Life Challenges and the Importance of a High School Diploma for Foster Children
As I think back on my own life experiences as a foster child, it really is some kind of miracle I made it to my high school graduation. I recall having been burdened by the struggles of being abused, a runaway, a drop-out, attempting suicide, moving from the north to the south three times, and lacking all family love, guidance, and support. Yet and still, somehow I graduated from high school. Today, I realize the demands on all children to excel in academia, along with increased expectations for advanced performance in other areas of their lives is quite daunting. The guidance provided by parents who are invested in their children's development and upbringing is akin to a success blueprint ensuring their children have a good start in life but for the foster child, it’s a completely different road traveled.
On average, foster children are not prepared to participate in AP or Honors classes nor are extracurricular activities readily available to them. The opportunities to volunteer that are required to be competitive for college entry applications are nil. There is minimal and bleak parental guidance, if any at all, and part-time work is not usually accessible to the foster child due to state regulated cumbersome restrictions, so there goes their foundational experience and resume-building opportunities.
Additionally, there isn’t really much talk, if any, in the home of which college they plan to attend or how to begin that journey because more often than not there aren’t any invested parents available to assist in the development of such a plan. Foster children are doing all they can to just survive the turbulence of their current moment while dealing with the shadows of their past: their traumatic memories, their depression, the chaos, feelings of hopelessness, lack of self-esteem, and sometimes very dark thoughts of suicide because they lack support and options.
Before delving into the challenges they face upon emancipation, let’s first look at what precipitates their challenges. First and of great importance is knowing what age they entered the foster care system, how many times they've move, and how inconsistent has they education been? I wish I could address one of these concerns without the other two but that would be unfair to the foster child because they all directly affect the challenges these children face as they approach emancipation.
The age at which they enter foster care directly affects to what extent they are
psychologically affected by the traumatic experience of being removed from their biological families and dropped of at a complete stranger's house, now called their foster parent. This affects their sense-of-identity, self-esteem, and sense of safety; all crucial for healthy development.
How many times have they heard, “This is my foster child”? How many holidays have they felt like the odd ball in the room? How long has this psychological damage been cemented into their psyche? The number of times they’ve moved from foster home to foster home and school to school will directly affect their sense-of-belonging in any micro or macro-system. Each time a child moves, they suffer social, educational, and psychological maladies from instability. Their lack of self-worth amplifies their challenge to socially acclimate, and whether they feel or don't feel accepted and understood by others can be the difference between future resiliency and pathology.
The second tier of challenges foster youth face as they approach emancipation is “do they have a trustworthy and consistent support system”. This element is needed for all youth transitioning different life stages but the dichotomy for foster children is in their suffering of exasperated burdens from not only lacking a solid family to provide guidance and emotional support, but also to be able to have long-term trusted relationships with people who have their best interest at heart. Who are we as a species if we do not have long-term support from trusted relationships? All of these elements are exponentially multiplied in their future if they do not graduate high school. I often say, “leaving foster care without a high school diploma is like trying to climb a latter that doesn’t have any steps”; it’s nearly impossible to progress. If a foster child does not have the proper family support AND does not have a high school diploma, how can they succeed? The outlook is grim, and yet, our nation currently suffers from countless homeless, unemployed, and/or incarcerated foster care alumni because as it is, nearly half of these children leave foster care without graduating high school.
A high school diploma is their primary asset, which provides for an even playing field from which they can progress. Despite their emotional and financial burdens, a high school diploma opens the gates for entry into college, independent living, future opportunities, increased self-esteem, and enriches life’s possibilities. As they become more aware of the opportunities available to them, their high school diploma will provide the means of entry to excel, but without a diploma, their mountainous deficits magnify the probability that they could perish.
Written by Dr. Capri Cruz -
Author of Maximize Your Super Powers at www.CapriCruz.com
“I AM” is the most powerful command statement there is. It frees you to be who you desire to become because it’s the power of God being spoken into where the power of God already resides. Ironically, it's so powerful, it can be used to empower you or disempower you, so be very careful of what you attach to the end of that statement; it will surely manifest into reality. In fact, you are already speaking it into your life. When you say I’m tired, I’m frustrated, I’m overwhelmed, you’re in essence saying
I AM. When you say I’m bold, I’m able, and I’m blessed and highly favored, you’re also saying “I AM”!
Biblically, I AM is the English translation from the Hewbrew text.
Jesus said, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the father except through me. I AM the vine, you are the branches. I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I AM the bread of life. I AM the light of this world. I AM the resurrection of life. I AM THAT I AM!”
How powerful is that!
You can say,
“I AM” source energy. “I AM” beauty. “I AM” powerful. “I AM” kind, thankful, God in human form, I AM wise, devine energy, and awareness.
“I AM” unlimited. “I AM” harmony. “I AM” peace for my family. “I AM” wealthy, determined, successful, confident, integrity, and free. “I AM” one with God!“
I AM enlightened, gifted, responsible, worthy, and a light for those who need to see. I AM good! I AM who and what I say that I am.
You have the power to declare, decree, proclaim, and receive the gifts of your own tongue. No one else can say “I AM” for you. No one else can speak those words over you. No one can release you but you. These words are for you and only for you to declare what you will over your life. You are the only one who has the power and authority to speak such words for your own conscious creation. It’s a fact of your existence.
The reason you have become who you are today is that you have accepted what your environment said you were, what was possible for you. You bought into the influence of your surroundings, the limitations of your experiences as many of us do until we learn how to self-proclaim using the power of I AM.
“I AM” neutralizes fear and doubt, and moves you into position. Command yourself NOW! Who can stop the man or woman who proclaims him or herself into power? No one!
“I AM” allows you to become what you consciously choose. “I AM” proclaims the presence of your divine creator within you. When spoken with emotional conviction, you condition your subconscious mind to believe. This is the predecessor of all great things to come for you.
This is the great secret to transcending all current conceptions of yourself.
It is your Super Power.
Know this. Say this. Now, step into your power!
From the author of Maximize Your Super Powers, Dr. Capri Cruz
Some people were not brought up in an environment conducive for them to cultivate a healthy focus for their life. I am one of those people. I grew up in an abusive environment both in and out of foster care, which slowly cultivated a physiological state of fear that later consumed my mind, ultimately provoking me
to survive in life, not thrive. Quite the notable difference in mindsets, wouldn’t you say?
When our environment provides for traumatic experiences, our brain’s circuitry develops in response to those events. That means people who experience abuse think differently than those who do not. This often prohibits the abused from knowing how to shift their energy and perspective toward a creative, healthy focus for their life because they’re typically accustomed to reacting to their environment instead of planning, thinking, building healthy relationships, or controlling their focus. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, and panic are more active in the minds of those who experience abuse and trauma than those who do not. This can leave people feeling helpless, hopeless, and without options.
The topic of creating a healthy focus for our lives is one that should be brought up earlier in our lives, as early as 4 or 5 years old. It’s never too soon to start focusing on developing the focus for our future. I personally did not learn I could control the focus for my future until I was in my late 30s; sadly, there are thousands of other foster alumni who never learn it. The good news is we can change that starting today! Here are some tips to get you started:
It took me a while, but I eventually realized I wanted to be the BEST at all I did. Being a person of excellence became the platform from which I did everything because I decided I wanted to be a great example for foster youth. I want to show them what IS possible. When we focus on creating a legacy that will live on long after we are gone, it creates a sense of healthy pride in ourselves. You can never go wrong when you’re focus in life also benefits humanity as a whole.
All you have to do to get started in life is just start and life will unfold for you. As you learn to oblige your spirit it will guide you. You don’t need to know how anything will happen because that’s the magic of being led by your inner voice. Things just begin to happen as long as you have a focus. You must decide today what your focus will be. What beacon will you follow?
Is your inner voice guiding you toward a life of teaching, modeling, acting, hair, make-up, auto mechanics, computers, love for humanity, entrepreneurship, leadership, dance, construction, plumbing, or something else? Once identified, you will be well on your way to figuring out the focus for your life. Remember, thinking doesn’t naturally occur for humans. We must focus our efforts toward thinking. Contemplate. This is how we will learn to integrate ideas, think abstractly, muse, imagine, and reason. As you increase your awareness of your talents and interests for legacy, use the momentum to progress your life and the big picture called your future.
Written by Dr. Capri Cruz -
Author of Maximize Your Super Powers at www.CapriCruz.com
There is a lot that can be said about self-doubt such as we all experience it in some way, shape, or form at some point in our lives. The difference is in our results stems from who allows it to control them and who allows it to fuel their greatness.
Self-doubt is a manifestation of our interpretation of events. Self-doubt is a compilation of thoughts based on our understanding of the situations we experience that then reflect back to us who we see ourselves as. These self-doubt educing thoughts beget additional self-doubt educing thoughts that then cyclically reinforce the premise of our self-doubt. It’s a vicious cycle. These thoughts create emotions that confuse us and ultimately erode our own understanding of ourselves. So what is needed to break the unhealthy cycle of self-doubt? An interruption in our mental and behavioral patterns!
Here are my top four remedies to annihilating self-doubt:
TAKE ACTION, MASSIVE ACTION!! Why, you ask. Because confidence comes from competency and competency by the act of doing. We can academize self-doubt and its bio-psycho-neuro-chemical effects all day long, but until we take action, its antidote cannot begin to work its magic. You cannot edify self-doubt away. You cannot pray it away. You cannot love it away. Yes, these elements can be part of your support system, but the ONLY thing that annihilates self-doubt is ACTION! And a lot of it, CONSISTENTLY. Competency comes through repetition. By sharpening your saw in this way, you gain confidence. You must level up and evolve.
Okay, taking action absolutely is the ultimate answer for overcoming self-doubt but before we jump off the cliff and start taking calculated action, you must do and know a couple of things first. If action is the end-in-mind, you must begin with preparation!
First, you must start in your spirit. You must know who you are in Christ. If you don’t know who you are, who you were created to be, and what God’s Word declares over your life, then no matter what else you do you’ll be doing it from a platform of sand, not solid ground. In time you will most likely sink. The power of self-doubt is not to be looked upon lightly. It’s far stronger than the power of will because your will is ego driven. It has limited strength.
Self-doubt, on the other hand, is a virus in your CPU (your mind) that seeps into your physiology to kill, steal, and destroy you and your future! It slowly creeps into your mind and spreads throughout your thoughts and then programs your physiological reactions through the chemicals produced by your brain. The only antidote for this enemy is God’s Word and love, so it behooves you to know who you are in Christ in order to have the armament to fight your formidable opponent. This is an absolute game changer.
Next, you must know how your brain and mind work. You are a spiritual being but you live in a human body. You must understand the difference between your brain and your mind. The journey you take to learn that will absolutely empower you over self-doubt because you’ll learn about the mechanics of your own hardware (your central nervous system) and how it all works together to create and sustain the thing called you. Don’t take any shortcuts. Do your research. Read peer-reviewed neuroscience articles so that your knowledge base is a product of scientific research. Begin sessions of hypnosis as soon as you can because all the change you desire resides in your subconscious mind.
My last suggestion to annihilate self-doubt is to make it your supreme goal to become financially wealthy and giveaway 90% of your wealth. Let me assure you, becoming financially wealthy has a way of annihilating self-doubt, especially when used to help improve and save the lives of others. If you need a reason, permission, or a rationalization as to why becoming wealthy is a good idea, let it be because you realize that life is a game and part of winning the game of life is to be able to advance society in love, peace, security, health, wellness, etc. for future generations, which includes your grandchildren. Become invested in that! What greater purpose can we mere mortals have than to help those who don’t have the resources or knowledge to help themselves? Money is just a tool but with the right tool you can create real change on earth as you simultaneously annihilate your self-doubt.
These four remedies to annihilating self-doubt create a win-win for you, your family, and society. Be Bold, be Great, or just be better tomorrow than you are today. As long as you keep moving toward your greatness, self-doubt will have no choice but to dissipate.
From the author of Maximize Your Super Powers, Dr. Cruz
To live a life of Greatness, you need to shift. What does that mean? It means to incorporate new strategies so you can live better, plan smarter, be more present, and execute more effectively. These six strategies helped my life shift and I assure you they will help your life shift as well.
1. Before you go to sleep, make the conscious decision that when you wake up you will immediately take a couple of deep breaths to center your mind and your body before you do anything else. When you awaken, don’t check your email or social media. If it’s helpful, use a separate alarm clock from your phone so that you’re not tempted to check your phone. You must learn to be deliberate about how you move in life. From the moment you gain consciousness to the time you go to sleep, be aware of the moment. Be a deliberate being, not robotic in your typical ways of being.
2. Plan your week on Sunday, then review each new day the night before. This helps you wake up each morning focused to hit the ground running. When you fail to plan you plan to fail, undisputedly! How do you get ahead of life? How can you shift the influence on your own life? Deliberately plan what needs to get done before the day it needs to get done. We all have 24 hours in a day. Some people are just more effective at strategizing their time and therefore, applying their energy to certain tasks. Every second counts and when you’re serious about the results you want to create for you life, you will be serious about planning your time wisely.
3. Control your calendar; don’t let it control you. Great leaders wag the tail; they don’t let the tail wag them. Stay in control of where you place your focus and how your time is used. Use it judiciusly. Each line on your calendar is available for you to dictate. White space usually means wasted time when not accounted for. When you create goals for you life you realize time flies. It can get away from even the best of us. Nonetheless, there is opportunity there for you to become more aware of the power of using your calendar to guide your day. Effectiveness comes from being efficient.
4. Visualize how you want your day to go before getting out of bed and feel your sincere thankfulness for at least 3 things to calibrate your energy. Visualization is the best technique to bring fort thought form into reality. Why? Because you are essentially downloading invisible software into your mainframe (your brain). You have the ability to control your brain but most people live their lives in reaction to their brain. It behooves us to ask, "whose brain is it anyway? It’s your brain. Does your car drive you or do you drive your car? It’s the same concept. Get in the driver’s seat of your mind and control it. Do you ever wonder how dreams come true? One must first dream. What is visualizing? It is dreaming in great detail. If you can see it, you can achieve it. If not, you continue to let life take you in the direction it wants to take you. The choice truly is up to you. The important thing to know is that you have this majestic power. When you incorporate emotions of gratitude with visualization, you essentially have activated your super powers because neuroscience research has confirmed that feelings of gratitude rewire the brain to think in a certain way. When that becomes a habit, it begins to happen automatically.
5. Brush your teeth 2x a day, gargle, and floss. This habit taught me disciple. The bonus is that it’s a healthy habit (that most people overlook). This discipline taught me to pay attention to the small things that I would otherwise not want to do because as humans we seek the path of least resistance, meaning we are naturally lazy. It takes discipline to do the right thing when we would rather not. What small things did this habit empower me to be disciplined over? Washing all the dishes at night when I’d rather just go to bed, sweeping the front porch instead of overlooking the dirt and leaves, and ultimately becoming more alert to other little things in my life that have a huge lasting impact like shutting off lights when I’m not using them.
6. Force yourself to network with “next level” people who you ordinarily would not. I view each new person I meet as my rehearsal partner for that one person I'll eventually meet who will help sky rocket my net worth. I literally force myself to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations so I can stretch my comfortably. Yesterday I took it upon myself to introduce myself to a judge and two prosecutors, and today I’m a better person for it. Look for the opportunities to expand your wings so that you can learn to fly higher, stronger, and longer. Great people excel. They keep challenging themselves to become better at things that will improve their positioning in life. They are aware of the power of "shifting". I hope you will be open to challenging yourself to find at least one thing each week to become comfortable doing that you otherwise would rather not. I believe one day you will be glad you did.
To Your Best Destiny!
From the author of Maximize Your Super Powers, Dr. Capri Cruz
Marilyn found herself beaming with glee as she moved to Madison, Wisconsin for a long awaited new job opportunity. Spending all her days conducting research for her work, she was delighted that she had finally found the job of her dreams. The summer months came and went quicker than she could enjoy them and as the fall and winter months approached Marilyn found herself struggling to focus due to decreasing energy levels. What used to be a sense of excitement for the new day ahead had slowly turned into a constant sense of somber and slumber. Marilyn began struggling to get out of bed and often showed up to work late. She just did not have the energy or desire to get up and get things done like she did before the Thanksgiving holidays.
As winter months traded sun for snow, Marilyn found herself craving the warmth and desire to crawl back into her bed as soon as she could get home. Each morning started with a heavy sense of despair and each night an escape into the comfort of her pillow and blanket. All Marilyn wanted to do now was sleep. When spring sprang upon her, her mood was lifted with an emergence of vibrancy once again. Not thinking too much of it, Marilyn supposed she just had a tough first year in a new city. But when the same experiences consumed her mind and body the next year, she decided to visit her doctor. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression. Everything she had experience suddenly began to make sense.
Seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is seasonally recurring and centers primarily on a sad mood and low energy levels. SAD actually feels sad. It predominately affects women, who make up 60-90% of the people diagnosed with SAD. Symptoms may include being tired, irritable, difficulty concentrating, increased desire to sleep, decreased physical activity, episodes of crying, withdrawal from social situations, reduced sex drive, increased crave of carbohydrates and sugars, and an increase in weight gain due to overeating (b, c, d).
Symptoms commonly begin in the autumn, peak in midwinter and subside in the spring. Those living in the northern most latitudes are most likely to be subjected to experiencing symptoms of SAD.In essence,the closer you live to Alaska, Canada, the UK, Russia or North Korea the more likely it is you may experience seasonal depression. This is due to climates having less sunlight and colder winter months.The average duration of a SAD episode is approximately 3.9 months (a).
The exact cause of SAD is unknown; however, there are several contributing factors including the seasonal changeof light, which affects internal circadian rhythms and secretion of the hormone melatonin, genetic inheritance, and diet (a). Thus, a reduced amount of natural sunlight can cause changes in the body's circadian rhythm, affecting mood, energy levels, sleep, eating patterns, focus and attention. A decrease in exposure to sunlight has also been shown to extend the production of melatonin, which functions to regulate sleep cycles.
Additionally, it was reported by the University of Virginia in 2008 that consideration of the strong genetic component to SAD not be overlooked. The melanopsin gene, which is a light-sensitive protein that is believed to originate in the retina of individuals is not concerned with vision, but can be linked to non-visual responses, such as circadian rhythms, hormones, alertness and sleep. These mutations may cause some individuals to be predisposed to SAD. Individuals who carry two copies of this gene mutation will have a higher probability of experiencing the disorder.
SAD may also impair one’s ability to function at work causing additional depressive symtomology. Reports of excessive guilt, crying spells, negative self-talk, and a general lack of follow through and completion of common task becomes the norm. People who experience SAD often prefer to be socially isolated and may experience somatic complaints in their body such as headaches, muscle aches, other flu-like symptoms (b).
There are several medical conditions that can mimic SAD, such as hypothyroidism and hypoglycaemia and viral illnesses such as Epstein Barr infection and chronic fatigue syndrome. It has been suggested those interested request a physical examination and a review of your blood count, thyroid levels, a metabolic panel and liver function, and a pregnancy test to ensure general medical conditions aren’t of contribution (a).
Reported treatments to managing symptoms include light therapy, diet, exercise, psychotherapy, relocating to warmer climates, and antidepressant medication. If interested, you can learn more about the treatments by conducting a thorough online review or by contacting your local medical facility.
(a). Zauderer, C., and Ganzer, C. A. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: An overview. Mental Health Practice. London, 18, 9.
(b) Timby, B. & Smith, N. (2005) Seasonal affective disorder: shedding light on the wintertime blues. Nursing. 35, 1-8.
(c) National Health Service, "Seasonal Affective Disorder-Symptoms," United Kingdom Government website, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Seasonal-affective-disorder/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
(d) J. Blaszczak, "10 Things You Didn't Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder," [Fact sheet], Psych Central, 2013, http://psychcentral.com/lib/10-things-you-dont-know-about-seasonal-affective-disorder/