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Hi Lites STORIES OF HEALING & HOPE

VOLUME 2 • ISSUE 1

brings challenges for children in foster care

Guardian Ad Litem A CHILD'S ADVOCATE IN COURT

FALL 2021 • SAINT FRANCIS MINISTRIES

BACK-TO-SCHOOL


SAINT FRANCIS MINISTRIES 110 W. Otis Ave., Salina, KS 67401 785-825-0541 www.SaintFrancisMinistries.org

CONTENTS 04

Young Donor, Caroline Avery Helps Keep Kids at Home

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Around Saint Francis A Brief Update by State

Morgan Rothenberger Editor-in-Chief

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Foster Care Myths

Shane Schneider Associate Editor

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I Am Saint Francis Alison Nwafor & James Mitchell

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Anika Pfannenstiel She's Not Going to Let Her Youth in Foster Care Define her Adulthood

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Foster Care Family of the Year Lance and Mandy Tally

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Kinship Family of the Year Clifford and Gena Hailey

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To Do or Not to Do Talking About Difficult Feelings at Work

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Year-End Giving Consider Saint Francis

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GO Funds Connecting Employees With Clients

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Mark Schultz | Christian Singer "I'm All In."

William J. Clark Interim President & CEO

EDITORIAL BOARD

Jackie Hynes Graphic Designer Beth Cormack Marketing Coordinator

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kathy Carter Education Coordinator Pamela Cornwell Clinical Director Stephanie Pfannenstiel Education Coordinator

FOUNDATION TEAM Deanna Knapp Interim Director Lauren Dalhaus Grant Developer Rebecca Giles Associate Director Development Tiffany Lamb Associate Director Development Cher Richards Associate Director Development/Donor Relations

STORY IDEAS

Hilites.Ezine@St-Francis.Org

on the cover

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Saint Francis Foster Care, 25 Years Betty Rush Tells the Story Guardian Ad Litem A Child's Advocate in Court BACK TO SCHOOL Educating Our Most Vulnerable Youth


ADDING VALUE TO OTHERS Luke 10:34-35 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” It has been said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Helping others is something you can start doing today— whether it’s spending more time with your families and friends; developing those around you who show potential, helping people in your community, or just putting the needs of others before your own. The key to helping others is to find your purpose in life, or your “why.” There is another saying, “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself; rather, it’s what you do for others.” I find myself reflecting on the following quite a bit – when people think about you, do they say, ”My life is better because of that person?” Their response probably answers the question of whether you are adding value to them. To succeed personally, it’s important to help others on their journeys. You can get everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want. Much like the Good Samaritan, adding value to others changes lives. May we all work to add value to others, as this is truly a transformational approach to leadership and life.

William J. Clark Interim President / Chief Executive Officer / Chief Development Officer

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“She remembered how much our foster son had loved his parents, so she decided to donate to a place that helps kids go back home to their parents.” 4

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Young Donor Wants to Help Keep Kids Home Riding in her warm car on her way to gymnastics class, Caroline Avery could only imagine what it must be like to live on the streets during last year’s brutally cold February in Wichita. So, rather than spend her birthday money shopping, the 8-year-old said she wanted to use it to help people. Her first thought was to donate to the homeless, which would itself have been a thoughtful gesture for a child her age. But when her mother asked if she wanted to help adults or children, she immediately replied, “Kids!” Children, it seems, possess a natural empathy for other kids that demands expression. “So, we started talking about how she could donate money to help kids,” said Jennifer. “We could help kids in foster care like her big brother or donate money to an agency that helps kids stay out of foster care. She remembered how much our foster son had loved his parents, so she decided to donate to a place that helps kids go back home to their parents.”

One of those agencies turned out to be Saint Francis Ministries, which earlier this year received a handwritten note from Caroline: “My name is Caroline Avery and I want to give $10 for my bday to help kids go home to their mom and dad.” In the world of foster care, helping children return home is called reintegration, and it’s something Jennifer

want to help? If you’re interested in supporting Saint Francis Ministries’ programs, please click here or call 800-423-1342 ext.1912.

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AROUND SAINT FRANCIS ARKANSAS FAMILY CENTERED TREATMENT

The Saint Francis Arkansas team has demonstrated success in keeping families together and ensuring children stay out of the foster care system. The SFM Arkansas team is a dedicated group of individuals who want to ensure the success of their families. Latisha Young, in-home program manager of the state’s Division of Children and Family Services, reports that as of October 2020, counties where Saint Francis FCT has been in place have seen a collective decrease of 16.6 percent in the foster child population and a 44 percent decrease in the number of entries into care in the last two years.

KANSAS NEW MEDICAL DIRECTOR

Saint Francis welcomed psychiatrist Dr. George Thompson to the Salina West staff in April. He previously served as chief medical officer at KidsTLC in Olathe, Kansas. His experience, and also training at the worldrenowned Menninger Clinic, formerly based in Topeka, Kansas, uniquely prepared him to take an active role in serving children and families at Saint Francis. Saint Francis got to know Dr. Thompson through several collaborative state committees focused on system needs with psychiatric residential treatment centers, medical necessity and prescribing practices 6

with the most vulnerable, high-needs children. An approach that considers the child in the context of their experiences, family and community, said Cheryl Rathbun, chief clinical officer, integrates well with the way Saint Francis serves children and families. “Dr. Thompson has the skills we need as a medical director, but more importantly, he understands that the children we serve are part of a family and a community,” she said. “Their healing and Dr. George Thompson ability to see the Medical Director path forward must take that interconnectedness into account. Dr Thompson’s expertise in trauma work will be an additional asset to Saint Francis.” Dr. Thompson was the director of training in the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and currently works as an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine where he teaches future physicians the skills and importance of competent, compassionate doctor-patient communication. He serves as treasurer of the board of directors of the DDP Institute and on the advisory board of the Polyvagal Institute.

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His book, Polyvagal Theory and the Developing Child: Systems of Care for Strengthening Kids, Families, and Communities, will be released in November. Thompson is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

MISSISSIPPI BBQ FUNDRAISER

Bridgeway’s second annual BBQ fundraiser cleared $480 for the activity fund, a tremendous support of residents at Bridgeway. Bryan Cassagne and other volunteers served and delivered more than 100 plates of pulled pork, cole slaw, potato salad, and other fixings. “Bryan used to be a regular volunteer with Bridgeway and helped organize fundraisers for us with the Knights of Columbus,” said Jason Kirkland, regional vice president for Mississippi programs. “Now, even though he’s not officially with Bridgeway, he continues to support our residents. We’re grateful that he continues to care so much about our employees and those we serve.”

ADULT DAY SERVICES

“August was the one-year anniversary of the day our adult day service program opened its doors, and we already have 26 participants,” said Kirkland. “We have space to increase the number of participates but

Dianne Hutton (program particpant) plays Buddy Ball.

are holding back due to staffing shortages involving COVID-19. Increasing staffing has been a challenge, as it has been for much of the community and country.” Saint Francis’ Day Services – Adult Program provides adult supervision 6 hours / 5 days a week; transportation to and from home; daily lunch; educational, creative, and recreational activities; and community engagement through day trips.

NEBRASKA ADOPTION TEAM

Formed late last year, the Omaha Adoption Team currently manages the adoption and guardianship of 138 youth and tracks the progress of more than 400 youth. The team facilitated the adoption/guardianship of 42 youth and anticipates another 16 will achieve permanency through adoption/guardianship this summer. “This team has worked incredibly hard, jumping into each case they receive to ensure everything is done properly to help achieve permanency,” said Nancy Montanez-Johner, regional vice president. “That’s not an easy task, considering that all team members received brand new caseloads and had to familiarize themselves with each youth and home. Every adoption/guardianship case is different, so the ‘to-do’ lists can vary. Each team member diligently completed affidavits and subsidy paperwork, gathered collateral information, submitted attorney packets, published on non-legal fathers, and submitted court reports to expedite the adoption/guardianship process as quickly as possible. “By creating this team, our case managers and permanency specialists are achieving permanency for children that might otherwise linger in care, due to no fault of their own.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 08

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AROUND SAINT FRANCIS

OKLAHOMA FACEBOOK PAGE

Saint Francis MinistriesOklahoma has a new Facebook page! As our number of followers grows, we hope it will become a useful tool for recruiting new foster parents and employees -- as well as sharing good news about or people and activities in the Sooner State. Visit it here ww://www.facebook.com/ SaintFrancisOK and follow us!

NATIONAL AWARD

Foster Care Homes Recruiter Deborah Sherwood was recently awarded the International Lions Club Presidents Award for outstanding service. It is the second highest honor in the Lions Club.

families in need and for her leadership during the height of last year’s pandemic. “We’re proud of Deborah’s work serving children and families with Saint Francis and for her dedication to her community,” said Chris Gill, executive director for SFM Oklahoma. “Her efforts are testament to the notion that strong communities help support and nurture strong families.”

TEXAS NEW REGIONAL VP

Saint Francis Ministries welcomes Rachel WilliamsEhue as regional vice president in Texas. “We are excited to welcome Rachel to West Texas as she is a proven leader who has dedicated her life to improving child welfare systems to better serve children and families,” said Cristian Garcia, vice

Sherwood, who has served as president of the McAlester Lions Club since August 2020, earned the recognition for

Rachel Williams-Ehue

Regional Vice President (TX)

her work with the McAlester News-Capital on an Angel Tree project to benefit local 8

president of children and family services. “She’s already had a long career in child welfare, having served countless children and HiLites • Fall 2021

families over a span of nearly 20 years as a case manager, supervisor, and director at Saint Francis Ministries.” Williams-Ehue will use her years of hands-on experience, proven leadership style, and passion for child welfare to lead the work in Region 01, added Garcia. Rachel succeeds Garcia, who recently was promoted to Vice President of Children and Family Services for Saint Francis Ministries, serving the southern regions.

TEXAS FOSTER CARE PROGRAM GROWTH

The Texas Foster Care Homes program set new heights in Texas as it grew capacity by 350% over the past year. The FCH program began in Abilene in 2018 with steady growth and expanded into Lubbock and Amarillo in 2020. Although there were challenges during the pandemic, the FCH program quickly moved their trainings online and adapted to a customer-centric model. This quick change and success in finding innovative ways to do our work in challenging times was due to solid leadership and the willingness of teams to think outside the box.


Dr. Thompson talks about his philosophy of care

Dr. Thompson talks about his calling to help www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

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People give lots of reasons why they choose not to foster. Fortunately, there are as many reasons to foster as there are not. Still, we’d like to dispel some of the myths that might be keeping someone from taking that first step.

YOU HAVE TO BE MARRIED.

Nope. Saint Francis works with many single people who are outstanding foster parents. It helps to have a support network, but your Saint Francis foster care team can help you form that network and even set you up with respite care if you need a break.

YOU MUST BE A HETEROSEXUAL COUPLE.

Saint Francis knows that loving homes come in all shapes and sizes. We work to find the best possible homes for children who need healing and stability.

YOU HAVE TO ALREADY BE A PARENT.

Nope again. You do not have to have your own children to serve as a foster parent.

YOU MUST OWN YOUR OWN HOME.

Not at all. You can be a renter and even live in an apartment. You simply must meet state space requirements for the number of children you intend to foster.

ALL CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE ARE "BAD KIDS".

Perhaps the biggest myth of all, children in foster care are not “bad”. All children in foster care have experienced some sort of loss. It’s the foster family’s job to help them navigate through these feelings and build resiliency.

BOTTOM LINE - the most important gift you can give to a child is your authentic self. Time and again we hear that what kids in foster care need most is safety, structure, understanding, and love. If you can offer those things, then odds are you’d make a fantastic foster parent.

GET TO KNOW US

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit our website.

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James Mitchell Therapist, Family Centered Treatment (NE) “My favorite part of my job is interacting with different kinds of people and connecting with families to make positive change where there’s been years of builtup negativity. It just feels good to help other people. Luckily, I’m in a position where I can bring therapeutic expertise to the table, but that doesn’t make me any different than the people I’m serving. We’re all in this together – just dealing with life.”

Alison Nwafor Supervisor, Reintegration (KS)

www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

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SHE’S NOT GOING TO LET HER

YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE DEFINE HER ADULTHOOD That Sunday… well, it was both strange and chaotic. For Anika Pfannenstiel, it began with church and ended with a runaway sister and a trip to the police station. By the afternoon, officers had removed Anika and two sisters from their home as the three entered the Kansas foster care system. Monday, they went to court, where the judge awarded temporary custody to their older brother. In a matter of hours, 12-year-old Anika’s life had turned upside down. Two years later, she was the last to leave her brother’s home and follow her sisters into foster care. In his mid-20s, her brother had his own newborn to care for. He was just learning how to parent. He tried to keep his sisters together, but the difficulties were overwhelming. Anika remains grateful that he tried. “I stayed in three foster homes,” she said. “The first was in a really small town – Kirwin, Kansas. I stayed with them a year and half. One day, a teacher came up to me and said she wanted to adopt me. Three days later, I moved into their house.” The family had a daughter just a year older than Anika, and she enjoyed their home. They began the process of adopting Anika, but a biological uncle appeared around the time of her eighth-grade promotion. She didn’t know him, but he received permission from the court to take her to Nebraska to join her sister Angel. At the time, it seemed her foster family was having second thoughts about the adoption, so she went willingly. But she and her uncle didn’t get along. Eighteen months later, Anika returned to Kansas in 2019 and petitioned the court to be removed from the 12

home. Her request was granted, and she moved in with a sister, then a brother. She stayed with him until June of 2020, when she aged out of the foster care system. For six years, Anika lived with uncertainty, instability, and insecurity. Many children in foster care share Anika’s experiences and emotions. Anika says the uncertainty is always a factor that only adds to the stress kids in care face.

“It’s really scary,” she said. “You never know if you’re going to say something your foster mom doesn’t like." "She might be having a bad day and decide to up and have you moved. Some foster parents will say you’re home and that you can stay permanently, but it’s usually not that way. It’s mostly temporary – until you’re in the courtroom signing those adoption papers or waiting for your aged-out approval letter.”

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This uncertainty, this lack of security, makes it difficult for former children in foster care to transition to adulthood. Children need stability and people they can rely on for the long-term so they can develop trust in themselves and in the world. Anika still suffers from occasional panic attacks, anxiety, and depression even as she learns how to support herself. She’s strong, though, and believes her experiences can help young people still growing up in the foster care system.

“One of my foster parents kept telling me she knew what I was going through, but she didn’t,” said Anika. “No one can really understand what someone else is going through. If a child wants to spend time in their room, let them." "Allow them to be sociable on their own time. Don’t push them but be ready to support them. I was very active in school – cheering, running track and playing basketball and volleyball. My foster parents never came to my games or track meets. Show kids by your actions that you support them. Go to their games and cheer them on. Treat them the same as your biological kids; families aren’t always just about blood.” “Growing up, I learned not to worry about how other people feel about me,” she said. “I would tell kids in foster care now to ‘Just be you. Listen to your caseworkers. They might not always get it, but most do. And make friends with older people you trust, like other parents and teachers. Don’t be afraid to tell them if you see danger.’”

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Looking Back at Saint Francis Foster Care BETTY RUSH TELLS THE STORY

Thirty years ago, Betty Rush had a vision of how to build services that would help more children and families in Kansas. And 25 years ago, she made her vision a reality by establishing the first therapeutic foster care program at Saint Francis Ministries. 14

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In May 1996, Betty launched

a Saint Francis venture that began to recruit foster parents to help children who needed something extra. They might be children and teens who had been so traumatized that their behaviors were challenging, or children with mental illnesses or disorders like autism – all those kids who needed extra support. Her determination to begin offering therapeutic foster care came from a simple place: “It was an opportunity to keep kids in a home-based setting, which is going to be best for them in the long run, no matter what,” Betty said. “They learn how to live and function and be educated and maintain in a family setting, and that’s where you want them to go back to, their birth family for reunification or, if they’re going to be adopted, into an adoptive family. “Some of those kids had parental rights terminated, but we weren’t going to find an adoptive family for them,” she added. “They needed to be in a home setting so they could launch from a family versus trying to launch from a

residential program.” In the beginning, Betty took referrals of families who would be able to provide therapeutic foster care from friends at Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services (today the Department for Children and Family Services). As the word traveled, some foster families who knew Betty during her time with SRS asked to join the therapeutic program. At that time, the state didn’t offer therapeutic foster homes, and they were excited to have more of those supportive homes available, Betty said.

“Foster families who work in therapeutic care tend to be more experienced families,” she said. “They’re families that are more flexible in terms of the kids they’ll accept, they have very consistent discipline and enormous amounts of patience.” Betty and a student intern had a small office in one of

the buildings at Salina West, Saint Francis’ residential facilities in Salina, Kansas. “In those days, when you did therapeutic foster care, you were the case manager, the therapist, and you did the individual, the family, the group therapy – whatever it took to support the families and maintain those kids,” Betty said. The program expanded and Betty added a therapist who had been working at Salina West to the team. Many of the children who came into therapeutic foster care, she said, were coming out of a PRTF, or a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility. Some of the older youth had spent half their lives at the Topeka State Hospital, only to be transferred to a PRTF when that facility closed. By this time, Saint Francis was recruiting, training and licensing new families. It was necessary to offer additional training beyond the required foster care TIPS-MAPP

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DID YOU KNOW

In 1996, Saint Francis was a Child Placing Agency, but not a Child Welfare Case Management provider. Other private contractors were in need of therapeutic foster homes, not basic level homes. It wasn’t until 2000 that the organization received a contract from the State of Kansas to provide Case Management services, and that is when our foster care homes program expanded into all levels of foster care services. www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

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L

icensed more than four years ago, the Tally family didn’t hesitate to wade into the deep end with their first long-term placement – a sibling set of four. Shortly afterwards, they added a fifth placement while the child waited for a kinship assessment.

2021

FOSTER CARE FAMILY LANCE & MAND 16

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They’ve also fostered a teen, so she could remain in the community until she finished high school. They gave her a car and helped her apply for college and open a bank account. As far as Lance and Mandy are concerned, these actions are all just part of being an advocate for children in their care. That advocacy involves more than just speaking up for the needs of kids (which they do) but is also about supporting healthy and safe reintegration. Developing supportive relationships with each child’s birth parents is essential to their idea of what fostering is all about. Not only do they build relationships during the placement, but they continue them after the child has left their home. “We’ve exchanged phone numbers and been to each other’s homes,” says Mandy. “We talk regularly, invite them to birthday parties, and arrange visits throughout the year. We remain in contact

so the parents can watch their child grow through pictures and visits.” Lance and Mandy have never hesitated to stretch themselves, to go beyond the minimum expected of them. Recently, they took turns driving from their Madison, Kansas, home to the NICU in Topeka to sit with the biological sister of two of their adopted children. Born prematurely, the infant remained hospitalized for two months, during which the couple visited five days a week. Once discharged, the baby went home with them. “We were unable to have biological children, but we wanted to be parents badly,” says Lance. “We had talked about foster care before but hesitated to take the leap because we feared we’d get too attached to the kids. Turns out we were right. We really do get attached. But, while it stings when they leave, the pain is worth the chance to meet, know, and love them while we have them here.” The experience has

Y OF THE YEAR! DY TALLY www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

changed them personally, along with their family. As Mandy says, “We were able to have a permanent family by adopting three children from our care, and our extended family has been able to experience the journey along with us. Fostering has made Lance and me more thankful for the childhoods we had, while making us more aware of the need for safe places for children to go.”

“... while it stings when they leave, the pain is worth the chance to meet, know, and love them while we have them here.” And that’s what the Tally family wishes everyone knew about children in foster care: “These are kids,” says Mandy, “and they are living with consequences brought on by other people’s decisions. Some think these kids are damaged somehow, and while there may be behavior, learning, or emotional hardships resulting from their experiences, they still need safety, security, and stability so they can thrive … Mostly, they need to be loved just for being them.”

GET TO KNOW US

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit our website.

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Guardian Ad Litem

A CHILD'S ADVOCATE IN COURT KANSAS | NEBRASKA | TEXAS

When children are removed from their homes, it is usually through no fault of their own. They may be awakened in the middle of the night, wrapped in blankets, and driven to another house to spend the night with strangers. Most of their toys and clothes are often left behind. Whether a toddler or a teenager, they have little control over what happens to them. But one part of the court process is designed to give children a way to know that their perspective is heard as they enter into a complex system. This representative is the guardian ad litem, or GAL. The federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act “requires states to document in their state plan provisions for appointing a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the child’s best interests in every case of abuse or neglect that results in a judicial proceeding,” according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. (Learn More)

KANSAS

In Kansas, the GAL position is filled by an attorney. “We can provide a voice for the child that they might not otherwise have,” said Dana Winkler, a retired assistant city attorney in Wichita, Kansas, who has been a GAL since 1999. “I’ve had some cases for as long as 10 or 12 years. The personnel involved over the period of a long-term case can vary a great deal. The institutional history of the child’s case, or at least the familiarity of it, rests with the court service officer and the guardian ad litem.”

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Each state has different statutes that shape the appointment of a GAL and determine their responsibilities. Differences may include training and the types of cases are assigned GALs. In Kansas, a GAL is assigned to every child in the system, said Megan Baker, a reintegration supervisor at Saint Francis

Judge Kellie E. Hogan

Division 16 | Sedgwick Co., KS

“I think the thing that is most confusing for people is that the GAL represents the best interests of the child, unlike a traditional attorney-client relationship where the attorney represents what the person wants,” that the GAL represents the best interests of the child, unlike a traditional attorneyclient relationship where the attorney represents what the person wants,” explained Judge Kellie Hogan, District Court Judge in Sedgwick County. “How much weight a guardian ad litem will give to the opinion of the child definitely depends on the age of the child.” Guardians ad litem are required by Kansas statute to do their own investigation of the cases they are assigned. Although their “best interest” decision about the case may be different than what the child wants, they are required by law to share the child’s opinion with the court, Judge Hogan said.

ordered, are they being performed, and making recommendations to the court about additional needs. I think judges generally give a lot of weight to a GAL’s opinion because while everybody in the same courtroom is there to promote the best interests of the child, each person has their own perspective based on who they represent. The GAL is the one person in the courtroom whose responsibility is solely the best interest of the child.”

MAKING SURE THEIR VOICES ARE HEARD

Baker said the GALs that she works with in western Kansas Ministries. (See Kansas counties are important to Standards for a GAL.) the children. They have real conversations with the “Their role is to determine kids about how placement what is in the best interests is going, their wants and Her background as a of the child in that situation,” needs, and their hopes for GAL before her judicial she said. “They play a vital their future. Because the part in what happens in court, appointment has given her an areas where she works are and they are the legal voice of extensive understanding of rural, there tend to be the their importance. the child.” same GALs assigned to cases, and her Saint Francis team “A guardian ad litem is Sometimes, though, the has developed an excellent required to conduct an role of the GAL can be relationship with them. independent investigation,” misunderstood. Judge Hogan said. “They Erica Lopez-Davis, a Saint are looking at things like “I think the thing that is Francis Ministries attorney, what services have been most confusing for people is 20

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agreed wholeheartedly that the GAL role is important. In Kansas, GALs must do an independent investigation and they should be talking to all parties – foster parents, biological parents, children, or relatives, and teachers. “I think that especially with our older youth, the guardian ad litem role is very important, especially when a child is conflicted or they have conflicting wishes about what they want to have happen,” she said. “It is the one avenue where they get to tell the guardian ad litem exactly what they want. Now, most likely the guardian ad litem is going to take that in conjunction with the remainder of their investigation and consider the services that are needed, the status of the parents, what their future looks like as far as whether it’s reintegration with parents, adoption or independent living. “But they definitely are the voice of the child,” Lopez-Davis added, “and the child has that avenue to independently have a relationship with someone they feel like has their best interests at heart.”

TEXAS & NEBRASKA

The role of GALs in Texas is different than in Kansas. “In Texas, our Texas Family

Code gives a child legal representation from the attorney ad litem (AAL) and also from a guardian ad litem. An attorney ad litem obviously is an attorney; a guardian ad litem may be an attorney and also may be a CASA (CourtAppointed Special Advocate),” said Cathy Cockerham, liaison for program development at Texas CASA.

Cathy Cockerham

Liason for Program Development | Texas CASA

If a CASA advocate is not available – and Texas CASA serves 60% of the children in the state’s custody at any given time – the attorney GAL may serve in a dual role, she said.

ad litem is an attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child, and who owes to the person the duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality and competent representation,” Cockerham said. “CASA as the GAL works alongside the attorney ad litem to represent the best interests of the child,” she added. “CASA has engaged in opening doors and pathways to permanency for those lost in the system for many years. CASA advocates have a new way of doing and thinking, using CFE (Collaborative Family Engagement) tools and practices to truly understand the ‘what happened to you’ story and to meaningfully seek supports and opportunities for reunification, well-being while in care, and a future that is safe and supported with lifelong connections.” In Nebraska, the GAL operates in much the same way as in Kansas. They are appointed to every child welfare case in which the children are state wards, said Megan Blue, Saint Francis Nebraska executive director.

The Nebraska GALs focus on Most CASA volunteers in Texas serving the best today are appointed as GALs, interests of the child and Cockerham said. As in Kansas, giving them a voice in court the GAL represents the best interests of the child. “The definition of the attorney CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

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and with other legal parties, Blue said. The work done by a GAL is critical, she said. “More complex or difficult families or cases require more involvement from a GAL to ensure that the child’s needs are met and their voice is being heard,” Blue said. “In cases like these, there are many differing opinions and often times it is helpful for a child to have a strong relationship with their GAL so that they can relay messages to the court as it relates to their best interests.”

SHAPING THE FUTURE FOR A CHILD

was adopted and then the adoption fell through may end up being reconnected with their parents. “The issues are complicated. The needs are great,” said Judge Hogan. “But I think you can assure your readers that attorneys who get involved in this area of law do it out of genuine concern for youth and not as a means to make

“The issues are complicated. The needs are great,” said Judge Hogan. “But I think you can assure your readers that attorneys who get involved in this area of law do it out of genuine concern for youth and not as a means to make money, since there’s really no money in representing children."

The job of a GAL – of everyone in the child welfare system – is complex because each child and family comes with a different set of circumstances.

money, since there’s really no money in representing children. When they take cases, they’re compensated at less than what they would get In Judge Hogan’s career, she’s for a private case. They do this seen those challenges many type of work because they do times. Children who have feel strongly about children been through horrible abuse and promoting their best or neglect, she said, may still interests.” feel a strong connection to their parents. A child who Hogan said she’s seen 22

amazing commitment from GALs, some of whom drive hours to see a child placed outside their community. “That attorney who is willing to take that time and talk to the kid and the foster parents get a whole different perspective of what’s going on than may be shown in the professionally written court report,” she said. “It makes a difference.”

HiLites • Fall 2021

The Texas CASA team, of course, stands staunchly behind the work done by CASA GALs and their partnership with the AALs assigned to cases.

“I think it is a powerful combination,” Cockerham said. “The attorney brings the opportunity to get us back in court should we need to get back in court – the attorney ad litem can do legal things that CASA GAL cannot.” What would Cockerham want people to know about GALs? “If they had a child in the child welfare system, they would pray that they had a GAL by their side,” she said.


What is Texas' Collaborative Family Engagement Program? Six years ago, the Texas CASA organization The trauma-informed CFE tools and began working with the state’s Department techniques focus on finding and bringing of Family and Protective Services to engage in important connections to this work. Collaborative Family Engagement, or CFE. CASA understands relationships are critical CASAs are striving to use understanding to healing. They are building relational gained from a trauma-informed lens and interventions and supports for the children the voices of lived experience to work more and their families. The child “with no family” effectively with children and their families. has found family. In the changing child welfare world, CASA worked to create a new approach for Family voice and active participation in the volunteer advocates and others. case processes has provided critically needed insight and guidance to safety and well-being. CFE is a team-based approach to CASA has engaged in opening doors and meaningfully find and engage with family pathways to permanency for those lost in the members and other committed adults in system for many years. decision-making processes of a case.

LEARN MORE CFE for Parents | CFE & the Legal Community | What is a CASA? | What is Texas CASA?

www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

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2021

KINSHIP FAMILY OF THE YEAR!

CLIFFORD & GENA HAILEY 24

HiLites • Fall 2021


H

uman beings will do pretty much anything for those they love, and little compares to the love of a grandparent for a grandchild. So, when Gena and Clifford Hailey realized Phoenix, 3, and Merlin, 2, needed help, they didn’t hesitate to step in. Their daughter had struggled with addiction and other mental health issues for years, resulting in the boys developing health problems of their own. “I’ve realized I’m not in my 20s anymore,” says Gena. “Cliff and I have seven children between us, including 17-yearold twins still at home. It’s been hard because Phoenix and Merlin had lots of issues when they reached us, like instability and abandonment insecurities. Even a year later, we still worry about them.” Though the twins help, the Meade, Kansas, couple’s age can still present a challenge, especially when it comes to mustering the energy to provide daily care to two babies dealing with their own set of struggles. “Some days are easy with lots of smiles and kisses,” says Gena. “Other days, one of the babies may literally cry all day, especially if

something triggers his fear of abandonment. It’s rewarding, though, to see them develop empathy for other people, when they love just for the sake of loving. Like when my dad passed away, I was crying and Phoenix came up to me with a worried look and whispered, ‘Mommy, are you okay?’ He hugged me so hard … it’s difficult to explain, but sometimes it feels like God moving through the babies. I’ve come to realize they’re as much of a blessing to us as we are to them.” That’s why Gena and Clifford have chosen to adopt their grandchildren. Earlier this year, their daughter, the boys’ birth mother, relinquished her parental rights, and they are currently working through all the paperwork and court appearances to finalize the adoption. “It’s an emotional experience for everyone,” says Gena. “We depend on a team of professionals to help us get these children though trauma, but it’s up to the parents to speak up for the children and utilize the services. I was so distrustful of foster care before this experience, but while looking for respite, we met a couple of families that took care of the boys before we got them. They were amazing. They had so much love and no judgment. It’s like they chose simply to be present, to live in the moment, and to accept the babies as part of the family. When the babies www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

saw them again, you could tell what those families’ care meant to them.” Respite care is something Gena and Clifford could use more of. There’s a shortage of people able and willing to care for a child for an evening or a weekend, yet they provide an essential service to regular foster and kinship families in need of a break to relax and recharge. “It can be overwhelming at times, especially for those of us who don’t have family to watch our grandchildren so we can get a break,” says Gena.

“Everyone benefits from looking more positively at respite care. The people we’ve met are amazing. They don’t even realize that they’re not only making a difference in the lives of the kids they care for, but they also affect the families as well.” So, if foster and kinship parents need respite, what do the children in their care need? The Hailey family believes kids need love, patience, and attention. They also need, according to Gena, parents who don’t compare them to anyone else. “We all come from our own experiences,” she says. “Foster children need acceptance, guidance, and reassurance that they have a place in your home, that they are important.”

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CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE

Educating Our Most Vulnerable Youth STEPHANIE PFANNENSTIEL AND KATHY CARTER Education Coordinators

Y

outh involved in the child welfare system face unique challenges. One of the less often considered traumas experienced by foster children, along with their move from one home to another, is the frequent disruption to their schooling. According to some estimates, children may lose four to six months of academic progress per move. Unplanned changes in school, delays in enrollment, and the transfer of records create further difficulties.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL

Uninterrupted Scholars Act, which allows child welfare professionals the right to access general educational records for children in foster care without a court order or parental consent. In 2015, Kansas foster youth advocated for fewer required elective courses, resulting in Kansas Senate Bill 23 (commonly referred to as the “21 credit rule”). The Every Student Succeeds Act included provisions addressing school stability for children in foster care and ensured that students in foster care have the right to remain in their school of origin (most recent school attending) unless a determination is made that it is not in their best interest. As exciting as this news has been, child welfare and school officials at the local level still have a lot of work ahead of them to develop plans to provide transportation to keep children in their school or arrange a rapid, smooth transition to a new school.

THE FACTS

A national factsheet on educational outcomes for children in foster care, published in April 2018, said over a third of 17- and 18-year-olds in foster care have experienced five or more school changes. Understandably, these youth make less academic progress in school as they fall further behind with each move. Nationally, 65% of youth in foster care complete high school by age 21, compared with 86% of all youth. Measures to address this deficit include the 2013 26

brings challenges for children in foster care

HiLites • Fall 2021


PRIMARY CHALLENGES

SOME EDUCATION CHALLENGES INCLUDE: • Placements hundreds of miles away from their home area. •

Other related legislation such as ESSR (Federal COVID relief) and the Mental Health Implementation Pilot Project (Kansas) will provide additional support services to all Kansas students including youth in foster care.

Children without longterm placements, placement work schedules, daycare issues, etc.

complicated world, and we are here to help assist in the best interest of our children and families.

REFERENCES •

COVID provided opportunities for more flexibility in • schooling. Youth could remotely finish out semesters or continue attending until a long-term placement was Youth discharging facilities found through their school of have no school of origin origin remotely, even if they they can continue to were physically hundreds of attend. miles away. Law and non-regulatory guidance are very vague and often just state that either the school will transport, child welfare agency will transport, or they will work something out together. While both sides have the best intent for the child, they may not have the resources to make it work.

TEAM EFFORT

In the spirit of that cooperation, and thanks to the advocacy work of parents, whether biological, foster, adoptive, or kinship, along with schools and Saint Francis Ministries staff, we are able to keep children in their schools in many cases where distance isn’t a factor. Saint Francis has six education coordinator positions to help with PROGRESS educational issues, concerns, But progress also is being and helping to provide made. Larger school districts information to schools upon with a foster care student population are aware of ESSA: school transitions. Education Ensuring Educational Stability coordinators act as a point of contact and liaison for for Children in Foster Care schools, case teams, parents, and are now much less likely to automatically exit students and other stakeholders for the school age children’s upon hearing they have moved. Several large districts educational needs. They help navigate through the have developed policies intersection of the child around ESSA transportation or have come up with creative welfare system and education system. We know the child solutions to use existing welfare and education system transportation intended for can be a confusing and other purposes. www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

National Working Group on Foster Care and Education. (2014.) Fostering success in education: National factsheet on the educational outcomes of children in foster care (2018). Retrieved from: http://www. fostercareandeducation. org/OurWork/ NationalWorkingGroup. aspx.

GET TO KNOW US

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit our website.

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 05

Young Donor Wants to Help Keep Kids Home feels strongly about. It is, after all, the work to which she’s dedicated much of her professional life as a social worker. She comes by that dedication honestly. “I was in foster care a couple of times,” she said. “My parents had an on again, off again relationship with lots of domestic violence and substance use between them. We were evicted from our home when I was seven. We ended up with our mother, homeless and living in different hotels. I remember one night, for whatever reason, my mother decided to steal her friend’s car at gunpoint, with my two sisters and me in the back seat. We were technically on the run for a few days until we awoke one morning, still in the car and surrounded by police with guns drawn. That was my first encounter with foster care.” Her second experience occurred when she and her sister lived in Wichita. After spending about three years in Missouri foster care, their father got an aircraft job and regained custody. As Jennifer says, though, it didn’t go well. Their father was both physically and emotionally abusive. After a particularly angry outburst, she feared for their safety, and at just 16 28

years old opened a phone book and found the Wichita Children’s Home. Over the phone, they arranged Jennifer and her sister’s escape, and they were taken into police protective custody. She spent time in a foster home before entering an independent living program and aged out at 18. Jennifer went to college at Wichita State University and became a social worker – “I didn’t know much about it, except that social workers had helped me a lot.” She worked for Saint Francis and other agencies before joining Kansas Children’s Service League. Then she packed up her family and followed her Navy husband to California for four years, fostering a teenaged boy while out west. They returned to Kansas a couple years ago, and now she’s back at KCSL, where she’s a healthy family supervisor, helping parents build the skills they need to heal their families and keep their kids home. Despite her own history – or, perhaps, because of it – Jennifer sympathizes with parents whose children are placed in foster care.

HiLites • Fall 2021

“I’ve never met anybody who says, ‘I’m going to have this child just so I can abuse them.’ I’ve seen lots of families who didn’t have support or resources and who in just one moment made a terrible decision that resulted in their children being removed. But some of my favorite memories are seeing changes in parents, healing in families, and watching children safely return home. That’s why I love reintegration work. It’s a traumatic

experience for a child to be removed from their home. And I know that even with my own parents, losing their children forever creates a pain that never goes away. Family separation hurts everyone.” It’s a sentiment Caroline understands well. Thanks to her and to anyone who gives to Saint Francis, children and families receive the support, training, and therapy they need to rebuild, repair, and become whole again. “I can’t speak enough about how important it is to support this work,” said Jennifer. “Donors matter so much. I’m in the business of


trying to prevent kids from going into foster care, and there’s always going to be that need. That’s why the work Saint Francis does is so essential to helping reintegrate children in care. Every child deserves a chance to go home.” CONTINUED FROM PAGE 15

BETTY RUSH TELLS THE STORY

pre-service training, which is 30 hours, to support families taking on children who needed more specialized help. “We offered and still offer additional training for families willing to serve kids with certain types of behaviors or diagnoses,” Betty said. “If you’re going to take kids who have been sexually abused or sexually traumatized, you need to know what to expect and how to help. That’s true also of the families willing to take youth who have criminal type behaviors.” Today, there is still a tremendous need for foster care homes that will accept all ages and types of children, from little ones with basic needs to teenagers with high acuity needs. Figuring roughly from waiting list numbers, Betty said there are anywhere from 30 to 40 youth that Saint Francis serves awaiting higher level foster homes. “Every kid deserves a family,” she said. “They deserve to be with siblings, if they can. It is just about inclusion all the way around.”

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 13

SHE’S NOT GOING TO LET HER

YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE

DEFINE HER ADULTHOOD

Once she turned 18, Anika chose to age out of the system, even though young people can remain until they turn 21. She’s worked throughout the pandemic to earn her high school diploma and recently started a job at Larned State Hospital. Maybe someday she’ll give college a shot. For now, though, she’s just doing her best to find her way through the world, independently, just as she always has. “I simply want to be successful,” she said. “I want to be more than the girl who had a hard time for six years. Yeah, that happened, but she came up from it, she prospered. She went out, did something, and made something of herself. I just want to get my name out there and be something great.”

www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

The Saint Francis Fatherhood FIRE program STANDS OUT from other basic parenting classes. 1. Online classes 2. Addresses poverty 3. Additional case management 4. Flexible class schedules VISIT OUR WEBSITE

today

To learn more and get signed up for classes! SaintFrancisMinistries. Org/Fatherhood-Fire/

29


To do or Not to do?

PAMELA CORNWELL, LCMFT Clinical Director

Talking about difficult feelings at work.

Discussing how you are genuinely feeling, especially at work, is not an easy thing to do. There can be a stigma, especially for helping professionals, around feelings of weakness, unworthiness, and burnout. Being able to

It’s personal – Sometimes we spend as much time with coworkers as we do our family and sharing something so personal could set you up for a betrayal or you could be viewed as a burden by your teammates.

especially now.

You don’t want to be seen as the “only one” – If you

have conversations about mental health is important,

are in a work culture that is emotionally closed off, All of us have experienced being the first one to speak several highly stressful up can seem like a tall adversities and traumas task. But staying silent will over the past year, so many perpetuate emotionally cutcompressed into a short space off relationships. of time. The psychological impact of COVID has elevated You don’t want to jeopardize rates of stress and anxiety your job – If you admit to resulting in increased levels feeling overwhelmed you may of loneliness, depression, be viewed as less competent, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal especially if you are working in a competitive work behavior. During this very environment. same time, we all witnessed intense political upheaval and the reactivation of racial tensions.

There are common beliefs that may prevent you from being open about your

current state of mental or emotional health. Do any of these reasons stop you from talking about how you genuinely are feeling? Calm. com outlined some of the most common reasons for hesitating: 30

Here are just a few reasons why it is important to feel like you can talk about mental health (knowing

you don’t have to)! You may never choose to talk about how you are feeling with your co-workers, but feeling like you can talk openly and authentically can relieve a lot of your stress.

HiLites • Fall 2021

Feeling like you can express yourself can take some pressure off – Pretending you are doing fine when you are not takes a lot of energy. When you feel free to share openly, you have one less thing to worry about.

Talking to the right person can help – Think about what

you need, then pick the right person. Sometimes you just need a good listener and sometimes you need advice. Both may not come from the same person.

It helps others to open up –

When you start authentically talking about how you are feeling others also feel free to talk about their experience too. Often, we find that we are all sharing many of the same feelings. Even at an organization like Saint Francis Ministries, where we deal with the impact of trauma and feelings with those we serve, it can be difficult for employees to speak openly about how we’re doing. It’s important

for employers to offer strong benefits that make support readily available and to also consider how to support important conversations at work.


Consider Saint Francis in Your Year-End Giving No doubt, more than few of us will be happy to watch 2021 recede in the rear-view mirror. After another year of the unprecedented, it will be nice to focus on fall colors, football games, and the upcoming holiday season. Yet, the holidays are hectic, and the days can get away from us before we know it. Often, it seems there’s too much to do and too little time. Yet, the need never ends. Perhaps now is a good time to start thinking about our year-end giving. Every day, Saint Francis Ministries foster parents provide safe, loving homes for children in care. Every day, we help a child forge her way through trauma and reclaim her future. Every day, we guide families trying to heal and become whole again. Every day, we do this and so much more. But we can’t do it alone. We never have, and we never will. As we steadily approach the end of 2021, we ask that you remember us through your year-end giving decisions. Our Foundation staff can guide you through a full range of giving options available to donors. Simply visit https:// saintfrancisministries.org/ how-to-give/ or call 800-423-1342 to learn more.

Christmas for Kids

Donations for 2021 Drive

After more than 75 years of service to children and families, Saint Francis remains a ministry of hope, bringing wholeness and new life back to those who need it most – reintegration/ reunification is key to what we do and our first goal is getting children back into their bio-families. That’s why Christmas for Kids is such a big deal. Thousands of children typically spend Christmas in the care of Saint Francis and Christmas for Kids ensures every single one receives a gift during the holidays. Each year, we depend upon our foster and kinship families, friends, and partners to help us make sure no child is forgotten at Christmas – and this year is no different.

Contact Us Today!

1-800-423-1342 Learn how you can help make the holidays brighter for children and families. DONATE NOW

https://secure.donationpay. org/saintfrancisministries/

We’ve started gearing up for the holidays and need your help. Your gift reminds children in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas that they are remembered and have worth. To learn how you can help support this year’s Christmas for Kids effort, call 800423-1342, ext 1912 or email foundation@st-francis.org.

www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

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GO Fund Connects Employee More Closely with Saint Francis Clients

A

s Saint Francis Ministries’ grant developer, Lauren Dalhaus understands just how much the mission relies upon consistent and dependable funding streams. She also knows that the grants she and her colleagues win for Saint Francis provide only a portion of those funds the organization needs to adequately serve children and families. “I’ve been with Saint Francis since 2017, and my favorite part of the job is still getting to talk to different employees about their passion projects, which are always rooted in creating the best possible healing for kids. It’s amazing

Fund booster and an avid contributor to multiple offices and programs over the years. “I started making a monthly contribution just after the initiative began,” she says. “One of my coworkers who had been a social worker for years told me about the constant need for workers to pay out of their own pockets for essentials not covered by the contract (or other funding sources). I consider social workers to be everyday heroes, so when I heard how they were buying lunches for kids between their appointments or making sure they had what they need for school the next day, I wanted to help.”

to get to learn from so many experts about the work they do and how it changes lives,” she says. This sentiment has led Lauren to become both a Go

Her first donation went to Salina West to support their on-site classrooms. Changing her donation each year, Lauren has also given to Independent Living, Wichita's foster care program, and the

32

HiLites • Fall 2021

Lauren Dalhaus Grant Developer

intensive in-home services program in Arkansas. That’s the beauty of the program. “The ‘Great Opportunity’ (GO) Fund program was established to support the greatest needs of the office community in support of the children and families we serve,” says Deanna Knapp, interim director of the Saint Francis Foundation. For instance, GO Funds have been used to purchase a new bed for a foster family so they could take another child into their home, pay for a summer baseball camp for a child in foster care, and purchase a car seat so a child could be reunited with his birth family.” GO Funds have also been used to purchase wheelchair ramps for children, buy dental braces for a teen, purchase an instrument so a child could participate in band, help a mother into her own apartment so reintegration could progress, and buy a


medical alert bracelet for a child with epilepsy. Similar instances abound throughout Saint Francis. In short, GO Funds enable any Saint Francis employee in any office to directly support the children and families the ministry serves, which is why Lauren is so enthusiastic about the program. “For those of us who don’t work directly with clients, it’s a meaningful way to support those who do,” she says. “I hope they feel supported when they can submit a request to use GO Funds and have that need met. As a person, being able to give directly to a program means so much more to me than making a general donation to the organization. It gives me the security of knowing that my money is going to help people in need. This makes all the difference to me as a personal donor.”

Although employees can give to GO Funds through paycheck deduction, anyone can support the funds, which stay in the communities where we have offices. Contact the Saint Francis Foundation at 800-423-1342 ext 1912 to learn more.

DONATE NOW

https://secure.donationpay. org/saintfrancisministries/

We Appreciate Our Donors! Below is a list of a few wonderful things that donations have provided that help make children and families successful.

Household

Furniture, household goods, and car seats so children could go home to their birth families.

Medical

A wheelchair ramp, medical alert bracelet, and braces for children.

Clothing

Clothes and shoes for children who came to us with only the clothes on their backs.

Miscellaneous

A baby shower for a new mom who is being reunited with her infant.

YOU

make a difference!

www.SaintFrancisMinistries.Org

33


MARK SCHULTZ

CHRISTIAN SINGER

I'm All In. Christian singer Mark Schultz shares his story -- and the life-altering impact of adoptive parents - with Saint Francis Ministries' Foster and Kinship parents.

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HiLites • Fall 2021


Editor‘s Note August and September, in my world, translate to buying at least one crisp, new notebook and a package of favorite pens, no matter that I’ve been out of school for years. It’s a feeling of starting anew. As autumn begins, I am drawn to the cycle of renewal that we see so clearly around us. Renewal, learning a new way to grow, stepping through the cold to bloom in the spring – which seems always to be the most hopeful season – all are reminders that life can bring joy and hardships. I have been lucky in my life that school did mean new pens, shoes, and excitement to see friends. For children and teens we serve, that is not always the case. (See the Education article on Page 26.) It is our job at Saint Francis to help children and families find their way through the season they’re in – and not to just survive the tough times, but to emerge with coping skills, resilience, and a feeling of hope. We appreciate your support and prayers for our children and families, and as we work to help those we serve look toward their futures with confidence.

Morgan Rothenberger EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

A provoking thought

Nature is,

indeed, the only book whose every page is filled with

important content.

~ Goethe 35


Profile for SaintFrancisMin

Saint Francis Ministries Hi-Lites Fall 2021  

Explore the world of child welfare and behavioral health through stories of healing and hope from Saint Francis Ministries. In this fall edi...

Saint Francis Ministries Hi-Lites Fall 2021  

Explore the world of child welfare and behavioral health through stories of healing and hope from Saint Francis Ministries. In this fall edi...

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