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As parents, caregivers, and mentors, we are constantly looking for the best ways to address the many hurdles that come with raising children. In the age of technology and instant gratification this has become increasingly challenging. Beyond academic and athletic achievements, the goal is to create well-rounded children who will eventually be successful adults. The irony – to teach our children to live independently and move on from us.
Amidst the joys and challenges of parenthood, Thrive encourages you to embrace the enriching journey of raising compassionate, curious, and confident kids. Together, let’s celebrate the magic of childhood and equip our little ones with the love and tools they need to flourish in today’s world. Expert advice and heartwarming anecdotes will guide you in nurturing the happiness and well-being of your children. From encouraging creativity and emotional intelligence to cultivating resilience and mindfulness, we remain mindful that we are raising the future leaders of Southwest Louisiana.
Fostering A Child’s Welfare
by Angie Kay Dilmore
When a child suffers from neglect or abuse, it is often necessary for the child’s wellbeing to remove them from the situation and place them in the protective custody of the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). In this potentially traumatic transition, kids can be vulnerable and scared. They need unconditional love, support, and understanding. Foster parents welcome these children into their homes and care for them until it is deemed safe for them to return to their families, or they can be adopted.
As of May 2023, there were 4,313 children in the Louisiana foster care system. Most of them are placed in foster homes, but far too many still await placement. While DCFS and their pool of foster parents do the best they can, the need for more foster parents cannot be overstated.
Fostering requires a love of children, a big heart, and the emotional ability to let their foster kids go after loving and caring for them. While fostering might ultimately result in adoption, placements are intended to be temporary arrangements, ranging from a single night up to a year. The primary goal of most foster cases is reunification with the biological parents or a close relative. This can be one of the biggest hurdles of foster parenting – to bring children into their home, care for them, form close relational bonds and eventually say goodbye. One anonymous Louisiana couple who currently cares for four foster children says, “We’ll just love them as much as we can for as long as we’re needed.”
Louisiana foster mom Rachel Goode and her husband knew they wanted to help children who needed a safe home before they even started dating. They’ve fostered 19 children over the past four years for varying lengths of time. They also have three biological children, ages six, five and two. Goode understands firsthand the challenges that come with fostering. She initially struggled to set boundaries and stand by them: for example, with the biological parents, DCFS workers and others. Children entering a foster home might have cultural differences from those of the foster family. They may be accustomed to different foods and have different habits. Foster children often have physical delays, medical ailments and mental health issues. A foster parent’s daily schedule may become hectic with doctor appointments, various forms of therapy, parent/teacher meetings and diligent recordkeeping.
While fostering is a big commitment, the rewards of making a positive impact on a child’s life can make it worth the effort. Goode says she finds it gratifying to help children overcome personal struggles, i.e., communication skills, emotional regulation or physical delays. “It’s definitely hard work, but so rewarding when you finally have those breakthroughs.”
For more information or if you are interested in becoming a foster parent, call Louisiana Dept. of Children and Family Services, Lake Charles Region, 337-491-2470.
Minimum Requirements to Become a Foster Parent
- At least 21 years old
- Single, married, divorcedor widowed
- Financial stability
- Good physical and mental health
- Enough space in your home for another child
- Background check clearance
- Participation in pre-service training
- Successful home study
Foster parents are not alone in their efforts to help kids in foster care. The following are a few of several organizations in Louisiana that assist these families:
Louisiana Foster Care
Louisiana Foster Care and their Ambassadors connect foster parents with support and resources. See their website for more info.
Trinity Baptist Church Foster & Adoption Ministry
2300 North Kingswood, Lake Charles, 70605
Serves as a support to DCFS and their foster families to meet particular needs. They host an annual Foster Family Celebration in May (National Foster Care Month), and host foster parent night outs. If foster parents ultimately adopt a child, they can apply for an Adoption Blessing – a gift ranging from $500 – $5,000.
For more info, call Kelly Berryhill, 337-274-0044.
Fostering Hope Louisiana
Fostering Hope Louisiana (FHL) addresses the oral/dental and mental health needs of youth in foster care with the support of orthodontists, mental health professionals, and the community. By offering braces, FHL improves the physical appearance and self-esteem of foster children while recognizing that healing unseen scars is often more difficult but equally as important.
For more info, call Leslie Lacy, Executive Director,
M: 225-963-0603, O: 225-263-3938.
Feeding Hearts, Building Minds
by Taylor Trahan Henry
In the fast-paced whirlwind of modern life, finding moments of connection with our kids can feel like grasping at straws. As parents, we yearn for meaningful ways to nurture their mental health and overall well-being. One delightful and effective approach lies right within our own homes: the cherished tradition of family mealtimes. Beyond the delicious food that graces the table, family meals play a vital role in shaping the emotional and psychological landscape of our children’s lives. Research has shown that regular family dinners offer an array of benefits, weaving an invisible tapestry of love and support that underpins their growth.
“There are numerous academic studies highlighting the positive benefits of shared family meals ranging from better academic success – higher test scores, better vocabulary and reading skills, better grades – to more positive peer and parental relationships, healthier eating habits, and less stress,” says Megan Musso, MA, CCC-SLP, IBCLC, owner of Magnolia Pediatric Therapy in Lake Charles. Children with regular shared family meals have also been found to be more likely to confide in their parents regarding social pressures and be more emotionally content.”
Around the dinner table, children find a safe space to share their thoughts, triumphs, and struggles. Engaging in open conversations during meals fosters emotional resilience as kids learn to express their feelings and empathize with others. Parents can encourage such discussions by asking open-ended questions like “What was the best part of your day?” or “Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to talk about?”.
“Use this time to engage with each other, ask about each other’s day,” says Musso. “A great option is to play ‘cherry and the pit’. Talk about our favorite part of the day – cherry – and a not so great part of the day – pit. This allows kids to discuss their accomplishments and struggles, and their feelings and interactions with others. Possibly just as important, it allows them to hear that adults, too, have these feelings, and how we handle difficult situations in daily life.”
From building vocabulary to storytelling skills, the conversations and discourse your children are exposed to at dinner can lay the foundation for future success inside and outside the classroom. Research shows that children learn more words from family dinner conversations when compared to shared book reading. “It truly is so much more powerful than we give it credit for,” says Musso. “But please keep reading to your children!”
“Another key skill that is learned through shared family meals is storytelling,” says Musso. “When we discuss our day around the table, we are teaching our children how to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end; research shows preschoolers with strong storytelling skills have higher reading scores ten years later. Parents naturally probe during children’s stories asking higher-level questions such as ‘why’ or ‘how’ which in turn allows the child to expand on their own thoughts and ideas.”
To further foster positive outcomes around mealtime, allow children to actively participate in meal preparation, whether by setting the table, mixing ingredients, or suggesting recipes, they experience a sense of achievement and responsibility. This involvement creates confidence and nurtures a positive self-image, allowing them to feel valued as contributing members of the family unit.
One of the keys to making family mealtimes work best for you is to set realistic goals. “If schedules don’t allow everyone to sit down together for dinner, try a shared family meal at a different time of day,” says Musso. “Breakfast is just as important and can be a great way to connect with our children before they head out the door to school.”
In the same vein as setting realistic expectations about when and how often your family can be together, set expectations about the meals themselves. “Shared family meals do not always have to be home cooked meals,” Musso says. “There is nothing wrong with getting takeout if that is what your schedule allows. The most important part is carving time out of our busy schedules to have meaningful conversations around the table together.”
The main goal is to be present in each other’s company and to prioritize meaningful interaction between all members of your family. Continual exposure to this practice will yield results that will last a lifetime.
Magnolia Pediatric Therapy is located at 3501 5th Avenue, Suite A in Lake Charles. For more information visit www.magnoliapediatrictherapy.com or call 337-419-0086.
Tips For Raising Independent Children
Fostering independence in toddlers and children is an essential aspect of their growth and development. Here are 10 quick tips for creating spaces and opportunities in your home that do just that!
- Teach your toddlers and children age-appropriate self-help skills, such as dressing themselves, putting away toys, and setting the table. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, to boost their confidence.
- Create a child-friendly home by organizing toys and everyday items at a level where children can reach them easily. This will empower them to explore and take initiative without always relying on adults.
- Offer children choices within reasonable limits to help them build decision-making skills. For instance, let them select between two outfit options or choose what they want for lunch.
- When your child faces a challenge, encourage them to brainstorm solutions independently. Avoid immediately jumping in to solve the problem for them. Instead, ask guiding questions to help them think critically.
- Assign simple household chores to children based on their abilities and age. Having responsibilities and contributing to the family routine will instill a sense of independence and responsibility.
- Routines provide predictability and structure, helping children understand what is expected of them. Encourage them to follow routines for morning, bedtime, and other daily activities.
- Allow ample time for unstructured play. Free play fosters creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving skills as children explore their interests without rigid guidelines.
- Add a learning tower to your kitchen and a step stool to the bathroom to bring kids up to counter top level.
- Acknowledge and praise their efforts and achievements, even if they don’t get everything right.
- Remember that fostering independence is a gradual process. Be patient with your child as they learn and make mistakes. Offer support and encouragement, letting them know you believe in their abilities.
By implementing these tips, you can create an environment that nurtures independence and empowers your children to develop essential life skills from an early age.