Can you imagine the pain you would feel if your father gave you up for drugs or your mother told you that she wished she had aborted you? Have you ever been unable to sleep at night because your past was haunting you? According to the Children’s Bureau, in the United States there are approximately 500,000 children in the foster care system at any given time. Recent studies suggest that up to 80% of children in foster care have significant mental health issues. Factors contributing to the mental and behavioral health of children in foster care include; the history of complex trauma, frequently changing situations and transitions, broken family relationships, inconsistent and inadequate access to mental health services and the over-prescription of psychotropic medications. Unmet mental health needs for foster children can mean ongoing problems as youth in foster care enter adulthood. It is not surprising that a study from Casey’s Family Program shows that over 21% of foster care alumni suffer from PTSD. That’s a staggering rate – even higher than that of U.S. war veterans. The National Institute of Mental Health defines Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an anxiety disorder that may develop following an individual’s experiencing or witnessing of a traumatic event, where the natural “fight or flight” response is damaged or altered. Although no longer in danger, the individual may feel stress or intense fear following a situation in which they or another person experienced a threat to their life or incurred severe injury. Generally, the symptoms of PTSD can be divided into three categories: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms.
Our boys at GHH have a constant fear of losing housing due to the multiple placements they experienced while in the foster care system. Never feeling a sense of stability, fear of spending the holidays alone, constant reminders that they have no family support and the feeling of rejection, not understanding their purpose in life due to lack of positive affirmation or empowerment – all of these can cause a child to experience severe anxiety and distress. These kids desperately need love and support infused into their lives! It’s our duty as a nation to help them. Let’s make each youth feel that they are a cause for celebration and joy. We must demand justice and safety at every level for children, not only because it is their basic human right but because those who grow and learn in stable environments and with he protection of families ultimately create humane and thriving societies as adults. They are our future, and we have a responsibility to nurture a positive and healthy next generation. Genesis Hopeful Haven is tackling this need as we provide on-site mental health treatments twice a week through our partners at Our Kids. We also conduct thorough mental health assessments and screenings bi-yearly, and advocate on behalf of foster youth to increase accessibility and continuity of mental health. Our goal is to establish cross training for evidence-based practices among all systems involved in providing services.
We’re constantly working to expand our reach and help more kids in the foster system, but we would be nowhere without our partners! Do you have skills, services or funding that could help these kids succeed? We need your help! Join us and be a part of fostering new beginnings.
Meaningful, engaging activities play a vital role in keeping kids safe during the summer. Due to the trauma that most foster care children experience, they are at an increased risk for mental health problems and may face compounding adversities. Most youth do better with structure and routine, and those with mental health issues including anxiety, ADHD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are especially dependent on the predictable “safe zone” that school provides. These youth are at much higher risk of getting into trouble or becoming severely depressed during times of idleness and seclusion where they have little to do except watch TV.
To minimize this risk, GHH has fun and structured programs set up to keep our boys active this summer. We believe these activities build strong character, help with developing coping strategies and provide the environmental support that is necessary for youth facing challenging circumstances.
We’ve partnered with Yoga Gangsters to come to the home and lead classes with our boys every week. They specialize in classes that help youth who have experienced trauma. Deep breathing exercises, anger management and relaxation to help remain calm are just some of the valuable techniques the boys will be learning.
To further build character, throughout the summer they will be volunteering at Camillus House to feed the homeless and give back to the community. The boys will also volunteer at Community Connexion sports summer camp. Volunteering is a great activity that gives youth a sense of purpose and belonging. Another great partnership we have established is with Motivational Edge, who will come out to GHH to do weekly music classes. One of our boys aspires to become a music producer and we’re excited that these classes will help foster his skills. Another boy in our home has an interest in agriculture, which is a great thing to learn when you’ve come from a background where fresh produce is too expensive and hard to come by. Soon we hope to start our gardening program with Slow Food Miami. Gardening teaches the boys an important skill, gives them a sense of ownership and promotes healthy eating along with many other healthy habits.
Community Connexion will provide tutoring twice a week, as well as mentoring services. This will help our boys to sharpen their studying skills throughout the summer and to stay on target with ACT prep. Victory Lane Ministries has signed on with us to teach the boys how to fix cars. They will be getting driver’s licenses this summer and what a blessing it will be to learn car mechanics in preparation for when they purchase their own!
Towards the end of the summer, we hope to take the boys on a trip. We’ll be doing a workshop on traveling since most of our boys have never even left Miami, let alone gone on a trip or vacation. Our goal is that by the end of the summer all of our boys will have passports. We will start raising money in order to make this trip possible. We would be thrilled to allow our boys to experience their first trip, and any financial donations to that program would be greatly appreciated!
Genesis Hopeful Haven could not function without our partners who support our growth. We’ve been so blessed to partner with so many amazing groups and organizations that enhance the lives of our boys and allow them to pave a path to success. We would love for you to join our team and be a part of fostering new beginnings. We plan to keep our boys engaged and productive and to continue growing our programs as the summer goes on. Join our journey as we continue Building Genesis.