Foster Grandparent Christmas Program

It has been another wonderful year for our Foster Grandparent Program! Therefore, this year’s recent Christmas program was the perfect opportunity for participants to reflect on the major impact that the program has had on them all. Volunteers, teachers and students alike, presented personal letters and awards to celebrate the volunteers and their memorable experiences. One touching letter, tells the story of one special Foster Grandparent, Grandma Annie*:

“Every day in the Foster Grandparent Program brings a new challenge or a new success. Sometimes, it is the small moments that will stay with us and serve as a reminder of our program’s impact. Grandma Annie is a very special Foster Grandparent who spends all of her free time helping children. When Grandma Annie is not mentoring and tutoring children all day through our program, she is helping the kids at her church and making special homemade crafts for children that she knows will not receive much for the holidays, birthdays, etc. throughout the year. Grandma Annie does so much for children and others in need that it is hard to believe that she is making ends meet on less than $7,000 a year. This year has been especially difficult for Grandma Annie. She had a very serious health issue that caused her to spend over a month in the hospital and on top of the health issues; she was no longer able to afford to live in her trailer that she has lived in for years. There were many conversations between Foster Grandparent program staff and Grandma Annie, where she cried and contemplated giving up. One day, while she was in the hospital, she had a special delivery from the children at the school where she serves as a Foster Grandparent. Grandma Annie received over 100 handmade cards from the children at this Springfield school. Grandma Annie has overcome this difficult time, she is feeling better, located housing and is back to working with children at her school. Just this month, fighting through tears, Grandma Annie shared with our group about how she overcame such a difficult time in her life. She cried and said that she read those cards over and over again in the hospital and it was the one thing that told her she needed to get healthy and not give up. Grandma Annie explained that the Foster Grandparent program is her purpose and she knows that it has saved her life. There are many successes that our program could share in regards to the impact that this program has on the lives of our seniors, but these are the types of special moments that truly help people see beyond the poverty, health issues and daily challenges and instead gives them the happiness and motivation to keep going.”

The students also presented a special gift to Foster Grandparent, Grandma Mary. They made her a “math quilt”, which displayed special messages and math problems that they have solved due to all the time that she dedicated to helping them with their math.


We’re very excited to continue making unforgettable memories with the Foster Grandparent Program in 2015!


The Simple Gift of a Coat

It’s hard to believe that summertime is over and fall is right around the corner!  The story below, from one of our caseworkers in Effingham, IL, is a great reminder that this time of seasonal transition can be a challenge for some families.

Take a moment to read the story below and share it with your friends and family.  And if you or your place of business are interested in supporting our holiday campaign by collecting grocery gift cards to be distributed to families in need, shopping for seasonal items for an individual child or group of children, and decorating a Gift Card Tree in your lobby or break room, please contact your local OHU representative below!

winter coatsI did a home visit this afternoon and the mom asked if I could find her boys some coats. She said they outgrew last year’s coats, and her youngest walked home from school today in a long-sleeve t-shirt. I put a request on Facebook for two gently used boy’s coats, and offered to pick them up. Well, within minutes I was contacted by a family friend who stated that he and his wife wanted to provide coats for the boys. Within 30 minutes, they were at the door with three bags of things for the boys. They wanted to make sure they stayed warm so they got them sweatshirts, hooded fleece jackets, and coats.

The boys were so overjoyed by these. They put all three on and said they were sleeping in them tonight! I offered to get a donation letter but they refused saying they wanted to remain anonymous. This is the time of year I especially love working in this field! I love seeing people give for no reason at all; and I love seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces. Even when it is for something most kids take for granted – a coat!

Ready to make a difference this fall?  Contact us to learn more:
Jenaeth Markaj

Chicago Collar Counties

Marilee LaMattina

Central and Southern IL

Jayme Godoyo

Centralia Junior High: You’re the Best!

At One Hope United, donations of school supplies are collected throughout the month of August in preparation for youth to go back to school. On Tuesday, August 19, a surprising new donation came from an unexpected place.

The Centralia Junior High School faculty and staff pulled up to the Centralia Residential site in a bus and asked to see one of our youth, who is a student at the school. They then all cheered as the youth came out of the Administration building to receive her gift: school supplies to start the new school year! They also chanted and shouted “YOU MATTER!”

The faculty and staff wanted to show students, parents and the community that they truly care about their students. We are so grateful that our youth was one of the four students the junior high staff chose to recognize and supply with the materials needed to start off the new school year successfully. Thank you, Centralia Junior High!

Second Annual Golf “Fore” Hope is a Hit!

Hudelson Region held its Second Annual Golf “Fore” Hope event at the Colonial Golf Course in Sandoval, Illinois. Fourteen teams played in the event and over 12 volunteers helped make the day run smoothly! Lunch was provided by Mama Carol at Centralia Residential, who worked with the youth to pack the lunch bags for golfers the morning of the event. Thank you, Mama Carol!

Golfers were competitive as usual, not only in the scramble, but also in the longest drive and straightest drive contests. There were also some great raffle prizes, including items from Callaway, Under Armour, the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams, Six Flags, Holiday World, and many more.

Despite a little rain early in the day, Golf “Fore” Hope was another fun event and we are already looking forward to June 27, 2015 for our Third Annual Golf “Fore” Hope!

Camp Hope: An Experience to Remember

Summer camp provides children the chance to learn new skills, enjoy summer activities, make happy memories, and have fun.  The Centralia, Illinois campus is giving residential youth that opportunity with a new program modeled after summer camp.  Camp Hope, developed by local staff, gives youth a chance to explore their creativity and increase knowledge

During the morning, youth attend a Cooking, Arts, or Life Skills course with the goal that everyone gets to participate in all of the courses before the end of the summer.  Activities are designed to engage the campers in a variety of ways. During a recent Art class, for example, a magnified version of one youth’s fingerprint was placed behind art paper.  The youth then wrote down characteristics that make them unique, creating a visually striking pattern of text that followed the lines of the fingerprint.

Other youth participate in on-campus employment opportunities, giving them the chance to hone job skills while earning a little extra money for the school year.  The youth employees, who were required to apply for their jobs, help the “counselors” with the day’s camp activities, prepare lunch with the cook in the kitchen, or assist with other work around campus. 

After lunch and a short break, youth participate in a fun outdoor activity such as hiking, miniature golf, or swimming.  Camp Hope will culminate in early August with a group swim, an overnight camping experience at Camp Maranatha, and an end-of-season party.   

Thank you, Centralia staff, for taking that extra step to give the youth a great summer!

Functional Family Therapy Gives a Family the Skills they Need to Communicate

holding hands (with clipping path)Alisa* is 12 and she and her biological father were recently involved with our Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program in St. Louis.

Before FFT, Alisa had been arguing and fighting with many school peers and family members, which led to her getting kicked out of school. Her dad didn’t discipline her and instead often gave very long speeches about why she shouldn’t do what she did, causing Alisa to check out after just a sentence or two. He also often bought her extra things like electronics and jewelry after she would repeatedly ask him and give him “puppy-dog eyes.”

During FFT, the therapist pointed out the patterns that she saw and assessed the functions in the family, noting that dad wanted more connection time than the daughter did (hence the long speeches). Dad was able to see the role he was playing in Alisa’s choices because he was teaching her that she could manipulate people to get what she wanted and to not be satisfied with what she had. The therapist showed the family how they could use their strengths, like a strong family connection and Dad’s advice, in a way that encouraged positive behaviors and practiced small adjustments, like shorter speeches.

Soon, dad was parenting more consistently, keeping his “no means no” and using other things as rewards for good behavior. Alisa also saw how what she was doing brought out a side of herself that she didn’t want to be and changed the way she approached peers. In addition, the therapist practiced skills like anger management, decision-making and communication/listening skills to enhance their interactions and keep them on a positive path. The result was a family that didn’t argue as much and a daughter who was actually listening to her dad’s great advice.

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

The OHU System of Care Provides a “New Set of Eyes”

In 2013, the System of Care Program in Collinsville, IL received a referral for a child, Marc*, in a specialized foster home.  Marc had a history of setting fires and destroying property, making him at high risk for placement in a residential program. Prior to his placement in the specialized foster home, Marc experienced multiple moves and instability in his life.  He was not living with his siblings and his parent’s rights were in the process of being terminated.  Marc struggled to communicate with the adults in his life and was making minimal progress with his therapist. 

The OHU System of Care was asked to serve as a “new set of eyes” for this child who was struggling by assessing current efforts and making recommendations for changes to his treatment plan. The SOC worker spent the next 45 days meeting with and discussing permanency planning with Marc’s service providers. The SOC worker was able to recommend changes to Marc’s treatment plan, including suggested interventions to help the child express himself to the adults in his life.

The System of Care worker also provided recommendations to Marc’s therapist on ways to utilize the child’s strengths in therapy, as well as incorporating non-verbal communication into therapy.  Most importantly, the SOC worker was able to provide much needed support to Marc’s foster parent, who was interested in adopting him. 

Marc’s placement was stabilized through System of Care services, which provided new insights into the services Marc was receiving. Over time his verbal abilities have improved with his foster parent and the other adults in his life.  When the case closed, Marc’s caregiver mentioned that Marc now communicated, in small increments, with her on a daily basis, a big improvement from when SOC services started.

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

The Foster Parent Café

One Hope United staff members Corinne Fish, Kristen Kinnear, and supervisor Brionne Rhodes are part of the Madison County Permanency Action Team, a group focusing on foster parent retention. Recently, the Team spearheaded a collaboration with Be Strong Families and the Department of Children and Family Services to provide a Foster Parent Café in the community.

The Café was designed to provide foster parents peer support and help them realize they are not alone in caring for their foster children. Many foster children have experienced difficult situations and their needs can be difficult to meet at times. The Café offered a place for Foster parents to come together and share their struggles and discuss resolutions.

One Hope United System of Care staff worked to bring in donations from community members to provide refreshments and child care during this event. The manager of the Alton, IL, Applebee’s – Sue Sprinot – donated food for the children during the Café. One Hope United System of Care staff also worked with DCFS staff to provide care for children ages 18 months to 14 years old. This allowed a safe place for foster parents to bring the children and enjoy the evening of support.

During the Café, One Hope United was able to offer craft activities for the children, games, and other activities to keep their little bodies busy while their caregivers were able to sit back and enjoy themselves. The event proved to be a success as participants indicated interest in attending future events like this.

One Hope United looks forward to continued collaboration with other community agencies to provide support to the foster parents who so ably serve our children. One Hope United System of Care worker Kristen Kinnear, and all staff, continue to spread the word in this collaboration and to remember this: “On your worst day on the job, you are still some child’s best hope.”

“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!

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