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Pregnancy Counseling Helps Kelsey

Kelsey was 23 years old, single, and struggling with mental health issues when she discovered she was pregnant in 2017.

Her parents, who had always provided wonderful emotional support to her, had moved to Colorado earlier in the year. The baby’s father was out of the picture. She was alone in Omaha.

Kelsey contacted Child Saving Institute (CSI) to participate in the Pregnancy Counseling program. Through discussions with her therapist, Machaela Hackendahl, Kelsey thought about what would be best for her unborn child.

She told Machaela that, as soon as she found out she was pregnant, she thought that she would place the baby because she knew she could never provide what a child needs and deserves.

“She was selfless,” Machaela said. “She told me, ‘My heart tells me I need to do this.’”

Together, they worked on an open adoption plan. Kelsey selected a family, and the process went very smoothly.

Kelsey had decided to name the baby Nathanial. When she met the adoptive parents, they told her their top name. It was Nathanial.

When Kelsey went into labor, the adoptive parents rushed to the hospital and stayed in the room next to Kelsey’s. They helped her through labor and, after the birth, they respected her time alone with Nathanial. The respect they showed Kelsey allowed her to say goodbye to her son.

After Nathanial was born, Kelsey moved to Colorado so she would again have a support system. She exchanges letters with the adoptive family to keep up on his development. She calls every six months or so and tells Nathanial that she thinks about him every day. She is content that he is healthy, happy, and loved in his adoptive home, and that, as he grows up, he will know who she is.

Sierra Finds Value in TYPP

Sierra and her two siblings have spent the last seven years in foster care because of abuse and neglect. The three of them were placed in separate homes because there was not a family that could take them all.

Sierra’s foster mom, Arlene, has treated Sierra like her own child, developing a strong relationship based in trust and love. Despite that, police arrested Sierra on a charge of fighting at school and she was expelled. The court put Sierra on probation. She was able to stay in Arlene’s home as long as she followed the probationary rules.

Sierra enrolled in another school, but had a difficult time adjusting. She began to skip classes and her grades tanked. She reacted defensively and aggressively with her caseworker, probation officer, and teachers, struggling to communicate respectfully. She failed to follow through on actions that would help her get off probation. She refused to take responsibility for her actions.

Then she discovered she was pregnant and told her boyfriend, who broke up with her. She told her caseworker that she wanted to parent the baby, so the caseworker referred her to Child Saving Institute’s Teen & Young Parent Program (TYPP). To Sierra, all it meant was that there would be yet another person telling her what to do in addition to the seven members of her case team. She expressed her reluctance to engage, but agreed to meet CSI’s TYPP staff member.

During that first meeting, CSI staff recognized Sierra’s reluctance and made clear that participation in the program was completely her choice. At the end of the meeting, Sierra chose to participate.

Staff began to meet with Sierra weekly and noticed that she grew more engaged and trusting during each visit. They discussed the stages of development during pregnancy, what to anticipate during delivery, and what to expect during the first days at home. They discussed how to prepare a home for a baby, the baby’s stages of growth, how to form a strong attachment with the baby, and parenting skills, using the Growing Great KidsTM curriculum. CSI staff always made the meetings a collaboration to build trust. Sierra could find answers to her questions and concerns while also engaging in the curriculum.

During this time, Sierra also worked hard to meet the terms of her probation, stopped skipping classes, and improved her grades.

A few days after successfully completing probation, Sierra met with CSI staff who, instead of conducting the usual meeting, took her to lunch to celebrate. Sierra expressed her delight at being celebrated.

And, even though her probation ended and her case closed, Sierra has chosen to continue participating in TYPP and is working on her post-delivery and post-graduation plans. She also attends school regularly and is earning straight A’s in her classes. Sierra and her baby will live with Arlene once it is born.

With Help from CSI, Charles Reunites with Children

Jack was only 11 months old when Child Protective Services recommended removal from his parents’ home because of neglect. After a few weeks, Jack was placed in a kinship home. Charles and Erica, his parents, both sought court-ordered treatment for addiction.

Erica, pregnant with their second child, went to a long-term treatment center in another state and Charles admitted himself to a rehabilitation center in Omaha. Jack’s caseworker referred Charles to Child Saving Institute for family support services. He was eager to participate.

A CSI Family Support Specialist met with Charles to determine his needs and help him establish goals. Those goals included completing parenting classes, securing safe housing upon completing a substance abuse treatment program, and addressing his mental health needs.

Charles’ treatment program required him to work and participate in programming in the evenings and on weekends. CSI staff worked around his schedule to meet twice each week for several hours each week. Staff taught him parenting skills using the Nurturing Parent curriculum, educated him about how to make a home safe for children, and explained age-appropriate expectations and developmental milestones.

Staff also observed Charles’ parenting during the supervised visits with his son, offering guidance and direction.

After three months, Charles graduated his treatment program and moved into a two-bedroom apartment. The judge then allowed unsupervised visits and, within a couple of weeks, overnight stays because Charles was doing everything he needed to do to regain custody of his son.

Three months after completing treatment, Charles brought Jack home. Charles also got custody of their newborn daughter Ivy, who was just 3-days-old when she came home. CSI staff helped Charles enroll his children in childcare and obtain financial assistance for childcare through Title XX. Charles’ siblings and parents offered tremendous support to the family, caring for the kids so Charles could attend meetings.

Erica remained in treatment, graduating two months later. She moved in with Charles and the children but struggled in her sobriety, relapsing within a week. She agreed to move out and seek continuing treatment. 

From beginning to end, Charles remained engaged and motivated; and he learned to plan for the future and prepare for emergencies. With support from his family, he is successfully parenting his children, working full time, and maintaining his sobriety.

Childcare Classroom Seeks KidSquad Help

The teaching team in an Early Head Start classroom at an Omaha area childcare center reached out to KidSquad for help last winter. The teachers needed help with challenging behaviors from multiple children. They also requested support on how to build and strengthen their relationships with teen parent clients.

KidSquad Therapist/Consultant LeLynda Briggs spent time observing the classroom to identify the teachers’ strengths and areas for improvement. She visited the classroom twice each week to observe the classroom in action and coach the teachers in real time, providing suggestions and interventions to improve and promote positive peer interactions among the eight children, all between the ages of 2 and 3.

She also recommended that the team hold regular events to involve parents. The team developed quarterly classroom events to increase parent involvement both inside and outside the classroom. The teachers also learned when to advocate for an individual child to receive one-to-one services.

LeLynda conducted weekly follow-up meetings with the teachers to hear their thoughts, feelings, and frustrations.

Since having Kid Squad services, the team has reported increased scores on standardized development measurement tools for all children in their classroom.

SAFE Helps Taye Find Kindergarten Success

Taye started kindergarten in August 2017. By mid-October, his teacher requested help from the School and Family Enrichment (SAFE) program.

The teacher reported that the 6-year-old was having problems staying awake at school because of medication. If she woke him, he would become extremely angry and could not calm himself. Because he could not calm himself, the school would call the parents to come take him home. And because of the frequency with which the school sent him home, he struggled academically and had problems developing friendships.

Taye was also a shy child. When he was at school, he hesitated to participate in activities with a group of students, preferring to be alone.

SAFE Specialist Sami Spain said that on her first visit to the classroom, Taye stayed quiet, seemingly hesitant to build a relationship. His teacher told Sami that Taye had difficulty changing his routine and trying something new. Sami asked Taye to play a game and he agreed, so they sat in the corner of the room and played blocks. Sami talked with Taye and, though he didn’t say much, she did make him laugh. The teacher later told Sami that it was the first time she had ever heard him laugh.

On subsequent visits, Sami worked with Taye on strategies to relax himself when he feels angry. She helped him identify his feelings by name and helped him learn how to manage his feelings without acting out.

Taye’s teachers and administration worked together to keep expectations consistent and positive for him. Sami worked with Taye’s parents to establish a bedtime routine so he would not be sleepy in class, to strengthen their parenting skills, and to increase communication with the school.

Taye successfully finished kindergarten in spring 2018. His teachers reported that he established and maintained friendships with classmates, improved his attendance and grades, and had infrequent outbursts of anger.

In fall 2018, Taye moved up to first grade and his classroom teacher told Sami that the school has not had to call his parents and that he participates in class and completes his homework.

Doing Her Best

Cheyenne had spent much of her life in and out of foster care because of violence in her home. She had little stability, bouncing between home and foster care. 

Because of all the turmoil in Cheyenne’s life, by the time she was 14 she was a full grade behind her peers in credits.

She told her caseworker her relationship with her parents was contentious, at best. Knowing it was likely that Cheyenne would return to foster care, the caseworker referred her to Child Saving Institute’s (CSI) Independent Living Skills (ILS) program.

Cheyenne approached the referral with skepticism because the adults in her life had always disappointed her. She told the CSI Independent Living specialist assigned to work with her that she thought the program would be of little help.

Together the ILS specialist and Cheyenne made a plan to bring her course grades up and to catch her up with her peers over the next few years, but it was entirely up to Cheyenne to achieve that goal. Cheyenne took the challenge to heart, promising to do the best she could. Staff reinforced the idea she could take charge of her life’s direction through her reactions to challenges, the decisions she made, and the actions she took. She started to participate in summer school to work on catching up with her peers.

At 16, Cheyenne once again returned to her parents’ home. Problems began almost immediately. Within a few weeks, a visiting distant relative molested her in the family home. Cheyenne told her parents what happened. They did not believe her and accused her of making things up to get attention. They continued to allow the relative to visit them in the coming days.

At school later that week, Cheyenne told the school resource officer what happened and refused to go home. After notifying Child Protective Services, he explained that he would take her to Project Harmony. She asked him to contact CSI’s ILS staff to transport her.

Upon receiving the call, the staff member drove to Cheyenne’s school and took her to the Triage Center at Project Harmony, also operated by CSI. There Cheyenne participated in a forensic interview with Project Harmony staff regarding the allegation. Cheyenne expressed her fear of returning home because her parents had continued to allow the relative to visit.

Staff worked with Cheyenne to identify a family member or close family friend with whom she would feel safe. Cheyenne identified an adult cousin, who CPS contacted and approved. The cousin agreed to bring Cheyenne to his home.

Cheyenne stayed with her cousin and his family for the next two years. During that time, her grades improved dramatically and she caught up with her peers in time to graduate alongside them in May 2018. It broke her heart that no one in her immediate family attended.

Cheyenne had followed the plan she created with help and support from CSI’s ILS program. With help from ILS staff, she applied and earned entry to Metro Community College, where she began classes in August 2018. She proudly told staff that she is the first person in her family to attend college. Over the summer, she also obtained an internship with a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs. Her dream is to own and operate her own restaurant.

The ILS specialist knew that Cheyenne would need financial assistance to be successful and referred her to Bridge to Independence, a voluntary extended foster care program that young adults may choose to participate in until age 21. She must maintain good grades and have a job to continue participating in the program.

CSI staff believe she will be just fine if she continues doing the best she can.

What is Home?

What does “home” mean to you? For me, the word “home” means much more than the physical place. For me, home conjures feelings of happiness and safety, an image of family, a blanket of warm memories, and a sense of rootedness. The sense of “what is home” includes my parents’ homes, my grandparents’ homes and our close neighbors’ homes. However you define it, home is part of the way we define ourselves.

For some of the children and families that Child Saving Institute (CSI) serves, the idea of home may become distorted, harmed by trauma, neglect, and abuse. Home may include frequent and unplanned moves with family members coming and going with little warning. CSI’s children and families often lack the sense of safety and permanency that we are fortunate to enjoy with our own families.

Your gifts each year help restore a sense of hope, safety, and love, and repair the idea of home for CSI’s children and families. We are deeply grateful for your consideration and generosity in helping them.

We hope you will consider making a year-end gift and help us heal the sense of home for children in crisis. Please read the Stories of Home in this mailer to see how CSI has helped children this year through KidSquad, the Emergency Shelter, and Adoption Services, and make your gift today. Watch for more Stories of Home here and on our social media channels. Restoring a child’s a sense of safety and happiness is a precious gift. We hope will you will join us this year as we help CSI’s kids redefine what “home” means to them. 

With best wishes for a wonderful holiday season,

Peg Harriott
President & Chief Executive Officer

Fostering Grandparents Learn New Skills

Child Saving Institute (CSI) offers 14 services and programs that help children and families. Sometimes, a child who comes to CSI for one service demonstrates the need for additional services and receives a referral.

In the case of 5-year-old J’Natheon, who lived in a kinship home supported by CSI’s Foster Care services, CSI’s KidSquad program received an internal referral. J’Natheon demonstrated challenging behaviors at his childcare center. He and his four siblings lived with their grandparents, Jay and Darla, who had three of their own children still at home.

KidSquad Therapist/Consultant Glenda McKenna met with the couple. Glenda learned that they felt overwhelmed because all the grandchildren exhibited challenging behaviors and they received daily calls from both school and childcare.They shared that they were considering whether it would be better for everyone if they let the state place the children in another home. No other kinship options were available.

Glenda worked with Jay and Darla to set limits and be nurturing, yet firm, with the grandchildren. She visited the family at home for several weekends, coaching Jay and Darla. She taught them some simple sign language to use with J’Natheon’s three younger siblings, ages 3, 2, and 1, to facilitate communication.

Together, Glenda, Jay, and Darla created a poster with visuals to remind J’Natheon and his 6-year-old sister of the home rules and limits. Jay and Darla practiced dealing with defiant behaviors using the skills and strategies Glenda shared with them.
After a few weeks, the couple expressed their gratitude — and sense of relief — to Glenda. The children’s challenging behaviors began to decrease as Jay and Darla consistently enforced the rules and limits.

Levi Takes It to the Next Level

Levi arrived for an extended stay in Child Saving Institute’s (CSI) Emergency Shelter because of issues with truancy, drug charges, and running away. He made it clear to Emergency Shelter staff that he didn’t want to be at CSI.

Levi was struggling in school, failing all his classes. CSI’s on-staff tutor and school liaison spoke with Levi’s teachers frequently and followed up on what Levi could do to pass his classes. The teachers didn’t think Levi could finish the semester successfully. Every day after school, staff sat with Levi as he did his homework, encouraging him to complete it. They told him repeatedly that hard work pays off and is rewarded.

After a few weeks, Levi stopped skipping classes and began bringing home extra credit work. Communication between the school and Emergency Shelter staff continued and teachers began describing Levi as engaged and asking questions. They were impressed with the turnaround.

Levi told the Emergency Shelter staff that he gained confidence because they cared enough to check on his school work and grades and to push him to do better. He not only successfully completed the semester, he did well enough to participate in the school’s summer weight-training program. He also set goals for the coming school year.

Levi transitioned into a group home just a few weeks before school started. Because of his improved grades and participation in the summer weight-training program, he was  allowed to start on his school’s football team, the first time in his high school years he has been eligible to do so.

Levi called the Emergency Shelter after his first few weeks of school to tell them he looks forward to graduating in spring 2019. And he thanked CSI for giving him back hope and excitement for his future.

CSI Finds Siblings Their Forever Family

Nine-year-old Maya and her 8-year-old brother Kendall spent most of their young lives in foster care because of their mother’s addiction to methamphetamines. They were in foster care when their baby brother Xac tested positive for meth at birth two years ago and joined them in foster care. The siblings remained in foster care when, last year, their mom gave birth to Gemma, who tested positive for meth. Gemma went into foster care, first with another family, but eventually joined her siblings.

Before Maya and Kendall went into foster care, family friend and neighbor Vanessa developed an aunt-like relationship with Maya and Kendall. She visited the kids, took them to church, and spent quality time with them. Vanessa grew up with their mother and felt lucky that she had not gone down the same path.

Eventually, the mother lost her parental rights and the children received a referral to Child Saving Institute (CSI) for permanency services. CSI’s permanency staff talked with Maya and Kendall and the team of professionals working with them about trusted adults in the kids’ lives. Vanessa’s name came up in every conversation.

Some of the team wondered if a single person who had never parented would be able to handle suddenly having four children. What they learned about Vanessa, however, eventually led them to change their minds.

Vanessa was a teacher and youth group leader for her church who brought neighborhood kids together for fun activities and had a large support system through her church and family.

She was also willing to learn. She took parenting classes and foster parent training. She moved from her one-bedroom apartment into a home with bedrooms for each child — before she knew if the children would live with her. The kids were excited to spend time with Vanessa, and her love and affection for them showed.  

The team ultimately determined that Vanessa offered the best opportunity to provide a loving family for the children and they moved into their new home. Since then, Vanessa has helped the children maintain relationships with their biological grandparents, aunts, and cousins. Their adoption was finalized in May 2018.

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