Technology helps foster kids maintain human bonds SanTan Sun News

Technology helps foster kids maintain human bonds

Technology helps foster kids maintain human bonds
Opinion
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By Clint Williams
Guest Writer

Ron Adelson knows relationships matter.

“That’s not just warm and fuzzy poster material,” says the CEO of Aid to Adoption of Special Kids. “It’s science.”

Positive relationships change the biology of the brain, regulate the brain’s stress response system and promote healthy development in children, Adelson says.

“Secure, loving relationships repair of the brains of children scarred by trauma and that healing can be seen with medical imaging,” he says.

In a time of uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, establishing and strengthening relationships has never been more important for children in foster care. AASK professionals have adapted to meet that need using technology and imagination.

The AASK Sibling Connection program brings together brothers and sisters separated by foster care – usually through monthly events such as roller skating or a trip to a water park. Since the COVID-19 related safety restrictions went into effect, Amanda Gonzales has brought fun to the children.

Gonzales coordinates weekly online visits and virtual fun and games for the children in the program. It’s important work, she says.

“Sibling relationships are among the strongest bonds any of us have, but most children in foster care who have siblings are separated from at least one of their siblings,” Gonzales says. “Sibling relationships are especially important for children in foster because they share common experiences.”

Gonzales sets up video chats between separated siblings, often delivering a board game to each place so the kids can play a game.

“It’s always fun to see them together,” Gonzales says.

Some siblings are now pen pals, sending each other hand-made cards, letters and care packages with Gonzales serving as courier to deliver envelopes and boxes to siblings across the Valley.

“We’re doing a lot of little things to keep everyone connected,” Gonzales says.

While the visits are virtual, the greater frequency – once a week instead of a monthly outing – seems to meet the needs of the children, Gonzales says.

Adults and teens in the AASK Mentoring Program are also making more frequent connections thanks to technology, says Mentor Program Coordinator Mike Weddle.

One mentor dropped fast food off at the group home of a teen and the two enjoyed lunch together through FaceTime as the mentor sat in his car outside the house. Another mentor dropped off the board game Battleship and the two now have regular naval battles via Zoom.

Because everything is now being done remotely, Weddle says, mentors are more able to participate in – or at least watch – court hearings and meetings conducted by state Department of Child Safety case workers.

Without having to budget travel time and such, Weddle says mentors are able to participate more fully in the child’s case and learn more about the child.

“Mentors can be more effective because they can understand why the kid sees the world the way they do,” Weddle says.

For more information about adoption, foster care, mentoring and volunteer opportunities, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) at 602-930-4900, or visit .aask-az.org.

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