The Little Things

Pam Frye

Pam Frye, Chief Program Officer

As I write this sunshine is spilling onto my desk. It makes me happy. This winter has seemed particularly gray to me. Someone recently told me that when he lived in Scotland the weather there was so gloomy that a sunshiny day was something monumental – an event so extraordinary that people would reference the sunshiny day in conversation in the months to come. Do you remember that day in May? Are you talking about the day the sun was shining?

I am not sure if the groundhog saw his shadow or not this year, and I really do not care because today I am going to enjoy the sun. It is amazing how something as seemingly inconsequential as a sunny day can make my day so much better. The older I get the more I realize that the little things in life often mean the most – the little, seemingly random, things I remember.

There have been a few times in my life when I have been really discouraged, and suddenly out of the blue someone will send me an encouraging email, card, or text. Those moments still stand out to me, and years later I can perfectly recall the details. I have always wondered what prompted these random act of kindness. Was it a tug? A little voice in the head? A nudge? I guess it does not matter what prompted the kindness. What matters is that someone acted.

So the next time you have someone on your mind, give them a call. Can’t get someone off of your heart? Shoot them an email. Worried about a friend? Send them a text. You never know. Maybe your little act of kindness will be like a sunny day in Scotland in May.

Published on May 11, 2016 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support

Love

Rachel Joffe

Rachel Joffe, ASAP Family Counselor

We can describe love in many ways. When I need a reminder of what love is, is not, and how to give it – I turn to First Corinthians, which tells me love is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not proud, self-seeking, or easily angered; keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, and rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, and never fails.

We all need love. We were made to love and be loved. We want to love and be loved. Yet we must acknowledge there can be struggles in giving and receiving love.

Trauma seeks to destroy our ability to love. In life, hurt, pain, and loss will shake one’s ability to love and be loved well. Yet love cannot be destroyed. It always prevails, is never lost. The families that seek help are wise and strongest of all; for they know their struggles are close to impossible to combat on their own.

I see and feel love at work with my clients in Harmony’s ASAP Program (Adoption Support and Preservation). I see parents striving to be patient, to be slow to anger, and not to focus on wrongs. I see them working to love their children well. I see children craving to feel understood and protected. I see them working to allow themselves to be loved. How beautiful to see parents and children growing and healing in love.

Family is built and maintained through love.
Love is family. Family is love.
A forever family always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, and never fails.

Published on April 12, 2016 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support

One Caring Adult Can Make All the Difference

Dawartha Tyler

Dawartha Tyler, FOCUS Regional Case Coordinator

I first met Jason when he came into state custody due to allegations of abuse. Because Jason’s birth mother had asked family members to cease contact, no relatives had come forward to provide a home for fear of being ostracized by the family. Then Jason’s Aunt Holly, who had recently moved back to Tennessee, learned that Jason was in foster care and began looking for him. At the same time, Jason began reaching out to a cousin, one of his aunt’s sons, on Facebook, and communications between Jason and his Aunt Holly began.

Determined to provide a home for Jason, Holly contacted the Department of Children’s services about foster parenting and completed the required training for foster families through Harmony’s FOCUS (Finding Our Children Unconditional Support) program. Holly told us that Jason and her son had been raised together, and she had been heartbroken when she learned Jason had been put in foster care. Jason was placed with Holly’s family, and they are now Jason’s family. Although there have been some bumps along the road, this family is committed to Jason. Together they have chosen subsidized permanent guardianship as his best option for permanency – and Jason has found his family.

Published on February 18, 2016 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support, Family

No Time

Carol Johnson

Carol Johnson, President, Harmony Board of Directors

I’m busy. I run my own company. I have a very active six year old son. My husband’s job requires him to travel weekly. I’m the treasurer of my church. I like to travel, shop, and spend time with my family and friends. I don’t have time to add anything else to my calendar.

That’s what I told myself before I stopped, took a deep breath and looked around me. We are surrounded by people in need – financial, emotional, spiritual. How can we look the other way? It’s easier than getting involved. Realizing at times that we are working feverishly but not getting very far meeting the needs of others. It’s easy to throw our hands up, go on about our busy lives and be thankful for other people willing to fight the fight.

For me, it’s not enough to be busy with the things in my life. I want to do more. I want to help others have a happy home life, a job opportunity, time to enjoy life. There are so many folks around us that for various reasons don’t have that. For me it’s the kids without families, stability, a home that pull at my heartstrings. It’s their happiness and well-being that pushes me to give more and do more. And no one does more for hurting and needy kids than Harmony Family Center. Spend some time on Harmony’s website, look at their staff, the services they provide and then look at the profile of the kids longing for a happy home life, a forever family. Imagine the impact of finding one child a forever family. It’s this hope and reality that draws me to Harmony and makes it easy to find time to serve others through this amazing organization. So get involved, if not here at Harmony then some other organization that makes a difference in others’ lives and in your own.

Carol Johnson,
President, Board of Directors, Harmony Family Center

Published on June 22, 2015 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support

Musical Timelines

Lenna Allen

Lenna Allen, ASAP Family Therapist

The benefits of music are many. Children who learn to play music increase their math skills. Music can improve our mood; a song can quickly bring back memories of another time.

Harmony’s Adoption Support and Preservation (ASAP) team uses an approach called ARC (Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency) with clients who have been through traumatic stress. When we were asked to come up with a therapeutic activity for ARC, we created a musical time line for children to use to tell their life stories.

Giving children a voice is an important principal of another ASAP approach, TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention): children are asked to identify a song and a particular lyric that speaks to them. I use this activity with my clients, and it is amazing how even the children who bury their emotions will suddenly talk about a feeling expressed in a song.

A young girl who suffered multiple forms of abuse identified with Matthew West’s song Broken Girl: “Look what he’s done to you, it isn’t fair, your light was bright and new, but he didn’t care, he took the heart of a little girl, and made it grow up too fast…”

A teen dedicated the lyrics of Mama’s Song by Carrie Underwood to her biological mother: “Mama there’s no way you’ll ever lose me, giving me away is not goodbye…”

A mother who was helping her child with the time line chose One Less by Matthew West for their adoption day. “Well, worlds collide and colors fade, and a man and wife brought their little girl home today, and there’s one less…lonely heart in the world today.”

A child reflected on his hope for the future with Pentatonix’s Radioactive: “All systems go, sun hasn’t died, deep in my bones, straight from inside, I’m waking up…welcome to the new age.”
Another child chose Katy Perry’s Firework: “If you only knew what the future holds, after a hurricane comes a rainbow.”

Our children from hard places often understand more than they can express, and they can identify with emotion when they hear it in a song. It gives them a voice. It’s a less vulnerable way of expressing feelings, because someone else has been there, too. I encourage you to listen carefully to some of the lyrics of your favorite songs, and see what resonates with you, your children, and your family!

Published on March 24, 2015 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support, Healing

New Year’s Resolutions

Pam Frye

Pam Frye, Chief Program Officer

It is that time of year – when we start making promises for the year to come. This year I am going to get back on my exercise routine. Almost all of us make some type of formal or informal resolution for the year. Recently I was doing some research for our adoptive parent support groups on the topic: Top Ten Parenting Tips for the New Year, and I came upon this quote from Circle of Security, a relationship based early-intervention program for families dealing with attachment issues. The quote goes like this:

(Almost) Everything I need to know about being a parent in 25 words or less:
Always: be BIGGER, STRONGER, WISER, and KIND.
Whenever possible: Follow your child’s need.
Whenever necessary: take charge.

I love this quote. These are simple words and simple advice really. I love it so much that I have thought about getting a T-shirt made with the saying on it, but I imagine there would be copyright issues involved. I visualize something like the Life is Good movement, with caring parents around the world donning Circle of Security T-Shirts.

Perhaps I will order a bracelet with the words Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind engraved on it. Whenever I am feeling impatient or grumpy with my thirteen-year old, I can look at my wrist and remember my mantra. I really think that with these four words we could start a parenting revolution. Come to think of it, we could start a revolution period. Think of how different the world would be if we lived by these words: Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, Kind.

Published on January 12, 2015 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support, Family

Holiday Stress

Carol Dunaway

Carol Dunaway, LPC/MHSP, NCC, is Clinical Manager of the ASAP Program.

The theme for Harmony’s ASAP November support group meetings has been reducing holiday stress. Parents who attended have noted that they do feel the stress associated with this time of year. The holidays are stressful enough already for most families. Expectations for a “perfect” holiday season are high, budgets might be tight, there may be conflict within families, and we all have the ideal Hallmark holiday vision in our minds. When you add into this mix the fact of being a foster or adoptive family, the holidays can be overwhelming for both adults and children. Here are some tips for making the holidays less stressful for your family.

1. Lower your expectations that you can create or will have “the perfect holiday.” Make your family time about being together, and plan low-cost family activities. Let the kids help you prepare the holiday meal, and do as much of it ahead of time as possible. Take a walk together after the meal to work off some of those calories and increase endorphins, which will improve mood. Participate in a volunteer activity as a family. Let your children choose a name off the Angel Tree to purchase gifts for a child who otherwise might not have a gift at Christmas.

2. Talk about feelings at the holidays. If you have foster or adoptive children in your home, they may be having very mixed feelings about the holidays. Oftentimes, children and teens idealize their birth family and minimize the negative experiences they may have had with them, especially around the holidays. These children often act out behaviorally during this time, creating additional stress for their foster or adoptive parents. Help your child or children express their feelings verbally by opening the discussion, giving them a safe place to talk about their feelings, and listening without judgment.

3. If the holidays are “always” too stressful for your family, give yourself the gift of celebrating family at a less busy time of year. Families often feel pulled in different directions if they have two, or three, or four sets of grandparents/in-laws to visit. Schedule family visits throughout the year when you can enjoy the experience and your children can have a more meaningful experience in a less rushed, crowded, or tense atmosphere.

4. Be kind to yourself so that you can build up your emotional reserves. Build in time in your schedule for the things that make you feel good, whether that is exercise, yoga, meditation, worshiping, reading a book, taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, having some alone time with your spouse or partner – you get the point. People often give and give until they have nothing else to give. Then they feel guilty because they have to withdraw from their children or spouse or other family and take some time to refill their emotional bucket. Keep your bucket filled all year long by taking care of yourself first and you can skip the empty feelings and the guilt!

Have a wonderful holiday season and remember, take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.

Published on December 04, 2014 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support

Making a Difference

Kim Halbert

Kim Halbert, Harmony Parent Education & Training Specialist

I am sitting in the small eat-in kitchen with the mother/step-grandmother of three children in rural Campbell County. The children are in and out of the kitchen eating sandwiches and chips. The two little boys, ages 3 and 5, have been placed with their grandparents by the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) because their mother is a meth addict and unable to care for her children. The boys are precious. The three year old has now seen me 3 times and he is curious but more interested in his snacks, cartoons, and his new light up shoes. This is my first visit with the five year old. His birthday is the next day and he tells me about it. I ask him if he will have birthday cake and he informs me he already has a cake with a spider on it. The children rush me over to the fridge and open the door. There is a Halloween cake with a big spider and web. He grins and the little girl says they will also have ice cream. The children squeal with excitement. The grandmother then says his parents will be visiting him on his birthday. He smiles again. I go back to the table as the home study forms are being passed between me and the grandmother and then it happens. Such an unexpected and spontaneous gesture. A hug. The five year old walks over to my side, slips his arm around my neck with his head barely touching mine. I felt it was like he knew I was there to help him and his brother remain in this safe, loving home. A loving home where he is given permission to miss and love his parents. A home where turning 6 is the biggest deal in the world. A hug so sweet and gentle. He didn’t know how good he made me feel. He didn’t know how this simple hug gave me affirmation that we do make a difference in children’s lives.

Published on October 15, 2014 by .
Posted in Adoption, Advocacy and Support

Audacity, Courage, Resilience

Robert Morgan

Robert Morgan, Audio Visual Specialist

As the videographer for Harmony’s In My Own Words video project, I found these three attributes where I had least expected – in kids who had suffered more trauma in their young lives than most adults can even comprehend.

Harmony developed the video project to allow children in the state welfare system – who are longing for a “real” family – to tell their own stories themselves. The videos, which are posted on the Parent a Child website, are intended to serve as each child’s introduction to prospective families.

I was not sure what to expect. How would kids who had been powerless – with no control over the traumatic events of their lives- respond to the challenge of telling their own stories?

This is what I found: The heroic spirit of the child who shared his story with painful honesty – his mother had simply walked away from him – leaving the 3-year old child abandoned at a grocery store.

The child who is now classified as “special needs” because as a toddler he was severely beaten – who just wanted a hug from me before beginning his story.

All the children I have helped with their videos have one thing in common: trust and a willingness to share their stories, despite lives that have been filled with betrayal.

That’s what keeps me going – the courage and resilience shown by these kids and their willingness to share the harrowing events of their young lives.

And when children I have filmed find forever families thanks to their videos, I know it’s all worthwhile.

You can view In My Own Words videos here: PARENTACHILD.ORG.

Published on September 30, 2014 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

Pam Frye

Pam Frye, Chief Program Officer

There must be hundreds of quotations about life being a journey that we should appreciate, because the journey is what’s really important after all. My favorite comes from my buddy Bart Simpson. Setting out on a road trip, Marge and Homer are barely out of the driveway when the kids begin asking: are we there yet?

Harmony’s decision to purchase and renovate Montvale has taught us a lot about patience and enjoying the journey. Has it happened as quickly as we have wanted? No. Are things unfolding differently than we originally thought? Absolutely! Yet I cannot help but be filled with hope and anticipation as I see the progress at Montvale. Are we there yet? No. But it’s an exciting journey.

Published on September 25, 2014 by .
Posted in Adoption, Advocacy and Support