New programs give support to Butler County foster families

Until now, once foster parents adopted children they cared for, they faced an end to services that helped them deal with troubles that come with children who are transitioning from one family to another.

But Hope’s Closet, one of southwest Ohio’s largest foster-care nonprofits, has started a new program to provide such help.

The new program, called FLOURISH, offers such services as monthly training seminars, individual appointments where parents can get advice about how to deal with challenges they and their children face, one-on-one coaching for parents, plus mom-and-dad-nights-out for foster adoptive parents.

“I can definitely say it’s crucial we have the adoption support, because it’s not a magic flip-of-the-switch,” said Kerri McKenna, the FLOURISH program coordinator. “They don’t get adopted and all of a sudden traumatic behaviors end, and the foster parents don’t need to continue to get help once they become adoptive parents.

“Many times, the drama gets worse when they get adopted.”

That’s often because the children suffer great sense of loss over their biological families, she said.

Once adoptions happened, “They fell off a cliff, previously,” when it came to such support, McKenna said. “A lot of foster families who then felt very lost, and without support. They didn’t know who to go to, because they don’t get to go back to Children Services.”

It’s the first such program in the region that includes Butler, Warren, Montgomery, Clinton and Hamilton counties, said McKenna, who is in the process of adopting a third child.

“With the heroin and the meth, these kids aren’t going home,” McKenna said. “So the number of kids being adopted is significantly more than ever before. And their behaviors aren’t going away.”

Many of the children who were born addicted to drugs have mental deficiencies, impulse-control issues and other behavioral issues, she said: “They just have challenges, and foster parents need support with that, especially when they become adoptive parents, because now they can no longer go back to Children Services for support.”

Hope’s Closet Executive Director Sarah Coleman, whose organization serves more than 1,000 foster children per year, said the group’s aim is to “wrap each child in a blanket of love and support through clothing, birthday celebrations, and an opportunity to know he or she is a valuable person and deserves nothing short of love and unconditional commitment.”

Hope’s Closet provides help and resources to foster families, and decided to create the FLOURISH program because, “We don’t want to just drop them after we’ve built these relationships with them in the community of support,” said Coleman, a foster parent. “FLOURISH is a way for us to continue that support with them, so now we’ve gone from surviving to thriving, to now, flourishing in a new adoptive home.”

For more information, call 513-773-4018 or by email, People wishing to help the program can provide materials, including greeting cards that people can use to cheer up families who are going through difficult times, McKenna said.

While the foster program can be difficult for families, it’s very rewarding, McKenna said: “I always say it’s ugly, but it’s steeped in beauty. There’s so much beauty in it, to watch the children flourish and grow, and become confident and happy.”

Hope’s Closet, located at 332 Dayton St. in Hamilton, provides several services to foster families, including free clothing, a birthday club for foster children and programs that fill other needs. About 70 volunteers help the organization.

The birthday club provides monthly group birthday parties for foster children.

“Some of these kids are coming from places where they are not being fed, much less being celebrated for being born,” McKenna said. “We’ll have kids who are 5 and 6 years old who are coming in and they’re having their very first birthday party, which is sad and cool, all at the same time.”

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