Cleveland Angels connection
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
What many families and volunteers have found after joining our Cleveland Angels program is that there is a very special bond between a Love Box group and the family they serve. Two groups of people, who often have never met before, suddenly become constant forces of love, support, and understanding in one another’s lives. In the case of foster parents Leanne and Dustin, they found that they really did develop a strong bond with the volunteers who came to their house to deliver their Love Boxes. Those volunteers are Cynthia and her daughter Sarah. This post is a feature of both of their stories and experiences with Cleveland Angels interconnected with one another since they have both become such important parts of each other’s lives. We are so grateful to have all of these wonderful people in our organization, as they exemplify exactly what we are trying to do for the Cleveland foster care community.
Leanne and Dustin have been one of the incredible families in our Love Box program since this past winter. They are proud foster parents right now to two babies, one 13 months old and the other 7 weeks old. Leanne and Dustin’s journey with foster care began early in their marriage when they found out they would not be able to have biological children. Years later, they realized that they still had room in their hearts and home and decided to be a safe place for young children to learn and grow until their parents and/or family could provide them with the life they deserve. They became certified foster parents last June, and within 45 minutes of being a certified foster home, they got their first placement and took in a set of young siblings that very night. They cared for those children for seven weeks and after taking a month off to regroup, took in their third child in September and their fourth only a few weeks ago.
Cynthia and Sarah are a mother daughter duo who have been volunteers in our Love Box program since this past February. Cynthia explained that Sarah and her were looking for volunteer opportunities they could do together and after their neighbor told them about Cleveland Angels, they knew it was what they were called to do. They saw it as a perfect opportunity for them to do something together that would hopefully bring other people support and joy.
Leanne and Dustin found their way to Cleveland Angels after hearing about the organization from a fellow foster parent. They decided to gauge their interest in participating by attending our summer picnic and found that although they only knew one person there, everyone was welcoming and inviting. They had a wonderful time visiting with the other families, the kids were able to run around and play, and from that point forward, they knew they wanted to continue growing with Cleveland Angels.
Fast forward a few months to the winter of 2020 and Leanne and Dustin were matched with their first Love Box group, which included volunteers Cynthia and Sarah. Cynthia explained that the first time they got together at their house they felt like the two families immediately clicked. They spent their time listening to Dustin and Leanne explain what it means to them to be a foster family and the emotional and physical challenges they face. Leanne explained that since Cynthia and Sarah have become acquainted with their family, “they have walked alongside them, let them know they can do hard things, cried with them, laughed with them, and blessed them the entire time."
Both fostering and being a volunteer have their own unique challenges, but also reap rewards that make the entire process worth it. Leanne explained that “fostering has been the hardest thing [they have] ever done mentally and emotionally, [but] it has also been the most rewarding. Staying connected to other foster families has been a tremendous blessing and [they] suggest finding a group of other foster parents to stay in connection with. Learning to accept any support you can is also huge.”
“For someone who is proactive and a planner, fostering often throws you curveballs and with so many working pieces and people it can be difficult to plan ahead. Not being able to see the full picture can be difficult too. You have to stay focused on the children and provide them with the home they need during that time.” -Leanne
Sarah and Cynthia have recently been facing a challenge that many of our volunteers can relate to, which is having to figure out how to support their family during a global pandemic. Cynthia explained that they are doing their best to be there for them by keeping in touch by talking through the storm door at their house, and dropping off meals on the porch.
In regards to the rewarding aspects of foster care, Leanne explained that getting to watch the children grow and learn is extremely rewarding. “Helping them on their journey is so sweet and even though you won't always get to see the fruits of that labor, knowing that you helped them during a season of their life is so worth it. It's also rewarding if the situation allows you to walk alongside the parent(s) in any way and help them to be the people they need to be for their children.”
When asked what mark Sarah and her hope to leave on the Cleveland foster care community, Cynthia said, “It is my hope that Sarah and I can be a positive source of support for the entire family, allowing the children to know that they have a wide network of people who love them, and being there as someone to lean-on for the foster parents. Everyone needs love, support, and understanding!”
Both of these families exemplify what Cleveland Angels stands for — compassion, understanding, perseverance, and most importantly, love. We could not be more grateful to have them in our community and we can’t wait to see how their families grow and flourish.
As we launch the Cleveland Connection blog, we wanted to introduce our organization to those who may be unfamiliar with who we are and what we do.
Cleveland Angels is the local chapter of a national nonprofit organization called National Angels, which was was created to support families and children experiencing foster care.⠀
We know that foster care is HARD - on the children who are placed in the system as a result of abuse/neglect at home, on the caregivers who open up their homes to them, and on the biological families being separated. We know that children in foster care are of the most vulnerable children in our population, and often fall victim to homelessness, human trafficking, incarceration, struggles with mental health, and more.⠀
The National Angels organization started as volunteer groups throwing fun service events and extracurricular activities for children in foster care. Over time, support for foster care became less about the one-time activities and gifts (which still have their time and place)... and more about the real bonds that were forming. It was about the lives being changed as a result of community, consistency, and intentionality.⠀
What started as a single chapter in Austin, TX quickly grew into a national organization with chapters opening up in major cities like DFW, Cleveland, Seattle, Houston and more all across the country. These chapters are building communities of people that walk alongside foster families and youth in their normal, everyday lives. These communities are providing much needed wrap-around support - intentional gifts, healthy relationships, mentorship, resources, emergency support and more - for kids in foster care as well as families who care for them.
LOVE BOX PROGRAM
The Love Box Program was created to provide our local foster care community with consistent, customized and holistic support. Our Love Box volunteers are everyday people from the Cleveland community, who are matched with foster families based on zip code and compatibility. These volunteers help meet practical, financial and emotional needs for the entire family.⠀
Our "Love Box" may LOOK like a traditional cardboard box, but this program is so much more than a box of stuff - it’s about relationships, connection and support.⠀
Depending on the family's needs, Love Box support could be a box filled with practical items like groceries, paper products, seasonal activities, special treats, etc. But Love Box support could also look like volunteers offering to babysit, tutoring or helping with homework, planning a child's birthday celebration, or even chipping in for a new washing machine (which has happened twice already!)⠀
And even in the midst of today's social distancing, our volunteers are still supporting their families through porch drop offs, grocery shopping, submitting online orders, sending activities for kiddos, and communicating via Zoom, FaceTime, or texts.⠀
You've heard us say that foster care is HARD. But we know that if we can wrap community support around foster families, we have a much better chance at ➡️ increasing the families' overall sense of normalcy ➡️ helping caregivers feel equipped to continue this hard work ➡️ establishing much-needed stability and relational permanency for children in foster care ➡️ steering them away from negative outcomes, and creating more opportunities for their health, happiness and thriving ✨⠀
DARE TO DREAM PROGRAM
Youth who age out of the foster care system at 18 are often expected to be just as self-sufficient as their peers. But the absence of parental guidance and emotional support hinders the ability for any youth to flourish in the world -- and this is especially true for kids who have grown up in foster care.⠀
The constant lack of support and resources, combined with the multiple traumas these youth have experienced throughout their lives, greatly affects their success and well-being upon aging out. This is why youth in foster care are more likely than their peers to struggle with mental health, drop out of high school, not attend college, become homeless or incarcerated, or pregnant as a teenager.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Our waitlists have been growing rapidly, and there is a clear need for additional community support for our city's foster families and youth. Sign up to receive our emails and follow us on social media to stay in the loop about current needs and volunteer opportunities.
Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone can play a role in this mission. And we hope you'll join us!
Provided by Houston Angels:
It is a harsh reality that foster care is connected with so many other social issues of today - one of which is human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a market-driven, global industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profits. It is a form of modern-day slavery when someone is exploited through force, fraud or coercion for the economic gain of another, in the form of:
Not all those who are trafficked are physically forced - in fact, most human trafficking occurs through psychological coercion, tricking, manipulation, or threats. This criminal industry affects every type of community across the country and is present amongst various ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds; however, according to the Polaris Project, roughly two-thirds of reported survivors in 2018 were women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Children at Risk, Texas is a leading hub for human trafficking, which spans across all of our major cities and even exists in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods.
REPORTS SHOW THAT ROUGHLY 60% OF TRAFFICKING VICTIMS HERE IN THE UNITED STATES HAVE A HISTORY