could until we calmed down. Each child participated in the physical activities and they had fun squeezing the pillow tightly!

Next, I moved along to the next table with my Blue team members, while Megan stayed behind to teach the next team her skills. We moved to the "Work it Out, or Move On" session, led by League Member Leticia Gonzalez-Ratchev. She led a discussion about working out a conflict. She gave each child a can of Play-doh and asked them to sculpt an “anger monster”. The anger monsters took all shapes and sizes. Once they were finished they were instructed to tell the anger monster that they were not going to let the “anger monster” control them. Then each child smashed their anger monster! They got to take their Play-doh home with them, which was very exciting.

Next, we moved on to more discussion with Rose Repetto about "Take a Break". She talked about how you can take a break when you are angry and revisit the topic when you are calm. She then handed out a long piece of yarn to each child and explained that they can use this as an incentive to use anger management strategies. She showed them that they can tie a knot in the yarn for each time they use anger management strategies to show themselves how well they are doing. Then she suggested they make an agreement with their parents or teachers, that if they get 10 knots in their yarn they can get a reward.

For our final table, we joined Debbie Wright and she continued the discussion on “what makes you angry and what strategies can you utilize to calm yourself down”. Each of the kids gave examples of something that has made them angry, what they did when they got angry, and what they could do instead to calm themselves down. We were running low on time so we didn’t get to the illustration part of the table. But each child participated in the discussion and it was an interesting conversation.

Parents started to arrive, and it was time for the treasure chest!! Each child ran up to the chest and crowded around to root around for the BEST prize! These are the small toys we as a League donated earlier in the year for Done in a Day at our committee and General meetings. For everyone who donated, these small gifts are a hit! There is a lot of excitement around finding the coolest prize!

As I got to spend the entire evening with the same team of five kids, I got to know each of them and when it was time to say goodbye I was sad to see them go! It was a well run event and the kids definitely enjoy coming to the workshops. I had a great time and highly recommend it if you are looking for a Done in a Day opportunity. The next dates are April 11th and May 9th. This is a great way to preview Fostering Families for future placement. The Fostering Families Committee members were all well versed in their topic and activities and very comfortable with the kids. All the members of Help One Child are kind, friendly, helpful and energetic. I came home energized and hope I have another opportunity to do this again!

Fostering Families Committee: Back L-R: Debbie Wright, Shannon Morton, Kyla Eller (Chair Fostering Families 2010-11), Tina McMinn, Lee Casem, Michelle Melen (Provisional DIAD volunteer), Rachel Pickworth. Front L-R: Rose Repetto, Leticia Gonzalez-Ratchev, Megan Olesek, Cathy Lewis (Help One Child)

If you are interested in volunteering for Fostering Families through Done in a Day, sign up online in Volunteer Shifts (April 11th and May 9th). To learn more about Fostering Families and our other Community Projects, click here.

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