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Ways to Spend Your Winter Break

The holiday season can be a difficult time for youth with experience in foster care for a variety of reasons. Fostering Success Michigan has searched far and wide for resources and ideas in each of the seven life domains to help students cope with the long winter break ahead.

To begin, please check out these great resources from FosterClub and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY):

Housing

Are you a student looking for a place to stay during winter break? Here is a list of resources to help you get started: 

1) If your college or university has a campus-based support program, contact them to seek out available resources for housing during breaks. To see a list of Michigan campus-based support programs, click here

2) If your college or university does not have a campus-based support program, contact your campus housing office and let them know your housing situation. Many campuses offer interim housing during breaks for students in need. 

3) You can also visit the following websites for further information and resources: 

           a. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Resources

           b. National Runaway Safeline which has trained professionals who can work with you                  to problem solve housing concerns. 

          c. You may also want to check out programs available around the state of Michigan!

Cultural and Personal Identity Formation

While winter break may be a difficult time, you can take advantage of the break to learn more about yourself and others by checking out the links below. 

1) Learn more about yourself by taking personality tests! Although not always 100% accurate, these free tests may help you learn something new about yourself and the way you interact with the world. 

         a.  Take this free personality test based on the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicato.

         b. Check out this list of free tests from University of Pennsylvania's Authentic                                 Happiness website. 

         c. Discover your love language here.

2) Make a visit to one of Michigan’s art, science, and history museums around the state! Learn about your own and others’ cultures while gaining new perspectives! Find museums (and other attractions around the state) here

3) Craft your own personal story! Learn how to do so effectively and safely by checking out the FSM Special Webinar Event: The Power of Sharing Your Story with Brittany Bartkowiak, MSW. 

Physical and Mental Health

Physical and mental health can often take the backseat during the busy fall semester. There are many things you can do during your winter break to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Check out the list below for a few ideas! 

1) Make sure your health insurance is up to date! Don’t have insurance? If you turned 18 while in foster care, you are eligible to receive Medicaid until age 26 under the Affordable Care Act. Check out FSM’s guide to applying for Medicaid here!

2) Take your break time to make needed physical and mental health appointments! Here is a resource for getting the most out of your doctor's appointment.

3) You can also get some exercise in, which creates physical and mental health benefits. You don’t even need to venture outside to get your body moving. Check out this list of equipment-free exercises you can do anywhere!

4) Learn more about mental health for youth and young adults and check out resources for young adults with mental illness here. 

5)This time of year can be tough. If you find that you are struggling with a particular issue, you can find a variety of hotlines that may be able to help. 

Employment and Financial Aid

1) If you're currently working, consider asking for extra hours. Using this time to build up savings can be very helpful for the semester ahead! 

2) Take some time to get your resume up to date! Don't have a resume? Don't worry! Check out this resource that answers common questions first-time resume writers might have.

4) Become a polished professional by checking out FSM's Webinar: Becoming a Polished Professional Part 1 and Part 2

3) Is your financial aid all set for the next semester? Take the time before break starts to be sure you have met all financial requirements for the next semester. Check out FSM's Financial Aid Toolkit for Students. You may also want to reach out to a Designated Financial Aid Champion at your school for support. 

Supportive Relationships and Community Connections

1) This time of year can feel lonely and isolating, particularly for students with experience in foster care. Maintaining connections to friends and family can be difficult. Here are a few tips to help youth stay connected: 

        a. Advocate for visits with siblings, family, and friends, near or far. Here are some tips                 from young leaders of FosterClub about reconnecting with bio-families. 

        b. If visiting is not a possibility, consider communicating on social media, sending a                     greeting card, meeting up for coffee, talking on the phone, or writing a letter. 

2) If you want to make some last-minute holiday gifts for friends and family, check out this inexpensive gift guide for ideas.

3) Strengthen your connection to the community you live in by volunteering to help those in need. Check out your community volunteer opportunities by searching here

4) Learn more about your community by visiting their website. The public is often encouraged to attend community meetings. Take advantage of opportunities to make new connections! 

5) Connect to other youth with experience in foster care through organizations like Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative and FosterClub

Life Skills for Campus Living 

1) If you're staying on-campus over winter break and need some help with food assistance or other needed resources, here are some tips for getting what you need:

        a. Start with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services who has food and                     other assistance available for low-income families and individuals. For more                               information, click here!  

       b. You can also check out this list of Michigan-based food pantries around the state. 

       c. Call your local 2-1-1, which offers free and confidential information to help people                  across the country find the local resources they need. 

2) If you're living in a dorm room and do not have access to a regular kitchen, making healthy meals can be difficult. Here is a list of microwave meal recipes that can be cooked in the dorms! 

3) You may experience down-time, especially if you're staying on-campus over winter break. You can use this time to clean and reorganize your room or apartment. If you are celebrating a holiday, take some time to decorate! Here's some inexpensive ideas to get you started

4) Life skills can and should include relaxation! Catch up on TV shows or movies you want to see or books you want to read! Check out free movies/TV here. You can also check out this list of '25 Essential Books That Every College Student Should Read'

Education and Academics

1) Get ahead for the next semester! Get your syllabi together, figure out and purchase the books you will need, and get started on required reading! Being better prepared for the semester ahead will ease stress and reduce your workload in the coming months. 

2) We know, winter break should also be a BREAK! If you want to learn something while also being entertained, check out the TED talks for free here! 

Your donations help make a difference.

Fostering Success Michigan is a statewide initiative that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline." 

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