Monthly Archives: October 2012

When teen dating turns violent

Guest post by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

That super cool guy or girl asks your teen out. They’ve had a huge crush on them for months and are head over heels in “love.” But be sure to keep communication open with your teen so you can help make sure they don’t get into a teen dating violence situation.

The most important thing to tell them is that they have a choice. They can say no to anything in the relationship and shouldn’t feel bad about getting out of a situation that makes them uncomfortable.

Here are 10 tips they should keep in mind when dating. You have the right to:

  1. Be respected and treated as an equal.
  2. Say no to someone who asks me out.
  3. Suggest activities or refuse activities.
  4. Have your own feelings and ideas and share them without worrying about how my dating partner will react.
  5. Speak up when I think my dating partner’s actions or language are unfair or hurtful.
  6. Express my opinions and be heard by my partner.
  7. Refuse physical touch with anyone, at any time, for any reason.
  8. Have friends and space aside from my dating partner.
  9. Leave the relationship.
  10. Have my privacy rights respected, including the rights to private conversations, phone calls, text messages, social networking activities, emails, etc.

Warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship may look different for everyone. It is about when a dating partner chooses to break boundaries. Those boundaries can be emotional, physical, sexual or verbal.

Here are some behaviors that can be warnings that a relationship may be abusive:

  • Calls or texts excessively
  • Makes the other ask “have I done something wrong?”
  • Uses guilt to control or manipulate
  • Isolates from friends and/or family
  • Keeps the other person from doing things they enjoy
  • Monitors the other person using technology
  • Shows up unannounced
  • Embarrasses the other person in public on purpose
  • Tells the other what to do, what to wear how to act
  • Threatens to do self harm if the person leaves the relationship
  • Shows or hints at an explosive temper

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any age. If you or someone you know may be a victim of domestic violence, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 500-1119.


Tips for a Healthy Halloween

Guest post by DCF Child Care Program Office.

This Halloween, don’t let sugar highs haunt your dreams – here are five fun easy tips to a Happy and Healthy Halloween for all this October 31:

Halloween Night:

  1. Try to eat a healthy meal before going trick or treating. This way kids have a healthy start to their night and the temptation to snack is reduced (for you and the kids!). Here is a great idea for fun, quick and healthy Halloween Quesadillas we put together with Fresh from Florida Kids. It is orange and black and has a spider web – the kids will love it!
  2. Get active! Make a game of trick or treating by setting a goal of how many houses you hope to go to and see who reaches it first. Always carry a flashlight and walk to each house instead of running.
  3. Determine how many pieces of candy you will allow your child to eat on Halloween before you head out. When you get home, be like Sesame Street’s Count Dracula and help young kids count their candy when they get home. Eat only factory- wrapped treats.
  4. Angel costumes are heavenly and ghost costumes bring a fright, but they could be dangerous on Halloween night! Long, flowy costumes are a fire and fall hazard. But also try to avoid long, sharp pretend swords – opt instead for short, flexible ones. And consider face painting instead of masks, which can make it hard to see in the dark. Also see if you can make reflective tape a part of costumes.
  5. Be careful around ghouls and goblins you don’t know. Do not accept rides from strangers and only enter houses with an adult you know.

Have a happy, safe Halloween!

“Just Ignore It” Doesn’t Work as a Solution to Bullying

Guest post by North Florida mother of a high-school girl and middle-school boy. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. 

*click image for full size* Facebook post bullying the second girl who left the clique. The monkey comments stemmed from the girl standing next to a tree in her profile photo.

At first I adored my daughter’s new friend. She was (and still is) bubbly and vivacious. She was the queen bee of a group of four 8th graders who were inseparable. They appeared to love life: having fun at school, sunbathing and shopping on the weekends, and racking up minutes via endless text chats. 

By the end of 8th grade I had figured out that she was also a bully. 

My daughter left the clique when the girls started bullying more students. Her departure only fueled the girls’ meanness. They called her “ugly” and “ginger” (slang term for persons with red hair) in front of her peers and upperclassmen. They spread rumors about her, making it very difficult for her to make new friends. They edited her out of photos on Facebook and posted mean things on her wall, which intensified as other students joined in – the kids weren’t afraid to attack her because a computer screen blocked them from actual confrontation. 

What had gone wrong and what could I do? My heart ached for my daughter. 

Eventually, another girl was “ejected” from the original four and began the same painful path my daughter had traveled. Facebook posts calling her a “monkey,” others depicting her in sexual situations and worse were met with comments and likes from other students at a fast and furious pace. Enough was enough – I took action. 

The second girl’s mother and I explained to the school principal that this was pervasive bullying, especially on social media. We were desperate for help and I will be forever thankful that he spoke to the girls and their parents. His authoritative position helped stop the bullying. 

It is always wise to be aware of your child’s social media world. Even the savviest of kids can’t take care of things on their own and it is more than okay to bring in reinforcements. 


Here are some tips from the free DCF and Ounce of Prevention Parenting Resource Guide e-book

Prevent bullying:

  • Don’t assume your child knows how to handle every social situation. Talk to your child about not teasing or hurting other children
  • Get to know all your child’s friends and friends’ parents.
  • Monitor your child’s online activity. 

Signs your child may be being bullied:

  • Torn articles of clothing or missing belongings
  • Fear of going to school or participating in organized activities
  • Anxious or depressed when returning home from school
  • Complains of illness such as stomach aches 

What to do if your child is being bullied:

  • Save all evidence of cyber bullying and report it to your website moderator, cell phone service provider, school officials or law enforcement officer.
  • Don’t blame your child for provoking the situation; this can make the child feel further victimized and may close the lines of communication.
  • Teach your child how to step away from the bullying situations instead of fighting back, which may make matters worse.

How one mother “stepped up” for her son’s education

Guest blog post by Step Up For Students, the nonprofit organization that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Step Up’s goal is to provide an equal education opportunity for low-income Florida students. To receive notifications about scholarships available for the 2013-2014 school year, sign up for alerts.


Davion Manuel-McKenney was just weeks away from starting his new life as a college student when he was flipping through a family photo album and came across an image of his mother and him from many years ago. In the photo, the toddler is perched atop his mother’s lap, and her arms are wrapped around his tiny body.  And both flash electric smiles.

The reminiscing inspired Davion to post the photograph on his Facebook page with a note to his mother: “We have come a long way. Love U Ma.”

In the beginning, the odds to attend college weren’t in his favor if only the basic facts of his life were considered. He was born to an unwed teenaged mother who at the time hadn’t completed her own education. But with the love of his mother and family, and the help of many others along the way, Davion is now a freshman at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Both mother and son said they were saddened to have Davion move about 85 miles north of his home in Ormond Beach, but it was time for him to live out what they have been working toward since his mother, Faith, was just 15.

She married Davion’s father, Nicholas McKenney, and they went on to have two more children. While the couple’s marriage didn’t last, their dedication to their children remained intact and does today. Still, for Faith, the financial struggles that often come with being a single mother were very much a challenge. When it came time for her eldest child to go to middle school, Faith didn’t like what she saw in the school he was zoned for.

Desperate not to send Davion into such an environment, she started researching alternatives – and a way to pay for them. It was her dream to put her kids in a private school. She was thrilled when Davion received a Step Up scholarship to Calvary Christian Academy, which was part of their church in Ormond Beach. The fit was perfect.

At Calvary, Davion had fewer distractions than at his previous schools and was able to focus more on academics.   He also was on the school’s track and basketball teams, took on the role of student chaplain and enjoyed spending time with the pre-school children. He graduated from high school in the spring of 2012.

Davion is now considering a career in teaching. He  points to people like his teacher Ms. Crickenberger, whom he described as having so much love and passion for her students,  his Calvary family as a whole, and the Step Up scholarship as things that have made a difference in his life. But he always goes back to his mother on the one who has truly blessed him.

When he held the photograph of his younger self and his 17-year-old mom in his hands recently, he reminisced about his life and the woman who made it the best she could. He is also proud that she now has an associate’s degree and plans to further her education as well.

Working together, keeping families safe

Guest post by Arlene Bettencourt, Hendry/Glades Manager with United Way/United Way 211 and a Kiwanis Club of LaBelle member. 

The other day we helped a young lady with disabilities who was literally fleeing from a home where she felt unsafe.  She came to the LaBelle United Way House by taxi, one of our 14 Houses in the Lee, Hendry and Glades counties area.

Our partners generously stepped up to help: The Hendry Glades Homeless Coalition put her up for a weekend, the police accompanied her home to get her belongings, Salvation Army provided her with food and United Way helped her get into low-income housing.

We helped her to see that she is self-sufficient on her income. Additionally, The Kiwanis Thrift Store provided free housing supplies and furniture as she had nothing.

Except for the police, all agencies work out of this United Way House and we were able to work together to help this individual gain independence and self respect. United Way Houses provide free space for agencies to meet with clients. The United Way House in LaBelle is a one-stop shop for residents that includes partnerships with 16 agencies.

This woman is now happy, self sufficient and enjoying life.  Her family lives in town, but she has the willpower to maintain control of her life and future.

If you or someone you know may be in need of help, please dial 2-1-1 to connect with the United Way.