UPDATE: I checked in with Microsoft’s Mike Tholfsen. He was kind enough to reply directly: “We are still actively trying to work through the original pilot program data, stay tuned.”
Also, correction: the pilot program included 2500, not 20. I evidently misunderstood the rep. My apologies!
Microsoft is missing an enormous opportunity.
I’m a little bit shocked, actually, that the company’s PR people don’t appear to have noticed.
What opportunity, you ask?
First, a few statistics:
NUMBER OF HOMESCHOOLERS:
According to the U. S. government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Home Education Research Institute, approximately 1.7 million students (ages 5-17) were estimated to be homeschoolers in 2016. In other words, 3.4% of the student population.
DIVERSITY OF HOMESCHOOLERS:
HSLDA’s article quotes NCES: “among children who were homeschooled, 68 percent are white, 15 percent are Hispanic, 8 percent are black, and 4 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander.” A quick look at the U.S. Census Bureau site reveals the diversity in homeschooling closely mirrors diversity numbers of the U.S. population.
SUCCESS OF HOMESCHOOLERS:
A 2009 study showed that the proportion of homeschoolers who graduated from college was about 67%, while among public school students it was 59%.
Students from Catholic and private schools fell even lower in college graduation rates, with 54% and 51% of kids, respectively, completing all four years.”
GROWTH OF HOMESCHOOLERS:
Per Dr. Susan Berry, from 2003 to 2012, homeschooling experienced a 61.8% jump. (I couldn’t find a more recent study.)
The increase in homeschooled students from 2003 to 2012 alone (677,000) is greater than the population of Washington, D.C.
Why am I presenting you with a bunch of stats?
To make one point:
Homeschoolers are a rather large demographic to ignore.
Earlier this year, I found Microsoft 365 Education; the program is super and has a number of ways to help struggling learners. Of special interest was the Immersive Reader feature with One Note.
I found a page stating that the program is “FREE for all home-based educators and students…” which, of course, thrilled me.
Unable to find the option to sign up (three web pages sent me in circles, linking back to each other), I spent four hours on the phone and additional time on chat trying to track down a link to join the program.
Bottom line: I can’t.
Although the web page says it is “FREE for ALL” home educators and students, it turns out that’s not actually the case.
Microsoft ran a pilot program announced in 2016.
The pilot program is now closed and I can only sign up for the educational awesomeness if I have an email address ending in .edu or am teaching in a traditional school (with an official email address), per the same kindly apologetic Microsoft rep.
So, my daughter, who would benefit greatly from the opportunity to utilize the learning tools, is not able to do so. Basically, if I want her to have that access, she has to go back to public school, where they gave up on her ability to learn math (which she aced this year, by the way).
I’m a little surprised at Microsoft, giving up the opportunity to reach 1.7 MILLION diverse, intelligent kids.
Google has recently made some incredible learning features available to the public. For all. For FREE. For real.
Imagine. 1.7 million kids, getting used to Google tools and Google Docs and Google…well, everything.
Soon, they’ll grow into 1.7 million adults, communicating, writing, doing business and running companies. If they’re making decisions, they’ll choose Google products because, let’s face it, most of us continue using the programs with which we’re most familiar.
I’d love to introduce our girl to Microsoft tools, as my mom taught me (seriously; our house was Microsoft Mecca) but we’re already spending quite a bit on core curriculum pieces. Google is making the tools available and free, so I guess it’s time I learn Google Docs…
I hope Microsoft will follow Google’s lead and provide free access to the fabulous learning tools in Microsoft 365 Education for ALL educators and students.
You may already be familiar with Reddit. Have an interest? Reddit probably has a running discussion; it’s a treasure trove.
(Careful…it can be addicting. Hilarious kitty pics are hard to ignore.)
If you have Adoption connections, I’d like to recommend that you join the Adoption group* (sub).
If you’re part of the Adoption Triad (an individual who was adopted/fostered, an adoptive/foster parent or a biological parent) or if you’re considering fostering or adoption, it’s a great place to hang out.
Many members who were formerly adopted or in foster care provide excellent advice for adoptive/foster parents with honest questions. I won’t list user names because there are too many (and I’ll end up accidentally leave someone out), but believe me, if you have a concern, someone can help. It’s also a great place to talk with other parents in similar situations.
*I feel as though the sub has gotten a bad rap recently; if you get a negative response in one (or more) of the comments, just ignore it. Most of the time, individuals posting negative views are dropping in to stir the pot (you can click the user name to see their post history). Most of the truly active members are incredibly helpful and truly care about making life better for our kiddos.
Also, keep in mind that negative comments often source from a well of deep grief and loss, so if someone’s acting like a jerk, they are probably hurting.
Kate Spade had it all.
Met a cool guy named Andy. Started a business with him (and they later married). Business skyrocketed and became a household name (at least, in any household including teens or young women).
A New York Times headline describes her as the woman “Whose Handbags Carried Women Into Adulthood,” passionate and approachable.
She and Andy seemed to be unbelievably well-matched partners. He came up with the rough draft. She ran with his ideas and crafted the finished product.
She sold her stake in the business shortly after the birth of their daughter. Even in her absence, the website still seems to draw from her unassuming, quirky, vibrant personality.
The designer told Moneyish last year she wouldn’t trade the time with her only child in exchange for her self-titled brand “in a million years.”
In almost every article, Kate is described as the driving force of a fashion empire, impacting young ladies across the globe and in every layer of socioeconomics. “Attainable” fashion, with something for everyone from British Royalty and Chelsea Clinton to high school students. Fans like Jonquilyn Hill, now a producer, are reminiscing about buying their first Kate Spade bags.
Kate Spade was famous. Kate Spade worked hard and attained success. Kate Spade was a fashion phenom.
These are the reasons news of her apparent suicide is splashed across every web page around the world.
But Kate Spade’s suicide doesn’t matter.
At least, not for the reasons listed in many of the articles.
Kate was a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend. Kate Spade’s suicide matters because she was a PERSON.
According to a CBS story, she may have been a person battling mental illness.
Most of us did not know Kate personally. 99% of The Web Collective freaking out right now did not know Kate.
Kate’s suicide doesn’t matter because people everywhere are mourning memories of their first handbag or wallet. Kate’s suicide doesn’t matter because she was a success. Kate’s suicide doesn’t matter because she is proof the American Dream comes true.
Kate’s suicide matters because people cared about her. Really cared. Not because famous people bought her products.
EVERY suicide should receive the same coverage. We should all mourn EVERY life lost to depression, to mental illness, to bad choices made in a moment of hopelessness.
Kate Spade’s suicide doesn’t matter any more than the suicide of my friend or of your parent or of that guy’s brother or of the kid from the neighborhood.
Her suicide also doesn’t matter any less.
The loss of a bright female leader (who chose to take time away from her fashion empire to focus on her daughter) is heartbreaking.
The fact that she is one of 45,000 individuals in one year to commit suicide is devastating.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health,
- Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people.
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
- There were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).
At-risk children, including those in the foster system, are even more likely to commit suicide.
In one study, children in foster care were almost three times more likely to have considered suicide and almost four times more likely to have attempted suicide than those who had never been in foster care.
Perhaps “Kate Spade’s suicide doesn’t matter” isn’t really what I want to say. I think, “my friend’s suicide should matter just as much as Kate Spade’s” is closer to my true intent.
My adopted son’s declaration last September that he’d rather not be alive opened my eyes to the need. IN MY OWN HOME. Maybe in your home, also.
Hopelessness is rampant.
Pay attention to the people around you—especially if they belong to an at-risk population like kids who’ve been in foster care.
If family members seem a little “off,” don’t wait to ask if they’re okay.
If friends admit to feeling depressed, encourage them to seek help—and don’t walk away.
You might be the light that draws them back to life.
Here are a few resources for help:
If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Sending hugs your way.
A passion for the plight of orphans has gripped my core since the first time I read the biography of George Muller.
I was eight years old.
His story of faith and his dedication to rescuing children continues to inspire me.
That book sparked an unwavering, lifelong desire to adopt.
To make a difference with my life.
To stand up, to protect, to speak on behalf of children in need worldwide.
My heart is continually broken over the plight of children left without parents, whether by death, abandonment or poverty. Many of the world’s orphans still have parents who, in desperation to save their beloved children’s lives, leave them at homes where they will be fed and sheltered.
Let’s do a little math.
UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death. By this definition, there were nearly 140 million orphans globally in 2015, including 61 million in Asia, 52 million in Africa, 10 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 7.3 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This large figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father.
Of the nearly 140 million children classified as orphans, 15.1 million have lost both parents. Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent grandparent, or other family member. 95 per cent of all orphans are over the age of five.
Although not all children who have lost both parents are available for adoption, let’s use that 15 million number.
2 billion divided by 15 million is 133.
Assuming my math is correct, if roughly one Christian out of every 100 adopted an orphan with no parents, every child would have a home.
*Identifying as a Christian is not a requirement to adopt or love children. I use this limiting description to make a few points.
1. Followers of the Way generally try to do what God wants. Only three items comprise God’s definition of Pure Religion. One of them is taking care of orphaned children. (James 1:27)
2. People who say they love Jesus for real should be willing to follow His example of sacrifice for others. Not everyone can adopt or foster, but we can all do SOMEthing to help current orphans—or to prevent a child from becoming one.
3. If a relatively small population (one Christian out of 14) stepped up to help in some way, EVERY ONE of those 140 million children would have what they need.
You’ve possibly already seen those statistics. A topic less discussed is how to prevent a child from becoming an orphan in the first place.
I’ll chat with you about that option soon. For now, feel free to add your opinion below.
I don’t put much stock in dream interpretation, but every so often, I learn something new while unconscious.
One Christmas morning, my sister announced she would like to speak, then made a statement I couldn’t understand.
My brother said he would like to clarify. What he said made no sense to me, and didn’t seem to have anything to do with what my sister said.
Several other family members chimed in.
They acted as though they were having a conversation, appearing to understand each other.
By the time my mother spoke up, I was thoroughly confused.
Finally, I noticed each was reading from “speaking parts” written on sticky notes. My sister informed me the lines for their “Christmas play” were the things I said in my sleep on Christmas Eve.
“You woke me with your gibberish,” she grinned, “so I wrote down everything you said.”
Over the years, I’ve found that I don’t always recognize when I’m stressed. The most accurate indicator that I am not relaxed is what happens while I snooze. (Apparently, our family together at Christmas is a stressor.)
If I talk in my sleep, and especially if I walk in my sleep, I am overwrought and need to take time to figure out
1. what is stressing me and
2. how to ameliorate the situation.
Once, soon after starting a new job, I woke to find myself scrubbing at a corner of the carpet in our bedroom.
Hubby flipped on a light. “Uh…what are you doing? It’s 4 a.m.”
Frustrated, I fumed, “I can’t believe the chef dumped this whole #10 can of crushed tomatoes! I’ll never get it out of this carpet.”
As Hubby snickered, reality filtered through my dream and I realized I was scrubbing at nothing.
The new job was exciting, but even happy stress is still…stress.
This morning, Hubby asked,
soooooo, a grilled cheese is your favorite sandwich?
“Well, not really. I like a Reuben much better. Why do you…wait. Was I talking in my sleep?”
He nodded, grinning.
“You REALLY like grilled cheese. You told me several times.”
Maybe I’m a little stressed.
We are trying to figure out a better option for our son because the current residential treatment setting is not working well for him. His behavior is deteriorating, and instead of implementing behavior modification, almost everyone at the center simply wants to focus on his feelings.
“He’s just expressing his anger. If peers do things that make him mad, that’s really not his fault.”
I’ve heard this from more than one staff member.
“We’ll just keep processing his feelings and things will get better.”
This may work for some kids, but with a diagnosis of Autism One (Asperger’s), it’s not working for him. He needs concrete positive and negative consequences for his actions.
And regardless of whether he’s provoked, his REACTION is his responsibility.
I talked with a number of other centers this week. Anything close doesn’t seem to be a fit. The few that seem to be a possibility are far away. Finding the right place for him feels almost impossible.
Thanks to my sleep talking, I realized today that I am definitely over-stressed about the situation and need to take a step back.
I know that God loves our boy even more than we do and He’s got a good plan for that kid.
I need to continue to trust. This will work out eventually.
While I take a minute to refocus, I think I’m going to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich.
(I just found out this morning: grilled cheese is my favorite.)
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.“
October 3, 2014, I wrote this letter to my daughter.
Just over three and a half years later, I see some of the predictions blossoming in amazing ways. I never expected to be here so soon.
In our world, here is progress. Back then was awful for all of us. There is the goal for which we strive. We are not yet there, but we are definitely, beautifully here.
In recent weeks, my daughter has begun to grasp a concept beyond her years.
She is not the only child with troubles.
Children (and many adults) have an automatic bent toward self.
To see the plight of others is difficult; when your own crises are blinding, understanding that anyone else might have a similar—or more dire—situation is almost impossible.
I thank God for Henry Ford and his counterparts. As counseling offices go, four wheels and a metal cage traveling at speed is the best. Just buckle up, hold the wheel, push the pedal and wait. If you stay quiet long enough, your child will speak.
As we headed toward the next errand’s destination, she took a breath.
The Foster Care System needs to be fixed.
I’ll admit, staying quiet in this case required all my strength. She was nailing a slat on my favorite soapbox.
“Oh?” I asked, gripping the wheel and praying I’d keep my mouth shut so she’d keep talking.
“Yes. The problem with foster care is they’re doing it all wrong. Lots of kids are having bad experiences. It’s not just me.”
And then she outlined her plan for fixing foster care. Her points are in bold; my thoughts from the foster parent perspective are below each point.
- Foster parents need better training and more preparation.
Hubby and I attended the mandatory training for foster parenting. We also participated in classes with several agencies. I’m a little neurotic about self-learning…our shelves are full of books advocating the magic of “1-2-3” and connecting your child. And yet, we were often caught off-guard. In spite of proactive preparation, the feeling of being inadequate and unsure was a constant companion. Training and prep should include:
- Worst case scenarios – ALL of them – with a list of who to call and ideas to implement in case of emergency
- Where to turn if your (social worker, agency, case manager, etc.) is just plain awful
- Extensive lists of resources in your area
- Mandatory testing of every child for psychological, emotional, physical and educational needs
- Talking points with which to approach the school administration and teachers, new pediatrician/dentist/eye doctor, care workers—basically, anyone who will interact with the child—to help them understand some reactions may be different from the current child population with whom they work
- A list of books with tips that ACTUALLY work, categorized by issue
- Foster parents should be split in two categories: those who want to adopt and those who do not.
I agree with all my heart.
Some individuals foster to serve the children who can return to their biological parents. For them, it is a true ministry to the families who are able to heal and reconnect.
Others are willing to commit their lives long-term to children wounded by circumstances outside their control.
Neither is better than the other. Each meets a need. Needs differ.
- Foster parents who do not want to adopt should get the short term kids who are expected to return home and should never have kids who will not go home.
The ideal situation is the fewest possible placements. If a return home is likely, children should be placed with foster parents committed to a shorter-term process of doing what it takes to reunite a family.
This group of foster parents should receive training specific to the nuances of working with birth parents and the child’s emotional roller coaster during visitation. Education for these foster parents should include ensuring they fully understand that being with the biological family in this case is the best option. They need to be willing to attach to the child, to show a healthy relationship, and to let go when the time comes. Easier written than lived.
Depending on the rules and laws of their region, they should also be willing to continue supportive contact if the birth family allows.
- Foster parents who want to adopt should receive the children who are not ever going back to their biological families.
Families who desire to adopt should only receive children whose parental rights are terminated (or children for whom this process is almost complete).
These parents should receive training for the long term.
Unfortunately, media has created a Cinderella fairy tale regarding adoption. Most adoption movies end with (if not “happily ever after”) at the least, “beautiful resolution to current issues and a happy beginning with an optimistic eye to the future.”
Martian Child is probably my favorite adoption movie because it highlights so many of the real issues.
However, the true angst experienced by any participant in a similar situation is not communicated (a feat perhaps no movie can accomplish). The overall feeling of the movie is warmhearted, rock-solid commitment to a strange and adorable boy, but I’ve lived some of those scenes. They aren’t heart-warming in real life—for the adults OR for the kids.
My stomach twists when I read articles like “Parents Adopted 15 Children, All Now Grown and Thriving,” or, “Woman Fostered 55 Children in Last 20 Years.” These articles rarely discuss the confusing, heart-rending and sometimes terrifying interactions the children and adults almost certainly experienced.
Even organizations like Focus on the Family, which highlighted Reactive Attachment Disorder years before I heard about it anywhere else, often gloss and blur years of difficulty in articles about adoption.
Foster parents willing to become adoptive parents should go to boot camp. ACTUAL boot camp for adoptive parents. If they can’t take a week off work for an intensive online training, they have no business signing up to commit the rest of their lives. Of course, there’s a chance the child might have zero issues and it’s a Pollyanna life. More likely, you’ll be play-acting Pollyanna tactics to minimize negative behaviors (this would be a session at Casey’s Boot Camp).
Adoption is difficult for the adults AND for the kids. Adoption is long-term. Adoption is a roller coaster. Sometimes you think you’ve made it out of the woods (as we did during Summer 2016) and then you find yourself admitting a child to residential care to keep him alive (Fall 2017). Adoption is FOREVER. If every foster-to-adoptive parent is provided understanding and education, we will have fewer disruptions and more success.
- Foster parents should sign a paper committing to 2 years, whether they are willing to adopt or not.
Foster care is not forever—and was never meant to be.
HOWEVER. Regardless of the intent to return children home, foster parents should be willing to provide care for children long term, with a minimum two year commitment. Moving children from foster home to foster home is damaging.
Even in a foster-only situation, delays (sometimes, but not always involving the birth family) can lengthen a stay. Friends of ours started a six-week foster stint…a year and a half ago.
My daughter came up with the time frame. She said that the first year, kids are out of their minds with confusion and terror. It takes a long time to feel okay. The first half of the second year, they begin to seriously test boundaries, wondering, “will these people really stay committed?”
She feels most children will settle in, feeling comfortable and safe, around the two-year mark from the time they understand they’ll be adopted.
From the time ours understood the adoption, it took about three years for them to really relax, but I believe our longer timeline stems from living with complete uncertainty. Technically, that “somewhat relaxed” time was closer to the five-year mark, but counting the time we fostered them probably isn’t fair, since they didn’t know they were being adopted (and the social worker wouldn’t let us tell them).
For those of you who’ve adopted, would you agree with her two-year timeline?
“Settling in” doesn’t mean things are roses. It means they UNDERSTAND and BELIEVE their adoptive parents are committed and will never abandon them. Even our son, in residential care, knows (and communicates to his therapist) that we will never give up on him.
So, there you have it. I think we’ll call it,
Casey and Kid’s Formula for Fixing Foster Care.
We’d love to hear your ideas, especially if you’ve lived through this as a child in foster care, an adopted child, an adoptive or foster parent, birth parent or other individual involved in the process. Even if you haven’t been a part of the foster or adoption process, if you’ve got a great idea, please share.
Chime in below.
THANK YOU for your prayers and encouraging words.
In case you’re just joining us, I presented this week to a group of eleven professionals appointed by the government to ensure children receive appropriate services. They hold the power to choose the best route of treatment for our son.
My meeting went well, although the current residential facility representative maintained the opinion the best option for our boy is a step-down to a group home. After hearing about his current outbursts, the team agreed a step-over to a different facility is warranted. This was our desired outcome. As one of the members noted, he is still not in control of his anger.
The current facility’s mindset is that he’s made great progress since January. However, they’re ignoring the huge swing he’s experienced since admission. In some ways, his behavior is now worse.
We admitted him because he expressed suicidal thoughts, and his actions were harmful to himself and others. When he became angry, he usually expressed it verbally (or in writing, as I often sent him to his room to write in his journal).
From November through January, his expression escalated to physical. He began provoking and fighting with the other children—specifically those he saw as weaker than himself. We worked with the therapist to create a reward/consequence system to eliminate the physical aggression (“TV time” is his most effective motivating factor; an altercation = no TV).
Although the therapist agreed with and supported the plan, getting the general staff on board proved difficult. Part of the issue stemmed from attempting to communicate the plan with the large number of individuals involved. In addition, not everyone agreed with our tactics. They felt barring him from TV made him feel as though he were not “part of the group” and minimized his “socializing” opportunities.
I argued that punching another kid in the face might also limit his social acceptance.
We had very little success. Enforcing rules from a distance is difficult, especially without buy-in from staff.
He figured out that his physical aggression was keeping him in the center longer and occasionally affected his TV access, so he stopped punching kids and started punching and kicking the walls when angry. He hasn’t yet cracked the sheet rock, partly because some walls are cinder block. This week, he bruised his hand badly.
To the center, this is progress. To Hubby and me, not so much. He’s still expressing his anger in inappropriate ways, with the threat of property damage looming just one kick away.
This week, he sat down at a table in the classroom and refused to get in his seat because he wanted to color. When the teacher explained this wasn’t an option, he walked out of the class. Staff informed him he may not refuse school (the center allows them to refuse certain activities) and he flipped out, punching and kicking windows and walls. Call me crazy, but this does not feel like progress.
Thankfully, the team agreed with our concerns; we can move forward.
Next steps involve obtaining admission from the desired facility and sending a description of why this is our best option to yet another government employee for final approval. She knows our story, so I have hope for limited delays. Having the team’s backing also gives credibility to the request.
The road to healing is long and it hasn’t been easy, but I have hope.
I write our story to be a support and to help other families in similar situations feel less isolated. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I write our story to show the individuals who support these families: YOU ARE NEEDED.
Adoptive parents AND adopted children—we learn from those who’ve gone before. Please feel free to give your opinions and guidance.
We need each other.
You have a story. Chime in.
- Change ChangHe’sfThe c
Tomorrow, I’ll stand before a group of professionals and explain why I think our son should transition to another facility. Some will want him to step down to a group home instead. I disagree.
I’m NOT trying to pawn my kid off or keep him from coming home. He’s not showing the level of progress for which we’d hoped.
He’s had three incidents (in three days) of kicking and punching walls, doors and windows because a peer or adult disagreed with him…if he did this in school, he’d end up expelled.
I love this kid and am doing this to protect him; if he throws a chair and hits someone—even if the contact is unintentional— he could go to jail. Odds are not in his favor.
He needs something else—something he’s not getting. I’ll elaborate later, but for now, I appreciate your prayers for calm nerves and clear communication.
The three most important things to have are faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13