Judge Ellis welcomed 23 new volunteer Guardians ad Litem into the 4th District Court Appoint Special Advocates (CASA) Program this month. We admit, they had us teary-eyed. The strengthen and selflessness of these brave volunteers is overwhelming. We were fortunate to be visited by media, KIVI-Channel 6 On Your Side as well as KTVB-Channel 7, were both present to document this momentous occasion. Please view the video below and encourage your social network to join the Family Advocates' family as a volunteer and supporter of children in need. Our website (www.strongandsafe.org) has more information on attending an upcoming volunteer orientation or story tour.
For the past several years, Family Advocates has been the fortunate recipient of the Back to School Drive through Scripps Media and Albertsons. I know what you're thinking, "Aren't these the two businesses that support Family Advocates through the Community Baby Shower?" The answer is YES. To borrow a phrase from one of our Guardians ad Litem, Sue Walch, how cool is that?!
Last year, we were surprised by the team at Albertsons with cart-loads of school supplies as well as a $1,000 check to promote school readiness for our kiddos. The impact was phenomenal. We were able to fill 201 backpacks of all grades for children involved with our programs. We held shopping days where families could stop by and fill a backpack full of essential school items and where volunteers helped the kids pick out the coolest items for their ages. This year, we will be hosting another round of school shopping days and are seeking volunteers to help our kiddos shop the first week in August. If you, your family, and your friends are interested in helping one of those days, please contact us and we'll fill you in on the details.
For more information on last year's event, check out http://www.albertsons.com/schoolsupply/ and stay tuned for details on how many backpacks we are able to fill this year!
In the nonprofit sector, we have a term to sum up the items we receive and pass through to our program participants. We use the same term for the long hours our trained volunteers dedicate to the well-being of our children and parents. When the term is defined by the IRS, it leaves out so much that our programs reap the benefit of. The term "in-kind" is exactly that. The kindness of others given freely to the people left vulnerable and in need of resources. In-kind is a beautiful word in our world. Check out this ADORABLE interview with one of our children, James--a beneficiary of your in-kind.
Did you know that last fiscal year our organization had over half of our budget provided in-kind? That number will only be increasing this year due to people like you. The passionate folks that volunteer, the community members that give diapers and wipes during our Community Baby Shower (June 21st this year!), and the people that give us the financial support that sustains our professional staff. The word in-kind is just that. Your kindness is the only reason why we are able to work with children and families in Idaho.
Some days are tough around the office. The team works hard to help strengthen families and keep kids safe but there are some wicked stories that our volunteers share with us. And some days you get a bright spot—a massive, blinding, amazing light of thanks. A courageous participant in our BabySteps program recently wrote this letter of thanks. I hope it moves you as much as it moved me.
Our volunteers offer support in all four of the Family Advocates programs; BabySteps, Parent Support Groups, Youth Enhancement Program, and, of course, CASA. All programs are desperately seeking volunteers and the children and parents we serve need your help. Who knows the good work we do better than you? You, our donor, volunteer, and community supporter, are poised to help the children who go unserved in CASA and YEP. You know the parents that need education and guidance from amazing volunteers in BabySteps and the Parent Support Groups. HELP!
It is devastating that we have to withdraw from 30% of the cases we are appointed to in CASA. Nothing is more frustrating than have 150 children show up to groups without the adequate people-power to offer them activities that their minds crave.
Our volunteer goals in 2017 are;
- 73 more Guardians ad Litem able to take 1 or more cases per year (about 10-15 hours per month)
- 20 volunteers in our youth programs (about 3 hours per week)
- 4 Parent Group Facilitators and 4 Parent Group Leads (about 2 hours per week)
Do you have a group we can speak to regarding this need? Bunco, Bible Study, Wine Club, Book Club, Lions, Rotary—we need to reach out to the community and tell them how one positive adult can alter the course of a child or family. Do you know a friend or family member that would be a good volunteer? Have them attend one of our volunteer orientations. And, to our current volunteers who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, and personal finances into these jobs….THANK YOU!
Change, new ideas, and artists don't always have to be scary. At least, that is my new mantra. Let's get one thing clear, I am not an artist. I cannot produce a visual representation of an idea and have never taken a marketing class. Thank goodness for professionals. Luckily, through DaviesMoore, the team at Family Advocates is learning about thinking outside the box. Personally, my brain is being stretched in new directions, and it is all due to an amazing group of artists that formed the True Story Project.
The DaviesMoore team somehow convinced (bribed?) the talented True Story Project to provide a spoken word piece showcasing the children in our CASA program. As you know, sharing the stories of our mission is crucial to getting the volunteers and financial support that make all of our programs possible. Our most difficult story to tell is the children's perspective on the abuse, neglect, and abandonment that they endure. Hundreds of children in our CASA program experience unimaginable situations and Family Advocates attempts, using data and general stories, to expose this problem to the community. Let's just say…True Story Project does it MUCH better.
This year, at our annual luncheon, the True Story Project will share a story through a child's lens. An emotional plea for the normalization of abuse, the harsh reality of living away from your biological relatives, and the fear of the unknown future. We couldn't be more impressed with the sensitivity, creativity, and truth that they bring to our children's lives. While seats are almost filled, you can contact Lindsay@strongandsafe.org to see this once-in-a-lifetime story. Plus, if you feel inspired to give while you're there, you know that it will be invested in protecting children and preventing them from ever experiencing abuse in the first place—the Family Advocates' mission.
Even though the weather is growing warmer, sunnier, and increasing everyone's happy dispositions, I have found myself mulling over the cold, hard facts of the child protection system in our state. A few weeks ago, the Office of Performance Evaluation (OPE) presented on their investigation into the child welfare system in Idaho. They uncovered some new information but the simple bottom line is: the system needs improvement. We couldn't agree more, and we include ourselves in that evaluation.
The report offers input from the courts, foster parents, Guardians ad Litem, and the Department of Health and Welfare. The outlook is not great. As we see an increase in kids involved in the child protection system, we also see a decrease in the number of available foster homes (8% decrease between 2014-2017), as well as the continued struggle to find volunteer Guardians for each case. While the report did not go into the CASA program in-depth, it did highlight one area that I found interesting. Of the individuals surveyed by OPE, 77% of Guardians ad Litem said that CASA is an effective source of accountability to the court with 41% of foster parents and 26% of case workers agreeing with that statement.
Those percentages don't worry me. Our Guardians are in court to represent the best interests of children; not the best interests of the biological parents, the foster parents, or the Department of Health and Welfare. Our amazing volunteers work in professional collaboration with each of these groups and value the input of each party to the case, but we are there to present information on behalf of the children.
A few of the recommendations from OPE include; 1) establish a legislative working group to monitor and evaluate the child welfare system, 2) the Department of Health and Welfare should bring in a consultant to assess the organization's culture and address gaps between expectations and practice, and 3) create a comprehensive plan to increase the number of foster homes through recruitment and retention. As a side note, the evaluators also recommended an independent investigation into the CASA programs around the state. Our team here welcomes any audit, investigation, or evaluation that makes us a more effective and efficient program to serve children and families.
In the meantime, we will continue to help children find a healthy home by recruiting 120 more volunteer Guardians for our CASA program or sending folks to PRIDE training to learn how to become a foster home.
If you would like to read the entire OPE report, all 154 pages can be found through this link: https://legislature.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/OPE/Reports/r1701.pdf.
This month brings visions of hearts, sweethearts, secret valentines and roses. While the team at Family Advocates wishes you, and your loved ones, a warm and loving month, we are faced with the harsh reality of the journey of our children and families.
Did you know that the majority of our families, and all of our kids in CASA, have an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score of over 7? What does that mean? It means these folks have faced trauma like physical, emotional, sexual and mental abuse. It means that these brave individuals may adopt risky health behaviors, be susceptible to disease and disability, and may even experience an early death due to the unavoidable trauma in their early lives. (Find out more about ACEs here)
What does ACEs have to with cupid?! For many of the people in our community who have been exposed to violence in their childhood, it means that relationships may look differently. It means that they may have social and emotional barriers to address before a bond can be formed. It means that they may never have seen what a positive adult relationship looked like. That is where each of our programs comes into play. Our CASA program provides a volunteer Guardian ad Litem to advocate on behalf of the children they represent. Our family strengthening programs provide safe, healthy, and nurturing spaces for parents and children to heal. Our mission is to see families and children build or find a loving home.
This month, we ask that you think of your loved ones. That you buy them that bouquet. That you shower your family with affection. Make these loving gestures in solidarity for the individuals who haven't had the opportunity to feel this unadulterated love. And, of course, help us continue to support them on their journey to feeling loved.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BOISE, ID—Family Advocates has been named the winner of the 2017 In Cahoots partnership program by DaviesMoore. In Cahoots is the Boise ad agency's premier charitable program, offering pro bono marketing services to local nonprofit organizations. Through the partnership, we hope to boost volunteer recruitment so we can expand our efforts to enrich the lives of children who have been victims of abuse or neglect.
"We have some specific goals to reach, and we know DaviesMoore has the creative talent and business acumen to help us get there," Jaime Hansen, the Executive Director for Family Advocates, said. "This partnership will allow our 39-year-old organization to help protect more children, strengthen more families, and literally change thousands of lives for the better."
Hansen said the main goal is to improve the organization's brand recognition so it can recruit up to 160 additional volunteers across its four programs. Family Advocates currently manages the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Youth Enhancement Program (YEP!), Parents Anonymous, and BabySteps.
"Family Advocates has been strengthening families and positively impacting the lives of children in Idaho for decades," Edward Moore, founding partner and CEO of DaviesMoore, said. "This is truly a partnership because we're helping them make the community in which we work and live, a better place to work and live."
About Family Advocates
Family Advocates is a private, independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency founded in 1978 by two foster parents who saw the need for advocacy for children. Our mission is to help end child abuse in Idaho. We serve 10 counties across Idaho and help nearly 1,000 children and families per year.
DaviesMoore is Idaho's most established and storied ad agency, and one of the oldest agencies in the Northwest. From public utilities and government agencies to automobile dealers and software companies, there's virtually no industry that hasn't been tapped by our creativity and marketing know-how.
Contact: Jaime Hansen, Family Advocates Executive Director: (208) 345-3344
The team has been busy collecting donations like toiletries, coats, socks, and school supplies for the children in our care. This month our office has been overflowing with cuddly, warm (homemade!) blankets and the ‘every-child-has-to-have-them’ toothbrush. When I write ‘overflowing,’ I mean it. Boxes and boxes have come in from Treasure Valley businesses and families—for days on end. I have been astonished with the volume. This year, every child was sponsored and we have hundreds of backpacks filling our construction-zone room. It is a beautiful sight. Volunteers will play Santa and help each child that has experienced the trauma of abuse, neglect and abandonment this year have a warmer and brighter future.
This is one glimpse in to our year-round efforts to help families right in our community. Frankly, the Family Advocates’ team need this time of year as much as the children do. Imagine being a part of the most horrific stories day in, day out. Of course you can imagine it, you are a supporter of Family Advocates for this very reason! Every day the staff help families gain access to stable housing, encourage parents to stay clean, and assist volunteers in representing a child’s future in the courtroom. For our volunteers and staff, this time of year is an opportunity to give a material representation that everything will be ok. That the child is loved. That the community is here to support them.
Isn’t that what this time of year is for?