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Hope for the Holidays

“Someday, I want my kids to live in a house like this,” Michael said, looking around at the three-story renovated home for the first time.

Michael had just toured One Hope United’s new residential home, called Hope House, in Fort Lauderdale. He told house parents he had never stepped foot in a place like this before. Dancing around, he confidently stated he wants to do what’s right, so he can live somewhere like this when he grows up.

Before moving into Hope House, Michael faced many struggles. Michael is a dually involved teenager, which means he’s interacted with both the child welfare and juvenile detention systems in his young life. Dually involved young people often face a high level of difficulty obtaining a placement in foster care, significant barriers to achieving permanency and are at a higher risk for lengthy stays in detention facilities.

Hope House is uniquely positioned to serve young people aged 14-17 like Michael. The staff ratio at Hope House is 4:1, which means more individualized attention from house parents. In choosing a property, Sarah Tunning, Executive Director of OHU’s services in Florida, wanted to provide “a really nice home environment for the young men, first and foremost.”

One Hope United focuses on making sure the environment at Hope House is not only inclusive, but it sets youth up for success. For example, when a young person is placed at Hope House, they first go to a local retail store with one of their house parents, so they can choose the right hygiene products for their unique skin and hair needs. In other group home or foster care placements, these young men may have had to use whatever personal care products were on hand in the home, even if it irritated their skin or wasn’t right for their hair. Then, they go out to dinner with a house parent, where they discuss strategies that will help them grow and develop in the coming months.

After they settle into their new home, these young men focus on independent living skills like improving academic performance, getting a part-time job, and opening a savings account. “Our goal is that when these young men turn 18, they’re on a college or career path, and they’ve strengthened healthy relationships with their family members and mentors in the area,” Sarah shared.

Sarah has noticed strong connections forming already between the youth currently living at Hope House. Two of the young men living in the house, Matthew and Ben, developed a strong friendship in just a few weeks. When Matthew had a mental health episode and had to go to the hospital, Ben made sure to look after his things while he was gone.

“These are kids that are used to fighting for everything,” Sarah said. “We want them to feel they are safe here, and to know their house parents really care about them.”

To celebrate the holidays, the young men living at Hope House will enjoy a special meal prepared by their house dad who loves to cook. Then, they’ll play board games together in the living room, lit by their Christmas tree.

You can purchase specific items requested by house parents and the young men living at Hope House here. You can also learn about our other residential programs at this link.

*names of the young men living at Hope House have been changed to protect privacy. 

SUPPORT HOPE HOUSE   OHU RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

One Hope United Presents Its Second Annual Duck Derby

One Hope United Kicks Off  “Where’s Waddle” Campaign for Second Annual Duck Derby.

What is a Duck Derby? Duck Derby puts the “fun” in fundraising! OHU’s Duck Derby benefits One Hope United and Florida’s Osceola County Public Schools. As our second year participating in the Duck Derby, supporters from OHU and the OSPS system will race to get as many ducks as possible prior to Derby Day on February 1, 2020.

You can purchase ducks for $5 each or in fun packs where you can buy more at one time. Each duck adopted directly enhances OHU’s services  to create limitless lives for the children and families we serve in Florida and in communities across multiple states. $1 goes to OCPS for every duck that gets adopted and the remaining proceeds will go to OHU.

The Duck Derby also benefits families in Osceola County, sharing the joy and excitement of a friendly duck race, but also championing a philanthropic cause that supports local children and families.

Before the big race, our ducks will be traveling all around the world in our search of “Where’s Waddle”. Stay tuned for their latest whereabouts by following their journey on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

 

 

 

About One Hope United
One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs including early education, foster care, adoption, residential, and other support services. What began in 1895 as a children’s home in Chicago now serves 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida and employs nearly 800 passionate and talented professionals. For more information, please visit http://www.onehopeunited.org.

Florida Case Manager Named Reunification Hero!

Victor Sims, Case Manager Lead in Florida, was recognized as a Reunification Hero by the American Bar Association Children and Law.

Sims was nominated by one of his clients who gave him credit with her reunification with her children. She recalled how “he brought my kids home when no one knew a way to make it happen” and said that “he has continually been a champion for change.”

His experience in the child welfare system began while spending the first 11 years of his life in foster care. Fortunately, Sims was adopted into a loving family and his experience in foster care is what motivated him to pursue a career as a case manager at One Hope United in Florida. While reunification was not possible for him and his parents, today Sims makes reunification his priority with every family that he serves.

He prioritizes strengthening  families’ so children can return home safely as soon as possible. Sims strives to understand the root causes of the parents’ problems so that they overcome their barriers to success. He does an excellent job of using innovative techniques that will help families continually succeed after their case has ended.

Read Full Article Here on America Bar Association

Discover more #NationalReunificationMonth stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Florida Couple Adopts Two Kids Into Their Forever Family

Executive Pastor Chad Dillon Was Certain He Didn’t Want To Become A Foster Parent. His Wife Adriane Was Equally Sure She Did.

After seven years of trying to have a biological child, the Dillon’s longed for a family and had always had a desire to adopt—being able to provide a child with a forever family. But they weren’t completely in agreement about fostering children. In early 2014, they enrolled in PRIDE classes. 

The Dillon’s took the classes with another couple, their best friends, and since PRIDE covers both adoption and fostering in their county, participants could choose to do either, or both. During the classes, the couple had heard horrific stories about children in their community being abused and neglected, in which Chad came to realize that his hesitancy to foster was nothing short of selfishness where the attention was on him and not on the children who need and deserve to be loved unconditionally. His attitude had completely changed and he told his wife,

“We will foster as long as we can agree on one thing—to put the best interest of every child that comes into our care above our own and the moment that we cannot do that, we get out so that we are never a part of the problem.”

So, after this realization, he and his wife without hesitation continued their classes and were ready to enter the world of fostering where they were ready to embrace every child that came their way with love and as their own. They received their license on November 4, 2014. To their shock, they received a call on the same day about a seven-day-old baby girl who needed a foster home. They said yes, and on November 6, 2014, they welcomed Hilary Rose into their loving arms, and adding her older brother Christopher into their home in June of 2016. 

The Dillon’s have fostered two other children to-date as well—but they knew they wanted to do more for parents like them. In January 2016, Chad assisted in the launch of a brand new foster and adoptive children’s association in their county and was quickly introduced to OHU. They immediately felt welcomed by the staff, especially the Executive Director for their county—Eva Horner. Chad and Eva have had several discussions about ways to improve the system of care in Florida, especially their county. In April of 2014, Chad was voted in as the President of the Osceola Foster and Adoptive Children’s Association. To date, they have seen over 50 people attend and recently have had 17 foster and/or adoptive families become official members. The monthly association meetings are hosted at their church—Freedom Life Church. 

As President, Chad has addressed issues of foster care parent retention, co-parenting, creating stronger relationships among licensing agencies, the Department of Children and Families, and foster/adoptive parents, as well as changing the reputation and perception of the foster care system. “People ultimately fear the unknown,” says Chad, “But we believe the work we’re doing in Osceola County can spread throughout the state of Florida and change people’s hearts and minds about child welfare.” “The lack of awareness is one of the biggest issues we face. People simply need to see the need and be given the opportunity to meet it, but it has to be presented in a positive way and must come from a heart of compassion because people gravitate towards passion.” He strives to motivate and encourage anyone who involves themselves in the child welfare system to have and keep the right heart motive, where the focus is on making sure that every decision is about the child’s best interest and never the adult’s (whether foster parent, bio-parent, bio-relative, agency worker, adoptive parent, etc.). 

Chad lost his own father on November 6, 2002, exactly 22 years to the day that he and his wife welcomed their first foster child (who became their forever daughter) into their home. Now that day takes on a whole new meaning. Another significant day in the Dillon’s life? September 12, 2016, the day Hilary Rose and Christopher David were officially adopted into their forever.

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.