Monthly Archives: August 2012

Breaking the Cycle of Family Violence

Guest post by a graduate of Healthy Families, a home-visiting program that prevents child abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting skills, promoting healthy child development and improving family self-sufficiency.

When I enrolled in the Healthy Families program, I was 24 years old and just had my fifth child. I had no sense of direction or purpose as a single mom trying to raise all of my children. I never finished high school, did not have my GED and was unemployed. I was living in a very bad domestic violence situation with the father of my children and thought I had no way out. He had me believing that I could not make it without the little bit of financial support he provided to us.

One of the first and most important things my family support worker did was help me learn how to set goals for myself. She taught me that I could achieve things on my own. She believed in me and, more importantly, helped me believe in myself. She pushed me and told me not to give up even when I faced setbacks, and I faced a lot.

With the help of Healthy Families, today I am proud to say that my children and I no longer live in fear of domestic violence because my support worker showed me where to go for help and I got it. The father of my children is in jail where he belongs and I helped the police get him there.

My children and I are safe, I am working full-time, I have gotten my own transportation and my own home. Now I want to get my GED, and I know I can do it! Healthy Families has helped me to see that once I had my kids, my life became about them and their well-being and no longer just about myself. I have learned how to be a better parent and how to help my kids be the best people that they can be too.”

Note:

Almost 25 percent of Healthy Families participants are identified as having experienced, or currently experiencing, domestic violence at program enrollment. As indirect victims of domestic violence, children who witness family violence experience similar trauma to those who are abused. This trauma significantly alters children’s brain development leading to emotional and behavioral problems, poor school performance, and increased risk of criminal behavior as youth and adults. A child’s exposure to domestic violence is also the most significant predictor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. 

Healthy Families home visitors prevent child abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting skills, promoting healthy child development and improving family self-sufficiency. Home visitors also connect families to other community resources that can address domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health and other issues that place children at-risk. 

For more information, visit www.healthyfamiliesfla.org.

How to Keep Children Calm during Hurricanes, Other Disasters

With winds and rain from Tropical Storm Isaac covering most of Florida this week, the Department of Children and Families wants to offer tips to parents on how to talk to their children about hurricanes and other disasters.

Here are some tips to help you talk to your children:

•           Encourage children to ask questions and talk about their feelings.

•           Respond calmly and explain the facts to the best of your ability.

•           Have a plan and share it with your children so they know to expect to go to their grandparent’s house or another location in the event of a hurricane.

•           Make sure you have an arrangement for any pets and that your child knows their pet will be safe.

•           Tell the child only what they need to know, but do not give details that will needlessly scare them.

•           Pay attention to how much media coverage your child is allowed to see. They may not need to see all of the devastation from a major disaster.

•           Make sure your child knows who to call in case of a disaster if the parents are not available.

•           Help your child set up an emergency kit, with food, water, medical needs and more. Make sure to keep the kit updated and make it a fun activity with your child. Include a flashlight for your child and books, puzzles and games to keep them occupied.

To prepare your family for a hurricane, please go to the state of Florida’s “Get a Plan” site at www.floridadisaster.org. For information about food safety during a hurricane or other disaster, please download “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes” at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Severe_Storms_and_Hurricanes_Guide.pdf.

Also remember to sign up for text/email alerts so you know of emergency food services in your area after the storm: http://www.myflfamilies.com/disaster.

No baby should have to go without diapers

Guest post by Judi, a homeowner in the Hunters Crossing neighborhood in Leon County.

Can you imagine … a baby without diapers? I have heard that one in five women in the U.S. cannot buy diapers for their child on a regular basis. For a third of U.S. women, purchasing diapers means cutting back on food or other urgent necessities. It breaks my heart that these children are suffering because their families are unable to meet even their most basic of needs.

So my neighborhood and I decided to do something about it.

My husband and I moved into a new neighborhood, Hunters Crossing, in North Florida last May. The neighborhood has several events throughout the year that helped us to quickly meet our new neighbors.  Several of us were talking one day and decided it would be good if our neighborhood planned some projects to help around our community.

We heard about Partners for Promise, a program through the Florida Department of Children and Families that connects organizations and businesses to members of their communities. I immediately called the North Florida contact person, Jeanna Olson, and set up an appointment.  Jeanna greeted me with pages full of needs and ways to help our community.

We decided to do a “baby shower” for the Brehon House, a facility in Tallahassee for homeless pregnant women and children.  She sent us a wish list, with diapers being the No. 1 item.  Our neighborhood was ON IT!  We donated more than 1,000 diapers in addition to baby wipes, toys and clothes. Some of us hadn’t shopped for babies in years – we had so much fun!

Through the many comments that I have received from my neighbors, one thing is clear: We feel like much better people because we are helping.  We are just one small neighborhood trying to make a small dent in helping those in need.  Can you imagine… if EVERY neighborhood did just one project?

Note: If you are struggling to provide necessities for your family, be sure to check out DCF’s ACCESS resources. You may be eligible for assistance.

Cool kicks for cool kids

Guest post by Christen Gause, Pro-Link GLOBAL Inc. business immigration manager and organizer of Kicks N Klothes 4 Kids, a valued Partner for Promise. She is located in Sarasota. 

I have a friend that is a family support worker for the Safe Children Coalition and also a Guardian ad Litem.  When we get together she tells me of some of the heart-breaking stories of foster children who have no shoes,  socks or the basic items that so many of us take for granted.   I have three children that are aged 11, 9 and 6 and I can’t fathom for one second that my children not have the most basic of items, especially items that are needed to go to school.

As time passed I would think of these children.  I would think of all that my children have.  There are very few items for which my children want because they have been blessed with not only hard working parents but a large extended family that enjoys spoiling them as well.  I decided that I wanted to do more to help these children and get them the items they needed to attend school with shoes being the most basic item.

It began as an idea to put together a clothing and shoe collection. I figured I would just ask my friends to clean out their kids’ closets, but has turned out to be so much more.  As I began to express my idea to others at my company, Pro-Link GLOBAL Inc., we came up with a game plan organize the effort. Promotions were inexpensive, but effective – fliers designed the Pro-Link team, school contacts, Facebook posts and help from the Safe Children Coalition.

We had two collection points at local parks, but you never know when or where someone will give. I had just such an experience when I stopped by a local sporting goods store in Sarasota to purchase my daughter a gift for her birthday.  I asked the sales clerk, which happened to be the owner, to post my flier about the clothing drive in his store.  Not only did he post my flier, but he donated EVERY ITEM on his clearance rack, which amounted to four boxes of brand new clothes.  Day one of the Kicks N Klothes 4 Kids drive and my car was already stuffed full of items!

Promotions continued and I filled out the online form for DCF’s Partners for Promise effort, which brings businesses together to help their communities. DCF staff called me and helped me with additional promotion resources, including free advertisements in local newspapers, and talked to local auto retailer Sunset Chevy, who agreed to be the official collection point in Sarasota. DCF also connected me with child welfare case managers who could let me know specific needs of individual families. Working with the case managers allowed me to not only meet the families’ needs, but also made donors feel good because they knew they were meeting the specific need of a child.

The Friday before our collection day I rented a 10-foot box truck – we received enough donations to completely fill up the truck!  We have several boxes of new clothes, at least 100 new pairs of shoes and piles and piles of gently used items included some very nice duffle bags.  One very generous GAL even donated $400 in new clothes and 25 new pairs of shoes.  Most donors asked if we were going to do a drive again because they loved the idea of donating to foster kids but had no idea how to go about it. The community was very receptive and eager to help. I am glad that we were able to facilitate a way everyone to connect and help.

It brings a lot of joy to my heart to be able to obtain these items for these children.  These children wear the weight of the world on their shoulders and have to grow up and mature faster than most.  They are not able to be as carefree and oblivious as my children, and that saddens me.  A child should never be embarrassed to go to school because their shoes have holes or they have no socks to wear.  My hope is that by putting a new pair of Nikes on a child’s feet that we give them hope that there are people that care, give them pride to wear those new shoes and give them a little self confidence.

To find out how you can become a Partner for Promise to help your community, visit www.flpartnersforpromise.com.  

Bagel Bites and ice cream

Guest post by Central Florida Safe Families Mom Debbie Titus. Safe Families for Children is a program of Bethany Christian Services through a partnership with Community-Based Care of Central Florida. Safe Families for Children is a national movement of compassion that gives hope to families in crisis. Safe, loving homes are provided where parents may voluntarily have their children cared for while parents seek to restore stability in their lives. 

It was around 9:30 p.m. when the three children arrived at “Camp Titus,” sweet kids ages 9, 11 and 13. But they were traumatized by what had just happened to their family.

Their mom was offered a job in real estate from a friend in Miami. When she arrived, she discovered her friend was actually involved in a prostitution and identity theft ring. Once she realized what was going on, she locked herself in the bathroom and called for the police to get her and the kids out of the house. All three kids were about to be trafficked. The police arrived, escorted them out and the family began the trip back home to Missouri.

On the way home she was pulled over and arrested because she had not paid a speeding ticket in Georgia several years ago. The mom went to jail and the kids went into DCF care in Osceola County.  The facilities in Osceola were overextended, so DCF called Safe Families for help and the kids landed at Camp Titus. The children snacked on Bagel Bites and ice cream, watched movies, and then played at the playground until their grandma arrived from Missouri to take them home.

The mom was going to have to stay in jail for several weeks and be transferred to Georgia, but my husband Gary and I wanted to help her get back to her kids. Gary was able to get the judge to lift the order so the mom could be released. A few hours later she was out of jail – and in a bit of shock over what had happened. The mom spent two nights with us before she flew back to Missouri.

They were three beautiful and sweet kids and one unsuspecting mom just looking for a better job. Safe Families was able to step in and give them a helping hand. The family is now doing quite well.

If you are involved in Safe Families in some capacity, THANK YOU! We really are changing the world one kid at a time. If you are interested in getting involved, please call Kyraneshia Coleman at 407-877-4006.