Children's Voice May/June 2006

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Eye on CWLA

New Peer Mentor Program Connects Current and Former Youth in Foster Care

Every youth in foster care is affected by the loss of relationships and connections, which are essential in promoting a young person's health and positive development. Unfortunately, lack of supports and social networks place young people in foster care at a further disadvantage than their peers.

Foster care alumni and youth preparing to transition out of foster care understand the need for healthy connections and significant role models while growing up in the system. Only they can truly understand the experience of being removed from their birthparents and siblings, living in multiple placements, and the constant feelings of isolation, instability, and loss.

For this reason, CWLA, in collaboration with FosterClub, a national support network for foster youth, seeks to increase healthy connections and create social support networks for young people in foster care through Fostering Healthy Connections Through Peer Mentoring. With support from the New York Life Foundation, a workgroup of former foster youth and mentoring professionals will guide the development of curricula and training materials for a peer-to-peer mentor program. The program will train former foster youth to be mentors to children currently in the foster care system.

Few, if any, peer mentor programs match former youth in care with children currently in the system, according to CWLA Director of Family Foster Care Services Millicent Williams. An online survey of youth in foster care, conducted by CWLA and FosterClub last year, indicated such a program is highly desired, however.

To ensure the voice of current and former foster youth is included, CWLA's National Foster Youth Advisory Council (NFYAC) has become actively involved in providing guidance for the project. In October 2005, NFYAC created a position statement on peer mentoring and compiled recommendations for ensuring healthy peer connections for youth in care.

The peer mentoring training will require both mentees and mentors to participate in structured training sessions focused on the steps necessary to develop healthy, successful mentoring relationships. Orientation sessions will engage caregivers and child welfare workers in the program. CWLA will choose a member agency to pilot the program.

Learn more about Fostering Healthy Connections, and about NFYAC.

CWLA Releases Revised Edition of Popular Teen Pregnancy Book

CWLA Press recently published a revised edition of Facing Teenage Pregnancy, by Patricia Roles. Historically one of CWLA's strongest sellers, the book is written expressly to help adolescents make their own decisions about their pregnancies.

Using a supportive, nondirective approach, Facing Teenage Pregnancy does not advocate any particular solution to the dilemma of teenage pregnancy. It does, however, offer various alternatives as it guides teens through considering each available option.

Updates to the book include completely revised sections about birth control and abortion procedures. Roles also added a list of website resources.

Though written primarily for the pregnant teen and the significant people in her life, Facing Teenage Pregnancy is also useful for the adopted teenager who is troubled by thoughts about being adopted. To order, visit our webstore, or call toll-free 800/407-6273.

CWLA's 2006 National Conference Awards

At its 2006 National Conference, February 27-March 1, CWLA presented its annual awards recognizing the contributions and accomplishments of corporations, lawmakers, advocates, and children and youth who are working to secure a brighter future for children and families nationwide. Following are the recipients of CWLA's 2006 National Conference Awards.

Champions for Children

Xavier Cortada, Miami, Florida, who created the Protect America's Children National Message Mural to commemorate Children's Memorial Flag Day and raise awareness of the children who are victims of violence.

Ruth W. Massinga, Former President and CEO, Casey Family Programs, for her more than 30 years championing the needs of children and families.

The Prudential Foundation, one of CWLA's oldest and most dedicated supporters, for its partnership with CWLA to create and distribute a parenting education curriculum, the Prudential Positive Parenting Program, at no cost to more than 25,000 child care, Head Start, and other early childhood programs, and train more than 2,000 parent educators; its support for CWLA's Creating Parenting-Rich Communities initiative; and its support of CWLA's work on behalf of children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

Champions for Children--Rural Child Welfare

Sharon Ringler, Vice President, Marketing and Development, Saint Francis Academy, Salina, Kansas.

Kathleen Belanger, Stephen F. Austin University, Nacogdoches, Texas.

(Both were honored for their work on CWLA's Rural Task Force.)

Congressional Advocate for Children

Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), for his leadership in the fight to preserve Medicaid during the tumultuous 2005 budget battle, and his courage in voting against the legislation, putting aside politics, and placing the needs of children and families first.

Corporate Advocate of the Year

UniSource Energy Corporation, Tucson, Arizona. According to the Arizona Children's Association, which nominated UniSource for this award, the corporation has a track record for supporting the work of charitable organizations that serve the most vulnerable children, youth, and families. UniSource's corporate policies and practices exemplify its commitment to the betterment of the communities in which it does business. Partnering with an average of 450 nonprofit organizations annually, and providing scholarships for any full-time nonprofit employee in Pima County, Arizona, are just two of the ways UniSource lives up to its corporate motto, "We are there when you need us."

Corporate Friend of Children

Bright House Networks, Brandon, Florida. Nominated by Hillsborough County Department of Children's Services, Bright House Networks partners with community organizations and education programs to support opportunities for children, youth, and families. Among its many efforts, Bright House sponsors local Boys and Girls Club programs, provides free cable connections to local schools, supports workshops for teacher inservice training, and encourages it employees to be active participants in Head Start.

Jordan's Furniture, Avon, Massachusetts. Known throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire for its quirky television advertisements and innovative business tactics, Jordan's Furniture has enjoyed a partnership with the Massachusetts Adoption Resources Exchange (MARE) and the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) since 1998, making it a corporate mission to help children in foster care in Massachusetts find loving, permanent adoptive homes. Jordan's in-kind donations to MARE include sponsoring adoption television specials and hosting adoption parties and appreciate events for social workers. The company is also assisting DSS with recruitment of new foster families.

Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism in Behalf of Children and Families

Barbara White Stack, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for her series "In Harm's Way," on children abused in some state-licensed group home facilities.

Christine Devine, Anchor, Fox 11-KTTV, Los Angeles, California, for her weekly adoption program, Wednesday's Child.

Kids-to-Kids National Service Awards

Melanie Barr, Beverly, Massachusetts. Melanie's mission is to change the stereotypes of children and youth in the foster care system. She is committed to voicing the need for permanent life-long connections for youth in care. Melanie is an active member of the Adolescent Outreach Youth Advisory Board and presents on the importance of permanency for youth in foster care. She also has participated in television commercials, radio announcements, and billboards in an effort to recruit foster homes for older youth in care.

Baleigh Payne, Duanesburg, New York. At age 6, Baleigh joined her father in donating holiday food and gifts to poverty-stricken families in upstate New York. She was so moved by the poverty and plight of the children and families receiving her modest gifts, she began working with her father and brother to create a grassroots volunteer program, Helping Our Neighbors Is as Easy as Pie, an effort of more than 100 volunteers a year that has provided more than 1,000 pies to children and families during the holidays.

Julia Kraus, Wichita, Kansas. Julia has been a foster sibling to more than 280 children, most under the age of 5, opening her home and heart to provide them care, kindness, and role-modeling. She actively speaks to potential foster families about how their new role may affect their biological children. Her essay, "The Question," a compelling picture of life within a foster care host family was featured in Newsweek, and her story has also appeared in Girls Life Magazine.

Elizabeth Metzger, Albany, New York. In 2001, Elizabeth created Lost and Found For You, which has provided more than 7,000 pounds of clean, gently used clothing, shoes, and household goods to thousands of children and families throughout upstate New York. Elizabeth and her brother collect and donate lost-and-found items from public venues all over the capital region of New York.

Opportunities

November 13-15
Finding Better Ways
Best Practice in Working with Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth
Gaylord Opryland Hotel
Nashville, Tennessee

Dates and locations subject to change. For more information on the CWLA calendar, including conference registration, hotels, programs, and contacts, Visit CWLA's website, or contact CWLA's conference registrar at register@cwla.org or 202/942-0286.


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