Chip In "Fore" Kids Golf Tournament

The Florida team had beautiful weather and a good turnout for their Chip In “Fore” Kids Golf Tournament at Highlands Ridge Golf Club in late May. The event was a great community builder and raised much-needed funds for the children and families of Highlands County and surrounding areas. Thanks to all of the staff who dedicated their time and resources to this event!

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Our Very Own Frontline Hero

We are extremely proud of our very own, Andre Davis, Case Management Supervisor in the Florida region, for being recognized by Heartland for Children as a Frontline Hero.

Heartland for Children’s Frontline Hero series recognizes professional case managers, family support workers, supervisors, Life Coaches, and other front line staff in Polk, Hardee, and Highlands Counties by giving them the distinct title of “Frontline Heroes.” Each recipient has been nominated and chosen for their outstanding work and for going above and beyond supporting children and families. These heroes are extremely committed to improving the lives of the local children and families they are serving that have experienced trauma.

Andre and his wife Mitzi, who is a Licensing Specialist at Heartland for Children, are the organization’s first co-Frontline Heroes. View their inspiring video feature below.

Frontline Heroes: Andre and Mitzi Davis from Heartland for Children on Vimeo.

Congratulations Andre!

 

Building Hope With Habitat for Humanity

On November 14, 2014, our service centers of Highlands and Hardee County, Florida collaborated with Habitat for Humanity in an amazing effort to build a home for a family in need. This was the first time in about five years that Habitat for Humanity Highlands County committed to a “new build”, which involves building a new home from start to finish. One Hope United couldn’t pass on the opportunity to lend a helping hand, with 15 staff members showing up to volunteer during the building process.

The OHU volunteers worked from about 8:30am until 3:00pm and accomplished a great deal, having gotten several walls for the house up by the end of the day. The family was asked to invest 300 “sweat” hours of their own; fortunately, the volunteers were able to donate 111.75 of those hours to the family, more than 1/3 of what is required. OHU does not want to just stop there, but plan to lend more of their time to this deserving family as the home nears completion and needs some painting or finishing touches.

A representative from the the team has also been invited to speak at the Habitat for Humanity Highland County Christmas breakfast to share their experience working together, as well as One Hope United’s view on the positive effects of affordable housing on families. One Hope United is very excited to begin teaming up with Habitat for Humanity for more volunteer opportunities like this in the near future!

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OHU Named Among Top 10 Coolest Companies to Work for in Orlando

A HUGE congrats to our team in Florida, recently named one of the top 10 coolest companies to work for in Orlando by O.C. Tanner!

In addition to a number of monthly awards and regular birthday celebrations, Executive Director Barbara D. Moss gives a monthly Executive Director Trophy “to a team or individual who has done something special that goes outside the realm of their position and was in the best interest of the child or family they are serving.”

Thanks, O.C. Tanner, for recognizing the hard work of our Florida staff!

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.

A Simple Thing That Means So Much

The Aktion Club’s Diaper Dump Day was a HUGE success.  On Saturday April 5th, the community of Sebring (Florida) collected 3,212 diapers for babies and $994 in cash. We also received 1,257 adult diapers, which will help charities like Nu-Hope and Ridge Area Arc. Overall, this should equal more than 12,000 diapers collected in our community!

One Hope United was one of the proud recipients of this incredible donation.  We will utilize these diapers for our foster families as well as the other families we currently serve.  Many thanks to the Aktion Club and the Sebring Community for this much needed gift to our kids.

Florida Staff Member Adoption Finalized

Melvin Guzman, Licensing Supervisor in Florida, was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with his son, Juan, 13, after Juan’s adoption was finalized on November 27.

Guzman_adoption_600 pixJuan, along with his siblings and cousins, entered Youth and Family Services, a child welfare agency, after he was removed from his family’s care three years ago.  At that time, Melvin was working with Youth and Family Services and met Juan shortly after he entered the program.  Juan was somewhat of a problematic child, and had gotten in trouble in school for being disruptive. Initially, Melvin thought of himself as a mentor for Juan and gave him advice about how to handle difficult situations. After working together and building their relationship, Melvin knew he wanted to adopt Juan and become a family.

“I knew he needed the help, the assistance and the nurturing,” Melvin said. “Once Juan knew I was interested in adopting him I told him what the rules and expectations were and he heard that.  His disruptions at school and his misbehaving completely stopped.”

For more information about becoming a foster parent or adopting please visit http://onehopeunited.org/services/

The Spirit of Resiliency

By: Lauren Parker Prekop, Florida Region Adoptions Case Manager

Resiliency: an occurrence of rebounding or springing back; a movement back from an impact.

-American Heritage Dictionary

No one better exemplifies resiliency than the children and teens in our foster care system!

Losing a family, whether temporarily or permanently, is one of the most difficult experiences in a young person’s life, and one which will leave an indelible impact on their life. If there is no appropriate relative or family friend to help, the child must move to an environment completely unfamiliar to them: a “foster home” or “group home”. Even with genuine and welcoming foster parents or group home staff, the child or children will likely still feel like they are in a stranger’s home. Once there, they must try to adapt the best they can, while building a life with a new family.

Yet, despite all of this, children and teens in the foster care system have a lesson to teach us all! Overcoming a number of obstacles and hardships, these young people still go on, and they go strong! Spend time with these amazing kids and it quickly becomes apparent that their spirits will not be dampened.

Service workers at One Hope United witness this strength, as they spend a lot of time with these kids, particularly while transporting them to a visitation with a parent, a therapy appointment, a court hearing, or, maybe even an adoption event (if the child or teen is available for adoption). These opportunities can be some of the best times to get to know a young person.  It is during this time that a lot of them will open up and talk about their feelings related to foster care or discuss their future goals. Some may sing loudly to the radio and dance around to the latest hit song.  It’s inspiring to see how happy and expressive some can be, despite all of the negative things they’ve encountered in their life. 

Many of the kids also have incredible talents, especially the teens.  In a court hearing they might boldly share a thing or two about themselves with the Magistrate. Some aren’t shy at all and will speak their mind. At a news event while seeking forever families, these teens might perform a dance they choreographed while being filmed by a news crew. At an adoption event, they may be the star of an improvised skit. On the basketball court, they may be the player with the most points for the game. They could also be the star of their high school football team. Other kids create art, write heartfelt poetry, cook gourmet meals, or help around the house in some other capacity.

The number of ways in which the children and teens in our foster care system express themselves is limitless! We salute the beautiful spirit in each and every one of them.

A Family of Runners in Florida

Florida-Region-Adoption-Month-StoryMany older children and teenagers in foster care are still waiting to be adopted. Almost one year ago, Aubree Rose, a 17-year-old former One Hope United client, was one of those children.

Aubree had experienced a rocky childhood and adolescence. Her mother used drugs, traded sex for needs, and was in and out of jail. At five years old, Aubree had been abused and witnessed domestic abuse between her mother and mother’s boyfriend. Aubree was removed from the home and placed with her grandparents for a short time. During that time Aubree stayed out all night, snuck her boyfriend into the home and always seemed angry. Her grandparents felt overwhelmed and did not think they could care for Aubree anymore, so in February 2012 they took her to a youth shelter in Orlando, Florida.

The shelter did not work out very well for Aubree either. She habitually ran away and was depressed. Seeing that the group home placement was not going well for Aubree, the One Hope United team discussed other placement options with her. On Dec. 6, 2012, she was placed in a traditional foster home with first-time foster parents, Daniel and Sarah Hendess.

The Hendesses had hosted several teenage foreign exchange students over the years, and felt called to becoming foster parents. They knew they wanted a teenage foster child and as soon as they received the call that a teenage girl was in need of a placement, they offered Aubree a home.

“She was the brave one,” Sarah said. “She agreed to move in with strangers and to make the best of it. She really wanted to be with a family and she wanted to make it work.”

The family’s One Hope United case worker had discussed Aubree’s history of running away with the Hendesses. Sarah sat down with Aubree and told her that she hoped Aubree would never feel like her only option would be to run away, but if she ever did have that feeling that she should always come talk to them about what was bothering her.

Aubree has never run away from the Hendesses’ home, but the family has bonded a great deal from running together. The Hendesses have been runners for many years and invited Aubree to join their running group. Aubree is now training for her first 10K, which will be in December.

Aubree is enrolled in virtual high school and is expecting to graduate in December 2014. After she graduates she is thinking about joining the military or going to school to work in a human services field.

The Hendesses’ advice to families who are considering becoming foster parents is to “Just do it.” Sarah explained that the perfect time will never come, and you just have to make the decision.

“One of the great things about having a teenager is that she can articulate how she is feeling and what she needs,” said Sarah. “I think a lot of times people avoid fostering or adopting a teenager because they think it’s going to be trouble. Don’t overlook the older kids because there are good ones out there looking for someone who won’t turn them away.”

Tampa's WFLA-TV features OHU family who adopted five siblings out of foster care

ohu-harre-wflatvThe Harre family was featured in a Mother’s Day story for WFLA-TV News Channel 8 in Tampa, Fla. The family, with help from One Hope United, recently adopted five siblings out of foster care — expanding their family to 12 children. 

“Just knowing she’s there for me makes every day worth living,” 15-year-old Vanessa said about her mom, Tammy Harre.

Click here to watch the segment.