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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.

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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.

OHU Donor Spotlight | Paul Earle and Ellen Rudnick

As states’ funding of child care and availability of certain services remain in flux, One Hope United’s work becomes even more vital to improving the future of children and families in the communities we serve. For this reason, our agency is honored to have so many committed donors who both believe in the work that that we do and continue to generously support our programs and sustainability. Two of these donors, are One Hope United board member Paul Earle and his spouse Ellen Rudnick.

“We wanted to focus our gift on the longer‑term health of a non‑profit organization,” said Earle. “Most non‑profits live day to day, especially when the economy is dreadful.” The retired Spencer Stuart senior leader has served on the One Hope United board since 2005, and as he and Rudnick focus their efforts on philanthropy and strategic giving, they have found that One Hope United lines up perfectly with their desire to give to agencies that focus on children and families and to support well‑managed, sustainable organizations with great outcomes.

“There are so many overwhelming problems in the world,” says Ellen Rudnick, Executive Director and Clinical Professor of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “We take solace in knowing that by donating to One Hope United, we’re impacting one child and family at a time, right here in our own community.” Earle and Rudnick decided to make one large joint gift to One Hope United’s Capital Reserve Fund, instead of spreading a number of smaller gifts to a number of worthy non‑profit organizations. The couple wanted to make a more resonant impact and the reserve fund allows the agency to expand and remain sustainable.

Since establishing the Capital Reserve Fund, they have also contributed a three year commitment of funding for the residential CARE program. The funding is providing development and training of a new evidenced based, trauma informed model of care through Cornell University.

“Sustainability is extremely important for the future of non‑profits,” said Rudnick. “Organizations need new revenue models to couple with the social mission of their enterprise. Non‑profits can’t just rely on grants, government funds and direct mail campaigns to those who have given in the past. As individual donors, we can help set non‑profits off on the right path with strategic giving and guidance.”

Earle and Rudnick said that they admired the fiscal responsibility and accountability of One Hope United, but what was even more important in motivating them to give was the desire to sustain these programs as the state of government funding is uncertain. The majority of One Hope United’s services, such as early education, foster care and child/family counseling, are underwritten by government funds. As state deficits grow, funding for these programs shrinks. “What is happening to these children down the road because the State has stopped paying?” asked Earle.

In May, at OHU’s Hope In Action fundraiser, Earle and Rudnick were recognized with the Leadership In Giving award. “It is committed, generous individuals like Paul and Ellen who are filling in critical gaps for One Hope United children and families,” said CEO Scott Humphrey. Their giving spans many years and includes many types of gifts such as the Capital Reserves gift, the Cornell model training and many special moments for clients at sporting events in Chicago. One Hope United is forever grateful for the generosity of Paul Earle and Ellen Rudnick.

The WINGS Program Visits Brookfield Zoo!

One Hope United’s WINGS program was chosen by the Brookfield Women’s Zoological Society to receive a free day at Brookfield Zoo on Saturday, June 4th. This outing included two free buses, admission to the zoo, lunch, and admission to the Zoo’s special attractions.

OHU’s WINGS program provides essential support services and counseling to high-risk teenage, single and other parents in Lake County, as they adjust to the responsibilities of parenthood. Targeting new and expecting parents, WINGS promotes positive parent-child interaction and works to enhance family functioning, build trusting relationships and teach problem-solving skills.

The field trip was a huge success! There were around 40 clients who participated and they all had an awesome time. The clients thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities, especially the dolphin show and the carousel.

Thank you Brookfield Zoo!

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CCAP Restrictions Leave OHU’s Joliet Center Nearly Empty

Photo by Eric Ginnard
Photo by Eric Ginnard

One Hope United was recently featured in The Joliet Herald-News in a story about how stricter Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) rules are adversely impacting working families seeking affordable, high-quality child care in the Joliet, IL area.

OHU’s Joliet Early Learning Center opened this year after extensive renovations of the facility, made in part with a $3.14 million grant from the state of Illinois.  The center has the capacity to serve 212 children but currently has just 22 children enrolled.

OHU chose the Joliet community for this state-of-the-art center based in part on the high need in the community for top-notch child care.

“That’s the irony in all of this,” Beth Lakier, OHU’s Executive Vice President of Early Learning, told the Herald-News. “The state recognized this as a community in need, but they’ve essentially invested in an empty building.”

Read the full story online and then learn how you can get involved to ensure that all families have access to early learning programs that set their children up for lifelong learning and success.

Healthy Families Illinois, Wings and Doula Throw a Success Party!

DSC_0005This week, OHU’s Healthy Families Illinois, Wings and Doula programs celebrated the successes of their participants with a fun outdoor picnic in Waukegan, IL! Rather than celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or graduations separately, the programs combined all of these into one big “Success Party” to celebrate all of the families together.

Everyone had a wonderful time, enjoying great food and socializing with fellow participants in the programs. Congratulations to all of our participants on their amazing success!

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Toddler reunited with biological family almost two years after death of mother

When Jason came to One Hope United in October 2009, very little was known about his birth mother.

At the age of 2, Jason was removed from the care of non-relatives after he was repeatedly left alone without supervision. He was found,  wandering outside and was almost struck by a vehicle in the parking lot of the apartment complex where he was living.

Jason was immediately removed from the caregiver due to neglect and inadequate supervision.

Upon receiving Jason’s case, One Hope United team members discovered that he had no known biological family. His mother was killed by gunshot when Jason was only 3 months old. Since then, his life was unstable, having lived with two families, both non-relative, who were unable to care for him properly.

One Hope United staff were passionate about finding a permanent, loving home for the young boy. Utilizing a new family finding approach, which included a brainstorming session between Program Director Neika Berry, Supervisor Ebonie Hopkins and Program Specialist Valerie Threadgill, to determine what could be discovered about Jason’s biological family.

First, the identity and location of Jason’s father were questionable and following paternity testing, there were no leads.

Through diligent case mining efforts, staff discovered that Jason had two half-siblings that were removed from his mother’s care prior to his birth. Those children remained with paternal relatives, who were not related to Jason, and unfortunately, the caregivers were not interested in taking care of him.

It was through the implementation of family finding techniques that One Hope United was able to locate two possible maternal relatives of Jason. The maternal grandmother and uncle were possibly living in Lake Worth, Florida.

Family Case Manager Alrick Esberry took the initiative and attempted to contact both individuals at their last known addresses. Within a week, both relatives contacted Esberry and were eager to assist in providing a home for Jason. It was discovered that the maternal relatives had lost touch with Marie, Jason’s biological mother, due to her troubled past and were not aware of the baby that she had prior to her sudden death. Immediately, both relatives were invested and worked with One Hope United to give Jason a much deserved home.

In March 2010, Jason was placed with his maternal uncle and family in Palm Beach County with a goal of adoption. Due to the hard work and dedication of Esberry and the new Family Finding Initiative, launched by passionate One Hope United team members and in collaboration with Family Services of Metro Orlando, Jason was reunited with his biological family, found a loving home and forever family.

Advocacy and collaboration paved a path to permanent home with birth father

A destructive confrontation, in which her mother brandished a knife, landed Brianna*, 13, in foster care. Brianna suffered knife cuts on her hands as a consequence of the altercation with her mother. Investigators saw these cuts during a visit to the home, resulting in Brianna’s removal in Sept. 2009.

Brianna was placed in an emergency shelter in a neighboring county about 70 miles from her mother’s home. Not quite a month later, she was moved to a residential foster care group home for teenage girls in Orlando. Upon entry to the group home, Brianna faced many hardships as the youngest and was picked on by the older girls.

Family Case Manager Jacinta Robinson became an instant advocate for Brianna and began to search for appropriate options for the young girl outside of licensed foster care.

While mining the case file, Jacinta located contact information for Brianna’s birth father. The One Hope United case manager took things a step further and made contact with the father, who was living in New Jersey. The father assured Jacinta that he wanted his daughter home with him, and he was able to provide a copy of the court order showing that he had joint custodial guardianship of Brianna, as a result of a previous divorce.

Jacinta continued to advocate for Brianna by communicating with Supervisor Laurie Stern and other One Hope United leadership with a hope that potential barriers could be removed on the behalf of the best interest of the child. Unfortunately, some of the barriers included a criminal case in addition to a dependency case against the mother, where Brianna would be a witness required to testify. In addition, Interstate Compact was also a potential barrier given her recent shelter.

Despite the barriers and challenges, Jacinta continued to work with OHU leadership who worked with the Department of Family Services staff and Children’s Legal Services staff to think out of the box to ensure that Brianna would not spend Thanksgiving in foster care. Jacinta strongly felt that Brianna should be placed with her birth father, who eagerly wanted her home.

With the collaboration of many, and the advocacy by Jacinta and Laurie, Brianna was able to visit her father in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. While she was there, OHU continued to advocate for Brianna’s well-being and worked with Children’s Legal Services to dismiss the dependency case and place the child with the father, who also worked with an attorney in New Jersey to get full custody of Brianna.

Eventually, the teamwork lead by Jacinta made it possible for this child to be placed with her birth father permanently. Brianna was able to happily spend the holiday season with family and loved ones, where Jacinta reports she is now flourishing.

*Name was changed to protect confidentiality.

Collaboration between staff members offers hope to mother and daughter

On April 9, 2009, 16-year-old Christina* was removed from her mother’s home due to medical neglect. It was alleged that Christina was not receiving the proper health care treatment nor was she taking her medication on a consistent basis (she was diagnosed with a chronic infectious disease that is life threatening}.

Initially, Christina was placed with her maternal grandmother. However, shortly after, Christina was removed and placed in a foster group home as the maternal grandmother was not able to meet Christina’s medical needs.

Upon meeting Christina’s mother, Family Case Manager Jessica Rodriguez felt confident that Christina would be home within a few months. The mother appeared highly motivated to complete her case plan tasks and to be reunified with her daughter. But, the mother’s motivation quickly decreased, and she began to become less involved with the case over time.

Christina was extremely upset coming into care and did not understand why she could not be with her mother and brother (who was never removed from the home). Jessica worked with Program Specialist Valerie Threadgill to identify relatives via Family Finding that would be willing to keep Christina or even pick her up during the weekends for temporary relief from the group home environment.

The case soon came to a stand still as all of the relatives seemed to be unstable and the mother was making minimal efforts to achieve the permanency goal. Christina began to lose hope and her frustration was revealed in her school performance and day-to-day attitudes about life.

Jessica turned to Valerie who provided her with words of wisdom and encouraged the young family case manager to re-engage the mother, letting her know how much she was needed in her child’s life. Taking Valerie’s advice, Jessica began to engage the mother once again by explaining the situation from Christina’s perspective.

The mother finally admitted to Jessica that she was upset the whole time with the Department of Children and Families for taking her child away after she had requested help on several occasions. The mother said she knew that Christina needed medical attention, but recognized she needed assistance in taking care of Christina’s medical needs. She did not understand why removal was the “best option” for her family.

The mother admitted to being rebellious, and also realized that she was only hurting Christina in the process. After the conversation, the mother worked, in conjunction with Jessica, diligently to achieve her permanency goal, completing her tasks and establishing a stable residence in which she could bring her child to live. In the meantime, Christina continued to take her medication, participated in her counseling sessions and worked hard to bring up her grades.

Christina was happily reunified on Feb. 22, 2010, and is spending her 17th birthday with her mother and brother. Great work to Jessica Rodriguez and Valerie Threadgill for collaborating to fulfill the OHU promise of hope!

*Name was changed to protect confidentiality.

Orlando foster youth to go from independent living to full academic scholarship playing Division I football

While growing up, Davonnie Coard admits he was a very difficult child and was no stranger to the delinquency system. At 14, Davonnie got into a violent fight with his brother—ultimately leading to his arrest. His mother, unable to handle the situation and fearing for her and the family’s safety, requested assistance from the State of Florida.

So Davonnie entered foster care. He bounced from group home to group home, mostly due to requests for removal due to bad behavior. At 16, he arrived at a facility in Pine Hills, Florida, and enrolled at Evans High School. Greg Thompson, head football coach at Evans, immediately recognized Davonnie’s large stature, standing at 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighing 305 pounds, and asked Davonnie to play for the Evans High School football team.

Davonnie credits Coach Thompson with teaching him how to refocus his anger onto the football field. Davonnie’s demeanor at the group home began to change for the better shortly after starting football, and for once in his life, Davonnie found stability.

By age 17, Davonnie remained stable in his group home in Pine Hills and demonstrated no negative behaviors. And, for the first time in a long time, he had committed individuals in his life, including Coach Thompson, and new mentor, Bill Rodriguez.

With his new found success on the football field and entering into his senior year of high school, Davonnie was looking for and wanted more in his home life. During this time, Stephen Ryan, independent living coordinator with One Hope United, worked with Davonnie on transferring to the Laurel Hill Independence Center, an independent living group home facility that allows older, responsible children in foster care to have more self-sufficiency, while teaching them essential skills to prepare them for the real world.

“I did a lot of work with Davonnie in preparing him for his 18th birthday,” said Stephen. “When the children I’m working with turn 18, I give each of them a way to contact me, whether it’s by phone or e-mail, so they do not lose that extra support while they transition to adulthood. Even though One Hope United is no longer officially involved in these cases, I still work with them to help point them in the right direction.”

Stephen says that Davonnie is thriving and learning so much from his stay at Laurel Hill Independence Center, including how to lead an independent life after 18. He is also learning about collegiate football from the center’s Program Manager Calvin Windham, who was a former player of Louisiana State University.

Unfortunately, during the first preseason scrimmage of Davonnie’s senior year, he broke his left foot. Even with such a short amount of playtime due to the injury, Davonnie’s confidence on the field and passion for football showed through, making an impact on football scouts from across the nation.

On Feb. 3, 2010, National Signing Day for college football, Davonnie signed his Letter of Intent to play Division I football at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida A&M University even offered Davonnie a full academic scholarship!

Davonnie still calls Stephen to ask for life advice or help with filling out forms. Just the other day, Davonnie asked Stephen to accompany him to a parent/teacher conference at school.

“While I had no legal standpoint because Davonnie was 18 years old, I believe that he just wanted to see a friendly face and have someone he can turn to with questions,” said Stephen. “I’m so excited to see Davonnie off when he moves to Tallahassee in the fall!”