Thursday, June 27, 2013

Family Reunification Following Foster Care

All families need support. It is essential to promote child safety, development, and well-being. All parents can also benefit from helpful information, guidance, and resources as they meet the challenges of parenthood and family life. This is especially true after a family goes through a crisis that separates family members because of abuse or neglect and results in an intervention from child protective services to ensure safety.

Families preparing to reunify after a separation because of abuse or neglect face unique challenges in their attempts to come back together. Parents must ensure they provide and maintain a safe home environment for their children and resolve personal challenges that may impair their ability to parent effectively (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2012).

Court-mandated parenting courses often provide the skills, resources, and education necessary to meet and manage the demands of parenting for families in crisis

Researchers and practitioners in child welfare have provided helpful information to develop workable plans to aid families in reunifying and rebuilding.

Our publication, “Family Reunification Following Foster Care” can help families understand what children need, how to help them feel safe and loved, and things families can do to promote and maintain family reunification. For a free download go to:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Child Has a Mental Illness: Developing Parental Advocacy Skills

Being a parent of a child who suffers from mental illness can be challenging. Children who suffer from mental and emotional disorders need parents who will advocate for them. Many parents experience intense grief and isolation when they learn their child has been diagnosed with a mental illness. However, parents can take proactive steps to improve their situation by learning about their child’s diagnosis, finding community support, acknowledging strengths and weaknesses, discovering resources and barriers to care, and organizing important information related to their child’s life.

Child mental health is an increasingly important issue in the United States. Approximately 20% of all children in the United States have a diagnosed mental health problem. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10% of all youth have a serious mental or emotional disorder that interferes with daily life. In fact, more than 4 million U.S. children under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, making childhood mental illness an issue that touches the lives of many American families.

Having a child diagnosed with a mental illness can create substantial emotional and financial burdens for families and can cause major changes in their lives. It is normal for parents to experience grief when a child is diagnosed with mental illness. They may, for example, experience incredible sadness because such a diagnosis can mean a different future than what they envisioned for their child, including extended caregiving responsibilities.

This type of grief is different from the traditional concept of "loss" typically experienced when a loved one dies because it is ongoing. In addition, research suggests that parents of children who have more than one severe mental health diagnosis may also experience even higher levels of parental stress and grief.
Families who receive a mental health diagnosis for their children often face uncertainty, which can cause expected processes, milestones, and life goals to change. Families should not expect to move through the grieving process in the same way as families who experience a death because new challenges may arise. For example, they may encounter new situations for their children, such as experiencing educational issues, seeking mental health services, dealing with emotional and behavioral manifestations of their child’s disability, and planning for future employment or long-term care for their child. These processes and milestones may bring ongoing feelings of loss as families are continually impacted by the realities of caring for a child with mental illness.

To download our complete publication go to:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bottle-Feeding Baby

Families choose to bottle-feed their babies for many reasons. While bottle-feeding is not difficult, you need to know several things to feed your baby safely and ensure that he or she receives the nutrition and bonding needed for proper growth and development. If you are considering bottle-feeding your baby or have decided that bottle-feeding is the best option for your situation, this publication will help you learn about bottle-feeding.

Bottle-feeding may be a great option for you and your baby. Bottle-feeding provides flexibility for the mother, which may be desirable because of work obligations or a busy schedule. Bottle-feeding also gives the baby’s father, older siblings, and grandparents the opportunity to bond with the baby, and it can also provide the mother with free time to rest. Bottle-feeding allows families to monitor how much formula the infant is consuming. Breastfeeding in public may be inconvenient or embarrassing for some mothers, so bottle-feeding may be the best choice for them.

Sometimes bottle-feeding is necessary. Some mothers may choose to bottle-feed if they have discomfort or pain from breastfeeding. In addition, some babies who cannot digest certain components of human milk will need to be bottle-fed with a formula that does not contain those substances.

In the United States, bottle-feeding is advised if the mother has certain medical conditions such as HIV or untreated tuberculosis. Mothers receiving chemotherapy treatments should also bottle-feed.

For more information, down load our complete publication at

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Teens and Social Networking Sites

There’s a great deal of discussion going on about the uses, abuses and mysteries of the Internet, especially when it come to our children. Researchers continue to look at the ways families use the Internet and how it impacts their lives, and offer insights on the “good”, the “bad” and the “ugly” of the World Wide Web. One area that’s gained tremendous attention is the use of social networking sites, such as FaceBook.

According to a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life project, more than half of American teens who are online have a profile on a social networking site. In a random sample of almost 1,000 youth ages 12 to 17, the researchers wanted to better understand why so many teens are attracted to this Internet phenomenon.

What they found was that girls tend to join these sites to reinforce pre-existing friendships and visit the sites with much greater frequency than boys, who tend to “hangout” in these social spaces to make new friends . . .  or to flirt.

Parents are always encouraged to be aware of the places their children visit online and know who they are “talking” to. Although it can be a friendly place to keep up with friends, as in the “real world,” there are always dangers. Stay involved. Talk with your teen.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kinship Caregivers: Understanding Children and the Military Deployment Cycle

The deployment of a military parent is accompanied by many changes within the family. This is especially true if children are being cared for by a relative, such as a grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle, during deployment. These relatives are known as kinship caregivers. For kinship caregivers, understanding the basics of what is involved in a military deployment is vital to ensure a healthy transition for the children. Many kinship caregivers, especially those serving as caregivers for the children of guard or reserve service members, often do not understand the basics of the deployment process. Having a better grasp of what to expect while the service member is deployed will lead to a more secure and stable home environment.

            Military professionals who work with families have identified several phases that families go through during a parent’s deployment. These phases are defined not only by what is happening in the deployment process, but also by emotional changes and challenges children experience when a parent deploys. Deployment occurs in almost every branch of the military, and the experience differs for each family and each family member.

            To reflect the diversity of experiences, military professionals have proposed various models of the deployment cycle to assist families in the transition. Although each model has some unique differences, there are at least five phases that are common across models: pre-deployment, deployment, sustainment, preparation (also known as redeployment), and reunification (or home-coming). Recognizing that each family is unique, this deployment cycle, as summarized below, is intended not as a rule-book but as a helpful guide to families as they experience deployment of a parent.

To download the full publication “Kinship Care: Understanding Children and the Military Deployment Cycle” go to

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Developmental Coordination Disorder

Add caption
In any classroom, you’ll find a wide range of physical skills. Some children are amazing artists but just average at kickball. Others excel at sports but struggle with handwriting. But a few children seem to have a hard time with most physical tasks. They may be affected by developmental coordination disorder, or DCD, a neuro-developmental condition that causes difficulties with physical coordination.

Experts believe that DCD affects 5% to 6% of children today, but most are never identified or treated. While parents and teachers might notice the problem, they may assume children aren’t trying hard enough or will grow out of it. However, ignoring these issues may be unwise.
A recent study of Canadian fifth-graders surveyed about 150 children who were assessed as potentially having DCD and compared them to about 150 similar children with normal coordination. Both groups were asked about their experiences with bullying and social exclusion. They also rated their depression.

 Children with potential DCD reported more instances of bullying and exclusion and more depression symptoms than peers without these difficulties. The more bullying they experienced, the more likely they were to be depressed.

It’s important to note that these researchers only suspected these children had DCD; they weren’t able to make a clinical diagnosis. Still, their findings suggest that children who have significant trouble with motor tasks may be at increased risk for social and emotional problems. Knowing the signs of DCD and watching for it at home and in the classroom can help these children get the help they need.

Source: Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Family Records

A new publication from the University of Florida Extension Service can help families get their personal and financial papers organized.

Writing down the information included in the publication can make looking for vital records much faster and easier. It can also be used as a starting place for estate planning.

It includes which papers to keep and the best place to keep them - safe deposit box or at home in a fire proof box. It also encourages you to put in writing the people you wish to be notified in an emergency.

I plan on spending some time this summer updating my personal and financial records.

Download a free copy of “Family Records” at

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Overweight and Weight Loss Maintenance

For many people, weight loss is a chronic battle. Popular diets are often unsuccessful because they cannot be followed permanently. There is no magic diet to make you instantly shed pounds, but some good tips for steady, long-term weight loss are listed below.

  1. Portions matter: Weight loss and weight maintenance are all about balance and moderation. Try using smaller plates and bowls to help decrease your portion size (Pedersen, Kang, and Kline 2007). Another tip is to wait at least 10 minutes after you finish eating before going back for seconds.
  2. Be active: Exercising and staying active will help increase your metabolism throughout the day.
  3. Everyone’s different: In order for you to maintain long term weight loss, you must be familiar with your body and eating habits. Identify which situations or foods are particularly tempting for you and try to modify them, without denying yourself completely.
  4. Make half your plate fruits and veggies: Following the MyPlate guideline is a great way to reduce your fat and calories while increasing the nutrient density of your meals. Fruits and vegetables have lots of fiber and water to help you stay satisfied.
  5. Do you eat when you're not hungry? At times this is ok, but if you do it too often, it can contribute to weight gain. Keep a log for a few days. Record your level of hunger and satiety before and after each time you eat. Add notes about your mood. Being aware of when boredom, frustration, stress, or sadness contributes to overeating is the first step to gaining control.
  6. Weigh yourself regularly: Studies show that regular self-weighing (once/week) is associated with a decreased body weight and weight maintenance (Van Wormer et al. 2009).
  7. Don’t skip meals: Distribute the calories you consume over the entire day, with the consumption of 4 to 5 meals/snacks per day including breakfast. Consumption of greater energy intake earlier in the day may help you control your hunger so that you eat less over the course of the day (de Castro 2004).
  8. Surround yourself with support: Talk to your family, friends, and co-workers and tell them specific ways they can help. For instance, by not offering you second helpings, or by providing salad and fruit options along with or instead of the pizza and cake at parties.
  9. Set goals to stay motivated: After you’ve lost weight and the compliments end, it may feel like there is no incentive to continue your good habits. The key is to find ways to make staying at your goal weight as rewarding as getting to your goal weight. Sign up for a community walk. Explore new activities you might enjoy, such as gardening or hiking, tennis or water aerobics, kayaking or biking—or simply add a relaxing after-dinner walk to your family’s evening routine. Focus on the quality of your diet, and reward yourself with non-food rewards when you achieve your weight maintenance goals.
For more information:

Source: Anne Mathews, assistant professor; Lauren Foster, BS; and Wendy Dahl, assistant professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.