Friday, December 1, 2017

25

What comes to your mind when you see the number 25?
The album by Adele, Bary Bonds, Christmas, a quarter, the atomic number of manganese, how old you are, how many years you have been married, etc.

We would like you to think of something else. OUR GOAL.
Our December Goal:
25 new people to sign up to give at least $10 a month.

This comes down to a little less than 33 cents per day to help children all over the world. There is no administration fee taken out of any of our donations. That means that 100% of what you give goes to the cause that you want it to go to. 

Would you consider becoming a financial partner of Village to Village by signing up to give $10 a month? You can do so here.

If you are already a financial partner of Village to Village, would you be willing to share with others why you choose to give, and ask them to do the same?

Thank you in advance.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Someone Else's Shoes


A lot of times as parents we say to our kids; "Put yourself in their shoes." What we are wanting our kids to do is to think about a situation from someone else's perspective. This is a skill that I want all of my kids to be able to do. If we can truly think about issues and situations from someone else's perspective I think it will help us become more compassionate and empathetic people.

During this time of year as we purposefully take time to be thankful, the thing I find myself being most thankful for year after year is my family. My wife, kids, mom, dad, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Family has always been a huge part of my life and I really do not know anything different. As I find myself being so grateful for the family I have, I cannot help but think of the children who do not have it as fortunate as I did. There are over 400,000 children in the US in foster care and I find myself asking "What do these kids have to be thankful for?" I serve as the CASA for 28 children in our county and I so badly want each and everyone of these kids to have a home and family that they too can be thankful for.

I love it that National Adoption Month and Thanksgiving share the same month because the more I find myself being thankful for all the blessings I have in my life, the more motivated I am to want those same blessings for the lives of children everywhere.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Adoption Tax Credit

Some of you may know that I (Matt) am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). As a CASA, part of my job is to speak on behalf of the kids in court. I take in all of the information that I can assess the situation and make recommendations to the court on what I think is in the best interest of the child. When I find myself thinking about my role and responsibility as a CASA, I am reminded of Proverbs 31:8-9:
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice." (NLT)

Today I feel the need to speak up about another issue, the Adoption Tax Credit. The Adoption Tax Credit has been around since 1996 and hundreds of thousands of families have benefited from this tax credit, including myself. Currently the credit is capped at $13,460. This credit is often times the deciding factor on whether families adopt or not. If this credit goes away, I am sure that more families will decide not to adopt because it is simply too costly. There are already over 100,000 children waiting to be adopted in the US alone.

To some, this may simply be about the numbers. It is hard for me to reduce the lives of children down to numbers, but for the sake of the argument, I will. Adoption most certainly saves the government money. Let's just look at the young people who age out of the foster care system. These are children who are not reunified with family and who are never adopted. According to a study done by Jim Casey Youth Opportunities, there are approximately 25,000 youth who age out of foster care every year. On average, every young person who ages out, ends up costing tax payers $300,000 over that persons lifetime. So after doing a little math, that is $7.5 billion for every cohort of youth who age out.

Although the numbers are important, there is no greater argument than this; every child deserves to grow up in a loving, stable, and permanent home. If a $13,460 tax credit will help more families be able to afford an adoption, this is something I must be supportive of. So on behalf of all the children who currently do not have a loving, stable and permanent home, my plea to all the members of the House is this, "Do not repeal the Adoption Tax Credit."

We can all do our part by contacting our representatives and letting them know how we feel about this. You can find out who your representatives are by going here.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Finally!


Many of you know and have read about the Empowered to Connect parent trainings that Stacey and I, and Anthony and Lauren Troyer teach in our area. These trainings are 9 week trainings that meet every week for 2 hours every time.

I have been working at trying to get our training approved by the State of Indiana so that our foster families who participate in our training can count these hours towards their continuing education hours that they need every year to maintain their foster license.

After about a year, I am excited to announce that my persistence (or maybe annoyance) has paid off. Our training was officially approved on October 6th! This will be a huge benefit for those foster families who sign up for our trainings.

You Can Be a Trainer
The next Train the Trainer (TTT) event is going to be held in Chicago on March 8-10, 2018.
If you are interested in being a trainer, please contact me at matt@villagetovillageintl.com and I will send you the application to the TTT in Chicago.

New Pics

We just received some new pictures from Heart for Korah. These are the two grandmas that we are supporting as they take care of their grand kids. If you would like to help us support these two ladies you can do so here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Don't Reinvent The Wheel

It is an expression we all know and use quite often, and we are going to take this expression to heart. Don't reinvent the wheel.

You may have read our recent post entitled Foster Hope, where we laid out our vision to help support foster families in our county. We have since come across an organization out of Indianapolis who is already doing the very thing we are wanting to do. Not only are they doing what we want to do, but they were willing to train us and share with us everything we need in order to do the same thing in northern Indiana. This amazing organization is called Hands of Hope. Laura and Suzy have been great to work with and their willingness to share with us the resources they have developed is going to save us hours and hours and hours of time.

So with no further ado; we would like to announce our new initiative; Care Communities (formerly known as Foster Hope).

Care Communities Introduction

Nationally, 50% of foster families quit either after their first year or after their first placement, primarily because they did not feel supported. The Care Communities model has been proven to retain up to 95% of those foster parents.

Care Communities are teams of 6-8 people that wrap around a foster family with the purpose of supporting them. Members choose which role they want to play in the care community.
Sometimes a picture helps
Roles in a Care Community

Family Helper: Serves the family in tangible ways including meals, house cleaning, laundry, errands, yard work,etc.

Child Mentor: This role is more involved with the life of the child. Child Mentors will provide childcare at least twice a month. Childcare is the area where foster parents need the most support and tend to receive the least.

Team Leader: This role allows for organization of the team as well as you getting to be very involved with the foster family. Generally, tasks will require a time investment of less than an hour per week. Responsibilities include a weekly phone call to the foster family, and a weekly email updating the team on needs of the foster family. The team leader can also serve as a family helper or child mentor.

Interim Caregiver: This role provides overnight care for the foster family when needed.

Are You Interested?
If you live in northern Indian and are interested in starting a care community where you live, we would love to help. Please contact Anthony Troyer at anthony.troyer@gmail.com for more information.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Oasis - The Concept


Oasis is our vision to help support youth aging out of foster care. We are planning on doing this by creating an Intentional Neighboring Community (INC). You can read more about it on our website here.

The Why

The simple answer to the question, "Why would you want to do this?" is: We are failing. This graphic pretty much sums it up.

INC Approach

  1. Assistance is community driven
  2. Based off the universal need for caring relationships
  3. Those facing serious social challenges become assets to the community
  4. Capacity for ordinary people of all ages to care about and for one another

What Does This Look Like

Here is a little idea of what something like this could look like. We are very excited to see what the future holds.
Housing Key
Blue - aging out youth
Yellow - Single family homes
Orange - Senior housing, singles, small families


If you are interested in giving to this project, you can do so here.



Foster Hope

A new initiative to bring hope and healing to the children of Elkhart County. Maybe you can do something like this in your area. Here are the details.
The Need

Foster Kids
  • Elkhart County has 250+ kids in "out of home" foster care
  • 1 out of every 5 of those kids are placed in homes outside of Elkhart County
  • Over 100 kids do not have Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA's) to advocate for their needs in court
  • There are over 2,200 children in the state of IN waiting to be adopted. 50% of those are under the age of 8
Foster/Adoptive Parents
  • About 50% of foster parents quit within a year of their first placement
  • Many attribute it to a lack of support from their family, friends, and caseworkers, as well as a lack of preparation for the erratic behaviors of children from hard places
The Misunderstanding

Entering into foster care without being properly prepared can be very damaging to both the foster family and to the foster child/ren. If the placement has to be disrupted and the children placed into a different home the child/ren will only experience more trauma. The need is too great to be handled by isolated individual families assisted by the government. It needs be a function of the church with organized support groups to assist foster and adoptive parents.

The Proposal

Our desire is to function as a liaison between the state and local church to communicate needs. We want to partner with local faith communities to help them figure out how to get involved and provide training and resources to help them be successful. Our involvement might include:
  • Starting an orphan care ministry
  • Expanding an orphan care ministry
  • Recruiting "Support Families" to focus on supporting current foster families
  • Trainings on how to care for children from hard places
  • Connecting with other faith communities to share information on support groups, bible studies, ministry partnerships, etc. 
Desired Outcomes
  • Empower churches to figure out how they can most effectively care for local orphans
  • To have a permanent surplus of foster families and CASA's in Elkhart County
  • To see the majority of local faith communities involved in some way. There are roughly the same number of churches in Elkhart County as there are foster kids. We would love to see every congregation play a role in their care.

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 18, 2017

June 18th came and went. For me, it was a special day. My kids and wife took me out for breakfast and I gorged myself on pancakes. I received notes and letters from my kids that were filled with kind words and gratitude. I called my dad to tell him thank you, wish him a happy Father's Day, and tell him I loved him. All of this is pretty much what every Father's Day has been like in my life from the time I could remember. This was and is my reality and I am so grateful for that.

Not everyone is as fortunate as me. On Father's Day evening we watched the movie "The Shack." In this movie one of the main conflicts of the main character is how his broken, abusive, and messed up relationship with his earthly father affected how he viewed his relationship with God. Likewise, I am currently reading "Unashamed" by Lecrae. The morning after Father's Day this is what I read:
I have never called anyone "Dad" my entire life, so thinking about God as my Father felt weird. As a child and teenager, I wondered if my biological father abandoned me because I wasn't good enough or worthy of love. I felt like maybe one day I could earn his respect, affection, and presence. This distorted view of what a father is like bled into the way I related to God.

I am not sure anyone would deny that our relationships, or lack thereof, with our fathers here on earth affect how we might view or relate to God. With this being said, think about the millions of children who have no father, think about the hundreds of thousands of children in the US who are currently in foster care, and think about the children who have had their fathers walk out on them.

One of the many things I love about God is that He is a redeeming God. He takes old and broken things and makes them new and whole. When we chose to be involved in adoption and foster care, we get the opportunity to be part of God's redeeming plan in the life of that child. We get the opportunity to model the love of a father so that whatever their distorted view of a father is, it will not continue to bled into the way they relate to God.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

2017 Dodgeball Tournament

A new champion has been crowned. Congratulations to the "Ninja Turtles," our 2017 Champions.

This year's runner up was J2 Marketing.
And our 3rd place team was Elk Vegas Ballaz.
A special thanks to all of our sponsors:
1. Home Again Consignment
2. North Side Appliance
3. First Place Trophy - Elkhart IN
4. Hose & Go Car Wash

And a special thanks to our title sponsor
The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department

Here are a few more pics of our tournament.




Exciting Announcement

We are excited to announce that Anthony and Lauren Troyer are back from the Train the Trainer class that is offered by Empowered to Connect. This training has enabled them to teach the same nine week trainings that Stacey and I (Matt) teach to adoptive and foster parents. We are so excited to have another couple who will be teaching these trainings in the Michiana area. We currently have over 20 couples interested in the training. They are excited to start training this fall.

A Special Thanks

We were awarded a grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County to help pay for the Troyers to attend this training. We would like to thank everyone at the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, your investment will have a direct impact on the lives of children in our community who are facing some overwhelming life circumstances. Thank you for your generosity.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Is The Simulcast Like?

This past weekend, on April 7th and 8th, we held the Empowered to Connect Simulcast at Grace Community Church in Goshen, IN. It was a great weekend with some amazing speakers sharing about how to help kids from hard places. Here is a little look at some things that were covered.

Special thanks to Grace for letting us use their facility

Teaching our kiddos to self-regulate

Which of these 3 do your kids tend to do?

Some practical ideas to use with our kids

We cannot ignore their physical needs

Connection is always the goal

This event was even trending on Twitter

Follow the map
 If you were not able to join us this year, we hope that you will be able to join us in 2018. It will be on April 13th and 14th at the same location in Goshen. It also counted for 11 hours of continuing education hours for foster parents. So if you need some hours, plan on attending next year. If you are interested in hosting the Simulcast in your area, please let me know, I would love to help you any way that I can. Feel free to reach out to me at matt@villagetovillageintl.com


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Empowered to Connect


Come experience practical teaching in a safe and supportive community as we work to equip families, churches, and professionals to better serve children impacted by adoption and foster care. Check out this video of what people have said about this conference.



For those of you who might like something a little more creative check out this video from Brandon Reyes.



If you are an adoptive or foster parent, this is the single most impactful conference you can attend. It will give you an understanding about your child/children, and you will leave with a message of hope.

You can check out this map to see if there is a simulcast location near you.

If you live in the Michiana area, here is the information:

April 7-8, 2017
Grace Community Church
20076 CR 36 Goshen, IN
For more info click here

Monday, January 23, 2017

So You Want to Adopt

One piece of advice (not that anyone is asking me) that I would give to families who are thinking about adopting is...

Ask lots of questions.
You might be thinking to yourself; "That's it, that's all you got." This isn't my only advice, I said it was "one piece" of advice. Let's break this down a little more. When we ask questions, they lead us to discovery. We do this all the time in life. Our kids come to us and say, "I was invited to this birthday party, can I go?" What is the first thing you begin to do? You start asking questions. Questions like:

1. Who is it for?
2. Where is it going to be?
3. What day is it?
4. What time does it start?
5. What time does it end?
6. Who all is invited?
7. What will you be doing?
8. Will there be any adults there?
9. Is there going to be cake?
10. Do we have to buy a present?

All of these (ok maybe only some) help us be able to make an informed decision about the birthday party. The questions we asked, helped us discover a few important details and information.

The same is true of adoption. The questions we ask will help us discover some important information. Here are a few questions that I would suggest you ask yourself and your spouse (if applicable) as you think about adopting.
1. Why do I want to adopt?
2. Do I know someone else who has adopted?
3. Does my spouse want to adopt?
4. Am I willing to adopt an older child? Why or why not.
5. Do I really want to adopt, or do I just want another baby?
6. How will I prepare for an adoption?
7. Am I willing to learn about how to parent adopted children?
8. Am I willing to learn from others who have already adopted?
9. Do I realize that one families experience with adopting may not be our experience?
10. How do I choose an adoption agency?
11. Should I adopt domestically or internationally?
12. What would make me not choose an adoption agency?
13. What is the Hague Convention and what does it have to do with adoption?
14. Do I think adoption is cool?
15. Have I thought about special needs adoption?
16. What exactly does "special needs" mean?
17. What is a "waiting child?"
18. How do my other children feel about adoption?
19. How does my extended family feel about adoption?
20. What excites me about adoption?
21. What scares me about adoption?
22. What countries do I qualify to adopt from?
23. How do I do my best to avoid corruption through the adoption process?
24. Would I be willing to adopt a child with HIV? Why or why not.
25. Do I know any adults who were adopted? Have I spoken with them about their experience?
26. Should I adopt a child from a different race?
27. Am I willing to have hard and difficult conversations with your child about their past?
28. How will the community I live in treat the child I choose to adopt?
29. Should I avoid certain countries?
30. Should I avoid certain agencies?

I hope you find these helpful and insightful as you begin to get your questions answered. Happy asking.

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