IKP Holly

About Holly Schlaack

Holly Schlaack can’t tell you where her undeniable passion for foster children originated. All she knows is it led her on a wild ride starting as a twenty-something children’s services caseworker fresh out of college to a forty-something nationally known speaker training a variety of audiences on topics related to infants and toddlers in foster care. Between those points, as a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) she represented the best interests of abused and neglected children in juvenile court, created and managed an award-winning child advocacy program, co-founded the Southwest Chapter of the Ohio Association for Infant Mental Health, and wrote Invisible Kids: Marcus Fiesel’s Legacy. Not to worry. She’s just getting started.

Making The Most Of Visitation

“Visiting between parents and their children in foster care is generally considered to be the most important factor contributing toward timely reunification. Visiting maintains the connection between parents and child during placement and allows the worker to assess the readiness of parent and child for reunification.” —From: http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/downloads/promising-practices-in-reunification.pdf# Many biological parents feel a tremendous amount of pressure walking into the visitation each week. All eyes are on you to see how you will perform your parental duties with your children.  It really doesn’t seem like a recipe for success when you know the way you care for your children over the next two hours can help or hurt your chances of getting them back.  People don’t act themselves under that much scrutiny.  Then, it only adds to your tension to see your children wearing clothes that aren’t the ones you bought or a new haircut. They almost feel as if [...]

By | August 15th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on Making The Most Of Visitation

Fostering Empathy

em·pa·thy noun \ˈem-pə-thē\ : the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else's feelings. —Merriam Webster "Does anyone understand how I feel?" This can be said by anyone engaged in the system every day: foster child, caseworker, biological and/or foster parent.  Each party involved in the child protection system feels at times that they are misunderstood or not being heard.  It is so important for each of us to work hard to put ourselves in the shoes of the other so that we can work most effectively for the greater good of the only one who didn't choose to be in it: the child. Foster children often feel that no one cares what they think about decisions being made on their behalf.  We might ask them, but do we really want to know and do we really listen? Do we think about how the [...]

By | August 13th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on Fostering Empathy

A Foster Parent’s Fears

What is there to be afraid of? Ask any foster parent that question and they can easily pull about five things off the top of their head. Losing the child they have grown to love. Being accused of hurting a child in their home Losing their license for inadvertantly not following a rule or regulation Having a child placed in your home that doesn't fit your family Having a child in your home that hurts a family member Having a child with issues you are not prepared to deal with Will there be repercussions from the biological family Just to name a few! These are weighty issues to say the least and most insiders as well as outsiders often ask, "How do you get past the fears?" The truth is, fear can easily paralyze us. The trick is to acknowledge it and let it inform our decisions. I tell people to spend some [...]

By | August 8th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on A Foster Parent’s Fears

Meet System Monster

First of all, let’s make something very clear. We LOVE System Monster. Think of our monster friends from the blockbuster hit “Monsters, Inc.” Most of those monsters were good and well-intended. They never meant any harm. They liked kids, even LOVED them. That’s awesome. Yay for monsters! Yay for kids! System Monster is much the same. In fact, System Monster saves the lives of kids every single day across the country. Seriously. Every single day. For that, System Monster totally rocks. Unfortunately, System Monster also hurts kids. Seriously. Every single day. Totally not cool. System Monster is a product of a well-intended child protection system created in the 1870s to protect abused and neglected kids when their families hurt them. Lots of good and smart people have been trying to improve it ever since without a whole lot of sustained success. Yikes! At IKP, System Monster represents the energy and [...]

By | August 8th, 2014|B|Comments Off on Meet System Monster

Part 2: Child Protection System Crash Course

Who’s Who in the Zoo? I couldn’t resist. If you’ve ever sat in juvenile court for any length of time, you know what I mean. It can feel like a zoo. Here’s who’s at the table: The parents or prior custodians (sometimes is a relative like an aunt or uncle). The child who is supposed to be the most important player. There are lots of laws that govern the decisions regarding reunification of families (parents and kids) but the one that should trump all is the best interest of the child. The caseworker. For more info on what this job entails, visit http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/child-and-family-social-worker The foster parents or other substitute caregivers (such as extended family) The court players: The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) for the child. Guardian ad Litem is Latin for ‘guardian in the meantime’. This person may or may not be an attorney. The GAL is responsible for representing [...]

By | August 8th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on Part 2: Child Protection System Crash Course

The Boy And Book That Started It All

Invisible Kids Marcus Fiesel's Legacy. When Marcus Fiesel’s story of torture, abandonment, and a slow, agonizing death came to light, it was not exactly news to Holly Schlaack. She was an insider in the foster care system and Marcus s horrible experience was just an extreme example of how she knew the system could fail. Happily, Holly had also seen some success stories that were as inspiring as Marcus’ story was appalling. So she set out to create a way for there to be more happy endings. This book is part of the effort. Invisible Kids tells the stories of many children and foster families. It tells them straight and backs them up with statistics and facts that show why the system works, why it doesn’t, and where it needs help. It describes the special program Holly created for early identification of red flags in the lives infants and toddlers. [...]

By | August 7th, 2014|D|Comments Off on The Boy And Book That Started It All

Part 1: Child Protection System Crash Course

How a Child Becomes Yours (and every other taxpayer’s) Child is suspected of being abused, neglected of basic needs, or dependent without proper care and supervision. Someone (teacher, neighbor, coach, relative, or anonymous) calls child protective services (CPS) to report it. CPS decides if the call warrants a full investigation according to the law. For example, corporal discipline is not child abuse unless it leaves a visible injury on the child (bruise, welt, abrasion). If the caseworker assigned investigates and feels the child is at imminent risk of harm (OMG something horrible awful might happen to this kid RIGHT NOW unless we get him or her to a safe place), the caseworker will consult with an attorney. The attorney representing the caseworker from CPS will file a motion in COURT and seek custody so that CPS can remove a child from a dangerous situation.  VERY IMPORTANT FACT: ONLY A COURT [...]

By | August 7th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on Part 1: Child Protection System Crash Course

A Dozen Ways To Make A Difference

Pay attention. Abused and neglected kids are in every community around the country. Just look at the daily news. Knowing they exist is a good first step. While you’re at it, offer up a prayer or send a good thought their way. Google it. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips. Learn more about the challenges facing kids in the system. Check out this report from Every Child Matters Education Fund: http://goo.gl/gVV7rR. Learn about what the experts say can help at http://www.zerotothree.org/public-policy/policy-toolkit/ Learn about the political process. Where does your state stand on the funding and support it gives to protective service agencies? Learn tips and tools on how to advocate successfully for young children at http://www.zerotothree.org/public-policy/policy-toolkit/. Speak Up. Let your congressmen know you value quality care and support for vulnerable kids. You can locate contact info at http://www.contactingthecongress.org/Children in foster care rarely have a voice. They need [...]

By | August 6th, 2014|E|Comments Off on A Dozen Ways To Make A Difference

What To Inspect When You’re Inspecting

Conducting a home visit is the most important duty a caseworker performs. Capturing as much information as possible is critical when it comes to making decisions about the safety and well-being of children. Two different professionals can visit the same home on the same day an hour apart and come away with completely different ideas of whether the home is safe for the kids living in it. Case in point: As a GAL, I popped in to do an unannounced home visit on a Monday morning after bio mom’s unsupervised weekend visit with her three kids under age 5. Children’s services had custody of the boys who were placed with their grandparents. Though it had a foul odor, the apartment appeared clean and tidy as we sat in the living room and caught up on all things related to how the weekend went and what she was planning to do [...]

By | August 6th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on What To Inspect When You’re Inspecting

Babies Can’t Lie

If you really want to know what’s going on in a baby’s life, all you have to do is spend some time with him. A baby will tell you exactly what she thinks and how she feels about this thing called life. Babies won’t use words, but if you look closely enough you’ll see they are constantly giving you clues. The cool thing about babies is they are not sophisticated enough to manipulate the truth. They’ve developed no defense mechanisms that mask their thoughts and feelings. They haven’t latched onto addictions that numb them out and make them go through life in a haze. Babies who are distressed, neglected, or abused will make this known through their bodies. Although they can’t use words, their bodies can’t help but absorb their stress and act it out. Keep in mind that the clues listed below are like puzzle pieces. They don’t tell [...]

By | August 6th, 2014|Blog, C|Comments Off on Babies Can’t Lie