Running Towards Hope: One Hope United’s Spring Shuffle 5K

On a beautiful Sunday morning, One Hope United hosted its annual Spring Shuffle 5K event at the Sun Lake Forest Preserve in Lake Villa, IL. The event brought together the One Hope United community to serve the mission of providing education, resources, and support to children and families.

The highlight of the event was the participation of the boys from the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa. Despite the early start, the boys were excited and ready to tackle the 5K. As they lined up at the start, the air was filled with anticipation and nervous energy.

As the race began, the boys took off, some sprinting ahead, while others settled into a steady pace. The trail was challenging, with twists and turns, and a few steep inclines. But the boys persevered, pushing themselves to their limits.

Along the way, volunteers and supporters cheered the boys on, shouting words of encouragement and high-fiving them as they passed. The sense of community was palpable, and it gave the boys the boost they needed to keep going.

In the end, all the boys finished the race, each receiving a participation medal with a look of pride and accomplishment on their faces. One of the boys stated, “Every ounce of my body was telling me to stop, but I used my head and my heart to keep going.”

Events like this play a crucial role in providing the boys with opportunities to grow, develop social skills, build trust, and form relationships. By creating a nurturing environment, One Hope United’s Residential Programs help these young individuals work towards achieving self-sufficiency, educational or personal goals, and ultimately preparing them for a successful transition to a family setting or adulthood.

After the race, everyone enjoyed tacos and ice cream sandwiches while celebrating the achievements of the boys. During lunch, there was an award ceremony where each boy was awarded a superlative, a hat from their favorite sports team, and a McDonald’s gift card. The smiles on their faces were a testament to the hard work and dedication they put into completing the race.

The event would not have been possible without the outstanding work from the OHU team and the many volunteers who gave their time to make it a success. As one volunteer, Christie, said, “This is my second event volunteering at One Hope United. I love doing it and bringing my kids along to set a good example of helping the community.” Click here if you are interested in becoming a volunteer for OHU. 

Overall, the Spring Shuffle 5K was a great success, bringing people together to support a worthy cause and providing a fun and challenging experience for the boys from the Ermit L. Finch Campus. One Hope United looks forward to hosting more events like this in the future and continuing to make a positive impact in the lives of our community!

The Power of Partnership: USA Ice Team Joins One Hope United for an Unforgettable Day

On a chilly winter morning, a group of USA Ice Team pros headed out on frozen Deep Lake, a private lake in the Chicago suburbs. The pros, known for their skills on the ice and their love of the sport, had come equipped with all the tools and equipment they’d need to make sure the day on the ice was a success. The team regularly competes in ice fishing tournaments across the globe but on this frosted-over day they were setting up for a different kind of challenge – teaching a group of boys from the Ermit L. Finch Residential Campus how to ice fish.

As the sun began rising, the pros continued to work while the boys finished up their breakfast and trickled into the conference space to get an introduction to ice fishing from world champion fisherman, Tony Boshold. With their ice fishing questions answered and an understanding of safety on the ice, the boys picked up their “snackleboxes” and eagerly trudged down the hill to meet the rest of the pros on the frozen lake with OHU Hope Members and volunteers.

Cautiously walking on the ice, the boys inspected the lake for themselves and then the ice fishing lessons began with learning to use an auger to drill holes in the ice. Working one-on-one with the pros, the boys learned about the different types of bobbers and how to read temperature and depth gauges to find the best spots to fish. Within minutes of the first line being dropped in the water, one boy pulled a Sun Perch out of the water.

“What a great event! I loved that every child had one-on-one time with adults that weren’t staff, and I’m certain that it is always beneficial for children to see adults working together,” said Scott Moeller, an OHU Board Director volunteering at the event. “I also love the “snackleboxes” and the confidence that the boys gained throughout the day.”

But the day wasn’t just about catching fish. The boys also had the opportunity to learn about the importance of conservation, how to properly measure and handle their catches, and how to fillet a fish. After a morning on the ice, they enjoyed a delicious lunch, including a fried fish appetizer, and won prizes for the biggest catch and the most catches. The day was filled with laughter, excitement, and new experiences that the boys will never forget.

“One of the most poignant moments was when Scott Moeller asked the boys if they had any ‘fish tales’,” said Cindy Miller-Lusignan, an OHU Board Director. “We heard from one boy that his patience and grasp of the instruction on equipment really paid off. He fished with no success for the entire morning, then he moved to the fishing shanty that had the world-class electronic fish-finding equipment. He figured out how to use the sonar device, locate fish, and catch a good size fish at the end of the fishing derby. He was so thankful to Mike McNett for his strategic help in reeling in his catch.”

Events like this ice fishing derby are just one of the many ways that OHU is partnering with other organizations and the community to make a positive impact on the lives of children and families. By partnering with OHU, individuals and businesses alike have the opportunity to make a real and lasting difference in their communities. Whether through donations, volunteering, or sponsoring an event like this one, there are countless ways to get involved and support OHU’s mission.

“Additionally, I think that anytime that we can expose children to positive experiences beyond their own world, it helps them as they work through their traumas,” said Moeller.

If you’re looking for a way to give back and make a difference in the lives of children, consider partnering with OHU. Together, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to live life without limits.

One Hope United Welcomes Nicole Dunham as CPO

One Hope United is thrilled to welcome Nicole Dunham as its new Chief People Officer. With over 23 years of experience in human resources across both the non-profit and for-profit sectors, Nicole brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to OHU.

Nicole’s impressive career has seen her excel in a range of human resources functions, from recruitment and retention to performance management, training and development, and employee relations. She has also led successful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, while ensuring compliance with legal and ethical standards.

Most recently, Nicole served as Chief Human Resources and Compliance Officer for PrimeCare Health, a federally qualified community health center in Chicago. Her leadership helped the organization deliver quality, affordable care to medically underserved populations in the city’s West and Northwest sides.

Nicole has also served as Vice President of Human Resources at Illinois Action for Children, where she provided leadership and support for early education and other family and community support services. She holds a BA in Organizational Communications/Marketing and an MS in Human Resource Development from Indiana State University. Nicole has also earned an MA in Organizational Leadership at Lewis University, a Graduate Certification in Training and Development at Roosevelt University, and is a SHRM Certified Professional.

At OHU, Nicole will be responsible for developing and executing the organization’s human resources strategy, which includes recruiting, retaining, and developing top talent. Her focus on creating a positive organizational culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion will ensure that OHU is well-positioned to continue its mission of supporting children and families.

Hope Members share the excitement in having Nicole join the organization and look forward to the positive impact she will have on our organization and the communities we serve. Her extensive experience in human resources, coupled with her commitment to social justice and equity, make her an ideal fit for our organization. Welcome to OHU, Nicole!

Black Excellence in Leadership: A Conversation with ELCD Executive Director, Kenny Shackelford

As we celebrate Black History Month, we are reminded of the significant contributions of Black leaders throughout history and the contributions that Black leaders continue to make today to better our society and communities. Today we recognize the accomplishments of Kenny Shackelford, a Black leader at OHU, whose work impacts not only the organization but also the communities we serve.

Holding many roles in the early childhood education field including Teacher, Educational Coordinator, and Assistant Director, Kenny Shackelford has continued to grow his career and currently oversees OHU’s entire Early Learning & Childhood Development division as the Executive Director. Kenny is continuously recognized among staff, peers, and other leaders as an inspiring leader with a remarkable ability to motivate and guide his team to success.

Kenny Shackelford, Executive Director of ELCD

While working here at OHU, what effort or achievement are you most proud of?

At the moment, I would have to say I am most proud of having the opportunity to work alongside my Early Learning & Child Development teams (ELCD), really the administration and the entire teaching personnel. They have weathered day in and day out, through the pandemic woes and they continue to push through a critical staffing shortage within ELCD.  Every day they come to work putting forth their very best and that is all I can ask for from my teams!

What issues surrounding race or equality have you tackled during your career?

When I first started to answer this question, I didn’t think that I have had to directly tackle any issues in my professional career when it comes to race and equality, but as I really think about it and consider my experiences, I recognize I’ve tackled race issues more than I realized before. I have learned to navigate the inevitable encounters as a professional black man over my tenure. I have learned to master the art of code-switching, when this skill must be exercised, and how to pick up on unconscious bias to those who may not even be aware of what they are saying.

In your opinion, what is the importance of recognizing and celebrating Black History Month?

Black History Month is paying homage to those who paved the way for a better future life for this generation of African Americans today. It’s about giving respect to those who fought for the rights we deserve and for us to reflect back on lessons that can be learned to help us continue to work collectively today to make inequality a thing of the past!

Kenny Shackelford (far right) with his Bridgeport Early Learning Center team.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the young Black girl or boy that looks up to you as a leader in our community?

Be true to yourself. Be your authentic self. Trust your instincts. And what I feel is most important, do not let anyone make you feel bad for speaking up about something you believe in. That does not mean it is okay to “pop off at the mouth” (as the young people would say… I think) whenever you feel like it, but instead, find a way to convey your message in such a manner that allows what you’re trying to say to be truly heard. As we continue to become a more inclusive world, it’s important to recognize that as a society, we still have work to do.

Meet Shari, Infant Teacher at Joliet Early Learning Center

Meet Shari, an Infant Teacher at our Joliet Early Learning Center in Joliet, Illinois. She became a Hope Member in 2019 and teaches infants alongside her two Assistant Teachers, Rocio and Ariana. Since she shares a name with another Hope Member at the Joliet Early Learning Center, the students have lovingly dubbed her with the name “Ms. Baby Shari.”

At home, Shari also goes by the name “Mom” to her three adult children and you can probably find her chasing after her sweet dog, Gunner. Her positive and loving energy is infectious and warms up every space she walks into. We talked with Shari about what inspired her to join OHU, the best part about being an Early Learning Center Teacher, and more.

OHU Teacher, Shari smiles at one of her students playing.
Shari and Assistant Teacher, Ariana, playing with two of their students. 

What did you do before coming to One Hope United?

I did work at another daycare center, but then I had a 15 year hiatus where I was working at a cabinet shop as a Cabinet Finisher. I stained and lacquered cabinets. I did enjoy that, but then the housing market crashed and I thought: Let’s go back to what I know.

What do you love about working here?

We are such an inclusive organization, we don’t turn anybody away. Everybody is welcome. Working here, I feel like family. I’ve never felt so appreciated working in a place before. They really take care of you here, listen to your concerns and act on them. It’s just amazing! And it’s really easy to make it amazing when the people you work with are amazing.

Teacher, Shari, and Assistant Teacher, Rocio, take a walk outside with students at the Joliet Early Learning Center.
Taking a walk around the block with her students and Assistant Teacher, Rocio.

What is your day-to-day like as a Teacher at OHU?

Every day is a little different. I work with babies, and you kind of just have to go off their mood. Whatever they’re feeling is what we go with. In the morning when they come, they usually play and I get breakfast ready. My Assistant Teachers come in at 8 am. The babies play, we read stories, we do projects, and a lot of hugs. A lot of hugs… that’s the best part. I get paid to love, it doesn’t get any better than that! Whatever the babies need, that’s what they get.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming an Early Learning Center Teacher?

Be able to go with the flow. #1 you need to love it and #2 you just need to be able to go with the flow. We help each other out, sometimes you’ll help in another room and you get to learn other rooms and ages.

One Hope United Teacher, Shari, feeds a baby at lunch.
Lunchtime! Helping one of the littlest eaters in the class enjoy his lunch!

What are you most proud of since becoming a Hope Member?

The relationships I’ve been able to build with the families. I’ve always told the parents, “Your babies are our babies and we’re a team.” We take care of their babies all day long and try to be like a second set of “parents” while mom and dad are at work.


10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A Foster Parent

Foster parents make an immeasurable difference in the lives of the children in their care. Whether a foster youth’s biological parents are working to reunify with them, or the youth is waiting to be matched with loving adoptive parents, foster parents can provide safety, stability, and comfort during an uncertain time. 

In this guest blog, Tanya Young, Marketing Manager at One Hope United, shares some of the key knowledge and insights she gained after becoming a foster parent, as well as several tips for others who are new to fostering or are simply interested in learning more about the process.

At the end of 2020, my husband and I decided to take the steps to becoming foster parents, and we officially became licensed foster parents in Illinois the following year. 

We had our first interview in our home, and being new to this side of foster care, we asked what felt like a million questions. Between my personal experience as a former child in foster care and our initial interview, hours of virtual training, and a lengthy home study, I felt completely prepared for this next chapter in my life as a new foster mom. Much like they say when a couple is about to have a baby, you will never really be ready to be a parent. Being a foster parent is no exception to the rule. You can read all the books, complete all the trainings, and still things will pop up that you’d never even considered. And that’s okay. What’s most important is your willingness to grow with the challenges and reach out for help when you feel in over your head. 

Here are 10 things I wish I knew before becoming a foster parent. 

  1. Sometimes space is better than a hug. Every situation is different, but it’s important to consider what your child needs as well as what you need. If your child is screaming at the top of their lungs, offer a method to calm down – deep breaths are a go-to for me – so they can speak, and you can listen. A hug might help, but sometimes your child just needs the space to calm down on their own. Before leaving, let them know that you’ll be back to check on them in five minutes or when they’re calm. Take the time away to check in with yourself and make sure you’re self-regulating during this stressful situation.
  2. Stay consistent. Just like you’re learning about your foster child, they’re learning about you. Staying consistent with expectations and consequences for negative behaviors makes it easier for everyone. I’ve found that if kids in our care know how we’ll react to negative behaviors, those behaviors get easier to deal with. There are times when we’ve needed to switch up our parenting techniques, but as long as it’s not causing the behavior to get drastically worse, we try to give it a couple of weeks before switching it up.
  3. Communication with biological parents is so helpful, but only do what you’re comfortable with. Initially, for safety reasons, courts may not allow communication between the biological parents and foster parents, but often, communication is allowed and encouraged. If you’re comfortable talking directly with biological parents, the caseworker will establish that communication. Some of my foster parent friends use Facebook Messenger or Google Voice if they’d like to be able to call the biological parent to coordinate visits, but don’t feel comfortable giving out their personal number.
  4. Everything doesn’t come out of pocket. Fostering is a financial commitment because the reality is there will be things that come up, like trips to the zoo and birthday parties, that the monthly reimbursement doesn’t cover. However, monthly reimbursement does cover basic needs like food and sometimes a reasonable allowance. Each month you’ll probably spend more than what’s reimbursed, but some states will also reimburse costs for daycare, transportation, therapy, and even some extra-curricular activities. Ask your licensing agent or caseworker what resources are available to you.
  5. Training never stops. After you become licensed, each state has different requirements for yearly additional foster parent training credit hours. This can take many forms like additional PRIDE trainings, reading approved parenting books, or attending training events. There may be forms that have to be filled out so ask your licensing agent about what’s accepted.
  6. If you meet your foster child’s biological parents, it will be awkward. Regardless of the situation, keep compassion at the forefront of your mind. Foster care can be difficult for everyone involved and additional judgement just makes that worse.
  7. You do not have to do this alone. Family and friends are a great support system, but as a foster parent you also have a built-in support system with your agency. If repeated behaviors are getting overwhelming for your household, reach out to your caseworker. Depending on what’s happening, the caseworker may offer respite care, therapy, or in-home support like Intensive Placement Stabilization (IPS).
  8. Yes, you can go out of state with your foster child. Each state is different, but most recognize there’s a variety of reasons you’d need to travel out of state with a child in your care. For instance, my husband and I live close to the Wisconsin border, so we’re only required to text our caseworker when we’re in that area, but if we’re going to any other state we need to coordinate the trip ahead of time. There could be some additional limitations to this depending on the state, agency, and the case itself, so always check with your caseworker first.
  9. Your foster child will accumulate a lot of stuff. It’s bound to happen if a child is placed with you for more than a couple of months. Just remember, in foster care, reunification is the main goal. Some agencies will provide foster children with additional suitcases or duffle bags when a reunification date is set. Moving boxes can also be an economical choice when preparing for the big day.
  10. Document and report. A bumped head at the park, a fall off the bed, an unusual rash? All worth documenting. Take pictures of any associated injuries (no matter how small) and give a brief explanation of what happened to your caseworker. If you’re communicating with the biological parents, you may want to share this with them as well to avoid any surprises at upcoming visits. Put yourself in the biological parent’s shoes… if your child came home with a big bump on the side of their head, you would want to know what happened.

Each year, more than 250,000 children are placed in foster care in the United States. If you’re able to provide a supportive home and are interested in becoming a foster parent, click here.



Lake Villa Community Leaders Continue to Make a Difference for OHU

Dr. Raj and Rose Bhatt have spent 59 years working and living in Lake County, IL, and distinguishing themselves as leading philanthropists. Raj built an esteemed career at Abbott Laboratories as a research and development scientist, utilizing his PhD in Microbiology and Biochemistry. Rose worked as a Lab Technician and raised her 2 children, Ramesh and Anita. The Bhatts also have four grandchildren. Fortunately for One Hope United, they have shared their time and talent with the organization for over 54 years. 

In 1968, when Raj and Rose were members of the First Baptist Church in Waukegan, they became familiar with what was known then as the Central Baptist Children’s Home. The organization operated its Busy Bee Early Learning Center in the annex across the street from the church. As Rose researched her options for childcare while preparing to return to work, she chose Busy Bee for her son, Ramesh. Rose and Raj always felt he received the best care and stimulation, and this early education provided the foundation for their son’s future success. Reflecting on the impact of their volunteerism and philanthropy, Rose is quick to say the unparalleled quality of One Hope United’s early learning programs has made them proud to be part of the mission. 

Because she was so impressed with the quality of education at Busy Bee, Rose became an active volunteer. She also shared her efforts and talents with the Central Baptist Women’s Auxiliary, raising funds for the Early Learning Centers and Lake Villa Residential program. Rose and her husband Raj are two of One Hope United’s most generous donors and contributed one of the largest donations in history in the form of a stock donation. 

Even during busy or challenging seasons of life, Rose and Raj have remained committed to One Hope United, because they see the value the organization adds to so many communities. One story in particular has stayed with them through the years. At a June picnic celebrating the kickoff of summer for youth at the Lake Villa Residential home, they met a spirited 8-year-old who epitomized the positive influence of the care provided there. The youth was placed with OHU after the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) found him in an empty warehouse, where they suspected he had been living on his own for about two weeks. His parents lost track of him due to their addiction issues and struggles to find a place to live. He had never attended school, but was bright and enthusiastic about all learning, especially math. He thrived in school and leapt ahead two grade levels quickly. Rose and Raj were struck by the effectiveness of the intervention OHU provided. 

When asked how they feel about the impact they’ve made for OHU as Scofield Gibbs Society members, they shared they are sincerely grateful for being able to support many children and families in need in Lake County. They have also appreciated One Hope United’s commitment to stewarding their contributions well by maintaining excellent staff and keeping a handle on administrative costs. Their legacy is the many hours spent volunteering over 54 years, and their generosity in annual contributions and a planned gift. 

Learn how you can make an impact for One Hope United through a planned gift.


Sibling Pair Finds Forever Home after Seven Years in Foster Care

In 2015, Elijah and Deviana were removed from their biological parents’ care when Elijah was only a year and a half and Deviana six months old. The siblings were placed with a foster family through a foster care agency in Florida. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, their foster family experienced new stresses that left them unable to continue to provide a home for the pair. Having already spent years in the foster care system, their caseworker at the time placed Elijah and Deviana in a pre-adoptive home. Unfortunately, their road to adoption would be long and rocky. 

As time went on, it became clear that Elijah and Deviana’s pre-adoptive family wasn’t the right fit. During a time that had so many changes for these two children, their pre-adoptive family was considering separating Elijah and Deviana. 

Fortunately, with the help of Elijah and Deviana’s One Hope United team, as well as the advocacy of OHU’s partners at Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a new match with loving parents was made for Elijah and Deviana. Dr. Letitia Browne-James, Elijah and Devian’s adoptive mother, is a licensed and board-certified clinical mental health counselor, and her husband, Mr. Jonah James served in the Army.

Dr. Browne-James and her husband knew adoption would be their path to parenting. After passing home studies, their adoption recruiter reached out to share details around Elijah and Deviana’s case. They worked to shield the children from the anxiety and stress of prolonged legal proceedings, while being open and honest with them. “I always wanted my children to know we weren’t giving up on them – we were actually fighting for them,” Dr. Browne-James said. 

“These parents were present at every court date, and often shared updates with us via text or email on how their children were doing – the bad days and the good days,” shared Lindsay Dodich, BSW/CCWCM, Lead Adoption Specialist with OHU’s Florida Services. While Elijah and Deviana’s initial adjustment to their new home was challenging, their parents were ready to go above and beyond to make sure they received all the therapies and support they needed. 

“They are the epitome of what foster and adoptive parents should be,” Lindsay concluded. “Letitia knew she was meant to be a mom. She kept her heart open, and never stopped believing in her family.” On August 4, 2022, Judge Greg A. Tynan finalized their adoption – ensuring Elijah and Deviana would always have the love, safety, and security of a forever family. 

Because their case was open for seven years, almost every staff member on One Hope United’s Florida Adoption team got to know Elijah and Deviana. Knowing they are stable, and part of a loving family touched each of their hearts. Today, both Elijah and Deviana are thriving in school, and their behavioral and mental health are improving. Elijah was especially excited about having a last name that matched his parents’. He loves karate, action movies, bikes, and video games. Deviana is into dress-up, arts, makeup, and dolls. Their family has worked together to help the siblings improve their relationship, which is strong and healthy now. 

When possible, keeping sibling groups together is always a priority for OHU Foster Care and Adoption staff. Lindsay Dodich said, “Elijah and Deviana have only had each other their whole lives. I’ve never seen siblings who are so fiercely protective of each other. As they’ve continued to grow and thrive with their parents, I’ve seen their healing journey move forward.”

Dr. Browne-James shared, “Lindsay kept me sane. She is an amazing person and was always professional and responsive. She advocated whenever she could to help us get to this point.” 

When asked what advice she would share with other couples considering adoption, Dr. Browne-James shared, “You should prepare for unexpected bumps in the road, but know what you’re fighting for, and that it will be worth it in the end.” 

“When I tell you it has been a long road to permanency for these children, I mean it,” said Charles Vance, CCWCMS, Adoption Supervisor, Florida Services. “The last 2 years have been their toughest. Challenging does not begin to describe the road it took to get them to this day, but our team could not be happier or prouder to see where they are now.”

*If you would like to support One Hope United’s efforts to match more children with loving adoptive parents, consider making a gift. 




Ensuring a Successful Back-to-School Season for Youth in Residential Care

The back-to-school season brings excitement, nerves, and a season of change for youth of all ages across the country. Youth in Residential or Group Homes may require extra support, and the Youth Care Workers and Staff Members at One Hope United’s Residential programs take careful steps to ensure children and youth have the resources and encouragement they need for a successful school year. 

Read below for a special guest blog from Emily Owen, MS, Director of Programs and Placement Services at the Centralia Residential and Group Home Campuses, about what the back-to-school season looks like for youth in Residential care in Illinois. 

Back-to-school is a time we celebrate in our Residential and Group Home programs each year. Every summer, we throw a Summer Kick-Off event that involves BBQ, games and laughter. Most of our youth attend a summer school program through the month of June. During this time, youth attend classes for half of the day to receive additional educational support and most importantly, credit recovery. This assists in keeping structure and routine in place for the youth as well. 

School can be a difficult time for some. A lot of the youth in our care have bounced around in several different schools because of placement changes, and as a result, are behind academically. This can also be a barrier for developing and strengthening social skills, as well as participating in extra curricular activities. However, many of the youth we serve thrive in school and look forward to getting back into the ritual and routine of the school day. We work with each youth to foster their unique interests and make sure that their needs are being met. 

The young women at our campuses participate in back-to-school clothing shopping as well as supply shopping to prepare for the upcoming school year. One unique aspect of serving many different clients is that they all have individual educational needs. Our youth could attend a variety of schools based on their educational needs, and it is possible that we could be sending youth to 1 of 6 potential educational settings. This can be a juggling act for staff and youth scheduling and transportation needs. 

Each year, we host a back-to-school bash to get our youth excited about the new school year. It is very important for our programs to honor the societal norms that are occurring in traditional homes so that we can make our youth feel like they are special, and to make sure they have access to similar home-based experiences their peers have. Last year, we provided youth with a special back-to-school gift bag that included many fun items for them to enjoy. The bag included sensory items as well as a hand-crafted bracelet with an encouraging note. These types of acts of kindness are always appreciated and encouraged from our donors.

You can make a difference for the youth in our care by volunteering or making a gift. 




Providing Culturally-Informed Behavioral Healthcare for BIPOC Children and Families

According to Mental Health America (MHA), Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are more likely to screen positive or at-risk for alcohol and substance abuse disorders, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and psychosis. Barriers to accessing quality mental healthcare in BIPOC communities can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as cultural stigma around mental illness, systemic racism and discrimination, language barriers, mistrust of mental health care providers, and a lack of cultural competency on the part of mental health care providers.   

Additionally, MHA reports that: 

  • Of the 18.3% of the U.S. population estimated to be Latino or Hispanic, of those, over 16% reported having a mental illness in the past year. 
  • Of the 13.4% of the U.S. population who identify as Black or African American, of those, over 16% reported having a mental illness in the past year. 
  • Of the 1.3% of the U.S. population that identifies as Native American or Alaskan Native, of those, over 19% reported having a mental illness in the past year. 

At One Hope United, our Case Managers, Youth Care Workers, and Therapists are committed to providing culturally informed, holistic care for thousands of BIPOC children, youth, and families each year. 

Throughout her 30-year career, Jana Grooms, Clinical Director of Placement Services, has seen bias and stigma persist in BIPOC communities around seeking behavioral healthcare. Jana said, “We can’t expect to engage clients in services successfully without building trust and conducting research to ensure our teams understand any cultural differences or biases they may carry into their work subconsciously.” 

Jana also acknowledged that historical patterns and generational trauma contribute to mistrust when it comes to behavioral healthcare. In recent years, she has seen leaders in the child welfare sector conduct more training around cultural competency and cultural differences that may exist between white caseworkers and BIPOC clients. For example, Jana has seen that many Hispanic families want to be very involved with their child’s behavioral health treatment and may not understand why they can’t sit in on their child’s therapy session, because traditionally in Hispanic cultures, families are very tight-knit and view each member of the family as a component of the whole. In her work with Black clients, Jana has seen generational trauma and systemic racism in healthcare negatively impact clients’ mental health and decrease their trust and willingness to participate in services.

“We will continue to work to decrease stigma around behavioral health treatment, and ensure the communities we serve have access to quality programs and services,” Jana concluded.

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