Mental Illness Labels : Alphabet Soup Poem

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Yesterday I commented on a post by blogger Myloudbipolarwhispers about mental illness labels. In the comment, I explained how one of my foster kids once had a therapist who talked about the dangers of “alphabet soup”, which is when people start collecting so many labels (ADHD, ADD, ASD, PTSD, SAD, OCD, DID, BPD, RAD, and so on and so on) that they lose sense of themselves as a person or even worse, those treating them lose sight of their humanity and just see them as a list of diagnoses.

I shared in the comment that I even wrote a short poem about “alphabet soup”, which ended up in my book about foster care (From Both Sides). Myloudbipolarwhispers mentioned that she would like to see the poem, so I figured I would just share it in a post here, since it definitely fits the themes of this blog:

Alphabet Soup
By: Maranda Russell

Some good old-fashioned RAD,
a touch of PTSD,
just a hint of OCD,
a generous helping of ADHD
and a pinch of ODD
to taste.

Add it all together
and what do you get?

Alphabet soup…

and a kid
made entirely
of labels.

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NEW paperback version of popular foster care book “From Both Sides”

From Both Sides Cover

I am proud to announce that I have just released a NEW paperback version of my free verse memoir ebook about foster care entitled “From Both Sides, A Look into the World of Foster Care From Those Who Know it Best”. I have gotten quite a bit of positive feedback about the ebook, mostly from current or former foster youth and foster parents. Some of them have requested that I release the title in traditional book form so I finally decided to do just that!

For a little bit of background, this book is actually written from two different perspectives. The first half of the book is written from the point of view of children in foster care. The latter half of the book is written from the point of view of foster parents. While writing this book, I used my own experiences as a foster parent, as well as the experiences of many current & former foster children and other foster parents. Many of these poems were inspired by things that were told to me while I did these confidential interviews. The result is a book that tries to be brutally honest and create further understanding of the many struggles, frustrations and occasional joys that go along with the foster care experience.

I wrote the book in free verse style because I think that makes the emotional impact of the messages it contains stronger. It is almost like reading a diary or journal in some ways because it is so deeply personal. Writing in free verse also made it a short, simple book which I figured may make it easier for teens in foster care to read. I know many times it can be hard to get a good education while being moved around in foster care, so foster kids may sometimes struggle with reading. The book does contain some more mature material, so it is recommended for ages 13 and up.

If you haven’t checked this book out already, I hope you will! It is currently available from Amazon for only $5.39! It is still available in Kindle version too for only $2.99.

PS…I am looking for ways to promote this new book, so if you happen to have a website/blog or some other public platform and would like to feature me or this book in any way, feel free to contact me (contact information can be found on the “About Me” page of this website).

Ebook Release, “From Both Sides, A Look into the World of Foster Care from Those Who Know It Best”

From Both Sides cover

I am very proud to announce the release of a book that has been in the works for quite awhile now. This project wasn’t just another story I wanted to share, this was a very personal, intense book for me to write in many ways. As a foster parent who has undergone much heartache and frustration navigating the foster care system, I wanted to share a bit of that experience with others. However, I also wanted to give a voice to all the many kids who seem to fly under the radar and get “lost in the system”.

To achieve both ends, I divided the book into two sections. The first half of the book is written from the point of view of kids in the system. I did use a few of my own experiences with my own foster kids in this section, but also interviewed many current and former foster youth which really helped to open my eyes to the way foster kids really feel. Of course, since some of the questions I asked were rather deep, I interviewed kids that were at least nine years old, which I’m sure influenced some of the content. My husband and I have always fostered preteens or teens as well, so you may want to keep that in mind when reading this book. My heart really does ache for the older kids in the system because they are the ones that usually fall through the cracks and sit in the system for years or until adulthood. Even if they do get put up for adoption, it can be very hard to find adoptive families for older kids.

The second section of the book is told from the point of view of foster parents. In this section I did use more of my own experiences, but also included stories and feelings from other foster parents I talked to. I openly tackled subjects such as mental diagnoses, attachment problems, prejudice, abusive foster parents, loss and the reason behind why I personally chose to be a foster parent. In many ways I laid my own soul bare for this project, but I felt that the subject matter deserved no less. The book itself is written in an autobiographical prose/free verse poetry form that is very easy to read and understand, but gets quickly to the heart of the matter and the deep emotions that the foster care system often evokes.

My hope for this book is that it will inspire, encourage and comfort foster kids and foster parents in some way. I hope that they will read this book and feel like saying “Yes! Someone finally gets it!”. I also hope that those not directly involved in the foster care system will read the book so that their eyes can be opened to the real challenges and injustices present. Only by bringing attention to the problems of the foster care system can we hope to make some positive changes. As I said in the dedication of the book, “Here’s to hoping that someday EVERY foster child can find a happy ending, no matter their age or circumstances.”

To read this ebook for yourself or find out more about it, please visit the book’s Amazon page. Right now “From Both Sides” can be purchased for the Kindle for only $2.99.

To spank or not to spank – what kind of discipline actually works?

ErziehungsmethodeIt’s been awhile since I have written a blog post related to foster parenting, but something has been weighing heavily on my mind and I would like to share it and allow others to share their own thoughts on the subject. As a foster parent, it is absolutely forbidden to give a child any physical punishments. No spanking, no standing in the corner, no hard physical labor or military-type exercise. In fact, sometimes it feels like as a foster parent the only type of discipline left to use is privilege removal and time out.

Unfortunately, I find that most of the discipline options we are allowed to use don’t seem to actually work. It leaves me wondering, what if anything would work? I have heard some foster parents swear that if they could just spank the kids or make them do physical drills like they are in boot camp, that they could “fix” these kids. However, I’m not so sure about that. I have known regular kids who were spanked or raised with military-type parents and some of those kids still didn’t turn out well.

So what is the real answer? Unacceptable actions do certainly have to have some kind of consequence, but what kind? Even our foster childrens’ therapists and counselors seem stumped sometimes as to what will help. They often have us trying one behavior management program after another just to see them all fail. This also leaves me wondering if it helps to constantly be changing your gameplan when it comes to discipline, even if a certified therapist recommends it. Sometimes I start to get confused about what we are supposed to be doing because it gets changed so much…so imagine how the kids must feel!

So now I am asking all parents, whether foster, biological or otherwise…what have you found that actually works as discipline? What seems to be totally ineffective? Are you for or against spanking?

Book Review of “The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide”

Although I normally only review children’s books, I do occasionally make an exception for a book that I can really relate to, and I can definitely relate to “The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide” written by Carol Lozier, MSW.LCSW.

As a foster/potential adoptive parent myself, I can say that far too many resources written about the subject of adoption and foster care are clinical and boring. I have read many of these books in hopes of finding some useful, practical information about the issues I face daily working with troubled kids, but have often been disappointed. However, “The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide” did not disappoint in any way, in fact, I found it to be one of the best resources out there.

So what makes the book so great? First off, it is accessible and easy to use. As the introduction explains, the book is formatted with a magazine style that makes it easy for busy, stressed-out parents to browse through when they want a little inspiration or need information on a particular subject. I did read the book cover to cover, but there are parts of the book I marked and highlighted that I know I will likely return to again and again.

Secondly, the book is filled with advice and knowledge that real people can relate to while they are in the trenches fighting to help the traumatized children who have come into their lives. The part of the book on the various attachment styles was excellent, in fact, I wish it was required reading for every person who obtains a foster or adoption license. Far too many well-meaning people go into foster care and adoption with no real understanding of attachment issues. Without this crucial knowledge, it is nearly impossible to help traumatized children or create a healthy home life for the entire family.

Lastly, the book addresses issues that cause many foster or adoptive parents to burn out or even give up. Self-care is sometimes entirely left out of the equation when parents try to solve problems, but the truth is that if you don’t take good care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for others in a healthy way. If you continue to neglect your own physical, emotional and mental health, you are bound to add to the problems you and your family are facing instead of solving them.

Overall, this is a great book, one that I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who works with troubled children or wishes to do so. For more information about the book or to order a copy, please visit www.forever-families.com.

What’s going on…

Cue the Marvin Gaye song.  Just thought I would write a list of stuff that has been going on in my life lately.  Feel free to comment or even share what is going on in your life!

*The biggest news, at least recently, is that I am now involved in a lawsuit 😦 I can’t really say much more than that at this point, but let me say that it is the first time I have ever been sued for ANYTHING and it has not been a pleasant experience.  For a worrywart like me is feels like some class action lawsuit Xarelto we all heard of.  I do want to specify that this has absolutely nothing to do with my writing career…so don’t worry about that.  It’s just one of the personal inconveniences that is life.

*On a more positive note, my picture book, “Ode to Icky” is going to the printers within the next couple weeks!  It should be available before the holiday season, so keep it in mind for a great gift!  I also have another children’s ebook entitled “Weezie, the Elephant with Allergies” that is almost ready for publication.  I plan to publish it in October, so keep a look out!  It will be available on Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes and Noble (just like my last ebook “In Memory of Dad”).

*We just celebrated our one month anniversary with our new foster son who is 9 years old.  He has been a great kid so far, even if he is an EXTREMELY picky eater.  Hopefully he will grow out of that.  He recently joined the Boy Scouts which has been as much fun for us as it has for him.  At the last den meeting we even played dodgeball, parents vs the kids.  The parents won, although my foster son did manage to get my husband out of the game.  I survived till the bitter end though, even if I did it by hiding behind the men 🙂

Well, I think that’s everything that is important for now.  Please drop me a line and tell me how your life is going.  Would love any advice on how to deal with lawsuit headaches and picky eaters as well!!!

Interview with a real adoptive family #1

Although social workers and other experts can tell you a lot about the foster  care and adoption process, they can’t give you the nitty gritty details about  the experience.  Only someone who has been through the foster care or  adoption process can tell you what it is really like.  Of course, each  individual experience will vary, perhaps to a great degree, depending on  the personality and unique problems of each kid.

Our first personal interview in this series will be with Rebecca, an adoptive  mom who stepped in to help out her own nieces and nephews…

Continue reading on Examiner.com: Presenting the new foster care and adoption interview series – Dayton Adoptive Families | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/adoptive-families-in-dayton/presenting-the-new-foster-care-and-adoption-interview-series#ixzz1MRVxXOIH

Saying goodbye to your foster kids

Saying goodbye seems to accompany the foster care lifestyle. Sometimes the goodbye is bittersweet because the child is being adopted, or gets to return home. In those cases, you still worry about their future, but you are happy that they will hopefully have a chance at a more stable life.  Sometimes we still get to stay in touch with these children if they live here in Dayton, which can make the adjustment a little easier, since we can see for ourselves that they are doing ok.   

What is more heartbreaking is when the parting is not happy in any way. These are the children who you request to be removed because you don’t feel that you can handle the severity of their problems, or because you fear they pose a safety risk to yourself or others in your home. I have had this happen more than once in my foster care experience and each time it tends to leave a scar…

To read the rest of this article, please visit Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/adoptive-families-in-dayton/so-hard-to-say-goodbye

Which popular fictional characters were adopted? Part 1

I had such a good response to my list of famous people who were adopted, that I decided to make another list of popular fictional characters who were adopted.  I was surprised to see how many of our favorite childhood heroes were adopted or raised by someone other than their parents. 

The reason I decided to make these lists is so that all of the kids in foster care will see that they aren’t as alone as they may often feel.  As one foster child from Nexus Fostering in Birmingham said, “Sometimes I feel like I am the only kid who wasn’t wanted by their parents. It makes me feel better when I hear that I’m not the only one going through all this.”   

The list below comes courtesy of Wikipedia.com, and is only a partial listing of adopted characters…

To read the rest of the article, please visit Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/adoptive-families-in-dayton/fictional-characters-who-were-adopted-part-1