Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My God Box - Q&A

Y'all, allow me to introduce author Margaret Iuculano! I agreed to a Q&A with the author - a favorite segment of mine. Always great to meet writers and get the feel for who they are, why they write. The publisher sent me her book a month ago and today is interview day! I confess, I read the book in a weekend at work (long nights there) and her story is dynamic. I'd suggest a second printing with some editing, but she made me cry several times, reading it.

I'll let Margaret tell you, in her own words (well, it would be silly to let her tell
you in my words), why she wrote the book and is doing the blog tour:


I want to thank the Good Flea for taking the time to read My God Box a memoir about an abusive childhood but more importantly on how a mustard seed of faith in God turned around the life of a child. I feel blessed that you are willing to share the book on the Blog Tour Name. You are helping to create awareness about a topic that desperately needs to be addressed and has reached epidemic proportions - 500,000 children in the Foster Care System within the US.

Our country is in a crisis with an overloaded Foster Care System and children falling through the cracks daily and being put into homes to provide safety only to be left neglected again. How can we expect these children to become productive adults growing up in this environment? How can we teach these children how to have faith in God and then themselves to correct the wrongs being committed in their lives? How can we help Foster Parents to recognize the difference they can make in a life of a child and the importance of their role? And most importantly, how can we teach to break the Cycle of Abuse so we can shrink the numbers of children going into foster care in the future?

There's a truth I came to realize that changed my life and can change the lives of others. Have Faith in God - put your troubles into his hands and allow him to use you for the purpose you were born for. Once I started to follow this truth in my life I came out of despair to complete happiness and peace. I recognized my ability to help others and the importance of viewing each other as Gods children, people who possess a lot of value and have a mission just like I do for God.

When I began to see that God had a mission for my life, I started to embrace my challenges and learn from them without looking back. I was able to rid myself of the victim mentality and succeed where I was told I never would.

My prayer is that you see the message in My God Box and that it will inspire you to learn to overcome a traumatic experience and more importantly help someone else. I pray that you will agree that all it takes is a mustard seed of faith to realize your God Given potential.

God Bless You, Margaret Iuculano

On to the Q&A! The publisher let me choose questions, but there are so many good ones, and her cause - the foster care system - is such an important, forgotten one that I couldn't choose. Here are all of them:

How many kids in the U.S. are in foster care?

On any given day the statistics show over 500,000 children in the US in the foster care system. The number has reached an epidemic level which has burdened a system not built or equipped to handle the issues facing these children.

How long do they stay in foster care (on average)?

2.5 years is the average across the US - the federal government has asked the individual states to try and reach a permanency solution for these children within 9 months but unfortunately the system is not equipped to meet this goal.

Do they live with the same foster parents the entire time?

If they are lucky! I personally experienced over 15 different living environments and see the same movement between homes and shelters happening today.

You grew up in foster care - what was your experience like?

My experience was most of the foster parents were not equipped to handle a troubled child who needed help. I was in poverty struck homes as well as abusive homes within the foster care system and these are the homes I advocate against. Children removed from their abusive home environments should not be put into a system that is not providing them a better environment than the home they were removed from.

There are many wonderful foster parents who want to help children. But there are people who take in foster kids for the money - how can that be changed?

Not all but too many foster parents see their role as a job not wanting to get too attached to the child as it is a temporary situation thus making the child feel like a 2nd class citizen. The daily stipend a foster parent receives is not a lot of money but if you take in a few children it can be more than a welfare check.

Do you think there’s enough training for foster parents?

There is not an easy answer to this problem with continual budget cuts within the foster care system but there really can't ever be enough training to learn how to cope with a child who needs help. You can become a foster parent in many states with only a few days of training and a criminal background check. Foster parents need so much more to make them successful.

Is abuse a common problem in foster care?

It is too common and this is due to lack of resources and money to create a system that rewards foster parents based on outcomes versus number of children per day you take in. Local Department of Children and Families needs to be monitoring these children more effectively to eliminate the abuse taking place in these homes. It is not okay to have 1 child abused within the system and this issue needs to be addressed as a priority.

What compelled you to write My God Box?

I feel I was blessed to have found God amid all the pain and misery I endured during my growing years. However, I also feel it’s time to give thanks and give back. I struggled for over two years with doubts and mixed feelings about setting my life in print, but whenever I took a step back, I was energized and encouraged by the awe-inspiring certainty that God wanted me to tell my story—for self-healing, but more importantly to open the minds and hearts of other suffering individuals to the mercy and goodness of God. God is hope. Without God there is no hope. Without hope there is no life.

Who is your target audience?

My God Box is addressed to anyone struggling to overcome the traumas and challenges of a dysfunctional or broken life. It is also for anyone associated with someone living in pain and misery. Furthermore, it is for anyone who wants to live a serene life in harmony with the wishes of their Creator. In other words it is for everyone who seeks happiness and fulfillment for themselves and/or others.

What are some of the stark realities surrounding Foster Care Programs?

The truth is that children are not ‘OK’ just because they have been removed from an abusive home and entrusted to a foster family. Although there are kind, nurturing people enrolled as foster parents, on the flip side there are individuals interested only in the monetary aspects of the program; individuals often just as, if not more dysfunctional, emotionally unstable and abusive than the child’s biological parents. This is one of the reasons why I wrote My God Box—to bring awareness to the plight of foster children—and to hopefully fix the shattered parts of a system in desperate need of repair.

What are your long range goals?

My goal is to promote awareness of childhood abuse by using My God Box as a vehicle to become and advocate for children’s rights. I want to inform and encourage others to join with me to make a difference in the life of an innocent vulnerable child who needs to be protected and defended from society’s evils. I am planning speaking engagements/seminars which will help motivate people to start thinking about making changes in their lives and in the lives of others.

Tell us a little more about yourself.

I am a wife, mother, entrepreneur and children’s rights activist with an unwavering faith in God that has led, leads and will undoubtedly lead me to the successful outcome of all my projects.

I'll also let Margaret close us out:

Thank you for allowing me to share my book and God’s mission for my life with you. If you would like to learn more about me and my mission please visit - www.margaretlano.com and www.angelsforfosterkids.org and know that 100% of the book proceeds goes to Angels for Foster Children. Please feel free to contact me at anytime.


Thank you, Margaret. The book drew me in and held me. The Hunny and I have considered fostering children off and on over the years, but our own lives were pretty unstable for a long time. Reading this has reopened the conversation, I think. Seeing the need, reading about the experience through the eyes of a child, has tugged on my heart. I hope some of you will think about it yourselves. Or maybe share your own story?

Until I write again ...



Mental P Mama said...

What a wonderful post. I have thought about it, too, but wonder if I have all it would take to help a really troubled child. I have never understood how people could do this for money. So sad. Thanks for opening my eyes to the possibility again, Flea.

Anonymous said...

What a powerful story. I'm amazed when people overcome such obstacles. I'm sorry if I haven't been over in a few days - bloglines is being goofy & didn't have that you'd posted...I checked on a hunch. I'm rather frustrated.

abb said...

I obviously know far too little about our foster system. I will learn more. Obviously this needs to be redone...but I wonder when, considering all the other problems our nation faces - and problems I'm sure our political leaders will feel are much more important that any problem with the foster system.

Thank you, Flea.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for your feedback Flea and to your bloggers. For those interested in fostering it does not cost anything to check into it - nothing says you have to take in children unless you are ready. Also - an alternative is the Guardian Ad Litem program - it is a wonderful way to help foster children without taking them into your home. I am a Guardian and love the program.

CanadianMama said...

I am lucky to be living in Canada where the system seems to be quite different. There are still problems but obviously much better than what is being written about.
I cringe when reading stuff like this because bad news spreads fast but good news never does. I worry that posts like this one give foster parents a bad name. It is such a hard, hard job and then to turn around and read about how bad it is must be a bit of a slap in the face.
Like I said, it must be quite different in Canada though. Canadian foster parents are not allowed to foster more than four children and it's quite rare to foster even that many (lots of experience, no bio other children living in your home, years of training etc). There are many checks put in place and foster parents go through over 150 hours of training in their first three years.
I know there are bad foster homes out there but there are so so many good ones. Many people putting their own family second for these children. I just wish I saw more in the news about that!
Hopefully the system can figure itself out in the States because it sounds horrible. My heart goes out to those children.