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What Disney’s “Encanto” Shows About Cultural Competence in Therapy

Movies like Disney’s “Encanto” are drawing attention to the unique challenges Latino and Latina immigrants face. Therapists who spoke with CNN said many first-generation children of immigrants see themselves reflected in “Encanto,” hear their experiences in the soundtrack, and are using the film to speak out about things that otherwise might go unsaid.

We asked One Hope United therapists about the film, and the steps they take to provide culturally informed therapeutic treatment to their clients. Below, Aidee Mireles-Manna, Multi-Systemic Therapy Supervisor with One Hope United, shares her insights.

“The new Disney movie Encanto explores themes and topics that are present in many of our clients’ lives. Clients also see some of their own personality traits in the Encanto characters. For example, Mirabel is striving to keep her family whole; Isabela represents the perfectionist who feels she cannot fail; Luisa feels she must carry the weight of the family on her shoulders; Bruno is the family secret that must go unspoken; and Abuela is the matriarch who unknowingly passes down her trauma.  

The experiences these characters represent, from first-generation immigrants trying to keep their culture alive in a new country, to siblings and parents contending with a family member’s mental health problems or addiction, impact the lives of so many. As therapists, we feel we can help by serving as a bridge between Latino immigrant parents and their children. 

To help families identify triggers related to trauma, we start by helping parents learn how to use self-regulation and coping skills. We shift parents’ thoughts about what topics are “taboo.” Some adults do not want to talk about trauma, sexual abuse, or domestic violence; they may even believe they have to stay in a dangerous relationship to keep their family together. In cases like this, we educate adults about healthy relationships and self-esteem. We prepare them with safety planning and life skills, as well as the best way to approach conversations with their extended family to avoid blaming. Identifying past trauma is key to preventing future trauma. 

Another source of conflict for families is assimilating to a new country. Sometimes, parents are concerned their children will lose their identity or connection with their culture. I have also seen cases where children are embarrassed of parents’ traditions, and this is painful for parents. We want to bring peace to families, along with balance. We strive to help them build a future where parents feel comfortable adjusting to a new culture while preserving their own, and even creating new traditions unique to their own family. We also work to help family members understand what it is like in their loved one’s shoes. Children grow to understand the fears and stress their parents deal with every day, and we highlight the importance of open communication in a safe, healthy environment. 

We also help clients explore the role they play, and the emotional weight they carry, in their family. Children may believe they have to silence their needs, dreams, or goals so they will not be a burden. Immigrant parents often carry the need to “prove” it was worth it to leave their family in their home country by finding financial success in the U.S. We help each family member to identify a healthy and realistic balance. We also try to help parents understand that they do not need to be the “perfect” family or pretend everything is fine when times are tough – it is not weak to need help parenting or building a support system. 

Latino families are proud of being close to each other as one, big, happy group that celebrates birthdays and holidays together, so when families immigrate to the United States, they might feel incomplete without their extended family. Children also miss their extended family and may feel their parents “forced” them to leave their home country. In these cases, therapists focus on identifying the strengths of that specific family, and how they can use those strengths to thrive together in their new environment. 

Our efforts center around helping multi-generational families come to terms with the obstacles they face, so they can build a strong foundation for future generations.” 

Learn more about One Hope United’s Behavioral Health services.

 

 

Dually-Involved Youth Build Bright Futures at Hope House

Michael* first visited Hope House in October of 2020. Without this community home-based program, where only four teenage boys live and receive treatment at a time, he would have been forced to move to a locked down facility in Michigan. Still, Michael was skeptical about Hope House at first.

When Josie Bayona, Director of Programs at Hope House, visited Michael at the group home in which he was staying, he told her that he could not come to Hope House, because he was not interested in following their rules. Josie asked if he would come for just a visit, to have dinner together and meet the other youth. She would take him back to the group home in the morning if he wanted. 

Looking around at the three-story renovated home for the first time, Michael told Josie, “Someday, I want my kids to live in a house like this.” Dancing around, he confidently stated that he wanted to do what was right, so he could live somewhere similar when he grew up. 

Josie shared that she disagreed with previous youth care workers who thought Michael was impossible to work with. “My team is committed to making sure youth are heard, and receive opportunities, even though they are involved with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems,” she said. “We will hold them accountable for their behavior and choices, but they have the right to be heard like everyone else.

Josie went on to say, Hope House stands out among other programs because it utilizes an Enhanced Home-Based Placement Model. At Hope House, we provide intensive support with a trauma-informed approach. This is an innovative approach which allows us to make a greater impact for our youth.”

In choosing the first Hope House location, Sarah Tunning, Executive Director of Florida Programs, said she wanted to provide “a really comfortable home environment for the young men, first and foremost.” Sarah and her team got the keys to the first Hope House location in August, and since then, have painted the inside of the home a cheerful sky blue, and furnished the home with everything the boys could need. The youth at Hope House focus on independent living skills like improving academic performance, getting a part-time job, and opening a savings account. They also take trips to the beach on the weekend and go out for dinner together with house parents. 

Josie shared, “I want people to know that we’re a program within a program. Our home is not just a place where our boys eat and sleep. They participate in therapy and have access to a lot of services and support. It is not common to find a full-time therapist and nurse for a group home serving four boys, in addition to partnerships with external therapeutic agencies.” 

Josie went on to say, “It has been amazing to see the progress we have made in just one year. We are helping our community partners see that we are taking a new and innovative approach. Our funders are seeing the growth and change in our kids, and they are seeing that our model works. It is exciting to have conversations about expanding, so we can serve more kids.” 

Youth who come to Hope House may be used to getting what they want through intimidation or scare tactics. Jose said that once house parents and staff build relationships with the boys, and provide them with structure and consistency, they see the boys’ walls come down. “It might take a while for them to see it, but eventually the boys understand that we really are here for them,” Josie said. 

“The boys also trust that if I tell them something, I’m not lying to them,” Josie shared. “I promise each young man that I will do everything I can to set them up for success.” 

Liam* was placed at Hope House shortly after Michael. He experienced many obstacles, and as his drug use continued to worsen, he was hospitalized a few times. Josie helped Liam understand that in-patient drug treatment would be the right decision, but Liam feared he would be left at the drug treatment facility for months – something that had happened to him in the past. Josie promised Liam she would be there for him until his last day in treatment.  

Liam ran away to Texas for two weeks, and when he returned, Josie worked with judge to make sure he could stay at Hope House after completing treatment. “That night, when he was released to our custody with an electronic monitoring device, he told me ‘Miss Josie, I know you’re fighting for me.’ I told him that I couldn’t fight for him if he wouldn’t fight for himself,” Josie said. When she drove Liam to the treatment facility, she told him he would face more severe issues with the court if he ran again. He said, “Miss Josie, I won’t run as long as you’re there with me.” 

Six weeks later, Liam was released from the drug treatment center, and Josie was there waiting for him at discharge. He successfully completed probation and is currently attending an alternative school while living at Hope House.  

When Liam completed probation in October, he took a moment to reflect on his progress with Josie. In just one calendar year, Liam had completed drug treatment and probation, and was on the path to graduate from high school. 

Liam told Josie that he had not believed her when she told him he would soon be in a better place, but he believes it now. “He said he wants to keep in touch with me forever and wants me to meet his wife and children someday,” Josie said. “Liam’s is an amazing success story that has helped bring down the other boys’ walls. They see our commitment and they know we aren’t going anywhere.” 

*Names have been changed to protect privacy. 

 

 

Providing Hope and Healing to Survivors of Human Trafficking

January is National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is a pervasive issue that impacts millions of children, youth, and adults every yearand youth in foster or Residential care are at heightened risk. In fact, the National Foster Youth Institute recently estimated that 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims have had at least one foster care placement.  

“Human traffickers intentionally target vulnerable children and youth,” said Sarah Tunning, LMHC, CWCM, Executive Director of One Hope United’s Florida Programs. “It’s imperative that we find stable, long-term placements for foster youth, where they will have the supportive relationships they need to avoid the people who wish to harm them.” 

Read below to learn more about human trafficking, and the steps One Hope United takes to help survivors find hope and healing.

What is Human Trafficking? 

The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations. 

Children, youth, and adults are trafficked every day, right under the eyes of their friends and neighbors, in every community in America. Some signs and indicators of human trafficking may be surprising, while others are easily identifiable. 

Youth in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable to human trafficking for many reasons. After experiencing trauma or abuse, they have negative, warped perceptions of how they should be treated, or what they deserve. Traffickers may lure their victims with words of love and affirmation, and expensive gifts. When they later become physically violent or are ready to coerce their victim to provide labor or services, their victim often is emotionally and financially reliant on their trafficker and feels there is no possible way for them to get out. 

Identifying signs of human trafficking 

According to hopeforjustice.org, there are several indicators of human trafficking: 

  • Houses or flats with too many people, all picked up or dropped off at the same time 
  • People who seem scared, confused or have untreated injuries 
  • Few or no documents, or someone else in control of their documents/passport 
  • Low or no pay 
  • Limited freedom of movement and dependency on others
  • Note: Those affected are unlikely to self-identify as a ‘victim’ and may not realize or accept they are being controlled 

Preventing human trafficking

One Hope United’s Case Managers and staff take proactive measures to protect foster and Residential youth from traffickers. Staff at OHU’s Residential programs in Illinois have even collaborated with law enforcement in the past to help break up human trafficking rings. 

OHU staff shared that youth are at increased risk of being trafficked when they go on run from their foster or Residential placement. Staff members said that many young people in Residential homes are teenagers who have had very little structure for most of their lives. When they enter the child welfare system, much of their freedom and independence goes away. In this new restrictive environment, they begin to grapple with painful memories and emotions, which triggers a desire to run. OHU staff members work to help youth understand that although they have responded to difficult situations in the past in the best way they knew how, by running, that response is no longer necessary for their safety.

Melissa Y. M. Webster, M.S., LCPC, Executive Director of Residential and Day School Programs, said, “When we know youth have a secret, we listen to them, and try to show them they are safe with us. Consistency and support from staff are the biggest factors in preventing youth from going on run.

“When a youth returns from run, we tell are so glad they chose to come back – now let’s talk about what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Providing hope and healing to survivors 

When a youth returns to foster or Residential care after being trafficked, staff go through a debriefing process with them, which includes a medical assessment, and an independent investigation conducted by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). 

In the weeks and months after a youth has returned to OHU after being trafficked, staff engage them in therapy, as well as conversations that happen organically when youth are ready to share their thoughts and feelings with staff. Jessica Perry, Director of Residential Clinical Services at OHU’s Centralia and Lake Villa campuses, shared that she and her team use a therapeutic technique called “unconditional positive regard” to help youth understand that what they went through wasn’t their fault – it was the fault of their abuser. She said, “We never want youth to feel ashamed or judged. We are always there to provide immediate attention and support, whenever youth need it. We meet them where they are emotionally, and work to help them understand that they deserve so much better. They deserve to be safe.” 

Jessica concluded, “If a youth is only in our care for a short period of time, at a critical phase in their development, we owe them all the support and love we can give them.” 

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text 233733. Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking.

Hope Talks | December 2021

Hope Talks

“The Impact of Partnership”

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Hope Talks 

One Hope United is proud to bring you Hope Talks, monthly conversations with leaders in the child and family welfare sector. By having these conversations, we hope to inspire actionable change and work together to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve. 

In this month’s episode, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer is joined by Lauren Wright, Executive Director, Illinois Partners for Human Service, to discuss The Impact of Partnership.

About Lauren Wright

Lauren is driven to create a more equitable future for all Illinoisans. Her vision and experience with building global coalitions, cultivating relationships with diverse stakeholders and creating new opportunities for growth and sustainability are at the core of the Illinois Partners mission.

Lauren previously served as the Director of Programs at Mama Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to partnering with grassroots organizations around the world and investing in programs that support education, climate justice, health, gender equality and financial security. Lauren holds a Master of Arts in Sustainable Development from SIT Graduate Institute and a master’s degree in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University. Lauren represents Illinois Partners as a member of the State Health Improvement Plan Committee, the Responsible Budget Coalition, Vote Yes for Fair Tax Ballot Committee, Westside ConnectED, and the Illinois Count Me in 2020 Steering Committee.

About One Hope United 

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential. 

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Hope Talks | November 2021

Hope Talks

“The Science of Hope in Foster Care”

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Hope Talks 

One Hope United is proud to bring you Hope Talks, monthly conversations with leaders in the child and family welfare sector. By having these conversations, we hope to inspire actionable change and work together to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve. 

In this month’s episode, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer is joined by Ashley Cross, Nonprofit Advocate and Leader, to discuss The Science of Hope in Foster Care.

About Ashley Cross

Dr. Cross has dedicated her life to building and sustaining hope in vulnerable children and families, and in the professionals working with them. She established the first girls’ home in Tulsa, OK, and raised awareness in the city about the issues concerning girls in foster care and youth aging out. Through civic engagement, the local church, a dedicated community, and a lot of faith and hope, Dr. Ashley raised over one million in funds and properties to house girls aging out of foster care or experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma. Dr. Cross sits on the board of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Rochester Excellence Academy, and she is the founder of the Hub585. Dr. Ashley also Pastor’s alongside her husband Melvin Cross Jr at Glory House International.

About One Hope United 

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential. 

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Give Hope on GivingTuesday

What is GivingTuesday? 

GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. This day of generosity was built by a broad coalition of individuals, nonprofits, community groups, and businesses. Over the past nine years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and make a positive impact with causes they care deeply about.  

GivingTuesday falls each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year, GivingTuesday is on November 30. The holiday season can be a difficult time for many children and families, including children in foster and residential homes, and parents struggling to make ends meet. And while we’ve all faced unprecedented challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges are felt even more by children in unstable circumstances, like youth experiencing frequent moves in foster care. GivingTuesday is a time to practice radical generosity, and support One Hope United’s efforts to provide life-changing services to these children and families all year round.

One Hope United donors are people who want to make sure that every child and family has the resources and support they need to thrive. Together, we can see One Hope United’s vision become reality: For Every Child and Family, Life Without Limits.  

How to Get Involved 

Donate to Wishbook: Wishbook gives you the opportunity to directly impact the children and families we serve by contributing to One Hope United’s Annual Fund. The Annual Fund helps provide children and families with necessary services, programs, and assistance.

This year, One Hope United has an exciting donation match opportunity! If OHU raises $10,000 on GivingTuesday, a community foundation will make a matching donation, so your gift will go twice as far for the children and families we serve. You can donate to Wishbook here. 

Post on social media: This year, One Hope United is launching the #GiveHopeChallenge21 on GivingTuesday. OHU’s #GiveHopeChallenge21 means giving loudly, and inspiring others to join in making a difference for the thousands of children, youth, and families we serve each year. This GivingTuesday, you can share that you’re supporting us on social media to inspire others to give.

Be sure to follow along with our social media channels on GivingTuesday! We will be sharing stories of hope throughout the day, and we encourage our supporters to share what the #GiveHopeChallenge21 means to them. 

Thank you for showing your support for the children and families we serve on GivingTuesday! 

About One Hope United 

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential.

Building the Mindset for a Social Services Career

Guest blog written by Melissa Y.M. Webster, M.S., LCPC, Executive Director of One Hope United’s Residential and Day School Programs

With the employment landscape changing every day in this country, industries like social welfare must adapt and innovate in order to continue to provide the critical, often life-saving services our young people need. I supervise One Hope United’s residential programs, which provide live-in care for youth whose needs are best addressed in a highly structured environment. The young adults we serve have a history of trauma, and they need our support 24 hours a day. While the situations we face are often painful and overwhelming, our work is also incredibly rewarding. My staff and I go home every day knowing that we helped a young person feel seen and loved.  

You can imagine the challenges a global pandemic and employment crisis pose in our line of work. While these obstacles are significant, our team is working hard to meet the present moment head on. 

When considering what makes our programs unique and how we have been able to respond during this time, I have found three unique approaches that we have taken have helped us find the best people to serve our youth. If you are interested in a career in social services, whether it be as a residential youth care worker or a similar position, these tips can help you gain the tools you need to build your career – and in turn, make a difference in someone’s life. 

First, find your why. This is imperative for staff members at every level, from senior managers to entry-level youth care workers. Once you know why you are here, you can encourage those around you. I have young team members who have served youth and families for over 10 years. Many started when they were 21 or 22 years old, and they have remained in the field and at One Hope United. 

Our world is full of opportunities, and many of these talented and committed team members could find meaningful and lucrative employment in a myriad of fields. Why do they choose One Hope United? There are many reasons, but I believe the biggest reason is that these young professionals have found their “why.” 

Simon Senek gave a highly viewed Ted Talk on finding your why: your purpose, your calling, your beliefs. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Why this job and why stay?

I have done this work for a long time. I know why I am here, and what drives me to keep doing this hard work every day. My residential team members have found their whys. They are pulled out of bed in the morning by a love of serving teens who have suffered trauma, who often have mental health issues and behavior disorders. The days are always challenging, and sometimes the struggles our youth face drive people away. But those who stay do so because they have found greater purpose in remaining committed to extremely demanding yet fulfilling work.

Next, find your team. Social services professionals are team driven. We work seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We do it because we are committed to our youth, but we also do it because we are committed to each other. 

Residential folks have found a tribe in their team members. At One Hope United, we are a team of people who share a passion to serve this population of youth. We serve alongside inspiring professionals and paraprofessionals who, in the deepest part of their souls, want the world to be a better place, one youth at a time. What a blessing it is to have a workplace where we come together, see a vision for a different kind of world, and work with people we like and respect to reach that vision. Once you find your why and your team, it is hard to imagine doing anything else. 

Finally, help others see the value of what we do. Most of our residential programs at One Hope United had their roots in orphanages founded over 125 years ago. There is a mythos in our culture around the orphanage and orphans: think of Dicken’s Oliver Twist and Annie. It’s important that whenever we can, we challenge misconceptions about the work we do, and help our friends, family members, and the general public gain a more accurate understanding of what modern residential programs actually look like. 

When people learn what I do, they always want to know more. They always want to hear the stories. What I am proud to tell you after almost a quarter of a century in this field is that we make a difference. From the first youth served at the beginning of my career to now, many of them still reach out. They tell us we made an impact in their lives: who they are today was in part shaped by us. We see their children, their work, and who they have become as an adult. They share their accomplishments and their challenges. 

A key part of attracting the right people to serve our youth is finding people who care that the work they do today will create happier and more successful adults, five, ten, twenty-five or fifty years in the future. Many jobs are rewarding, but our careers help support a shifted trajectory of the lives of youth who have suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in the most traumatic ways possible. 

Final Thoughts: Even as essential workers who have been on the frontline throughout this challenging time, our focus remains on providing the highest standard of care possible to the vulnerable youth we serve. Our young people deserve the opportunity to build happy, healthy lives, and we help equip them with the tools they need to do so. I know that if you choose a career in social services, you will find fulfillment in a mission centered around serving others.

Want to make a difference in the life of a child, youth, or family? Learn about current employment opportunities with One Hope United here. 

Hope Talks | August 2021

Hope Talks

“Advocating for Affordable Child Care and Education”

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Hope Talks 

One Hope United is proud to bring you Hope Talks, monthly conversations with leaders in the child and family welfare sector. By having these conversations, we hope to inspire actionable change and work together to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve. 

In this month’s episode, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer is joined by April Janney, President & CEO of Illinois Action for Children, to discuss Advocating for Affordable Child Care and Education.

About April Janney

April Janney is the President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children. Janney was named to this position in January 2021 after serving as Acting President and CEO since June 2020.

Working with children in Chicago and throughout Illinois to foster positive outcomes has been April Janney’s passion for more than 30 years. Prior to becoming President and CEO, Janney served as IAFCs Senior VP of Operations and Senior VP of Programs.

Before joining the Illinois Action for Children leadership team as Director of Provider Programs in 2010, Janney provided school-age programming through a career that spanned 21 years with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Boys & Girls Clubs Chicago. Janney earned her master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus on Nonprofit Management from Roosevelt University as a Woodruff Fellow and holds a bachelor’s Science degree in Education: Early Childhood and Special Education from Chicago State University.

About One Hope United 

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential. 

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Hope Talks | July 2021

Hope Talks

“The Philanthropic Redesign”

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Hope Talks 

One Hope United is proud to bring you Hope Talks, monthly conversations with leaders in the child and family welfare sector. By having these conversations, we hope to inspire actionable change and work together to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve. 

In this month’s episode, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer is joined by Mark Brewer, President & CEO of Central Florida Foundation, to discuss the philanthropic redesign.

About Mark Brewer

Mark joined the Central Florida Foundation in 2000, and has earned respect for his ability to build community partnerships that meet issues head-on and produce measurable results. He has worked with hundreds of individuals, families, and corporations to establish philanthropy plans, endowments, funding strategies, and planned gifts. He is a well-known national speaker on the independent sector, philanthropy’s role in America, venture philanthropy strategies, and the role of the independent sector in public policy. In his leadership role at the Central Florida Foundation, Mark frequently advises private and corporate foundation grant makers across the region, and plays a public policy advisory role on strategy and advisory boards around the state of Florida.

Mark began his career in the media as a reporter, anchor, and journalist. Mark holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a specialty in Nonprofit Management, is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy ®, and is ABD for a PhD in Public Administration with a specialty in Policy and Law from Walden University.

About One Hope United 

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential. 

Don't miss out on future Hope Talks!

Sign up to have future Hope Talks emailed directly to your inbox and never miss a future episode!


Reunification Made Possible with Community Support

Foster parents can be one of the most impactful resources in helping children reunify with a biological parent successfully. While a mother named Stacy* worked to be reunited with her three children, she built strong relationships with the foster parents caring for her youngest son, and the paternal grandparents caring for her oldest son. This support system would end up being the difference in bringing Stacy and her children back together.

Stacy struggled with undiagnosed mental health and substance abuse problems for many years. When OHU Case Manager Monaya Crossen began working with Stacy, she soon noticed that Stacy frequently rescheduled home visits, and seemed drowsy and disorganized at meetings. When Stacy’s mother passed away while incarcerated, she seemed to lose all hope.

A wakeup call came for Stacy at a court hearing a few months later. She had been working to obtain stable housing and employment but had not yet been reunified with her children. When Stacy learned the judge had added a dual goal of adoption for her children, she became very emotional, and feared she was about to lose her children forever. This moment turned out to be a turning point in her life, and eventually led to a bright future for her and her family.

Though Stacy did not like asking for help, she eventually built a strong relationship with her Case Manager, Monaya, and still asks her advice when she faces tough situations. Stacy eventually overcame her addiction and got a new apartment. After three years apart, Stacy has been reunified with her children, and her family is in a much better place.

While they were living apart, Stacy was there for her children at school conferences, holidays, and everything in-between. The foster parents and grandparents who cared for her kids were always in Stacy’s corner. “They played a major role in this reunification,” Monaya shared. “They didn’t put up any roadblocks. They drove Stacy to see apartments, brought the kids to her home for visits, and always included her in parent-teacher conferences.”

Stacy’s 5-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism and has made significant progress since transferring to a special needs school, where he “soared.” They are now working on transitioning him to his siblings’ school.

When Stacy saw signs of the same mental illness she struggles with in her daughter, she acted right away to get her help. All of Stacy’s kids are doing well in school, and they still see their foster parents regularly for haircuts and visits.

“This story shows that no one is perfect, and we all need to ask for help,” Monaya concluded. “I’m glad Stacy felt she could trust and lean on me.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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