Children's Voice Nov/Dec 2007

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Eye on CWLA

Detroit Tigers Ballplayer Helps CWLA Hit a Homerun for Kids



Dozens of children from four Michigan member agencies were treated to a day at the Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park, and thousands of baseball fans learned more about CWLA and the needs of foster youth, during a CWLA-sponsored event June 26.

CWLA worked in partnership with Detroit Tigers catcher Vance Wilson and his charity organization, the Wilsons3 Foundation, to organize Foster Youth Recognition Night at the ballpark. Nearly 300 children and staff from Detroit-area member agencies The Children's Center, Methodist Children's Home Society, Lula Belle Stewart, and Spaulding for Children attended the Detroit Tigers-Texas Rangers game thanks to tickets donated by the Detroit Tigers Foundation.

Wilson invited many of the children and families down to the ball field before the game, where they chatted and took pictures with Tigers players who autographed their T-shirts displaying Wilson's name and jersey number, along with the names of CWLA, the Wilsons3 Foundation, and the Detroit Tigers Foundation.

"They were in awe, no question, which puts a smile on our face," Wilson said of the foster and adopted children who attended. "You could just tell it was such a different perspective in their lives to be able to come down on a major league baseball field and be with a couple of players who are in uniform. Most kids in a normal situation don't usually get that experience."

In addition to the ball game, volunteers manned a booth on the ballpark concourse to educate and promote the work of the day's sponsors. Wilson and his wife Bridget also conducted pregame radio and television interviews to raise awareness about the needs of children in foster care.

Vance and Bridget Wilson and their 7-year-old daughter Peyton recently established the Wilsons3 Foundation to focus their attention on enriching children's lives, with special attention to children who have been abused and neglected. Foster Youth Recognition Night was the foundation's first event. In addition to partnering with CWLA to make the event happen, the Wilsons3 Foundation donated $2,500 to the League, putting them in CWLA's Children's Champion Circle for donated dollars.

Lights, Camera, Action: Video Addresses Children's Mental Health

CWLA members and others now have a new tool to help resource parents--including foster parents and kinship providers--identify the mental health needs of the children they care for, and advocate for getting them help.

CWLA has joined with Parents' Action for Children to develop a video, For the Child, distributed free to all CWLA members this fall. In addition to providing a general overview of what resource parents might experience when a child comes into their care, the 45-minute video highlights
  • the kinds of disorders commonly affecting children in the child welfare system, such as depression, anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress syndrome, social phobia, substance abuse, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder;
  • the signs and behaviors they should looking for to seek additional help for the child;

  • how to seek help and advocate for a child; and

  • what community resources are available.
For the Child was filmed in both English and Spanish, with actor Morgan Freeman hosting the English version, and Maria Antonieta Collins, from the Telemundo television network, hosting the Spanish version. Experts and advocates featured in the film include CWLA's Director of Mental Health Julie Collins, CWLA Board Member Marilyn Benoit, and CWLA member agency staff with Casey Family Programs in Seattle and Para Los NiOos in California.

Rob and Michele Reiner started Parents' Action for Children in 1997 to help raise public awareness about children's healthy brain development. The organization is best known for its I Am Your Child instructional video series.

Copies of For the Child are available at www.parentsaction.org.

Organizations Band Together to Strengthen Services for Homeless Families

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has launched a five-year, multimilliondollar initiative to pilot and evaluate innovative programs for homeless children and their families, with plans to share the program's successes nationwide.

CWLA, the National Center on Family Homelessness, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness are providing technical assistance to the initiative's three pilot sites and evaluating their programs and services. Two of the sites--Antelope Valley Homeless Coalition, and PROTOTYPES, Centers for Innovation in Health, Mental Health, and Social Services--are located in Los Angeles. The third, Reuben Lindh Family Services, is in Minneapolis.

The goal of the initiative, Strengthening At Risk and Homeless Young Mothers and Children, is to improve integration between housing and homeless systems and child development and welfare systems. The primary components are to provide direct services to homeless children and mothers and to build capacity and training for local agencies serving homeless   families.

The target population is young, at-risk or homeless mothers, age 25 or younger, with at least one child 5 or younger. About 500 children and families annually across the three sites are expected to benefit from the initiative through strengthened housing stability and family functioning and   preservation.

"Children and young mothers who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness face circumstances and choices that most of us cannot imagine," says Hilton Foundation President and CEO Steven Hilton. "Our goal is to find workable solutions that pave the way for them to lead stable, happy, and productive lives and that can be implemented by public and private agencies."

Adults' Ability to Govern Earns A C- from Teens

Adults received a disappointing report card from the nation's youth when CWLA and Uhlich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN) of Chicago released the ninth annual UCAN Teen Report Card last summer. The grades indicate teens nationwide are concerned about government actions, the political process, and adult voting patterns. Adults' ability to run the government, in particular, earned a C-, the lowest grade in the survey.

Teens also continue to show concern about keeping schools safe from violence and crime and protecting kids from gun violence. More than 1,000 U.S. teens, ages 12-19, participated in the survey, grading parents, teachers, politicians, and other adults for how they affect their lives. The study evaluates the day-to-day performance of all adults in areas like honesty, leadership, and safety, and provides an outlet for teens to turn the tables and provide grades to the individuals who are traditionally grading them.

The UCAN Teen Report Card, including all grades and ancillary materials and a teen/adult discussion guide, is available at http://www.ucanchicago.org/site/epage/51048_682.htm.

CWLA Joins Public-Private Partnership to Promote Technology

A movement is afoot to empower caseworkers through expanded use of mobile, wireless technologies. The new Family Services Technology Council (FaSTech) has formed as a public-private partnership to identify and publish best practices for state governments and the adoption of caseworker and agency technology to protect at-risk children and families.

CWLA is serving as a member of FaSTech's executive committee, alongside Casey Family Services, CGI, CMA, Harmony, Maximus, Microsoft, Motion Computing, and Sprint. Serving on the national and state advisory board are the Boston University School of Social Work, the National Association of Social Workers, and the states of Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas.

To date, significant investment in information technology and data infrastructure has focused primarily on implementing the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information Systems (SACWIS), aimed at improving data collection and information sharing across social welfare departments and organizations. FaSTech will focus on how states can better optimize SACWIS back-office systems with the mobile workforce.

"The challenge to state governments rests on how to leverage current and prior technology investments in the data center to meet the needs of caseworkers in the field," FaSTech's organizational charter and mission states. "Best practices are necessary to guarantee caseworker needs are met and optimized for current and future SACWIS implementations."

FaSTech's creation stems from a successful partnership between the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) and Motion Computing, a mobile computing and wireless communications company in Austin. Scott Eckert, Motion Computing's CEO, is FaSTech's founding chair.

Since 2004, Motion Computing has provided nearly 5,000 tablet PCs for TDFPS's caseworkers in the field. During the first two months of their use, the 90 pilot participants reported an 11% reduction in the investigations backlog.

FaSTech held its inaugural meeting in July, during which a blueprint was drawn up containing recommendations for national technology services reform in adoption and child and family protective. Download the blueprint at www.fastechcouncil.com.

CWLA Loses Family Member

CWLA was sad to lose Senior Consultant Joe Healy, who died suddenly August 17 at the age of 59. Joe worked 15 years for CWLA, most recently coordinating intake for consultation and training requests.

"Joe's expertise in residential care, foster care, and adoption was tapped throughout his tenure at CWLA," says Floyd Alwon, CWLA's Vice President of Consultation, Research, and Professional Development. "His mastery of the League's databases for monitoring projects and staff time and expenses will always be remembered. He provided great support to membership and finance staff and anyone needing useful data."

Before joining CWLA, Joe worked as a direct care worker, supervisor, and administrator in several leading private agencies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He was also the foster father of one son.

Youth Aging Out Part of National Spotlight in Members Project

Building better supports for youth aging out of foster care received broad national attention when CWLA became one of the top 25 finalists in the American Express Members Project.

Initially, American Express received 8,000 submissions when it asked the public for "one incredible idea that will do some good for our world." After an advisory panel narrowed the field to 50 projects, American Express invited cardholders to cast their votes for the top 25 projects, then the top 5. A cast of celebrities, including film director Martin Scorsese and talk show host Ellen Degeneres, promoted the project in national television ads leading up to the final vote.

On August 7, Children's Safe Drinking Water, sponsored by UNICEF, was announced as the winning project to be funded through $2 million donated by American Express.

CWLA was among the top 25 projects chosen by cardholders, giving extensive publicity to the issue of youth aging out of care and to CWLA's proposal to include public and private sectors in the business and academic communities to create a network of mentors and programs to help children prepare for life after foster care.


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