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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.

Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah GOES BLUE for OHU!

As many of you know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and One Hope United has created the GO BLUE campaign to raise awareness about the importance of stopping child abuse before it starts.  And we’re thrilled to have Joakim Noah lend his time and talents to help us spread the word!

Through their Noah’s Arc Foundation Joakim and his mother Cecilia Rodhe engage kids with art and sports so that every child can “be able to express their true self in order to fulfill their dreams.”  They have also developed a great relationship with the boys from One Hope United’s CARE Day Treatment Program, hosting the boys at Joakim’s home to shoot some hoops, gather around the campfire, and just relax and chat.  We’re so grateful for their support.

But you don’t have to be an NBA superstar to be a hero to child.  From local business owners to community leaders to our youngest volunteers, everyone is invited to show their support in the fight to end child abuse and GO BLUE this April!

GO BLUE Community Partner Spotlight: Julie’s Coffee

Julie Adriansen wears blue in support of One Hope United![/caption]

Julie’s Coffee in Lake Villa, Illinois went BLUE for OHU on Saturday, April 5!

Volunteers from One Hope United served as guest baristas with all tips going towards child abuse prevention programs. The community really stepped up as a steady stream of OHU staff, volunteers and supporters stopped by for coffee and treats.

Thank you, Julia’s Coffee, for all you’ve done to support us as we work together to prevent child abuse and maltreatment in our communities this April and beyond.  GO BLUE!

To host your own fundraiser, fill out our online form and an OHU staff member will be in contact.  You can also download our GO BLUE Toolkit for more great ideas.

Chris & Howard Schnitzer (1)

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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.

The Healing Path Changes Lives

My client is a 12-year-old male who was referred to the Healing Path program by Warren Township due to his history of complex trauma. The client’s history of trauma includes: his biological father and primary caregiver passed away due to a heart condition when the client was four years old, witnessing domestic violence instances between his biological mother and her paramour, being in a house which was intentionally set on fire by his mother’s companion after a domestic violence incident when the client was 8 years old, witnessing significant community violence, and witnessing his biological mother participate in illegal activities and be incarcerated multiple times. Currently the client is residing with his paternal grandfather who also suffers from the same heart condition as the client’s biological father. In September of 2013, the client had numerous physical symptoms and he was told that he could also suffer from the same heart condition as his father and grandfather.  Since then the client’s test results have concluded that his heart is healthy.

At the onset of therapeutic services the client’s grandfather identified one of his primary concerns as their lack of support in the community. The client’s grandfather expressed a desire to relocate closer to his family in Kentucky due to not having the necessary supports in the area.

Aside from engaging in therapeutic services it became apparent that this family needed case management assistance. I provided the client’s grandfather with numerous resources in the community which could assist with more concrete resources.  The client’s grandfather contacted all of the referrals.  I also worked with Mother’s Trust to receive funding for the client to participate in a local football team. I served as a liaison between the client’s grandfather and the client’s school. As a result the client participated in the basketball team and the client’s grandfather was able to attend the games at no charge.

On Thursday, January 16th I met with the client’s grandfather, during this session he told me that because of my work “I have changed their life”, moving to Kentucky no longer seems like an option due to the amount of support that they have. The client’s grandfather communicated that due to my efforts and collaboration they now have a case worker from the Lake McHenry Veterans and Family Services. The client’s case worker has helped the family with food, stable housing, obtaining a washer, housekeeping help for the home, and a new vehicle. The client’s grandfather had never sought services to process his own history of trauma because he believed he would not be eligible for counseling services at the VA due to his discharge status from the military after WWII.

The client’s grandfather shared that in his life he has never received support as he has from The Healing Path. He said that it’s clear that those of us helping him do not do it as just a “job” but rather because we are passionate about helping others. The client’s grandfather said The Healing Path has not only changed his life and the life of his grandson but has also changed who he is as a person. He is amazed at the kindness and willingness to help that he has found in our community.

Needless to say I was touched by the comments of the client’s grandfather. It is a good reminder of why we do the work we do.”

Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services

In November 2012, Emma*, age 14, was referred to One Hope United due to conflict between herself, her father and her stepmother. At the time of the crisis at the police station, the parents wanted to lock the child out of the home due to the extreme nature of the conflict. Emma was being physically abusive towards her stepmother and she was verbally abusive towards her father. The case manager was able to resolve the crisis at the police station and the parents allowed the child to return home in hopes that Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services (CCBYS) follow-up services would help resolve the conflict in the home.

In the beginning of CCBYS services, Emma was sneaking out of the home, engaging in dangerous sexual behavior, lying to her parents, not complying with parental rules, being defiant towards her parents, and being both physically and verbally abusive toward her father and stepmother.

The case manager worked with the youth and her family diligently for several months on her behaviors. The case manager worked with Emma on understanding the consequences of engaging in the dangerous sexual behavior by giving her handouts on STDs and teen pregnancy. She provided the family with a rules chart. There were rewards and consequences for Emma’s behaviors. This assisted Emma with knowing that when she displayed good behaviors she would be rewarded and when she displayed negative behaviors, there would be consequences. She provided Emma with anger management so that she could learn how to display her anger in a healthy manner rather than becoming physically and verbally abusive toward her parents.

By the spring of 2013, trust was restored back into the family. The client was referred to a psychiatrist to address her past trauma that contributed to some of her behavioral problems. She was complying with her parents’ rules and she had learned new anger management techniques. She was no longer verbally or physically abusive toward her parents. Her reward for showing such great improvements was a trip to Florida for spring break.

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

Comfort Kits "Give a Little Love"

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The Second Annual “Give a Little Love” event on February 28, 2014 created sixty Comfort Kits for children being removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

Chrys Zastrow, founder of Sweet Zzzz Comfort Kits, organized this event along with Young Scholars Child Care Center in Island Lake, Illinois, and friends and family. Often when a child is removed from their home, it is an emergency situation. The child may arrive at the foster home without anything but the clothes on his or her back. A comfort kit is a duffel bag filled with basic comforts: blanket, a “lovie” blanket, stuffed animal, toothbrush and toothpaste, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, book or craft and a water bottle.

When Zastrow’s three daughters first arrived at her home, they had received comfort kits to bring with them. This simple act of kindness motivated her to give back to other children in need.

This year, Zastrow’s eldest daughter worked with her Girl Scout Daisy troop to make a blanket and assemble a comfort kit. This 5 year old shared her story with her fellow troop members, telling them how she came to live with her adoptive mom, Chrys Zastrow. Her younger twin sisters clearly remembered their own comfort kits – taking to bed with them that night the very blankets they had received a few years before when they first arrived at the Zastrow home.

“Give a Little Love” demonstrated how much one person can greatly impact the lives of children in need at a critical moment in their lives.