It takes a village to raise a child

Embrace Treatment Foster Care has extraordinary foster parents! Our foster parents are a vital part of Embrace’s statewide effort to protect and care for children in need. They provide children in foster care a structured home that is full of love and stability. We welcome all types of families, including single parent and two parent homes of all races, religions, cultures, sexual orientations, gender, etc.

Our team recognizes that we would not be successful without parents like Heather and Alicia who have been fostering with Embrace for approximately four years. When asked why they were inspired to become foster parents, they expressed that they “have always enjoyed working with children and families.” Most importantly, they “wanted to give back to the community, believing that it takes a village to raise a child.” Heather and Alicia expressed their gratitude for the Embrace family due to the unwavering support, patience, and education necessary to do this kind of work.

Throughout the process, they both have experienced great gratification and happiness. They did share that their biggest challenge to date is “helping school and daycare staff understand the unique challenges our children face” and having “to help them see that negative behavior is a form of maladaptive communication, and our job is to support a child to learn a more appropriate way to communicate his/her needs.” Heather and Alicia stated that the intrinsic benefit is the ability to nurture children by providing a loving and stable environment that promotes mental, physical, and emotional healing.

Becoming a foster parent is a choice! This choice cannot be taken lightly but we are so honored to work with individuals like Heather and Alicia who have chosen to selflessly give back to children in our community. Foster parents play a pivotal role in our community through their desire to bridge the gap between children and their biological families. When asked what they love most about being a foster parent, they said “getting to see the resilience of children, especially those who come from difficult situations. It is a gift to be able to see everyday that children can heal”. Foster parents understand the difficulty that some face with parenting and recognize that foster families are merely a conduit of love, compassion, empathy, teamwork, and understanding; amongst other things.

If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about how you can help, please contact Erin Salum, Foster Parent Recruiter, by phone at 704-500-6256 or by email, .

Embrace answers questions about foster care

EmbraceAt Embrace Treatment Foster Care we realize how daunting it can be to know where or how to start the process of becoming a foster parent and many questions are raised.  That is why Embrace Treatment Foster Care holds regular information sessions to answer questions and help people get started with paperwork. Check out our website Embrace TFC to find the nearest information session near you. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

Please contact Erin Salum, Foster Parent Recruiter for Richmond, by phone at 704-500-6256 or by email at .

Are foster children in care because of something bad they have done?
Foster children are in care for any number of reasons. Most children are in care because their parent does not have the ability to care for them right now, whether due to drug abuse, domestic violence, neglect, medical issues or another circumstance that is not suitable for a child. These are not bad children, they are just in bad situation!

Do you have to be a "traditional" family to become a foster family?
Successful foster homes come in all shapes and sizes. We encourage single moms and dads, empty nesters, cohabiting couples, same-sex couples, families with and without biological children, and anything in between to become foster parents! The most important requirement is for you to be a loving, supportive family where foster children can thrive.

How long does the certification process to become a foster family take?
Embrace can complete training as quickly as 6 months! Training consists of material that will help you be the best foster parent you can be. Most will consist of PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) training, home visits and parenting classes and other activities that will help you be the best foster parent you can be!

Can I adopt a foster child after they are placed in my home?
The goal for every foster child is to provide them with a stable, loving home. If it ends up that the child becomes eligible for adopted foster parents are first given the option to adopt in order to maintain stability in that child's life. This is a much less expensive option than adopting from a private agency.

Am I able to work a full time job and also foster?
Many foster parents have a full or part time job. Most foster care agencies can even help you with finding after-school or full time child care if needed. You are still able to work full time once you have a biological child, and having a foster child is no different!

Is there a minimum income to become a foster parent?
Foster parents must be financially stable, but they do not have to be wealthy! Foster parents can reside in homes they own or rent, including apartments, condos and duplexes! There are requirements for how many foster children you can care for depending on the amount of bedrooms you have available. A foster care agency can help you with those guidelines!

Do I have the ability to foster a child based on age and gender I feel most comfortable with?
Permanency is something that every foster care agency strives for. We want to make sure that whatever foster child is placed in your home will be a good fit. Therefore, we have an open and honest conversation with you about what age and gender of foster child will make a great addition to your family. We have children of all ages who come into foster care from little babies to funny and adventurous teenagers!

I am concerned I will get too attached to a foster child living in my home.
It’s true — you will get attached, and it will be painful when children you love leave. But, you have the peace of knowing that no matter how long a foster child lived with you they were able to experience a loving, happy family for that time. The lessons that they learn while being your foster child will stick with them for the rest of their lives!

Faith Focus by Rev. Lacette Cross

Rev Lacette CrossIn an effort to broaden our reach and explore issues of concern of the LGBT communities, we are pleased to share the first of a series of articles by the Rev. Lacette Cross.

Our first addresses the role that faith can play in our lives. Rev. Cross, affectionately called “Rev. L.” is the pastor of Restoration Fellowship RVA and the founder of Will You Be Whole that carries discussions about sex and faith. Follow Rev. Cross on Facebook, Twitter (@lacettecross) and IG (@lacettecross)

If there are religious related issues that you would like for Rev. Cross to discuss, please let her know.

What Does Your Love Look Like?

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it's the only thing that there's just too little of…”  ~ What the World Needs Now Is Love, Hal David

We all know the words to this song. I’m sure you’re rocking side-to-side right now, humming the tune. It’s a catchy melody with a timeless message. There is always a need for live in our world. The question then becomes: what does love look like?

 To begin answering this question I think the most logical place to start is defining what love is. For many of us the immediate thought goes to the warm-fuzzy feelings of romantic love. We all know the butterflies and endless smiles. Most of us can recall the long several hour conversations that left our hearts fluttering. And yes, that is a type of love.

However, the love I think the song refers to and the kind we need in our world today is the strong emotion that undergirds and motivates good work in the world. It is both noun and verb. The intangible ideal that’s made real through our actions.

This love is what brings communities together. This love is what helps us be kind to others. This love is what pushes us outside of our comfort zones to help meet the needs of others. This love is what spurs on justice work in the world. This love is what changes minds, hearts and lives.

In the words of Mother Teresa: “Love in action is service.” So when you take a moment to think about love, consider these things. As you consider them I encourage you to take it a step further and talk with others about love. Ask them the question “What does your love look like?”  

I have faith that the more we do it, the more we courageously ask ourselves and others the challenging questions, the better we become as individuals and as a community.  Because “what the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

Protect Your Family and Your Assets with Marital Agreements

Mollie Barton Web 214x300by Mollie Barton

Recent federal court rulings, federal regulations, and the resulting administrative actions in the Commonwealth of Virginia have allowed same sex couples to marry and to adopt children. Inevitably, this means that lesbian and gay couples will also divorce, need custody determinations, and inherit property from their spouses.  Essentially, Virginia family law is now gender neutral, as outlined below.

  • Any couple with a valid marriage from another state or country may now file for divorce, provided they have resided in Virginia for at least six months before filing suit.
  • Married couples can now file joint federal and state income tax returns.
  • Qualified retirement plans can be divided between two same-sex spouses in equitable distribution and to satisfy support obligations.
  • Spouses and former spouses are defined as “stepparents” in custody suits, regardless of their gender.
  • Same-sex couples can now legally adopt children and spouses may adopt the children of their partners.
  • In terms of real estate, all married couples will now be entitled to the protections afforded by property held as Tenants by the Entirety.

Many couples consider assets acquired during their committed relationships—prior to legal marriage— to be marital property, while Virginia law strictly defines marital property as that acquired during the legal marriage. To avoid potential discord, I recommend that couples enter into pre-marital or marital agreements.  Such contracts may be used to define what is marital property, what is the marital share of a retirement plan, to define or limit spousal support in the event of separation or divorce, and to address estate rights.

Marital agreements can also be an important element of an estate plan. Couples who have children from prior relationships may wish to make provisions for those children, or should at least be made aware of the rights of their current spouse. Beneficiary designations will also need to be checked and possibly changed at divorce, if the former spouse had been named on a life insurance policy or retirement account. In the event of the death of a spouse, widows and widowers will be entitled to the elective share of their spouse’s estate, unless they have a pre-marital or other agreement that defines those rights.  The same sound reasons to draft marital agreements apply to all couples, same-sex or opposite-sex.

Agreements can be drafted prior to marriage (commonly known as “prenups”), during marriage, or after divorce. Each type of agreement has pros and cons depending on the circumstances. Timing can be a delicate issue, but an experienced family law attorney can help smooth the process. Whatever the type of agreement, it is important that each party fully disclose and describe his or her property in concrete terms.  Both parties should be aware what they may be entitled to and what they are giving up, or the agreement may be unenforceable due to lack of disclosure or fraud.

Well-written agreements can help prevent expensive contested divorce or probate litigation. Alternative processes such as mediation or collaboration can be utilized to dissolve a marriage under the right circumstances and with the proper documents.

Learn more about Batzl Stiles Butler Family Law Attorneys here.

Is It More Than Stress?

By Mark Loewen

Sign #1: Not Getting Enough Sleep

Everyone experiences stress. And stress by itself is not purely negative. In fact, positive experiences such as traveling, getting a promotion, or starting a new relationship all cause stress on our minds and bodies. But have you wondered if you are experiencing more than just stress? Knowing the signs can help you recognize the root of your discomfort so that you can take steps to feel better. In this post I’ll describe one often overlooked sign that you may be dealing with more than just stress, specifically lack of restful sleep.

Sleep is important for us to recharge and operate at peak performance.  The optimal amount of sleep for an adult 18-64 years old is 7 to 9 hours each night. If you don’t get enough sleep, you operate at a less efficient level and incur a “sleep debt.” This type of debt, however, is not easily paid off. Your body does not recover from loosing six hours of sleep with an extra six hours the next day. To recover, you require a few nights of consistent sleep. If you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep, you may be incurring sleep debt. Consequently, you become physically, cognitively, and emotionally impaired.

Also, how you feel at night when you are not sleeping is important. Our minds have evolved to pay more attention to the negative thoughts at night because our ancestors were more vulnerable to dangers after dark. Negative thoughts are harder to push aside when you aren’t distracted by your work or other daily activities. If you notice yourself feeling more stressed, anxious or depressed at night, your mind may be point ing you toward emotional needs that need to be addressed. Many describe this struggle as not being able to shut off their thoughts.

Just as our body naturally and automatically starts a healing process when it gets hurt, our mind does the same. It wants to heal wounds and resolve issues that come in the way of your happiness. It does this by directing your attention to these issues when it’s most successful to do so - at night.

There will always be stressful situations. Even so, stress shouldn’t get to the point where it has a drastic effect on you. When stress changes the way you want to live, and keeps you from feeling the way you want to feel, it may be time to take action. For emotional stress, help most often comes through relationship. But sometimes it feels as if friends or family don’t “get it.” Or you fear that people around you may become tired of listening to you. A trained counselor can help you find solutions to the source of your stress. You can feel better. Finding resolution for your feelings of anxiety or your sadness can be the key to getting your sleep back!

Mark Loewen is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Richmond, VA.

Frequent Flyer Miles

Legalese by Kate Fletcher

Do you travel a lot? Does your spouse or maybe one of your parents?  What happens to all of those frequent flyer miles when the traveler dies?  The answer is, of course, "it depends."  

I researched and inquired with a variety of airlines and the answers were not uniform. Although the airline written policy might be to NOT transfer miles upon death, if you ask the right questions, of the right person, you may succeed. My advice is to specify in your estate planning documents who should receive the miles and if you are the recipient, call the airline and ask (nicely) to have the miles transferred to you.  

If you are not named as the beneficiary in an estate planning documents, you will probably only be eligible to receive the miles if you are the "next of kin." Likely, a death certificate, affidavit and/or signed form(s) will be required. Perseverance should get the miles transferred. As a reminder, miles can be transferred to others as a gift or to provide emergency travel.

Condos come in all shapes and sizes, the same as the variety ofpeople who chose to live in them.

by Wanda Fears, Long & Foster

These days there are lots of reasons to opt for condominium living over traditional homes. Homeowners no longer fit a particular bill. In today’s world of customizing 'til it works, there are as many different lifestyles as there are census boxes to check!

Independence

Who wants to come home to a house full of chores? If something goes wrong there’s no one to call on but yourself. It takes a lot of know-how and without that, any projects or repairs can get expensive quick. While with condo-living, you are indeed responsible for what you own, there is generally a list of items and routinely scheduled maintenance that the HOA covers without the owner having to worry about it.

Like the shared ownership of the land your condo sits on, many of the major costs are shared with your neighbors through association dues. These dues cover outside maintenance you may not have time— or the ability to do yourself. General groundskeeping from lawn mowing, landscaping and shoveling snow in the winter to the more costly repairs like roof damage, or window replacement can be covered by these dues.

Lifestyle

Our growing and expanding metropolis is becoming more and more a hot-spot to live, work and travel to. However, we still pride ourselves in the small town feel and Richmond is not like New York City, Atlanta or DC. If you’re used to Big City Living, owning a condo might be a really great option for you! You still have all the benefits of home owning like building equity, increasing property value through renovations, or even just buying in a still up-and-coming area.

Many condominium communities offer great lifestyle amenities, some of which would be more costly if purchased individually. Benefits like a clubhouse to hold private or community gatherings, a gym, a swimming pool or a theatre room are often times a huge draw to condo living. In addition to these wonderful benefits, there is increased security as compared to a freestanding home, which is often contracted out to a private company decided on by the board.

“HathaGay”

All of the things mentioned above are great but as a member of the LGBT community sometimes we feel the most comfortable around some of our peers. Hathaway Towers offers: a convenient location, close to shopping and downtown. It offers many of the amenities like the ones mentioned above: a clubhouse, a pool and a gym. The units can be customized to your liking, I know because I did it and now it is perfect. There is no place like in Richmond and the LGBT community is paying attention because it has all the right qualities that allow someone to live a worry free lifestyle with little to no sacrifices.

There are many reasons why owning a condo is the right fit for you. The major thing when researching your desired condo is the contract, to know exactly what your fees are paying for and to go over the rules and bylaws. It’s also important to research the association to make sure they’ve been responsible in keeping to the budget and maintaining a healthy reserve fund. Having a real estate agent with experience in condos can help you minimize your risk and find the condo that’s perfect for you!

Hathaway Towers is located off of Forest Hill Ave at 2956 Hathaway Rd, minutes away from downtown.

Call Wanda Fears for more information or a tour. Get on the waiting list now. 804-909-2777

See video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gjbfrJJcU0

LGBTQ Children in Foster Care

LGBTQ children in foster care

Foster Care can be a difficult time in a child’s life. While many children in foster care face abuse or neglect, for LGBT-Q children this stress can be compounded with additional feelings of rejection. A recent study by the Human Rights Campaign noted that there is a higher percentage of LGBT-Q children in the foster care system relative to the LGBT-Q child population as a whole.

Virginia is one of only seven states that currently has foster care non-discrimination laws. These laws protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation but there is still work to be done to ensure that these LGBT-Q youth do not face more discrimination. Even when placed with a foster family, many LGBT-Q children can still face bullying, physical aggression from peers, harassment and trauma.

Foster parents play a key role in reducing discrimination and providing the necessary support to their potential foster child. Through education, exposure and training, these foster parents can obtain the tools to ensure their foster care children have the best possible future. Like any child in the foster care system, they need the support and respect of an adult who understands their situation.

Embrace TFC is working very hard to provide LGBT-Q youth a safe and stable home! This population is in great need of individuals like you. Regardless of your marital status or sexual orientation, you can be the difference for a child in your community facing a difficult challenge. Embrace TFC provides a team environment and works with potential foster parents from start to finish to ensure they are properly prepared.

If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about how you can help, please contact Erin Salum, Foster Parent Recruitment Coordinator by phone at 704-500-6256 or by email, .

Source: https://www.hrc.org/resources/lgbt-youth-in-the-foster-care-system

What's mine is yours, right?

mine yours oursby Sheryl Herndon, White & McCarthy Law

What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine, right?  The answer is ... IT DEPENDS.  Are you married?  Do you have a valid will?  Have you updated your beneficiary designations?  Do you have a trust?  Have you made gifts during your lifetime?  How is your real estate titled?  Do you have a marital agreement?  Do you have a durable power of attorney?  Do you have a marital agreement?  Have you moved from another state?

Although few couples want to contemplate the “Big Ds”: Death, Disability and Divorce, estate planning is critical for everyone over the age of 18 – single, married, LGBT and straight.  The law makes no accommodations in situations of disability or death for couples in a non-marital relationship and while married couples are entitled to certain legal rights and presumptions, these rights and presumptions should not be considered a substitute for a proper estate plan.

If you fail to plan, state law and courts will “make” your plan for you and it is a safe bet that the plan will be more expensive and more cumbersome that the one you would have implemented.  It is also possible that the plan will be contrary to your intentions and wishes.

INCAPACITY.

Health. An advance medical directive allows you to designate the specific individual(s) who you want to make your medical decisions if you are unable to make them. You can nominate a primary agent and designate a secondary agent who may serve if your primary agent is unable or unwilling to serve. An advance medical directive also allows you to specify your wishes regarding certain health situations, such as end of life treatment and organ donation and designate individuals with whom your agent must share information upon request.

If you are incapable of making informed health care decisions due to an accident or illness and have not executed an advance medical directive, the law defines who may provide consent for your doctor to provide or withhold health care. Under current Virginia law, the order of decision makers, in descending order, as follows: (i) a guardian, (ii) if there is not guardian, a spouse, (iii) if there is no spouse, an adult child, (iv) if there is no adult child, a parent, and (iv) if there is not parent, an adult sibling, and then, (v) any other blood relative in descending order. If there is more than one individual in the same class (such as two children), the majority of reasonable available members of that class control the decision.

Finances. A general durable power of attorney allows you to designate a trusted friend, family member or attorney to manage your financial and legal matters if you are unable to do so. You can nominate a primary agent and designate a secondary agent who may serve if your primary agent is unable or unwilling to serve. You may specify when the agent may act, the extent of his or her authority, and identify individuals to whom your agent must disclose his or her actions.

Although the law provides “default” health care decision makers, there are no statutory provisions which authorize an individual to manage your finances and legal matters if you are unable to do so. Without proper legal documents, authority can only be obtained pursuant to a court finding that you are incapacitated and enter an order appointing a Conservator to manage your assets. This process is expensive and cumbersome; there can be considerable delay between the incapacity and the entry of a court order; and the results may be very different from what you intended.

DEATH.

Some of the most important benefits of wills and trusts are that they allow you to state your wishes regarding what happens at your death. Proper estate planning documents allow you to designate who should serve as the guardian of your minor children, who will administer your estate, who will (and who won’t) receive assets, the manner in which those assets are to be distributed at your death, and whether. Pursuant to either a will or a trust, you can direct that assets be held in trust for beneficiaries until they reach a certain age or status, protect a beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits, designate who will control funds while they are held in trust and, make provisions for charitable beneficiaries. If it is important for your estate plan to remain private, you can create a revocable trust. Since a revocable trust is generally not filed with the court and does not become public record, the nature and value of your assets, the identify of your beneficiaries, the amount that beneficiaries receive, and conditions regarding distribution are kept private.

Who.

Absent a valid will or trust, the law directs who will administer your estate and who will receive your assets upon your death. Laws regarding the distribution of your assets vary among states. In Virginia, if you are legally married and die without a will, your spouse receives the entirety of your estate, unless you are survived by children (or their descendants) who are not children of your surviving spouse, in which case, your surviving spouse receives one-third of your estate and your children (or their descendants) receive two-thirds of your estate.

If you have no surviving spouse at your death, your estate passes to your children and their descendants. If you have no spouse and no children (or descendants), your assets pass to your parents, or the survivor of them; or if there are none, your assets pass to your brothers and sisters and their descendants; and if there are none the Virginia Code defines the individuals to whom your estate descends and passes. If there is no other heir or distribute of the decedent’s real or personal estate, it escheats to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Proper planning with an estate planning attorney can help you determine the best way to ensure that you, your assets and your beneficiaries are protected and that your wishes regarding your medical care, finances and estate are honored.

Your digital estate

Legalese by Kate Fletcher

I recently received a Facebook notification that it was "John's" birthday. John was an elementary school chum and passed away a few years ago. Besides evoking sadness, the notification had me thinking again about my Facebook account, online banking and everything else I accessed on the internet. Did no one know "John's" Facebook password and that's why the account lives on in his absence? Was someone controlling his account and as yet are unable to let go?

A new part of estate planning is to advise clients about protecting their digital assets and their digital presence. When thinking about your online and digital presence, consider your bank accounts, shopping sites, credit cards, loans, bills, blogs, website, to name just a few. It may be a good idea to entrust a loved one with your important passwords and instructions on what to do in the event of your death.

Think about your digital presence and whether you should provide information to a trusted individual...or not.

Kate Fletcher is an attorney located in Richmond, Virginia

Changes to Social Security effective May 1

Congress has enacted some changes to the Social Security system that will be effective May 1, 2016.  If you are not yet at retirement age these changes could affect you. One of the changes is the doing away with a practice known as "file and suspend." Here is how it worked: if you were 66 or older, you could file for full benefits and then turn around and suspend them. For each year you suspended your benefits up until age 70, you would get an extra 8% added to your check. By age 70, you could have seen a 32% increase in your checks. While your benefits were suspended you could have your spouse claim the spousal benefit. Effective May 1, 2016 the option for your spouse to claim your social security benefits while you suspend your benefits is gone. However, if you are close to age 66 and have not filed for Social Security, talk to a financial advisor or a Social Security expert to see how this change may affect you and whether you may still be eligible to "file and suspend." There is a lot of planning still to be done with Social Security.

Tree Liability

Legalese by Kate Fletcher

Hot weather means storms and downed trees. The question is, who is liable and when? Virginia has specific law regarding liability from damage caused by a fallen tree.

EXAMPLE: Your neighbor’s tree threatens to land on your house if it comes down – can you force your neighbor to remove it? NO The storm hits and the neighbor’s tree actually comes down on your house – is the neighbor now liable? NO – This’s a case for your homeowner’s insurance.

The neighbor attempts to remove the tree but does an incomplete job and the tree comes down on your house – is the neighbor liable now? Maybe – the law says if the neighbor did something to worsen the situation, they may be held liable.

Generally, fallen trees are “nature” and there is no liability from your neighbor for what nature does. Review your homeowner’s policy to make sure you have the appropriate coverage.