Monday, April 23, 2012

Grass Roots Advocacy Day in Sacramento

We headed to the State Capitol last week to participate in the Association of Regional Center Agencies' (ARCA) Grass Roots Day on April 18. 

We descended on the Capitol Building in downtown Sacramento bright and early, ready to advocate for key issues affecting those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, across the state. We started the day with a briefing from ARCA and got to know our meeting groups. 

We reviewed our talking points and briefed ourselves on background information for our State Legislator meetings. We distributed piles of letters and petitions written by concerned Californians who want to ensure that our most vulnerable populations are protected and provided with the care they need. 

Then, we whisked ourselves away to countless meetings around the capitol building. At every meeting, we shared personal stories about how budget cuts have affected individuals from the Developmental Services system. We urged our legislators to "stop the bleeding" and do whatever they can to protect against additional cuts. 

Sharing stories in the office of Senate Majority Leader, Ellen M. Corbett

Words from Representative Paul Fong: I want to represent the most vulnerable. I'm a social justice and civil rights advocate. That's why I'm here in Sacramento. 

Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. Chair of the Human Services Committee.

"Quilt" of artwork in Jim Beall's office, provided by special needs students in his district.  

We were pleased to work with the Community Membership and Media Program at Hope Services, conducting participant interviews, taking photos and recording the day via ustream

Hope Services Community Membership and Media Program interview between Toby Ames and David Forsderer. 
We had a wonderful and informative day in Sacramento advocating alongside ARCA. We take our role as a provider of services for families with autism and other developmental disabilities through our Family Focused Support Network in the Silicon Valley very seriously. We aim to provide the highest quality care possible. Sometimes that means we step away from our day-to-day responsibilities to travel to Sacramento and beyond to lend our voices in support of our clients.

A huge thank you to Sheri Reynolds, Director of the Family Focused Support Network at Aspiranet for welcoming our digital media team to her advocacy activities in Sacramento. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Favorites: April 13 2012

Happy Friday everyone! Here are some of our favorite finds from around the web this week in the world of child welfare, foster care and more.

Favorite Share: People Passing the Pinwheel. You guys made our month with your enthusiastic response to our Pass the Pinwheel effort in support of Child Abuse Awareness month. This image made its way around the web this week at lightning speed. If you haven't shared it yet, what are you waiting for?

Favorite Foster Parent: Foster Parenting at Midlife. When your nest is empty, why not fill it up again? That's what Jude Cockerton did and she doesn't regret it for a moment.  

Favorite Person: Samantha LaGrasse. She's a social worker, a blogger, and as of this week, a television news personality. She amazes us with her advocacy and her willingness to take on additional responsibilities to get the word out about her work with emancipated foster youth

Favorite Words: Robin Campbell talks about working with Dave Thomas. Can you imagine how awesome it was to work with Dave Thomas? What's that you say? You don't spend your free time wishing you could've worked with child welfare legends like we do?

That's strange. 

Anyway, you have to read this blog post from Ms. Campbell about her fondest memories working with Dave Thomas for more than 15 years. Sigh.

Favorite Forecast: Sunny and 70 degrees in Northern California this weekend? You know where to find us! (Hint: it begins with Farmer's and ends with Market.)

Have a great weekend everyone!

PS - If you have any links you think we should include in Friday Favorites, send 'em our way

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Try this: Autism Screening Quiz

80% of internet users use the web to look for health/medical info*.

Big number, huh?

We thought so too.

In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, we created a new online tool designed to help parents screen their children for behaviors associated with autism. Our goal was to meet concerned parents online and give them a reliable tool to quickly assess concerning behaviors. Based on their responses to our age-related true/false questions, we connect parents to resources and provide direction for their next steps.

Click here to take Aspiranet's Online Autism Self-help Screening Quiz.

Our Family Focused Support Network (FFSN) provides intensive case management, in-home behavioral services and counseling to assist families and children who are challenged by autism and other developmental disabilities. The quiz was developed by Sheri Reynolds, the Director of FFSN and one of the country's leading youth autism therapy experts.

You can always contact us with your questions or concerns.

Disclaimer: While the Autism Screening Quiz can help you identify behaviors that could suggest a child has autism, it is not a diagnosis tool or a treatment for autism. If you are concerned about your child’s development, please contact us

*Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project trend data for online activities.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Upcoming Fresno Events Highlight the Needs of Foster Youth

About the author: My name is Samantha and I am Aspiranet’s Program Manager for THP-Plus and HPRPin Fresno. For the last 1 ½ years, I have helped youth emancipating from foster care successfully transition to adulthood. I have spent my career as a social worker (15 years!), working with children and families who need help in healing, even though the task often seems giant and the hurt is incredible. Seeing a child get the chance for a better life makes the challenges seem small and the hard work well-worth it. You can connect with me on facebook or twitter.

One of the most powerful teaching tools I have encountered in providing services to youth has been listening to their experiences and learning from their journeys.  Nothing is as impactful as hearing former foster youth recount their stories from foster care and the incredible lengths they’ve gone to overcome their personal hardships.  

Many times, the emotions evident in stories shared have a way of touching the heart and bringing tears to your eyes.  For me as a parent, it often reminds me of how protective I am of my own child, and how hard it is to hear of a child who has had to experience unnecessary trauma. 

I encourage everyone providing direct services or care to foster youth to come experience first-hand the power that story-telling has in shaping the work we do with foster youth.  

We have two events coming up in the next couple of months in Fresno where you can hear directly from emancipated foster youth, as well as experts in the field of foster youth transitions to adulthood. Former foster youth will conduct panels and recount their stories, helping us to more clearly see the obstacles they have faced related to obtaining higher education and becoming independent.  Each event will explore the need for ongoing support into adulthood and the importance of permanency for foster youth.

Beyond Surviving to Thriving  

The first event, “Beyond Surviving to Thriving:  FosteringConnections to Success – AB12” will be held at the University Square Hotel, April 27, 2012, from 8 am to 4:45 pm. This 13th annual Child Welfare Symposium is sponsored by California State University, Fresno’s Title IV-E Child Welfare Program, and Department of Social Work Education. There is a $75 registration fee, and a $10 fee if CEU credit is desired.

Keynote speakers include Nan Henderson, who will discuss resiliency and positive youth development; Mark Courtney, affiliate scholar from the University of Chicago, discussing his work surrounding the adult functioning of former foster children;  and Angie Schwartz, director of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, to speak on AB12 legislation.  Visit the CSU Fresno Social Work website for additional information.  

Permanency for Older Youth

The second event is hosted by Aspiranet, in partnership with the California Department of Social Services, and will be held at the Wedgewood Wedding & Banquet Center (formerly Grand Occasions) June 21, 2012, from 9 am to 3 pm  This 5th annual youth event, “Partners in Permanency: Walking the Journey Together” will focus on permanency for older youth. Registration is free, with a $25 fee for those interested in earning CEU credit.

Keynote speaker Deborah Gray, clinical social worker and renowned author, will discuss how trauma affects children’s attachment, and share practical methods for parents and professionals to help make the connection with youth. Alfonzo Tucker, a former foster youth and author, will lead a break out session for youth, and share his experience in foster care and how he was able to build support systems on his journey.  Visit or contact Kathy Steele at 559-222-4969 for further information.

Please join us at one or both of these events.  If you do plan on attending, be sure to let us know on facebook and recommend the event to your colleagues and friends. 

These courageous youth are models to us all. They show us that there is hope in some of the darkest places, and we can accomplish so much when we dig deep.