Foster Parenting: Challenging? You Bet. But Worth the Effort.

© Lisa Shara; Published at North State Parent

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Senta Burton is passionate about advocating for families. She stands for children, but also for parents – both birth parents and foster parents. A mother of six, Senta’s four younger children are adopted, initially joining her family as foster children.

As parent educator at Counseling Solutions in Butte County, Senta works with birth parents whose children have been removed from their care. She teaches a 16-week “Nurturing Parenting” class the parents are required to attend. She also works with the county’s Supporting Our Families’ Transition (SOFT) program, which offers parents support and access to resources, assisting them as their cases conclude and their children are about to return home. The program’s goal is to help parents create a stable home in an effort to prevent the possibility of having their children reenter foster care again in the future.

Senta and her family. In front, Destiny. Next row: Theo, Lila, Marah and Tanika. 3rd row: Parents Charles and Senta. In back: Chas.

Senta and her family. In front, Destiny. Next row: Theo, Lila, Marah and Tanika. 3rd row: Parents Charles and Senta. In back: Chas.

Senta additionally teaches a variety of parenting classes for the Butte Foster Kinship Care Education program, including Foster Parent Preservice; Nurtured Heart Approach; Nurturing Parenting; Parenting the Special Needs Child; and Understanding the Alcohol and Drug-Exposed Child. Everyone is welcome to attend Butte Foster Kinship’s free classes and workshops: parents, non-parents, people thinking about becoming a foster parent, parents whose children are currently in foster care, teachers, social workers and other community members.

What inspired Senta to become so deeply involved with families? She first became a foster parent in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 20 years ago. In her first year, dozens of children came and left her home. “It broke my heart to see the fear and confusion on their faces as they were moved from one strange home to another,” she says. “It became clear that moving children from home to home – which often happens in foster care – was taking a toll on them, often making them feel they weren’t loved or wanted.” Continue reading

A Rhumba Of Rattlesnakes – New Children’s Book by Kristen Lape

A prickle of porcupines? A lounge of Iguanas? A delightful new children’s book, featuring whimsical yet scientifically accurate illustrations of animals, is written in a fun A-Z format that teaches the names of animal groups … like “a zeal of zebras.”

Written by local author Kristen Lape, My Love is bigger than a Rhumba of Rattlesnakes is targeted for ages preschool through elementary school – and is likely a fun read for any age.

Lape (Lape rhymes with grape) grew up in Butte County and spent her initial college years at California State University, Chico, before moving to Santa Cruz where she serendipitously met Sylvie-Marie Drescher, Rhumba’s talented illustrator. Drescher’s animal illustrations, showing animals in their natural habitats, were a perfect fit with Lape’s book idea.

art-1115-rattlesnakes2Lape’s idea for Rhumba was first inspired by her two sons. “When they were small, we read a lot of books about animals and spent a lot of time outdoors in nature.” In her work as an elementary school counselor for Chico Unified School District, Lape has often been reminded of how much children love animals. And she has a related concern: “A lot of the world’s animals and habitats are being destroyed,” Lape says. “I think about that too.” Continue reading

Hai Ho! Hai Ho! It’s Off to Taiko We Go! – In Mt. Shasta: Taiko Classes for Youth

© Lisa Shara; Published at North State Parent

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Taiko is an ancient Japanese style of drumming that, in the last half century, has undergone an evolution into an ensemble performing art. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have seen a taiko performance, you may already be hooked on the excitement, skill and team work exemplified.

Julie Bennett has been a member of Northern California’s Shasta Taiko ensemble for 16 years. The ensemble was formed by Jeanne Mercer and Russel Baba over 25 years ago.  Last February Julie began fulfilling a personal dream: “I have wanted to teach taiko to children for a long time,” she says. “Having seen taiko performers who have grown up in the world of drumming, I realize how it can impact a child’s growth and talent, and motivate them to pursue their artistic passions.”

art-115-taiko3“The young people I see in taiko today are centered, focused, extremely dedicated and disciplined.  I am so impressed with their maturity and abilities,” says Julie. In her classes, students work together as a team through exercise, creativity and rhythmic awareness, as well as solo improvisation. Keller King, age 6, was a student in Julie’s first children’s class series. He says, “Taiko was really fun. We learned patterns, how to count to ten in Japanese, and drum beats.”

Movement is an important aspect of taiko, explains Julie. “Taiko is based on the elements of nature: the taiko stance or “kata” (body position) Continue reading

Mi Escuelita Maya Preschool & Children’s Performing Arts Program – A Place of Learning and Inspiration

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent, January 2014

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a setting best described as welcoming and warm, where diversity is honored and creativity abounds, children go about the business of learning with great enthusiasm. Smiling teachers clearly are having as much fun as they guide students in discovery and play. The inspiration is palpable. Continue reading