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Adoptive parents open arms to medically fragile boy, witness tremendous change

November 20, 2014

Joey-squareDaniel and Kim Pagan began fostering four years ago. Their love for children and devotion to providing permanency for those who lack it led them to adopt six children in three years.

Kim knew she would be busy with a sixth child, but she was confident that she and her husband needed to commit to adopting Joey through Youth Villages.

“I had a full house,” Kim said, “but I am a stay-at-home mom, so I knew he would have around-the-clock care.”

Although Kim and Daniel have experience adopting, Joey needed unique attention. He has quadriplegia cerebral palsy and will require parental care for the rest of his life.

Beginning to parent a medically fragile baby was new for Daniel and Kim.

“Joey’s situation was a completely different ballgame,” Kim said. “We felt lost at first, but Youth Villages knew how to help us.”

With Youth Villages’ adoption specialists guiding them through the process, Kim and Daniel were able to successfully adopt Joey and improve his life. Now Joey is growing to be stronger and healthier with his forever family.

“Joey has changed tremendously,” Kim said. “He was lifeless when he was first with us. He didn’t look like he was going to live. Now he is alert. He tries to walk. He even starts school next week.”

To learn more about adoption through Youth Villages in Tennessee, visit our website at www.youthvillages.org/adopt. For information about adopting through foster care no matter where you live, visit adoptuskids.org.

Joey’s adoption was finalized after he spent eight months in foster care and had been with Daniel and Kim for a year and a half.

“Joey has found exactly what he needed in his adoptive home,” said Elena, Youth Villages adoption specialist. “He has received care, acceptance and most importantly – abundant love. The Pagans are amazing people.”

Thanks to the Chattanooga therapeutic foster care team, Joey and his new family received the support and services needed to reach this happy ending.

“Those who have worked closely with Joey for nearly two years of custody can now have peace of mind,” Elena said. “Now we know he is in good hands.”

Adoptive family replaces chaos with consistent, reassuring love

November 19, 2014
Greg, third from right, is surrounded by his adoptive parents, Delorse and Sherman, as well as DCS and Youth Villages staff

Greg, third from right, is surrounded by his adoptive parents, Delorse and Sherman, as well as DCS and Youth Villages staff

Sherman and Delorse have been fostering children for 25 years. They raised seven children before they decided to invite an eighth into their home last April.

Prior to Greg joining Sherman and Delorse’s family, his life had been chaos. He had a long journey through state custody, unable to settle in a home for years. He experienced three episodes of custody, two failed trial home visits with his biological mother, two years of residential treatment, frequent psychiatric hospitalizations and numerous foster care placements.

Greg had no sense of permanency until Sherman and Delorse entered his life. Their consistent and reassuring love has made all the difference for Greg.

“They have offered a perfect balance of a nurturing yet structured environment that Greg desperately needed to heal from his chaotic past,” said Elena, Greg’s Youth Villages adoption specialist.

Sherman and Delorse have invested in Greg and the results have been remarkable.

“I’ve witnessed many moments between the family and Greg that have made me absolutely confident that this is a perfect fit,” said Greg’s Youth Villages counselor.

To learn more about adoption through Youth Villages in Tennessee, visit our website at www.youthvillages.org/adopt. For information about adopting through foster care no matter where you live, visit adoptuskids.org.

Greg’s adoption was a joyful event attended by the Department of Children’s Services staff, Youth Villages staff and others who know Greg well enough to realize the significance of his adoption. The event was celebrated with pizza and cake while those who worked with Greg through the years shared in his happy ending.

“I feel very fortunate,” Elena said, “to have a small part in this massive effort that was put forth by so many workers throughout the years to ensure the safety and well being of this special boy.”

Greg has been served by Youth Villages Specialized Crisis Services, Intercept intensive in-home treatment, therapeutic foster care and adoption programs. Youth Villages’ staff served as constant support for Greg and his adoptive parents. This process was also supported by DCS and Harmony Adoption.

Family’s step of faith leads to unexpected joy

November 6, 2014

November is National Adoption Month

Bryson

Melissa and Richard Douglass of Bartlett, Tennessee, are among the wonderful people who have chosen to help children in need by becoming foster parents for Youth Villages in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

Melissa took the time to write the story of her family’s experience in hopes of encouraging others to help. Please take a few minutes to read her inspiring account.

Adopting Bryson, by Melissa Douglass

The adoption process for us began with foster care. Foster care was a way for us to be obedient to the scriptural mandate to minister to orphans in their time of need. We learned that there were approximately 1,200 children in the foster care system in Shelby County alone. Our 21-year-old daughter had moved out and we were now empty nesters.

We felt that God was leading us to step up and do our part. It was totally a step of faith, as we had no opinion as to what type of child we would foster other than we wanted a child 6 years of age or younger. We had no gender or racial preferences. We had no intentions to adopt at the time we signed up for classes with Youth Villages to gain approval to be foster parents. As a matter of fact we had made the statement several times that we were not going to adopt. How ironic!

We completed the training and received approval. Approximately two months later, we received a call to provide respite care for our first child, a young man named Bryson. The weekend of respite with Bryson was certainly challenging, but provided us with no clue as to what we would ultimately be getting ourselves into. We were told that our weekend of respite care with Bryson would be somewhat of a test case for a possible long-term situation.

After spending the weekend with Bryson, we were excited about the possibility of having him on a longer-term basis. But, to our dismay, Youth Villages informed us that Bryson would be moved to Nashville for placement. It was a real letdown. We prayed that if it were God’s will for us to have him, things would not work out in Nashville. Within the week, we received a call asking if we were still open to foster Bryson. A placement could not be found for him in Nashville!

We knew then that Bryson was meant to be in our home. And the journey began. The journey was nothing like what we had expected. We had no idea what we would experience in the coming months. It was hard to believe that a 5-year-old, 40-pound little boy could have so much anger, hurt, and rage inside. He was very aggressive and destructive. We really struggled and prayed that God would give us the wisdom and strength needed to deal with Bryson.

Youth Villages was great! They were always there when we needed them. And this was often. We made many calls for counselors to come out to the house. The counselors were sympathetic to our struggles and provided us with great support. They became almost like family to us.

To learn more about adoption through Youth Villages in Tennessee, visit our website at www.youthvillages.org/adopt. For information about adopting through foster care no matter where you live, visit adoptuskids.org.

Although this was the most difficult thing we had ever done in our lives, we decided that we could not give up on Bryson. We were his 10th foster home. We could not let him go back to the system. He already had attachment issues, and we felt this would be very destructive for him. Throughout the 20 months of fostering Bryson, we grew to love him deeply. Our total reticence to adopt had been turned on its head. We had now become Mom and Dad to Bryson. A detached, angry, sad little boy had now become a very attached happy, loving child.

On Aug. 25, Bryson became our son forever. On Sept. 1, approximately 25 members of the Douglass family and a couple of close friends held a “Welcome to the Douglass Family” party for Bryson.

A big sister, uncles, aunts, and cousins all let Bryson know that he is now family — FOREVER!

It is such a blessing to hear him pray every night, “Thank you God for my family, and thank you for my mom and dad, and thank you that I am now a Douglass.”

Time In with Dr. Tim: Giving your child tools to deal with bullying

October 31, 2014

As long as there have been children in social situations, there has probably been bullying. I imagine even the caveman-era kids and their parents had to deal with these issues. Most of the children we help at Youth Villages have encountered serious bullying or even been the bully.

Bullying is something all of us take seriously. In fact, many schools and organizations have zero-tolerance policies on bullying. But we all know it still happens. It’s important to recognize that both adults and youth have tools to deal with bullying behaviors. While it’s never children’s own fault when they are bullied, it’s important to empower them with ways they can respond when it happens. With some help, most kids are able to come through these pitfalls successfully.

Here are four types of bullying to look out for:

  • Verbal: threats, insults, name-calling or spreading rumors
  • Relational: social isolation or intimidation
  • Physical: violent physical assaults like kicking, punching or property damage
  • Cyberbullying: harassing others via social media and cell phone usage

When children talk to you about an incident that happened at school or on the playground, they may or may not call it “bullying.” Depending on their age, they may say: “Someone was mean to me,” or “Someone hit me.”

If your child is in danger physically or emotionally, you should step in; but many bullying incidents are not so extreme. First, help your child understand that he or she is not at fault, that there is nothing they should or could have done to prevent this. The bully has problems that need to be brought to the attention of people who can help and that needs to be done.

You can help your child think through the incident for himself or herself. Ask questions that guide the conversation.

“What could you do if this happens again?” you might ask.

Your child might reply: “I can’t do anything!”

This is a great time for your child to learn that there is always something he or she can do to respond or react to a situation. Guide the conversation and help your child come up with good reactions.

“Could you just walk away?” “Could you make sure you’re with a friend at the time something is likely to happen?”

Usually, your child will come up with an appropriate next step. Something your child is comfortable with and has thought up has the best chance of success.

It’s important for children to learn to stand up for themselves. You don’t want to go out and get boxing gloves like the dads in the old sitcoms did, but it’s good to teach your child different, effective ways to react.

We don’t do our children any favors by solving every problem for them. As part of their development, it’s good for kids to experience the satisfaction and empowerment that come from overcoming a tough situation. In life, people are mean sometimes; it happens on playgrounds and in conference rooms later on.

Learning ways to overcome a difficult situation gives children important life skills, increases their confidence and builds resilience. It helps children develop what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” that critical belief in our own ability to handle situations, complete projects, reach our goals.

As parents, we must step in when our children are in danger of physical or emotional harm. We also must help our children develop the skills to handle such life situations. If children are not in serious physical or emotional danger, guide them as they work through the experience on their own – it’s an important step in their development toward adulthood.

Tim Goldsmith, Ph.D., is chief clinical officer at Youth Villages, where he directs a staff of clinical specialists who oversee the work we do with children and families across the country.
Dr. Tim and his core clinical managers have nearly 100 years of experience helping children with the most serious problems. Together they oversee the counselors and specialists who work directly with parents, teaching them ways to help their children overcome serious problems and go on to do well at home, at school and in the community.


Dr. Tim Goldsmith, Youth Villages' chief clinical officer

Dr. Tim Goldsmith, Youth Villages’ chief clinical officer

Tim Goldsmith, Ph.D., is chief clinical officer at Youth Villages, where he directs a staff of clinical specialists who oversee the work we do with children and families across the country.

Dr. Tim and his core clinical managers have experience helping children with the most serious problems. Together, they oversee the counselors and specialists who work directly with parents, teaching them ways to help their children overcome serious problems and go on to do well at home, at school and in the community. This year, our clinical and counseling staff will help more than 22,000 children across the country.

Now Dr. Tim and his staff of experts can answer your questions, too. All parents have moments when they wish they could consult with an expert. If you have a question about your tween or teen’s behavior, send it to DrTim@youthvillages.org.

Tribute to Excellence Fall Dinner raises nearly $40,000 for Youth Villages Mississippi

October 31, 2014
From left: Katja Russell, Youth Villages executive director of Mississippi and Alabama, with Mississippi local board members X, Y and Z.

From left: Katja Russell, Youth Villages executive director of Mississippi and Alabama, with members of Youth Villages’ Mississippi Board, Susan Smith, Stephanie Rippee and Amanda Tollison.

Nearly 200 business and community leaders gathered Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, at the Country Club of Jackson for Youth Villages’ 2014 Tribute to Excellence Fall Dinner to raise almost $40,000 in sponsorships and donations for the transitional living program in Mississippi.

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View a photo gallery from the event.
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This year’s event, presented by Sanderson Farms, honored Reverends Luther and Janet Ott for their incredible impact on the lives of Mississippi children through their work with Stewpot Community Services and the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson.

Katja Russell, executive director of Youth Villages Mississippi, shared information on the services Youth Villages provides to children and families across the state. Amy Adams, assistant director of programs, spoke about transitional living and the YV Scholars program. She was joined by Renee, a former foster youth, who is currently receiving transitional living services. She became a YV scholar just last year. Renee discussed how meaningful Youth Villages’ programs can be and how the care and love of her YV foster mother, Linda Porter, forever changed her life.

Adrian, Christi learn to trust each other

October 30, 2014
Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist Lori Platt, left, with Adrian and Christi

Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist Lori Platt, left, with Adrian and Christi

Rebuilding trust between a mother and son doesn’t happen overnight. It’s gradual, sometimes incremental. In Adrian and Christi’s case, regaining trust in each other was essential to their success.

Adrian, 15, was placed in state custody in 2010 because of his mother, Christi’s neglect.
Christi, who’s in recovery, had struggles with addiction. When custody was restored, the two had a difficult time. Therapy services for the family weren’t working, and Adrian was closing off, refusing to communicate with Christi. What little trust they had in each other faded.

“We couldn’t talk to each other without screaming,” Christi said. “Everything related to Adrian and me was just going backward.”

In the meantime, Adrian’s withdrawal escalated, and he had thoughts of harming himself. His ideations resulted in an ongoing cycle of hospitalization, then residential treatment and outpatient care. Nothing was working. Following one severe incident, the hospital referred Adrian to Youth Villages Oregon’s Christie Campus. There, he took a turn for the better.

He was discharged and placed back home with his mother, where the family began intensive in-home services through Youth Villages’ Oregon Intercept®. Lori Platt was their family intervention specialist.

Lori met with the family at least three days a week. She learned that Adrian had trouble coming to terms with his mother’s past behavior, and Christi was at a loss for what to do about her son’s actions. With Lori’s help, Christi and Adrian began taking small steps toward trusting each other.

They first accepted that each was doing the best they could.

“I learned a lot from Lori,” Christi said. “Before I took Adrian’s actions personally. But it wasn’t about how I parent, it’s about how Adrian feels.”

Conversely, Adrian began communicating more with his mother. They both understood it was OK to disagree. The two began using collaborative problem solving as a means to work together to address a problem or question.

“They started with small things,” Lori said. “Then they gradually worked up to more difficult problems associated with their relationship.”

CPS allowed Christi and Adrian to discuss previous barriers in a different context. It restored their trust and reestablished the roles for each that had been muddied by their pasts.

“It wasn’t just about Adrian, it was about us as a family,” Christi said. “We were able to work through our issues and Lori was there to support me and to support Adrian.”

Adrian began doing simple things to help out around the house. He began participating in Youth Move, a local peer support system. He continued playing music, something he enjoys.

“He plays seven stringed instruments, but guitar is his favorite,” Christi said. “Now he channels his energy in a positive way – he plays and it makes things OK.”

Adrian discharged successfully in July. The family continues to receive therapy, but the home is significantly different.

“Things are awesome,” Christi said. “I can’t express the changes I’ve seen in my child. I’m just really grateful for what Oregon Intercept and Lori did for us. She met us and talked to us whenever and wherever we needed.”

Trio of adopted siblings find new forever home together

October 30, 2014

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Joseph and Sandy have always had a special connection with children. Sandy has a background in social services, working with children in state custody.

“My heart, as well as my husband’s heart, became those children,” Sandy said.

After working with children and having three of their own, Katie, Ally and Blake, they decided they wanted to adopt someday.

The couple became certified foster parents in October last year. Hilary Anderson, senior placement counselor for Youth Villages, called shortly after to place a sibling group of three with Joseph and Sandy.

They fostered the three siblings for nine months before their adoption was finalized.

“Since they have been here, they have grown leaps and bounds,” Sandy said. “When they came to us, their self images were so low they couldn’t look at anyone when speaking or being spoken to. Now they can. They smile with genuine smiles.”

The couple has taught their children healthy boundaries and expectations.

The children are attending counseling and improving in school.

“They adjusted beautifully in their home and get along just fine with their three adoptive siblings,” said Elena Tanase, Youth Villages adoption specialist. “Sandy and Joe have their hands full having to take care of six children, but they are wonderful parents. We could not be happier for these children.”

To learn more about adoption through Youth Villages in Tennessee, visit our website at www.youthvillages.org/adopt. For information about adopting through foster care no matter where you live, visit adoptuskids.org.

On Oct. 2, Joseph and Sandy officially adopted Garrison, Meghan and Nathan.

Youth Villages’ staff were a constant and steady support for the family during the fostering and adoption process. Meg Clement, Department of Children’s Services family service worker, also helped during the process.

“Ashley Cofield, our Youth Villages caseworker, was incredible,” Sandy said. “Supportive, informative, friendly, helpful and concerned. The kids and I grew to love her. Hilary answered any questions we had, supported every decision we made and was just as thrilled as we were when we finally had the children placed with us.”

With the support of family, friends and Youth Villages staff, the family celebrated their happy ending outdoors with cupcakes, apple cider and gifts.

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