Halo Blog

THE LOVE THAT FOSTERS TRUE IDENTITY

Cindy Lee - Sunday, October 11, 2015

KRISTEN HATTON

When my kindergarten-aged son asked to invite a girl over after school I was intrigued.  He typically played with only his older brother and the bunch of boys on our street, not girls!  But this girl, he told me, could run faster than any boy, which I guess for him translated into her making a good playmate. Six years later these two are still great buddies. The start of their little friendship was the beginning of something bigger though – it served as my first introduction to a bi-racial family and what opened my eyes to the world of foster care and adoption.

 

This is because in addition to his friend being a girl, she is also black, rescued out of foster care and adopted into her white family. Her mother, who serves as the founder and executive director of Angels Foster Family Network in Oklahoma, is now one of my dear friends. Through she and her family I was given a face to foster care and adoption.

 

Although foster care is much more discussed now, before meeting this family I had no real knowledge of the foster care crises. I had no idea how many children were in the system or the statistical odds for those children’s future. Realizing the stark reality for children growing up having never attached to a parental figure or having experienced love awoken me to the necessity and importance of foster families.

 

I am now well aware of the challenges a foster family faces when accepting a child into their home. It comes at a great expense to their own comfort and ease, but a sacrifice that brings with it the life-altering gift of identity for the child.

 

God created each of us with the innate desire to be loved, affirmed and accepted. We all want to know we matter and have purpose. Ultimately only God perfectly meets these deepest longings of our heart.  But even when we know his love as his adopted children, we turn to countless other things looking to be satisfied in a way only he can fill. So we remain insecure and restless in our unfulfilled desires, struggling to know our infinite value and worth.

 

If this is the natural condition of our human heart, regardless of a relationship with God, or regardless of having an intact family unit and loving parents, imagine how much greater the struggle for a child who does not know the love and security of anyone.

 

When children have not had anyone reflect the image of God to them, the insatiable longing to be known and accepted leads them to act according to the only identity they know.  An identity declaring them to be neglected, unwanted, unloved, rejected, losers and outcasts.  And the more they believe this to be who they are, the more they will live according to those labels.

 

For those of you who are foster and adoptive parents, you know personally the heartache in seeing a child marred by their former identity and still rejecting the love you so desperately want them to embrace.  So day in and day out you work hard to reorient your child’s heart and mind so they will be able to bond with you and accept your love.  Through this process you are literally reshaping their identity and instilling purpose and significance into the hole in their soul.

What a beautiful pointer to Christ. The One who left his heavenly home to enter into our fallen, sinful world in order to make all things right again.  By accepting us in our brokenness and adopting us as his children he gave us a new identity and views us as his heirs - Sons and Daughters of the King.  

 

It doesn’t matter who we are or where we came from, none of us did anything to deserve such an inheritance from God. But he gave it anyway because of his great love and abundance of mercy.  As parents, whether to foster, adopted or biological children, we have the opportunity everyday to mirror the unconditional love of Christ as we sacrificially pour out ourselves for our children. By God’s grace they will rest in the security of our love and find their true identity firmly rooted in the bigger story of Christ. 

 

Kristen Hatton resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with her pastor husband and their three teenagers. Through leading a small group teen Bible study, she discovered her passion for teaching and writing about God’s grace. Her first book Get Your Story Straight, a teen devotional, is being released this month. To learn more visit www.kristenhatton.com

 

Meet a HALO Buddy

Cindy Lee - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

 

Hello, my name is Paige and I have the honor of being a buddy for Halo.  I am in my third round of volunteering for Halo and still find each session to be a unique experience from the last time.  Halo happened to fall into my lap by coincidence and I am so grateful it has.  Working in Early Intervention with the State Department I find that I am often involved with foster children and foster families.  Seeing how the child’s past trauma follows them to each new home they find themselves in is very hard.  Halo has been a blessing seeing how a different approach to parenting changes behavior and overall outlook of the child and family interaction from week 1 to week 10.  Don’t get me wrong, being a buddy can have its challenges but it pushes me to work harder every week so my little buddy feels loved, safe and is able to grow

 

 

I have been able to keep in touch with my second buddy J.  J’s family talks about what a different kid J is for the better; less meltdowns and how J communicates more.  It’s been over a year since working with J but every time we see each other we are both so excited and pick up right where we left off.  J is always smiling, J is lovable, and J enjoys being loved as well.  Knowing that I got to be a part of J’s change, even as small as 2 hours every week for 10 weeks is what makes me come back.  Each child is diverse, has their own struggles they are overcoming and as a buddy watching them grow, learn and love is what inspires me the most.  Cindy Lee not only changes the lives of these families, but she inspires everyone who is involved with Halo as well. 

 

Want to be a HALO Buddy?  Email HALO Project at admin@haloprojectokc.org for more information. 

 

In What Direction are you Heading?

Cindy Lee - Sunday, June 28, 2015

 

In a recent conversation with a missionary, the subject matter of “Why don’t people do more to help?” consumed the dialogue.   This missionary had recently returned from a country in which children were starving and women and children were being abused.  The missionary first thought, “Surely people don’t know.  If they knew, they would not turn away food or support.”  Ah, if only that were true.  Ask anybody if there are starving people in XYZ country and they will astoundingly tell you “yes!”  People know.  Not only are they able to imagine the worst of acts but they are also aware that there are indeed people and organizations actively working to help.  

 

So if action is not a reflection of knowing, then what is it dependent upon?   Often, the ability to engage in the kindest of actions and the purest of evils, is a condition of the heart.  It is not a condition of knowledge.  At HALO we see this in all forms.  We see a child, hurt lashing out transform into a child engaged in acts of love and empathy when his needs are met.  We see families filled with chaos transform frustration into beautiful communication when somebody meets their needs.   We see donors and volunteers who are so full of love they are compelled to give of their time and talents again and again.  And, we see “grown up” children from hard places desperate to be reunited with their children but are unable to overcome addiction, abuse or guilt.   It is important to remember, the condition of the heart for these parents is not that of evil, it is one of brokenness.  In EVERY SINGLE case in which we have worked with a parent whose children were removed, they themselves did not have their needs met as a child.  EVERY. SINGLE. CASE. 

We are all moving in a direction.  The direction in which we are moving is a condition of our hearts.   In which direction are you moving?  Are all your needs met? Do you feel loved? Unconditionally loved?  Or, is something missing in your heart and you are searching for it in all the wrong places? 

 

Perhaps the “selfie” culture of today reflects this idea more outwardly that anything else.   The American culture is often described these days as filled with selfishness.  It’s even been said that we are living in “the ME culture of today.”   If this idea of a “ME" culture is meshed with the idea that we are a living out the condition of the heart, then let it be said that we are NOT AT ALL living in a selfish culture, we are living in a broken culture.  This cultural selfishness does NOT reflect a condition of self-love as much as it reflects a condition of lack of love.  

At HALO we teach parents to ask their children, “What do you need?” when they are experiencing heightened emotional distress.   Wanna know what the most common response is?  They don’t ask for ice cream or a new toy or to show something they have done off to the world.  The most common response is a thoughtful pause, followed by arms slowly reaching for a hug.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Respectfully,

Cindy R. Lee, LCSW, LADC

HALO Project Executive Director

 

 

 

 

"Praisorship" Is For You, and You, and You!

Cindy Lee - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

There is nothing more wonderful than witnessing the compassion of others.  We are constantly moved by the goodness of the heart and watching others help others motivates us to get involved.    The joy felt by the giver and the receiver is contagious, which is why we always cry at the rescue stories we see on TV.   We already know how harsh our world can be so witnessing everyday heroes is powerful.

When asking folks to volunteer for HALO, there is no need for us to share the painful stories of the children we serve.  You know their stories.  You know if they are in foster care or of if they are adopted, at some point in their life they were rejected by the people that were first in line to protect and love them. 

When asking others to volunteer for HALO, we are straight forward in telling our success stories.  We say, “Just watch as the children come ‘on-line.’  Watch how their families are no longer frustrated and watch for the laughter and the creativity of a child that feels safe.”  After all, people are donating their time and resources so they can impact the future in a positive way not so they can dwell in the pain of the past.

HALO is here to tell you to focus on what happens next.  ALWAYS FOCUS ON THE HEALING! Focus on what HALO and you are doing together.  Put all your energy into the solution.  Rejoice here, sing praises from the roof tops – you are the one who gets to be a part of bringing healing to a family.  HALO is successful and we invite you to be a part of it.

There are so many caring people out there who desire to help but do not know how.  They may not be able to be a foster parent or adopt but have a heart for children.   HALO can help you with that.    We have an amazing new way for you to volunteer – FORM A “PRAISORSHOP TEAM!”

A Praisorship Team is a team of individuals that come together to support one family participating in the HALO project.   You volunteer to be a team leader and then you form your team. Many of you are already a member of a Praisorship Team, you just CALL IT bible study, Lifegroup, playgroup, men’s group, PTA or Buncko group.   Many of you are not already in a group but have the desire to make meaningful connections with others and can use this as your opportunity to bring people together.   

One way YOUR TEAM shows love to the HALO families is by providing a meal during their HALO class time.  This meal sends a message that they are supported as well as strengthens their mood and ability to cope with all they are trying to accomplish.  Each team commits to bringing a meal to the participants one night during the program.  This means you would deliver the meal to the location of the HALO program and generally provide enough food to feed 12.  

In addition, your team would commit to donating much needed craft supplies and fidgets.  Fidgets are small toys the children can hold to help calm them down and to help them focus.  HALO uses A LOT of fidgets!   HALO would supply your team with a list of supplies to gather and donate.  Since fidgets are sometimes hard to find, your team can donate an amount of your choice to the HALO Fidget Fund and we will shop for you.  Each child that goes through the program receives 11 fidgets by the time we finish the program.

In addition, each team is given the option of praying for the family weekly.  Due to the fact that HALO is not formally a faith-based program, families and praisorship teams can privately opt out of the prayer request option. 

How does the Praisorship Team witness healing? 

The HALO staff will send each team leader an email update each week as well as a prayer request as the family goes through the program.   Each week, the HALO Buddy that works directly with the child writes something cute the child did that week and the family writes out the prayer request themselves.  The names of children and families would not be released to protect confidentiality. 

Here is the interesting part.  We piloted this program a few months ago to see if was impactful.  HALO had 6 amazing teams that were invested in these families.  I witnessed a softened mood and a more loving start to each HALO class as the families came together to share a meal. I witnessed the buddies excited to share the progress of each child with the team and I witnessed an increased level of hope by the families as they wrote out their prayer requests.   As for the teams, I witnessed individuals feeling good about being a part of the solution.  So much that one team brought meals for 4 nights!!!!  These teams were given unique insight into the foster care world and great discussions about the system resulted. They all wanted to do more.  Also, HALO is using the money we saved on buying supplies to expand our program to more locations in the fall. 

Please join the HALO team by become a Praisorship Team Leader.   If you would like to enlist, just email us at admin@haloprojectokc.org.  We will help you by coming out to talk to your group directly. Thank you in advance and we can’t wait to work with you!

 

To sign up to bring a meal – click here: www.SignUpGenius.com/go/9040D4EACAA2BAB9-meals/17488030

 

To sign up to bring supplies – click here:  www.SignUpGenius.com/go/9040D4EACAA2BAB9-supplies/17488030

 

 

 

Respectfully,

Cindy R. Lee, LCSW, LADC

HALO Project Executive Director

 

Another BLOG - Seriously??????

Cindy Lee - Thursday, April 23, 2015

 

Does the world really need another blog?  Probably not, but HALO is not in the business of knowing what the world needs.  We are however 100% committed to deciphering, detecting and understanding what our hundreds of thousands of children in foster care need.  That, my friends, is the HALO agenda.  As the founders of HALO realized, there are two fundamental approaches to how to parent children in foster care.  One approach, that sends the message of “you didn’t learn so I am going to teach you by assuming dominance over you and control over you so that you can be obedient” and the other that says “something terrible happened to you and you did not learn, so I am going to teach you by showing you I am trustworthy.  I will show you trust by sharing power with you and coming along side you to help you as you struggle.  ”HALO is committed to sending the latter message.  We recognize that every precious child is a unique creation with tremendous value and worth and our world ON OUR WATCH let them down.  HALO desires to come alongside them and show them the beauty that lies in the love one human can have for another.  This is what they have never seen and it is IMPOSSIBLE to show this love through punishment, lectures and harsh consequences.  Traditional discipline only works for children who have an established relationship of trust with their parent.  Even now, after all we have seen, we would venture to say that the way in which we should parent our foster and adopt children is so exceptional to traditional discipline that those who understand it utilize it with their biological children as well.

 

So what is the BLOG for?  The blog, is to share information so that you are no longer in the dark.  So you can replace what you don’t know with something new, something BETTER, something so filled with love and grace that you feel good inside when you parent.  A central theme with the parents and families that have completed the HALO program is, “Why doesn’t everybody have this information?  ”In a few years they will.  All the people who have access to the information are working tirelessly day and night to spread the word.  This includes researchers, advocates, social workers, counselors, foundations, churches and most importantly the foster and adopt parents.  These insults happened ON OUR WATCH and it is our responsibility to combat what has been done.  We are doing it.  You are doing it.  Together, we can bring peace and healing and understanding to these children.  We finally found a solution that works.  No more describing the problem and spending hours and a multitude of resources trying to figure out what to do about it.  We now KNOW what to do about it.  The Institute of Child Development, led by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross, at Texas Christian University has spent the last 20 years researching the solution and THEY FOUND IT!  Now they teach it.  Many of you were able to attend the Empowered-to-Connect simulcast last month.  Did you know this message of hope and healing went out to over 30,000 people?  People are yearning for solutions because the foster and adopt families are in tremendous pain.  They long to love their children but are so tired and so weary because nothing they seem to be doing is working.

 

HALO hosted the Empowered-to-Connect conference as well.  We had 194 people register.  Throughout the conference the HALO team kept telling me to tell the audience what HALO is and what HALO does.  I was hesitant to tell everyone.  I waited and waited and waited until I could wait no longer.  At the last break of the conference, I shared the bare minimum of what we do.  One of our HALO families graciously shared their life changing story.  Then it happened, there was a line of people telling us their stories of heartache and pain and asking for help.  The emails and calls followed.  That night, I went home and wept.  I wept because there are just so many and HALO does not have the infrastructure to help them all.  Then I looked back over what HALO has accomplished over the last year and half.  I remembered how far we have come and the number of families we have helped.  I remember how Amy Gray, the McLaughlins and Jennifer Abney gave of their resources openly because they believed in our mission.  I remember how Dr. Purvis and her team welcomed HALO with open arms.  I remembered all the volunteer buddies who showed up every Monday night to love a child.  I remembered all the voice mails and emails with messages of hope and I remember our clinical director, Brooke’s voice in my ear telling me to calm down and put one foot in front of the other.  I remember the tears on the mother’s faces as they let go of their pain and guilt and I remember the “you want me to do what” faces of the dads who think we are telling them to let their kids get away with something.  Most of all I remember the darkness in the eyes of a child with trauma being replaced by a shining light of joy.  HALO is pure treasure because of all the people that make it so.  Yes, there are too many, but our world is filled with treasure, people just waiting for us to walk through the door and show them what they can do.  We have found these loving people and will be expanding from one HALO program to four in the coming months.  This is just the beginning of our part in this story.  We fall in line behind the visionaries at Empowered-to-Connect, Show Hope, and the Institute of Child Development.  We are armed and ready to fight for the peace that our children and families deserve.

 

So, the purpose of the HALO blog will be to share information and encouragement for all the foster and adopt warriors out there.  It will serve as a reminder to our HALO alumni families of what they already know and provide information to those starting this new parenting journey.  We will inform you of learning opportunities and uplifting stories of healing.  We desire to restore HOPE by focusing on all that is GOOD.

From our team to yours, it is an honor and privilege to serve.

Respectfully,
Cindy R. Lee
HALO Executive Director

 

HALO Project is a non-profit 501(c)3.