Pathfinders Helps Preschooler Heal From Exposure To Domestic Abuse

Innovative therapeutic program helps preschool children cope with difficult emotions and lead more positive lives.

When Lucy*, 5, first arrived at One Hope United’s Elgin Child & Family Resource Center, she was extremely sensitive to loud noises, covering her ears and experiencing severe anxiety whenever another child would cry out—which, at a child care center, can be often. When she was frustrated or experienced even the slightest discipline, “she would scream at the top of her lungs, as if she were afraid for her life,” pounding on the wall and stomping her feet, her mother, Krista*, explains. “I knew right away I needed help.”

Lucy’s behavior was related to traumas she had experienced as a very young child. She witnessed physical abuse by her biological father toward her mother, and while he never physically harmed Lucy, when she would have tantrums as a 2- and 3-year-old, hewould rush toward her with raised fists in an attempt to make herto stop. “She went through a lot,” Krista says.

While those traumas were fortunately in the past, their effects were disrupting Lucy’s education and potentially that of her classmates. In addition, adverse childhood experiences can have long-term effects on children’s health, behavior, and life potential. It’s for children like Lucy that One Hope United began Pathfinders, a unique program that combines aspects of our family counseling programs with our early childhood education centers to help children cope with negative emotions and adopt healthier behaviors.

Pathfinders therapist Tara Cassidy says the program is a collaboration with the child, their family, and their teacher.

Sometimes it’s the teacher who notices an issue and alerts Tara, who will then engage the child’s family to offer support, which is covered through private insurance or Medicaid. She will observe and engage with the child in the classroom, with their family, and in individual sessions, and craft a treatment plan that often involves the family due to the child’s young age. The evidence-based treatment is called Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency.

One boy who was predisposed to depression learned deep breathing and created a book of coping skills. “On one page he put all the things that he liked to do, so if he was feeling down, he could just go in his book and see, ‘I could go ride my bike,I could go take a walk,’ things that would help him get out of a low mood,” Tara says.

Another child who struggled with tantrums learned to express her emotions and tell her loved ones why she was upset. Her coping skills included coloring and walking the dog—a therapy dog that was part of her treatment. Tara also taught her family to recognize when the girl needed help and step in with an activity. “Because they’re so young, sometimes they don’t just say, ‘I need to go use a coping skill,’” she says.

It’s important to make the sessions and treatment fun so the kids will want to continue. “They may think we’re just playing, but we’re really doing therapy,” Tara says. “If they don’t have fun, they won’t want to be there, and they won’t learn as much. People learn better when they’re enjoying it.”

Krista says that Lucy is “a completely different little girl” as a result of Pathfinders. Through the program, Lucy has increased her self-esteem, developed confidence, grown more talkative,made more friends, and no longer covers her ears at loud noises. “I can’t say enough how amazing the program has been for my daughter. It changed her life and gave her the chance for a much better life altogether.”

Pathfinders is also offered One Hope United’s Aurora Early Learning Center and Joliet Early Learning Center, and could expand to more, which Tara would be happy to see. “This is the first program I’ve been in where the kids are so little, and it’s great,” she says. “The earlier you help them, the better off they’ll be.”

*Name has been changed.

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.

One Hope United Names Lake Villa Campus for Ermit L. Finch

ABOVE Ermit L. Finch (right) is joined by his wife, Jonni Miklos (left), and One Hope United Board Chair Theresa A. Dear (center) at the ceremony to dedicate the Lake Villa campus in his name.

Finch lived on campus from 1948 to ’51 and became first former client to serve on One Hope United’s Board.

One Hope United has named its Lake Villa, Ill., campus after a former resident and current board member Ermit L. Finch. The Board of Directors hosted a ceremony to dedicate the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa on Friday, April 26, attended by the Board, staff of the campus, friends and family of Finch, and Lake Villa’s Mayor James McDonald.

Read about the ceremony and Finch’s life in the Lake County News-Sun.

Finch took up residence at One Hope United campus (then Central Baptist Children’s Home) in 1948, following a harrowing childhood in Arkansas. (Watch The Impact of Ermit Finch video below.)

Finch was born in Little Rock, Ark., in 1934 to a furniture salesman and homemaker. Both parents contracted tuberculosis in the 1940s and went to sanatoriums, after which he saw his father once a week and communicated with his mother, who was sent to New Mexico, only by letter. Her death in 1945 precipitated his father’s death less than 30 days later.

After a short time living and working on his uncle’s farm, where Finch acquired the nickname “Cotton”—the farm’s signature crop—for his white hair, Finch transferred to an Arkansas orphanage where the conditions were difficult and the discipline severe. Finch, small for his age, was bullied, and boys were frequently whipped and denied meals.

A change in leadership to Dr. Louis B. Snider vastly improved Finch’s quality of life, and Finch eventually came with Snider’s family to Lake Villa, Ill., when Snider took a position at what is today One Hope United. Finch has fond memories of life on campus, which included group meals, singing, riding horses, and tending to chickens. “The expansiveness of this place, and the lake—it was paradise,” he recalls. “This was a growth time. It felt good. You liked yourself. Somebody else liked you.”

“Ermit personifies One Hope United’s vision: For every child and family, a life without limits,” said President and CEO Charles A. Monotorio-Archer. “His story speaks to the potential in each of us to overcome hardship and trauma when we have the right support. I’m thrilled to recognize him with the dedication of the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa.”

The support Finch received at One Hope United led Finch to academic and personal success. While on campus, he learned to read and graduated from Antioch High School, where he played tuba in the marching band. He went on to attend the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, returning to the campus in the summers to live and work. He would raise his own family and lead a successful business career in heating, air conditioning and residential construction.

“Ermit’s undefeatable, unbreakable, and unstoppable spirit has been an unending source of inspiration at One Hope United,” said Board Chair Theresa A. Dear.

In 2003, Finch revisited the campus and resumed his connection to the place where he spent the happiest years of his childhood. He joined the Board of Directors of One Hope United in 2004, the first former resident to do so.

“It was a blessing to be exposed and to have the opportunity” to live and thrive on the campus, Finch said at the ceremony. “I’m wonderfully honored.”

One Hope United has operated the Ermit L. Finch campus since 1948. Today it is home to the CARE Residential Program, which serves as many as 50 young boys and teenagers between the ages of 9 to 18 years old who don’t have a biological or foster family to live with. The campus also includes a Therapeutic Day School, attended by young men from the campus and the surrounding communities.

Serving and Supporting Transgender Youth at One Hope United

When the opportunity to serve transgender youth through One Hope United’s Centralia residential programs arose, director Melissa Webster thought to herself, “We can do that!”

According to the National Center for Child Welfare Excellence, 57 percent of trans youth report experiencing family rejection, and trans youth are disproportionately represented in child welfare settings. If they feel unsafe in their placement, they may choose instead to live on the streets—20 percent of homeless youth identify as trans.

Melissa knew that her facilities, which include private rooms and locking doors, as well as her team’s approach of doing what’s best for the youth in their care, would make One Hope United a good fit for trans youth. “There’s no judgment here,” she said. “Wherever you are today, we’re going to meet you there.”

That’s what the team tried to convey to Taylor*, 15, when he visited the campus to consider living there (he was assigned a female sex at birth and now identifies as male). Home supervisor Greg Phoenix began by asking Taylor what he needed from the program. “He really just wanted our support and to be accepted for who he was, and our willingness to do that was probably the largest deciding factor for him choosing us,” Greg said.

Taylor’s arrival on campus took some adjustment for some of the other boys, but Greg says that period was short and that Taylor now gets along with all the boys in the home. “They see him as one of their own. They watch TV together, play games together—he’s fully accepted.”

The staff at One Hope United have supported Taylor by helping him when he wanted to travel to the pride parade in Springfield, Illinois, and to an LGBTQ support group in St. Louis, Missouri. Taylor also holds a leadership role on DCFS’s youth advisory board and is working with two other LGBTQ youth on campus to start a support group at One Hope United. Now, Taylor is poised to transition to foster care.

Working with Taylor, one of the first openly trans youth at One Hope United, has been “enriching,” says therapist Howard Coon.

“He knew from a very young age that he wasn’t born in the right body. He can say, ‘I know this is who I want to be,’ and it’s nice to see youth who can put that kind of passion into their treatment, their personal lives, and their goals,” Howard said. “We hope to help Taylor achieve some of those things before he moves on to his next placement.”

This story is from our 2017 Annual Report.

*Name has been changed.

Centralia Basketball ‘Court of Hope’ Dedicated in Honor of Sprehe Family

When you drive into Centralia, Illinois, you’re greeted by a sign welcoming you to the “Home of the Winningest H.S. Basketball Team in the Nation.”

One of the next things you see is One Hope United’s Centralia campus, with its newly restored basketball court.

One Hope United’s board of directors raised funds to renovate the court – which serves as the heart of the campus and a gathering and recreation space for youth – and dedicated it as the Forrest D. and June L. Sprehe Court of Hope.

Forrest Sprehe was a Centralia resident and longtime board member of One Hope United’s downstate region. He and his wife, June, were well known for their volunteerism and community support throughout the area.

“I know Dad was involved in a lot of organizations, from the school board to his industry organizations, but One Hope United was closest to his and Mom’s heart,” said their son, Greg Sprehe, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a board member, most recently as board chair.

“It was all about family for them,” Greg added. “Extending the resources they had – particularly the time Dad spent working with the organization – was, I know he would say, the most important work he ever did.”

Misty Sprehe Wright and Greg Sprehe

In addition to Greg’s service on the board, he and his wife, Victoria, frequently spend time on the Centralia campus, particularly around the holiday season, when they help the youth prepare dishes and decorate for the annual holiday party.

Their dedication to service “doesn’t happen by accident; that’s a family value,” said Melissa Webster, One Hope United’s director of programs in Centralia. “And we know that that’s a generational value.”

Both Greg and his sister, Misty Sprehe Wright, played in Centralia High School’s famed basketball program, so for them, the court was a fitting tribute to their parents.

“These are our roots,” said Misty, who became Centralia’s first female to play basketball in grade school – playing on the boys team – and went on to become a PE teacher and coach. Addressing the Centralia campus youth at the court dedication, she said, “We have great memories, and we hope all you residents – you amazing, wonderful kids – enjoy basketball and enjoy these facilities as much as we have.”

The October 4, 2017, dedication was attended by the Sprehe family and friends, Centralia community members, youth living on the Centralia campus, and One Hope United staff from Centralia and beyond. The youth wasted no time making use of the basketball court, inaugurating it with a tournament immediately following the program.

“With the Sprehe family, it’s always been about the focus on kids and families and helping them reach their greatest potential,” said Scott Humphrey, President and CEO of One Hope United. “In my book, there’s nobody that embodies our vision about ‘life without limits’ better than the Sprehe family.”

November is National Adoption Awareness Month

Every year, November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. At One Hope United, one of our most important goals is to ensure a safe and loving home for every child. We invite and encourage parents in our communities who wish to start or expand their families to consider opening their doors—and hearts—and adopt through One Hope United.

Though in Illinois, OHU’s adoption services are limited to our existing foster parents, we are continuously searching nationwide for parents to adopt children who we care for in our Florida program.

OHU’s adoption team currently services Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Brevard Counties in FL. The team has an innate passion for providing forever families for their children and keeping siblings together. Keeping siblings together is definitely a challenge, as most siblings have remained separated since entering foster care; however, they continue to advocate for siblings despite the odds. In the last fiscal year the Orlando adoption team had found over 35 forever homes for their children and their goal and mission is to continue finding safe and permanent homes for each available child.

To learn more about OHU’s Adoption program, visit onehopeunited.wpengine.com/adoption.

Additional Links

http://www.adoptflorida.org/

Central Florida Event: http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/events/national-adoption-day-celebration-orange-county-2/

Chicago Event: http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/events/wendys-wonderful-kids-match-event/

https://davethomasfoundation.org/adopt/national-adoption-day/

OHU Employee Appreciation Week 2016!

One Hope United’s recent Employee Appreciation Week was a huge hit!

Our employees work very hard every single day to support the mission and vision of our organization. Therefore, we wanted to take time to recognize all that they do by hosting an Employee Appreciation Week dedicated to showing our appreciation. This was a week for our staff to have fun and pat themselves on the back because they truly deserve it.




Each day of Employee Appreciation Week was lead by a different theme, from Healthy Start, Healthy You Day to R&R Day! Everyone had a blast and we have the photos to prove it! Check out a few photos from the fun week below and click through to view the full Facebook photo album.

14682198_10155271979057004_6696775325223478340_o 14702217_10155270893372004_6065583851450312788_n 14729210_10155270896627004_953752559965886651_n14670651_10155270872302004_8112392804371469388_n

Help Us Spring Ahead Towards Our Goal!

One Hope United is tremendously grateful for the continuous support of our supporters and donors. Your generosity during this past year has allowed us to impact the lives of countless children and families throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Florida.

Yet, as we approach the end of our fiscal year on June 30, 2016, we realize that we still have a ways to go! We ask that you join us in our efforts to “spring ahead” towards our final fundraising goal. Your financial gift will allow us to continue strengthening families in need, providing counseling for children who have experienced trauma and abuse and offering quality early learning education, along with a wide range of additional resources for those that we serve.

We believe that a child’s future should not be determined solely by their circumstances. Every child deserves to have big dreams and most importantly, the opportunity to attain them. Our vision is for every child and family, life without limits.

Please make your donation by June 30, 2016 at onehopeunited.wpengine.com/springahead.