U.P. KIDS, Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine Annual Donation Recipient: Caring for Children, Building Brighter Futures

UP foster parenting, UP parenting support, UP adoption services, UP wellness publication

Families at Play at U.P. KIDS Fall Pumpkin Patch Event

U.P. KIDS is an organization supporting children and families in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It began in the Copper Country in 1899 as Good Will Farm, providing a home and school to children from the UP. In 2012, its name changed to U.P. KIDS, but its mission has remained the same: Caring for children and building brighter futures. Its foster care, adoption, and in-home service programs provide caring temporary and permanent homes where children are protected and nurtured.

Families become foster families for a multitude of reasons–they may want to help children in need, they may be struggling with infertility and see foster care and adoption as a way to have the family they’ve always dreamt of, or they may be caring for relatives who are children. Foster families are needed throughout the entire Upper Peninsula, particularly homes willing to take sibling groups and adolescents.

The primary goal of foster care is reunification.

Foster families work with the child’s case worker and their biological family to ensure the concerns which originally brought the child into care are rectified. Foster families provide a safe, loving, temporary home during the reunification process.

Sometimes reunification is not possible. U.P. Kids then turns to foster families to provide permanence (adoption) for the children in their care. There are over ten thousand children in foster care in Michigan, and currently there are 246 children available for adoption without an identified adoptive home.

There is no charge to become a foster family, and licensing workers are happy to work with your family throughout the foster care licensing process. There is no charge to adopt a foster child in Michigan, and many children are waiting for their forever home. Most families receive a financial subsidy for adoptive children, along with health insurance and other supportive benefits.

Adoptive families are offered supportive services through U.P. Kids’ Post-Adoptive Resource Center (PARC). Adoption comes with its own obstacles, and Post-Adoption Specialists are there to help families thrive together. Post-Adoption Specialists partner with adoptive families to connect them to resources, and offer training, support, and advocacy. PARC is available for all adoptive families throughout the adoptee’s childhood, whether they adopted through foster care or a privatel adoption, and is free for families to utilize.

Families UPWARD is an innovative new program at U.P. KIDS.

The program takes a look at problems families may be experiencing and helps break the generational cycle of trauma. Caseworkers collaborate with families to strengthen them using evidence-based models and professional training, as well as family input to come up with a plan to best serve it. Each family is unique. Families UPWARD focuses on and helps build upon each family’s strengths while helping the family to overcome its challenges.

U.P. KIDS’ Big Brothers Big Sisters programs inspire children to realize their full potential and build brighter futures by providing strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships. This opens up new perspectives for children by offering friendship, guidance, and opportunities for enriching activities with caring volunteers.

While your family may not require U.P. Kids’ services, any family can work to become stronger a stronger unit.

Here are four tips for parenting from U.P. Kids:

1) Boost your child’s self-esteem throughout their childhood. Set a goal to praise your child for being (i.e. “You are so wonderful!”) and praise for doing (i.e. “Thank you so much for doing that!”). While it may seem a little strange at first, praising your child can be a step in the right direction for developing good self-esteem. Low self-esteem, low self-worth, and negative self-talk is developed during childhood and can lead to many negative consequences as your child grows. Children thrive when caregivers focus on the positive things they do and not just the things we are trying to correct.

2) Ensure quality time with your children. In today’s busy world, it is more important than ever to provide your child your undivided attention. Set time each day to be fully present for your child(ren). Some fun ways to engage can be asking questions to get a conversation going–“Can you share the best part of your day? What do you think your life will be like in the future? Would you rather eat pickles and peanut butter, or pickles and chocolate?” Opening the door to conversations and showing interest in your child(ren) will keep communication open throughout their lives.

3) Be flexible with discipline techniques and allow yourself grace. No child comes with a manual on how to parent them. Each child has their own love language, personality, and their own uniqueness. There is no parenting style that is going to work for all children just like we adults are not the same. (And how boring a world it would be if we were!)

There is no shame in tweaking your parenting as you learn and as your child grows. Nothing in life works rigidly; we need to learn to roll with the punches gracefully. And no parent is perfect. What makes a good parent is the willingness to learn and grow. Apologize when you mess up—this is a great moment for modeling that we are all human and capable of making mistakes.

4) Practice being empathetic and teach your child(ren) empathy. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes does not come automatically. It’s a skill that needs to be constantly practiced and modeled. Looking at things from a child’s perspective will help you be empathetic.

When a child is having a meltdown, being mindful of how difficult it can be when feeling many emotions is important. Instead of getting flustered, try to empathize. Children and adolescents are not hard-wired with the skills to emotionally regulate themselves, nor to be aware of how others perceive them. When they feel big emotions, those emotions are huge for them even when their reasons may seem absurd to us adults due to our much bigger foundation of experiences, for example, not getting their way, wanting to have a toy at the store, getting hurt, etc.

If you’re willing and able to make room in your heart and your life to help more children in the UP, here are some ways you can do so:

  1. Become a foster or adoptive family. To find out more about becoming a licensed foster or a pre-approved adoptive family, please contact Dolores Kilpela at dolores@upkids.com.
  2. Support UP foster families by providing respite care, donating to your local foster closet, or lending a hand to a foster family with a new child placement.
  3. Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister and mentor a child who needs a positive role model. If you’re interested in applying for Big Brother Big Sister of the Western Upper Peninsula, please contact Maggie Munch at bbs@upkids.com.

*See the businesses that supported Health & Happiness’s 2022 donation to U.P. Kids in our upcoming post.

Article by Alysa Cherubini-Sutinen, PARC Supervisor & Families UPWARD, Dolores Kilpela, Foster Care, Adoption, & Licensing Supervisor, Sarah Codere, Executive Director

Excerpted from the Winter ’22 – ’23 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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