Helping Foster Children Stay On Task

“Concentration is like a muscle that requires regular exercise to strengthen. Some kids are born “stronger” in this area than others, but all kids can learn strategies and engage in practices that help improve their ability to focus and sustain their attention”

– Dr. Jamie Howard

Children in out of home care often lack interest in learning and find difficulty in concentrating and staying on task. With 92% of children in care below average reading skills by the time they are seven years of age and struggle to catch up, it is important as mentors to help our children build and train their ‘concentration muscle’.

Here are some tips for our Pyjama Angels to implement in visits to help their children stay on task.

1. Set A Plan

It can be a good idea to create a plan for your visits. At the beginning of your visit you can work with your child to write out a set plan for the visit. This gives both you and your child the opportunity to decide what you will aim to achieve within your visit.

2. Set Time Lengths For Tasks

When setting a plan or just completing tasks, it is important to set appropriate time lengths for specific tasks. As a Pyjama Angel, you will get to know the typical time length your child will concentrate and focus on a task. Use your understanding to set appropriate time lengths on tasks you aim to complete.

3. Use Timers

When aiming to complete a task for a specific time, it can be helpful to utilise timers or stopwatches. Clocks or stopwatches can provide a visual aid for children, and help them understand when a task will finish.

4. Planned Breaks

It is also important to ensure that you build in planned breaks. After spending some time concentrating, it is useful to take a break whether that be a small physical break such as throwing a ball around or trying a Brain Gym exercise.

Brain Gym

These exercises can be utilised if child become distracted or simply as a planned break. These small physical activities will re-engage the brain and can help a child re-focus on a set task.

* Brain Gym exercises adapted from margdteachingposters.weebly.com/thinking-processes

 

Incorporating these tips will hopefully see your visits become more productive and time efficient, though it it important to remember that every child is unique and requires different techniques. Be patient and kind and see what works best for you and your child during your visits.

If you ever feel stuck and need any assistance or tips, our team is available for a chat at 07 3256 8802 between 9-5pm Monday-Friday.

Free holiday fun for all ages

The two-week September school holidays are here! This is a good time for you and your Pyjama child to get crafty, creative and learn outdoors without homework hindering your visit.

The holidays is an awesome opportunity to extend your visits and perhaps have a change of scenery. This is a wonderful way to build your relationship with your Pyjama Child but please remember the restrictions and key policies which you would have learnt about in your Pyjama Angel training.

Here are some free events happening in our regions during the September school holidays. This may provide some inspiration for potential activities or a fun day out. You may even be able to assist your carer in taking the whole family out for a free and fun-filled day!

The State Library of Queensland is hosting a one-day event these school holidays, to celebrate art, science, learning, play and adventure. The day offers children with an interest in scientific mysteries and art, to participate in experiments and games. This would be a perfect opportunity for Pyjama children to explore their interests or even show off their science skills!

For: Any age

Where: The Edge, State Library of Queensland

When: 10:00am to 3:00pm | Saturday 6 October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens has designed a self-guided scavenger hunt, for those children interested in exploring nature. The Gardens provides an activity sheet to guide children around the gardens, encouraging them to find locate and explore the local flora and fauna. This scavenger hunt gives our Pyjama children the opportunity to explore nature!

Find the Botanic Gardens Scavenger Hunt Map here or collect from the Gardens Administration.

Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens are also providing 20 other free self-guided activities in the Gardens. There is an online passport that can be downloaded from here or collected from the Gardens Administration.

For: Any age

Where: Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens

When: 22-29 September

 

 

Has your Pyjama child expressed the interest in learning a new skill? The Pier is running 45-minute how-to knit sessions for children. These free lessons are designed to expand their creativity, concentration and coordination skills.

For: Any age

Where: The Pier

When: 10:00am – 1:30pm | 25 – 28th September, 2 – 5 October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Gallery of Victoria is currently running an interactive exhibit for children, to explore the sights and sounds of New York! The exhibit is a great opportunity for our Pyjama children to learn about New York, through interactive displays, multimedia projections and hands-on activities.

For: All Ages

Where: National Gallery of Victoria

When: 10:30am – 12:30pm | 2nd October

 

The Gladstone Regional Libraries is holding a range of educational activities at libraries across the region these September holidays. If your Pyjama child has a special interest in technology or robotics, the libraries are holding sessions for children to learn the basics of coding and robot play. They are also providing craft activities, including tie dying.

For: Children 10 and over (Tie Dye Fun & Coding), All ages (Craft & Robot Play)

Where: Gladstone City Library

When: 24th September – 4th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a part of their KRANK program, The Logan City Council are holding many school holiday events, including a cooking class. This free event will let you and your Pyjama child master a new skill in the kitchen, while preparing and cooking new foods together. The Logan City council are also offering other events, such as Zumba and hip-hop classes.

For: 5 – 11 years

Where: Kingston East Neighbourhood Centre

When: 10am – 11am | 4th October

 

The State Library of New South Wales has recently opened their new Learning Centre and are holding a range of activities for children. These activities focus on building and construction giving children the opportunity to help the library create a cardboard city. Children can build and create a pop-up house!

For: All Ages

Where: State Library of New South Wales

When: 10am – 3pm | 8 October – 12 October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surfers Paradise is holding their annual Kids Week. This year the event is dinosaur themed and will showcase daily live shows from 1pm.  This event also gives our Pyjama children the opportunity to meet rangers and their animatronic dinosaurs, as well as learn all there is to know about dinosaurs!

For: All Ages

Where: State Library of New South Wales

When: 29th September – 5th October

 

The City of Townsville is holding two different Lego activities during the school holidays. These activities will give our creative Pyjama children the opportunity to construct a building with Lego and turn it into a robot! Through technology, the children will be able to program their robot to do exactly what they tell it to do.

For: 7+ years

Where: CityLibraries Thuringowa Central

When: 2pm – 4:30pm | 25th September & 4th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ipswich Art Gallery is running a workshop for children to create shadow puppets. The workshop let’s children transform their puppet design into a moveable creation made of pipe cleaners, paper, ribbon and a range of craft materials.

For: 4+ years

Where: Ipswich Art Gallery

When: 10am – 5pm | 11nd September – 11th October

Our Big Dreams Gala Ball 2018

One week ago, we hosted the night of all nights — an evening of glitz, glam and giving back. Guests came from as far as Western Australia to celebrate The Pyjama Foundation’s Big Dreams Gala Ball and raise much needed funds for children in foster care. Attendees were met with some of Brisbane’s best views, with the balcony of Room ThreeSixty at QUT providing a perfect outlook to the Story Bridge and Kangaroo Point.

The theme for this year’s event was inspired by the very core values of The Pyjama Foundation — every child should have the opportunity to dream big and go far. Each child should be given the tools to follow their wildest dreams!

Children living in out of home care often bounce between different homes and to different schools, which can affect their opportunities to read and learn, causing them to fall behind their peers academically. Dreams are no good if they remain just dreams and the Big Dreams Gala Ball was for the 52,000 Australian children living in foster care, with a focus on letting them know that their dreams and desires are just as valid as the next child’s.

Our guests were met at the door with a 9ft angel pouring bubbly for each willing patron (see below if you don’t believe us!), live entertainment, a photobooth setup worth marvelling at and a constantly stocked candy bar. It was a magical start to the evening!

We were lucky to be joined by former and present Pyjama kids, as well as many of our Pyjama Angels who continue to inspire us every day. Senior Executive Director, Accommodation, Respite and Forensic Disability Services at Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors Matthew Lupi was the entertaining MC for the evening, surprising guests with dream themed trivia between meals. Matthew welcomed the Honourable Di Farmer, Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence to give a powerful address to start off the evening.

Guests were thrilled with the banquet-style dinner, flowing beverages and incredible prizes. Our token instant win mystery envelopes were a hit again this year, with everyone walking away a winner thanks to our incredible prize sponsors! Raffle tickets were available to purchase on the night with more amazing prizes up for grabs, those who won the accommodation in Phuket and the Lamborghini driving experience were envied by all!

Our live auction also went off with a bang thanks to our friends at Watt Realty who got the crowd rearing for our big-ticket auction items! Accommodation on the ski slopes in Canada, a stay in a five-star lodge in Queenstown, and a private chef dinner in your own home all sold at generous prices to those in the room.

The money raised on the evening will go directly towards our Love of Learning Program which aims to improve the educational outcomes of children in foster care, just like 9-year-old Frankie who spoke about his special Pyjama Angel at our gala. A few words from his speech on the evening:

“Cathy has been visiting me for almost five years. The things we do together are read, play sport, watch movies, play iPad games, play with kinetic sand and sometimes go to the skate park. We have dinner together every week,” he said.

“I look forward to Wednesdays. Every Wednesday I ask mum, ‘Is Cathy coming today?’. I like Cathy a lot.

“Thank you for helping The Pyjama Foundation, so kids like me can have a special friend.”

There was so much love, laughter and great acts of generosity on the evening, to which we thank each person who attended. It was truly a wonderful night and we are so thankful to have spent it with so many people who are crucial to our foundation.

Thank you for supporting The Pyjama Foundation’s Big Dreams Gala Ball, we couldn’t have pulled it off without your support and we hope to see you all again next year.

Dad’s Day a chance to say thanks to our male role models

Father’s Day has a different meaning to everyone, but for children in foster care it can be a reminder of what they are missing and how important it is to have a positive male role model.

Townsville’s Andrew Pangrazio, 30, was placed with an 11-year-old boy living in care four years ago after volunteering as a mentor ‘Pyjama Angel’ as part of The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning Program, which supports children in foster care.

The now 15-year-old aspires to become a mechanic and the weekly visits from Andrew where they practice hands on mechanical work was key to helping make this possible.

“My child has learning impairments and finds it easier to be working bikes or engines as it is his passion to become a mechanic,” the psychologist said.

“I try to combine as many instruction guides and manuals in our work to continue to work on focused reading.

“[He] doesn’t have many male role models in life so the male attention I believe has been healthy.”

The child Andrew visits is just one of the 95 children in care currently supported by a special Pyjama Angel volunteer in Townsville, a number the Foundation hopes will steadily increase with a total of 41 children currently waiting for a Pyjama Angel to come into their lives.

One of The Foundation’s Townsville carers detailed just how special this unique interaction is for her children.

“B* waited a long time for a Pyjama Angel and Alex is absolutely perfect for him, he turns up to B’s soccer games and cheers him on from the sideline which we think is absolutely brilliant,” the carer said.

Currently, 93 per cent of The Pyjama Foundation’s volunteers are female and moving forward The Foundation is hoping to see more male involvement.

As a carer of young boys with Pyjama Angel’s, she sees the importance of the positive male role models and the difference it is making for her boys.

“The world needs more male Pyjama Angels, so many boys in care have never known a positive relationship with a man,” the carer said.

“It’s time we show our boys that there are good men out there that genuinely care and want to help them learn and help shape the young men they become.”

Pyjama Angel Andrew believes helping others is a form of self-help, acknowledging that connection and meaning are all major contributors to psychological wellbeing.

“I would encourage everyone to join and I think males especially as not only will the kids benefit from having healthy male role models in their life, but helping others is helping yourself and is an important lesson to teach the future generation,” he said.

Founder of The Pyjama Foundation, Bronwyn Sheehan says the number of foster children is continuing to grow every year and without extra support, empowerment and encouragement, many of the children’s futures will be compromised.

“Currently there are more than 51,000 children in foster care, and statistics show that approximately 32,250 of these children will not complete high school,” she said.

“Many children in care bounce from home to home, and to difference schools which greatly hinders their learning.”

Head to www.thepyjamafoundation.com/volunteer to see if you’re eligible to become a Pyjama Angel to help support and mentor a child in foster care.

Boosting the self-esteem of foster children

Self-esteem is difficult for foster children to understand, let alone see in themselves. Even adults struggle with it from time to time. But that doesn’t mean self-esteem is impossible to find, even in bleak situations.

It starts with you
As a mentor, your own self-esteem is an example for your charge. How do you feel about yourself? How do you see yourself? Are you proud of your achievements and how you live your life? Because it’s absolutely fine if you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy level of confidence and pride within yourself.

Ask them what they’re good at, and do it
Foster kids might say they aren’t good at anything and that simply isn’t true. Use this tactic instead;

What are you good at? turns into What do you enjoy?

If someone enjoys writing, they create great stories. If a person enjoys drawing or painting, they create nice artwork. Now a creative area, like art or writing, might not be your charge’s idea of enjoyment. But they could enjoy reading, playing games or sports. These can be implemented in one way or another during your time with them.

Give praise – within reason
Excessive praise does more harm than good. Children at the receiving end of constant praise from parents or other mature figures will crumble at criticism for others. This knocks down their self-esteem and can be hard to recover.

There is one way to give realistic praise, and we go further into that with the next point.

Help them set goals
Realistic ones where they will earn praise. You’ll work out goals within the first few visits. The Love of Learning Program emphasizes education; set up goals by term or by year. An easy one is reading; read X amount of books by the end of the year, for example.

Boosting the self-esteem of foster kids isn’t an uphill battle. That mindset makes things harder. It’s a matter of finding out what they enjoy, using it during your visits and watching them make progress. Their self-confidence and happiness will grow, slowly and surely.

How Pyjama Angels Help Develop Foster Kids’ Life Skills

Pyjama Angels create positive relationships with children in care; empowering them with learning, life skills and confidence. By becoming an Angel you have the potential to build many skills in these kids, ultimately changing the direction of their lives. Here a few of the many ways your commitment can do this:

Language

Language plays a significant role in a child’s development. Whether it’s communication through speaking, writing, expressions and gestures. It enables a child to effectively communicate throughout life. In certain upbringings and circumstances, the development of language can be impacted upon a child.

Children in foster care, often acquire low or delayed language and communication skills, compared to their peers at school. Statistics show from June 2016, 46,448 children Australia wide are in out-of-home care per day. Language and communication delays can lead to long-term negative effects on their social competence, mental health and academic achievements. Valuable time spent with a Pyjama Angel can improve the language development of child in foster care.

Attention span

Concentration in school can be challenging for children in general. An unstable upbringing and background can have greater impact a foster child’s concentration amongst their peers. The Pyjama Foundation has trained 949 Pyjama Angels in the last year. Trained to assist and mentor foster children in improving the development of their attention span. Guided by a Pyjama Angel, positive techniques and methods are implemented to suit each child’s own level of development.

Co-operation

Children need positive guidance to learn and achieve positive co-operation skills in life. School is the perfect environment for children to obtain this skill; playing together, reading together and teamwork within the classroom is an important factor. An interrupted home can impact the development of co-operation and teamwork skills amongst foster children. A Pyjama Angel can help improve these skills by encouraging positive teamwork techniques to read and play as a team.

 

Read a page each

Self-esteem

A child’s self-esteem is dependent upon their home environment. Emotional abuse and neglect are sadly often experienced by children in care, with statistics showing that 45% of boys and 44% of girls have experienced emotional abuse and neglect in from 2015 to 2016. This impacts a child’s self-esteem, which can have further negative effects on their language, attention span and cooperation skills as they develop. Pyjama Angels are trained to mentor, boost and encourage a foster child’s self-esteem through the Love of Learning program – building positive life skills; confidence building, making friends and setting them up to foresee a positive outlook on life.

 

See them smile more often like this

Get more advice here;

Great books you can read in the Love of Learning Program

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Great books you can read in the Love of Learning Program

The Love of Learning program is the only one of its kind. It provides children with the opportunity to strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills outside of school. But as a Pyjama Angel, you aren’t a tutor. You’re a mentor. Someone who can guide the children in the program and be a positive influence. You show them that reading isn’t really so bad. If you’re scratching your head about what to bring along, we have a few suggestions the could help:

2-3 years

The Empowerment series by Stephen Krensky celebrates the milestones children achieve at this age. This series has of four books: Now I am Big! I Can Do It Myself! I Know a Lot! I Am So Brave!

Another crowd favourite is the Clifford the Big Red Dog series by Norman Bridwell.

4-5 years

The works of Dr Seuss are perfect for this age group!

Other favourite reads of ours include What’s Cooking by Joshua David Stein and Pass it On by Sophy Henn.

6-7 years

The Pyjama Foundation firmly believes in cultivating the aspirations of foster children.

Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo is a compilation of the stories of courageous women who challenged the status quo and changed the course of history. It is a great read for both girls and boys.

Another similar series is the Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer. Each book focuses on different key historical figures such as I am Neil Armstrong, I am Jane Goodall and I am Albert Einstein.

Read the book before the movie

8-9 years

This age is an excellent time to introduce the books by Roald Dahl. This is the man who quoted ‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’. His books are great to include in the Love of Learning Program for that reason; to help children believe in magic. You don’t need to look much further than Willy Wonka for an excellent read. Other titles worth bringing include The Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda.

10-11 years

The books by Enid Blyton ignite the imaginations of children at this age. Blyton wrote her books early last century but they have endured the test of time. The books are large, but because the stories are written for children, they’re easy to understand. Some of the timeless and most popular series include The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and The Secret Seven

As a Pyjama Angel, you have full access to our dedicated resource library where you can pick up many of these books. We want our kids to use their imaginations, be engaged and love reading just as much as we do. We hope these examples can help your inspire kids to do just that.

Get more advice here:

The double-edged sword of volunteering

Love of learning program

The double-edged sword of volunteering

Volunteering is undoubtedly a worthwhile way to spend your time; there’s often not a more worthwhile feeling than bettering yourself through acts of charity and helping those in need. But when we help others, we often forget to take care of ourselves, resulting in burnout and other nasties. We have some important strategies to make sure you can still do you and continue being an awesome volunteer.

 

  • Ask for help

If your friends were asked to describe you, what would they say? You’re generous, would drop everything to help them, support them during a rough time? Helping when asked is admirable, but don’t forget to ask someone to help you.

We are lucky to live in a time where there are many options available should you need some extra assistance. Even if you don’t volunteer, being on the front foot with your mental health shouldn’t be unusual. You have the opportunity to speak with a qualified professional in a safe space, and therefore have a healthy outlet where you can speak without fear.

 

  • Voice your concerns

Once in a while, you might hear or see something that concerns you about the health and/or wellbeing of the child in your placement. What do you do? Don’t place the responsibility onto yourself – we’re here to help!. During your induction process, you’ll be walked through on what to do if you see or hear something that leaves you feeling slightly unsettled.

 

  • Indulge yourself

Or, in today’s lingo, treat yo’self! Do something you love for yourself because you definitely earned it. Think about the last time you had a weekend away or had someone else cook for you. What is something you enjoy but haven’t had the time for lately?

 

  • Say no

You’re not obliged to accept every invitation or do every chore people ask of you. Saying NO is the best way to take care of yourself, and your prioritise. You have people in your life who won’t take you saying ‘no’ personally. Sometimes invitations might clash with your volunteering, and that’s okay!

 

Study up here

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Volunteer

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Foster kids are usually thought of as ‘having it rough’. They come from broken homes, move around frequently and this series of events will follow them into adulthood. This stereotype is glaring, leaving little room for facts. We’ll tell you some of the truths about foster kids, good and bad, and hope you go away feeling slightly enlightened (or more sobered) about the subject.

 

  • Success stories do exist

Not all foster children are at a disadvantage when they grow up, despite the stereotype. Some are adopted into their foster families and have a stable, healthy lifestyle. Some foster children have gone on to become carers and caseworkers. Others work in a range of jobs, from baristas and warehouse workers to 9-to-5 office jobs.

 

  • Foster kids do it tough

This is unfortunately true in most circumstances. The Australian government and non-for-profit CREATE, estimate over 70% of foster children were ‘repeat clients’ of the system. The cycle of abuse in families, whether it be physical or otherwise, is hard to break. Hence children reappear in the system after they go back home.

Another disadvantage is not having other basic life skills they need to live comfortably. One example of this is Hayden Frost*. In a report by the ABC, he is considered a success story of the system in the fact he has a stable job and a good home. But he doesn’t have a driver’s license because he had nobody to help him.

 

  • There aren’t enough families to go around

In New South Wales, as reported in 2016, there’s an urgent need for at least 660 new carers for the overwhelmed foster system. An increase in carers would mean 300 children could instantly be moved to new homes and therefore to safety.

 

  • They want to be heard

 

CREATE conducted a survey, known as a ‘report card’, that was distributed to 10,000 children in the foster system across Australia. They were encouraged to make comments, and the children spoke their mind. Some of the comments included:

  • Wanting the freedom to choose their placement home
  • Dissatisfaction with the disruptions that came with moving frequently e.g. settling into home, changing schools etc.
  • Wanting contact with siblings, or to be moved into a placement together
  • To be treated the same as the biological children in their foster families
  • Warm, supportive and caring homes provided the bulk of ‘good’ placements

 

  • Some are very young

Pregnant women in unfortunate circumstances are tagged by the child protection system during their pregnancies and can be separated from their babies in the hospital. This can occur to mothers with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as women who have no place to live and often sleep on the street. Infants are brought into care straight from the hospital, at only a few days old.

 

  • They can go home

Though not often reported, this can happen if the home is deemed safe for the foster child to return to. Sometimes removal is a wake-up call for parents to turn their life around.

 

There’s more to read here;

Love of learning program

Pyjama Angels; how you help kids in foster care

Pyjama Angels; how you help kids in foster care

There’s talk of guardian angels that watch over and protect us during the difficult times in our lives. They aren’t seen or heard but we trust they exist. Pyjama Angels are much like guardians, but they’re definitely seen, heard and appreciated.

 

Qualities of Pyjama Angels

 

Empathetic: Children in care have experienced little kindness or compassion in their short lives. As a Pyjama Angel, it’s your job to be empathetic and understanding. You’re one of few positive presences in your charge’s life who can make a difference. Simply showing up with a smile does wonders.

 

Patient: Kids in care have lower literacy skills. It’s common for them not to feel confident in reading or writing, and they might shut down when it gets difficult. Pyjama Angels don’t force children to read or berate them when they make a mistake. They’re patient and guide their mentee right.

 

Generous: Pyjama Angels are generous with their time. One hour a week might not seem like much, but it makes a world of difference in the long run.

 

Encouraging: Each step forward, no matter how small, is a success. One day you’re encouraging your charge to read along with you. A year later they could be reading books on their own accord, not just because it’s their ‘Angel visit day’.

 

Unfortunately, children in foster care have missed out on their right to a stable, happy family home and a decent start to their education. 92% of young children in care, around 7 years old, have below-average reading skills. 35% of foster children commit crimes and are sentenced to juvenile detention. As a Pyjama Angel, you have the opportunity to stop your charge from becoming one of those statistics. One encouraging statistic is that 84% of children mentored by Angels have a brighter, more positive mood since starting the Love of Learning Program.

A Pyjama Angel helps kids in care by simply showing up. They make reading enjoyable. Education is fun again thanks to games. The children in the program are more likely to read, complete homework and have a more positive outlook on life because their mentor comes once a week. One hour is small. But it makes a big difference.