Off to the Races!

When Russell Smith of Lake Villa, Illinois donated two bikes to the OHU CARE Residential program, Howard Schnitzer, OHU Board member, saw this as a fundraising opportunity. These were not your ordinary bikes…one was an Orange County Chopper Stingray Chopper and the other was a Phat Chopper!

Howard challenged Mark McHugh, OHU Northern Region Executive Director, to a race. Each of the men solicited sponsors to support the race. On Tuesday, May 27, 2014, the race took place in the pouring rain. Although a close race, Howard (shown in the photo below) won. This bike race raised $480 to benefit the CARE program.

$800 in Pennies? Way to Go Aurora Child Development Center!

The children and families at the OHU Aurora Child Development Center embraced the GO BLUE 4 OHU campaign wholeheartedly. Along with bake sales and raffles, the classrooms engaged in Penny Wars. Each classroom collected spare change throughout the month of April, each room striving to collect the most money. The winning classroom was the Kindergarten Classroom pictured above.

All together, the Aurora CDC raised $800 to support the child abuse prevention programs at One Hope United. Never underestimate the fundraising capabilities of young children!

“Mixed Up” No More

Sally*, a seven year old living with a foster family, works with the System of Care program in southern Illinois. The System of Care (SOC) program provides Sally and her family with extra skills and supports needed to address Sally’s behavior problems. As happens with children in foster care, Sally experienced heightened anxiety when preparing for a visit with her biological mom and siblings. Sally also experienced anxieties in the classroom, explaining that her head often felt “mixed up” at school.

During an in-home meeting after a particularly challenging day at school, the SOC worker tried to talk with Sally about her difficulties at school. When Sally refused to discuss her day at school, the SOC worker took a different approach. Gathering construction paper, crayons, and markers from her mobile supply closet (the trunk of her car) the SOC worked asked Sally to draw pictures of her day. The SOC worker suggested different types of pictures like one of her family and one of her friends at school. After several different pictures, Sally drew a picture of a classroom friend who asks many questions. Sally described how the constant questions annoyed her and made it difficult to concentrate.

Seizing on this bit of information, the SOC worker asked Sally to draw a picture of what happens in her head when she can’t concentrate. This time, Sally’s picture revealed that rather than concentrating on her math homework, Sally’s head was filled with concern about her biological mother and trying to figure out ways that she could take care of her mother. With a better understanding of Sally’s concern for her mother, the foster family and the SOC worker were able to develop ways to help Sally address her anxieties.

Shortly after the drawing session, another piece of the puzzle for Sally fell into place. During a visit to the eye doctor, it was determined that Sally’s eyes do not naturally cross the “center line of sight.”Sally’s right eye could only see on the right side and her left eye could only see on the left. The doctor prescribed vision therapy to help train her eyes and brain to create the “natural crossing” action.

After several months of vision therapy and addressing Sally’s concerns about her biological mother, her school work and behavior are improving. Through the SOC program and her foster family’s support, Sally now has the tools she needs to better address the distractions inside and outside of her head.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family.

Foster Grandparent Program Celebrates Grandpa Jack!

Jack Sunderlik is a retired high school teacher and coach of forty years. Jack has been a proud member of the One Hope United Foster Grandparent Program since 2010.

Jack is known as “Grandpa Jack” by all the students and teachers that he helps each day. As soon as people meet Jack, they are instantly impressed by his passion and heart for helping children. Through his work in the Foster Grandparent Program Jack has received wonderful community recognition for all the good that he does and even though he is the last one to ask for any special recognition, we, as a program are eager to express our admiration and appreciation for the great work he does in the Foster Grandparent Program each day.

In 2012, he was awarded the Distinguished Volunteer Award at the Springfield “Good as Gold” ceremony by the Junior League of Springfield and University of Illinois at Springfield. He was also awarded the Senior Hero of the Year by the American Red Cross. In July of 2012, Jack received a letter from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, for his service and commitment to the Springfield community. For two years, Jack served the Dubois Elementary School as a Foster Grandparent and was known to all of the children as “Grandpa Jack.” Jack transferred to the McClernand Elementary School for the 2013/2014 school year and now works with special needs children in their classrooms at this school. Everywhere he goes, he is loved by the students and teachers.

Our most recent recognition of Jack’s great service was that he was chosen as one of the recipients to be honored with the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. He accepted the award at a ceremony in Springfield at the Governor’s Mansion in April. We are so proud to have Grandpa Jack in the One Hope United Foster Grandparent Program and we know he will continue to be a positive mentor for the children who need it the most!

Collinsville Staff: Raising Awareness

The Collinsville Staff at One Hope United, celebrated GO BLUE month in all programs by raising awareness in the community. Workers in the Family Support Program, Visitation Program, Intact Services, System of Care, Functional Family Therapy, and Multisystemic Therapy all shared knowledge throughout the month with those they came in contact with to acknowledge Child Abuse Prevention Month. This awareness was made by sharing knowledge during community interactions and supporting the cause by wearing t-shirts designed by supervisor, Brionne Rhodes for all staff. These shirts help spread the word of child abuse month and allow the workers to support the cause while the carried out their daily work working with our families in their homes.

Staff all met together on 4/29/14 to share in the support of child abuse prevention month.  Way to go!

From L-R: Corinne Fish (SOC) Tammy Wick (VS), Brionne Rhodes (Supervisor), Brigette Spellbring (Intact), Rebecca Chavez (Intact), Cherrel Beck (FSS), Amy Sanders(Intact), Kristen Kinnear (SOC), Tina Reed (VS), Michelle Rommerskirchen (FSS), Kara Lowry (FFT), and Jayne Wetzel (FSS)

OHU is Poised to Revolutionize Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice in Illinois!

We’re thrilled to share with you some very exciting news! As Mark McHugh – Executive Director of our Northern Region (pictured at left) – mentioned in his comments at our Blue Ribbon Event on Sunday, April 13th, OHU was selected to implement a state-wide initiative designed to revolutionize human services in Illinois.

Governor Pat Quinn has announced that the state’s first “Pay for Success” project (also termed Social Impact Bonds), will fund the expansion of proven programs that serve youth involved in Illinois’ child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The press release below provides more details on this public-private partnership, which is one of only four partnerships of its kind in the nation currently being implemented.

This project acknowledges One Hope United’s 119-year history of providing a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based support programs to vulnerable, high-risk populations while providing us the support we need to create innovative, best-in-class solutions for families and children in Illinois. Approximately 800 youth will be served over the seven years of the project.

This initiative places OHU among a select group of organizations across the country who are embarking on exciting new models of collaboration with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, but we couldn’t do what we do without the support of individuals like you. We thank you so much for all that you do on behalf of One Hope United and are looking forward to sharing with you the impact this initiative will have for Illinois’ most disadvantaged children and families, and for all of those we serve across the country.

Click here to read the full press release!

11th Annual Blue Ribbon Event a Huge Success!

On April 13, 2014 One Hope United – Northern Region held its 11th Annual Blue Ribbon Event to Prevent Child Abuse at the Lehmann Mansion in Lake Villa, IL. And what an amazing day it was!

Over 200 people attended the event, raising nearly $90,000 to benefit OHU’s child abuse prevention programs. The highlight of the event was Keynote Speaker, Steve Pemberton, Chief Diversity Officer and Regional VP at Walgreens, who enraptured the audience with his personal account of being in the foster care system and the wonderful people in his life who helped him along his journey.

Also in attendance were six boys from the CARE Residential program who assisted with the raffles. They thoroughly enjoyed the day and responded positively to Steve Pemberton’s inspirational remarks, which told a story not unlike their own.

In addition to the popular raffle items, the day featured a live auction. One of the items to receive the highest bid was a Garden Party with food and champagne to be served at the winner’s home for 20 people, generously donated by Mike and Mary Smith, Cindy Lusignan and Nancy Miller. The guest servers at this Garden Party will OHU Board Member Howard Schnitzer and nine-year-old Abby Bergl, whose tireless fundraising efforts for OHU over the years and have raised close to $30,000! Howard’s apron read “Abby’s Assistant” and Abby’s apron read “Howard’s Boss.” This Garden Party sold for $2500!

Thank you again to all who attended this day filled with hope and inspiration, laughter and a few tears, old acquaintances and new friends. Please take a few moments to peruse our online photo album. We’ll see you in 2015!

GO BLUE Community Spotlight: Blue Ribbon Walk

One Hope United – Hudelson Region partnered with local agencies in Mount Vernon, IL to sponsor a Blue Ribbon Walk to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention month on Thursday, April 3, 2014.

Despite the threat of rain showers, over 100 community members and 12 OHU employees took part in this important event.  Also in attendance were OHU Foster Grandparents, who enjoyed being able to show their support for children in Jefferson County.

“This walk is a great way for us to kickoff Blue Ribbon month at OHU and in Mount Vernon.  There are so many children in Jefferson County dealing with abuse and neglect and because of events like this walk, we are able to bring awareness to this important issue. We are looking forward to all of the other great activities we have planned for Child Abuse Prevention month.” said Jayme Godoyo,  OHU Fund Development Officer.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support our GO BLUE campaign and join with OHU as we work together to strengthen families and communities.
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Putting Feelings Into Words

Steven*  is a 16 year old involved in Comprehensive Counseling services through OHU Charleston.  When he started counseling he was a shy young man who struggled with talking about his feelings related to his family’s dysfunction.  Steven’s mother was already receiving counseling services through One Hope United and he observed her depressive symptoms improving.  Witnessing first hand her relief from depression, and having her spend more time with him, encouraged Steven to ask his DCFS case manager to refer him for counseling services too.

When he began meeting with his counselor he knew he wanted to feel better about himself and his family’s situation but it was hard to put his thoughts and feelings into words.  Steven kept in mind if it worked for mom, it can work for me. He quickly engaged and was able to share that as the oldest sibling in the family, he felt responsible and guilty for not protecting his younger brother from harm which led to DCFS being involved with his family.  His counselor helped him process his feelings and challenge his thought distortions.

Through this process he became more verbal and outgoing in session and quickly made progress to achieve his goals he set forth for counseling.  The counselor noted as he opened up in sessions, he was reporting an emergence of being more outgoing at school and in other settings.  As the counselor was finalizing discharge planning with him, he shared a conversation he had with a group of peers at school about a book series he was reading.  He had an a-ha moment in session and stated with excitement, “I’m really more like the other kids now than I am different.”  Through counseling, Steven was able to resolve his feelings about himself in relation to his family, but also experienced personal growth and insight as a maturing young man.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family.  Photo above is a stock image.

Mary’s Story of Hope

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Mary was born in late 2005 with multiple congenital abnormalities. She entered foster care in early 2006 due to medical neglect. Mary had been born to a very young mother who had just moved to the United States from a foreign country and did not speak English. Mary’s birth father had remained in the original country. The birth mother was offered services to assist her with Mary’s needs. These services included transportation to and from medical appointments, as well as interpretation during the appointments. Mary’s birth mother failed to take advantage of the services and seemed to lack an emotional attachment to Mary.

One Hope United continued to assist the birth mother with a goal of reunification; however, she eventually surrendered her parental rights of Mary. Additionally, the birth father’s rights were terminated as he had not shown enough involvement in the case and had basically abandoned the child. After these proceedings, Mary became legally free for adoption, yet Mary remained in medical foster care while adoption recruitment efforts were made.

Due to her medical conditions, Mary required many medications and an array of specialist visits and various therapies. Mary had been diagnosed with several serious conditions, including microcephaly, hydrocephaly, seizure disorder, developmental delay, and Arthrogryposis Multiplex. Some of these conditions affected her mobility as well as her development and general level of comfort.

Due to her many complex medical needs, Mary’s chance of finding an adoptive family available that would be able to meet the requirements of caring for her was slim. She required 24 hour care, with suctioning of her secretions required every four hours.

One Hope United continued to look for families and collaborated with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, an adoption recruitment service funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Mary remained in medical foster care for about three years, but then her forever family was found! Mary was fortunate to find an extraordinary mother, Ms. Chaney R, and become her very first child! Mary was placed into the adoptive home with Chaney on December 21, 2009, and then adopted on April 7, 2010. Mary still lives with Chaney and has now made tremendous gains and is a happy eight-year old.

We’re also thrilled to share that on March 20, 2014, Mary became a big sister! Chaney had another little girl placed with her and her adoption is expected to finalize soon, likely in June 2014. This child has many of the same medical conditions of Mary. In fact, she is an “AMC’er” like Mary (a nickname given to children with Arthrogryposis Multiplex). She was not expected to live for more than three years, however has been a fighter who has beat the odds. She just turned four in April and she, Mary, and Chaney celebrated together! Stay tuned for more updates following her adoption as well!

On April 10, 2014, a follow up interview regarding the adoption of Mary, as well as her progress, was conducted with Chaney. Please see Chaney’s responses below in order to learn more about this inspirational story from her perspective…

OHU: What made you think about adopting?
Chaney: I have always known I would adopt my children. My youngest sister was adopted and I cherished her dearly. She and I were very close even though we were seven years apart in age. I loved taking care of her, singing to her, playing with her and talking with her. Her name was Jasmine and when she died from a sudden kidney infection, part of her spirit stayed in me.

OHU: What made you want to adopt a medically fragile child?
Chaney: My sister, Jasmine, was a medically fragile child and being around the equipment (tracheostomy tubes, g-tubes, suction machines, oxygen, etc) was my normal childhood. I grew up with therapists and nurses coming into the house. It was not abnormal for me to learn how to give a G-tube feeding when I was old enough. My mother organized the neighborhood teenagers to learn how to do CPR not only on mouths, but on trachs. We included Jasmine in on our daily lives and my desire to have my own children who could ‘take after Aunt Jasmine’ grew stronger as I got older.

OHU: How did you find out about Mary?
Chaney: Once my home study was finished and I completed all requirements and classes in 2009, I put my profile on the Adopt Us Kids website. Only a few months later, Mary’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids worker saw my profile detailing my past with my sister, Jasmine. She immediately contacted me and told me a few details about Mary. Mary has Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, a trach, G-tube and scoliosis. I was hesitant because I specifically did not want a child with a trach. Finding childcare for a child with a trach is challenging. But once I saw Mary’s picture, I immediately knew she was my daughter. I changed my thinking and started getting prepared. Three months later, on December 21, 2009, Mary (age 4) came home! The adoption was finalized on April 7, 2010. Mary is currently eight years old.

OHU: What gains has Mary made since in your care?
Chaney: Since Mary came home, she has learned how to use a DynaVox V for communication! This is a computer device that has voice output. Mary is able to tell me what she wants or needs and make choices via this device. Mary has also started walking in the pool. She is in second grade and is home schooled, which she really loves! Mary is a Brownie Girl Scout, rides horses, attends art class, loves going to camp every summer, and is in a bowling league. She is also an active member at her church.