Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Porterville Recorder Report on Budget Cuts to Transitional Housing Program

“Everyone needs emotional support, that doesn’t stop no matter how old you are. So part of this, part of having a case manager and having an agency with all the support is that they always have someone they can call for help, it’s somebody that can give them real life experience that can help them problem solve, so when that times come they are more capable of doing it on their own,” Angela J. Leathers, program supervisor, said. “Youth who don’t have this kind of support have higher incidences of ending up in prison, in jail and not being productive members of our community, and that’s not what anybody wants. What we want is for our youth to be successful by allowing and supporting job finding and education — that way youth are able to give back for themselves and for the community at large, so it really is a cost savings in the long term.”
Read the full story

Good Neighbor Night Training

This year State Farm Insurance is presenting Good Neighbor Night. Four local State Farm agents will race to benefit Aspiranet's new foster teen program. Charles Allison, Barbara Ortiz-Lee, Dena Rogers and Richard Campos will be racing at 7:00 PM as a benefit for Aspiranet.

Gates to Ventura Raceway at the Ventura County Fairgrounds open at 3:30PM, with the green flag dropping at 5:30 PM. Tickets are $14.00 per adult.

Children under 12 are free with each paying adult.

Date: Saturday, May 29, 2010
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: Ventura Raceway
Street: 10 West Harbor Blvd. Ventura County Fairgrounds
City/Town: Ventura, United States
Location: Ventura Raceway

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Find our Excell Center on Facebook!

Click here to view on Facebook!

Youth Learning Responsibility, Self-discipline and Cooperation as a Foundation for Success

The Linwood boys have started a new garden.

Starting slow, we hope to turn three acres into a prolific organic farm. Good luck guys!

About Excell Center
When placement into a family is not appropriate for the youth, Aspiranet can provide proven successful residential treatment in its congregate care environment at its Excell and Readiness Centers. These residential treatment programs provides safe, structured campus environments where boys ages 10 to 18 can work through the issues that necessitated their placement, help to build self-esteem, develop positive relationships and continue their education within the public school system. Boys live in traditional family homes either on the Excell campus or in the city of Turlock -- six to eight boys to a home -- with skilled and loving professional child care workers who act as surrogate parents.Boys are responsible for daily chores around their home, as well as, nightly schoolwork. They are required to be well-groomed, well-mannered and polite. Boys who show good progress are encouraged to hold part-time jobs and volunteer in the community.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aspiranet launches new Hero Initiative as call to action for teen, sibling foster homes

“The need for families willing to provide safe, nurturing homes has never been more acute.” – VERNON BROWN, CEO of Aspiranet

In California, more than 75,000 children are in foster care. For many foster children and teens, placement in the right home the first time predicts their success in foster care. At Aspiranet, one of the largest nonprofit social services agencies in California, taking the time to find a good match between a child and a family and securing a loving home is a top priority.

“The need for families willing and able to provide safe, nurturing homes for children and teens has never been more acute,” said Vernon Brown, CEO of Aspiranet. “Foster care is a heroic commitment and the foster parents and families in Aspiranet’s network are providing victories for children every day.”

Every child has the potential to do great things with their life, but for some children whose families are unable to care for them Aspiranet offers hope for a better tomorrow, helping a child become a hero, not another statistic.

“Over the past year, Aspiranet’s statewide network of 500 foster families fostered more than 700 youths,” Brown said. “Our foster families support Aspiranet’s birth family reunification philosophy and breathe life and self-worth into these youths who can belong to something great – an extended family.”

To inquire about becoming a foster family, visit www.aspiranetheroes.org.

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About Aspiranet
Aspiranet, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity, supports foster children, siblings, families, and the community with 35 core programs offering specialized services through 44 satellite centers within California.

Founded more than 30 years ago as a six-bed group home for young boys in Moss Beach, Calif., Aspiranet is one of the most diverse nonprofit social service agencies in the state. With a statewide network of innovative services, Aspiranet has touched the lives of over 10,000 families and children since its founding.

Aspiranet’s vision of bringing families together and helping foster children, siblings, and parents thrive is realized through six areas of expertise – Family Services, Foster Care, Adoption, Education, Afterschool programs, and Community Partnerships. Information: http://www.aspiranet.org/.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New website featuring information about National Foster Care Month

Check out Aspiranet's new Foster Care and Adoption website featuring information about National Foster Care Month at www.aspiranet.org/parent/fcmonth. Learn how you can help spread the word in May and check out resources for those interested in foster parenting or adoption.

Learn More >

Turlock Journal - Mama always said ...

Aspiranet Turlock Foster Mom Debbie Sillivan featured in a Turlock Journal Mother's Day article about words of wisdom.

"Debbie is a veteran mother. She has three grown children; she is a full-time mom to her current six foster children; and has mothered over 45 foster children in the past two years. "

Click here to view the article >

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Foster Care and Adoption Campaign

Aspiranet Launches new Foster Care and Adoption Campaign. Look for newspaper and radio ads throughout the state in May and June. Contact Us: 1.800.439.1905 visit www.aspiranetheroes.org

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Kathleen Perry - Aspiranet Foster Care Social Worker, Greater Bay Area

"I encourage parents to be active in their children’s lives from the time their children are born. Provide gatherings for them at your home, know who they are spending time with, and attend their games/activities. Share family activities/outings on a regular basis."

What do you do as a Social Worker?
As a social worker I assist and guide the foster family in providing for the daily and ongoing needs of the foster child. Every foster child deserves a strong, healthy, positive environment to provide support for the child’s development of a solid sense of self, good personal and social skills, education to reach the level of his personal skills and a mentally and physically healthy life style. Children vary broadly in their personal needs and abilities, and both the social worker and the foster family must be sensitive, insightful, open and flexible.

Providing for the child’s lifelong needs requires the use of advocacy, intervention and resources, such as mental health and physical therapy, school and community services, sports and extracurricular activities and ongoing training. Including the child at every point of the process through one-on-one conversation, assessments and reports is vital. Even a very small child can express desires, likes and dislikes if allowed and encouraged to do so.

It is also the social worker’s responsibility to follow the case plan guidelines provided by the County Social Worker. This may include appropriate and frequent contact with the child’s birth family through phone calls and visitation as approved. Most importantly this includes developing and nurturing viable and healthy permanent, lifelong connections for the child.

What motivates you to do this work?
I am always motivated by the generosity and love of the foster parents and, even more, by the vibrant spirits of the foster children who, though often confused and in emotional pain, strive to move beyond their abuse and trauma.

What led you to choose this career path?
I chose this career path because of my parents who did not have much in the way of worldly goods, but who always welcomed family and friends into their home.

In what ways do you feel you’re making a difference in the lives of children?
I feel I make a difference in the lives of children by admitting and accepting my own strengths and limitations. I believe this allows me to accompany them on their journey.

What sort of challenges do you face in your work as a social worker, and how do you rise above/meet those challenges?
I face the challenge of not allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the seemingly insurmountable struggles of the children, of not losing hope for them. I do my best to help them take little steps, and allow them to use their own strength and make their own decisions.

What do you find to be rewarding about your work generally? Specifically in working for Aspiranet?
I find it extremely rewarding to work with the other social workers at Aspiranet who are so dedicated and have a positive outlook on life. The support I receive from supervisors and administrators reminds me that we have an entire team working for these children and that I am not alone in this. I have reliable resources to ask for guidance, and these same resources reassure me that what I am doing will eventually pay off for these children.

In what ways do you think social workers inspire community action? And you specifically in your own work?
I believe social workers definitely spark a sense of responsibility in the community. When I speak with school personnel, principals, teachers, office managers, coaches, after school mentors/tutors and counseling staff, I see that they are proud to share the work they have done with students in foster care. They realize that their efforts are appreciated and they feel renewed. Therapists express thanks for input I have given them about the children they counsel so that they may better serve them. Medical personnel, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and vision therapists voluntarily share insights into the children and express interest in their future. Even camp counselors are made aware and are proud to provide positive experiences for the children. Although these are just individuals within communities, I do believe we heighten their awareness.

What “makes it all worth it” at the end of the day? Can you provide a specific story or situation which was particularly rewarding/memorable?
I have many wonderful stories, but the one I want to share is about a fifteen-year-old foster teen whose adoption failed after three years. This family is no longer in his life. He came to an Aspiranet foster family who welcomed him with open arms. He was angry and was not ready to trust anyone. He spoke very little and avoided interaction both within the foster family and at school. He refused therapy and refused to join sports groups or any other extracurricular activities. Gradually, he realized that the foster family was not giving up on him. He began to share small insights into his childhood with his foster parents and with me.

One day he told me that he had done something “unforgivable.” I waited, sitting next to him, since he would not allow me to look at him. After about 20 minutes he spoke. He stated that at 11 years of age he had hit his then foster mother and had felt as if he had wanted to kill her, even though she had always loved him and been kind to him. He had lived with her since he was 3 year old and called her “mom.” He said he did not know what was wrong with himself and believed that as people got to know him they would hate him and he would have to leave.

With strong, steady, consistent love and nourishment from his foster parents, he began therapy and received medication for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. He is now almost 17 and is solidly connect with his foster family, who have expressed their desire to have a lifelong connection with him. He is happy, expressive and affectionate. He has good friends and is active in sports. He visits with his previous foster mother, “mom” at least twice a week on weekends. They have also expressed a lifelong commitment to each other.

In what ways do you think social workers have helped shape the quality of American life?
I believe the emphasis on a healthy, interactive, positive parenting structure has impacted many lives. Social workers tell parents to talk with their children, listen to them, tell them what is expected of them, and know and appreciate them for the individual people they are. I encourage parents to be active in their children’s lives from the time their children are born. Provide gatherings for them at your home, know who they are spending time with, and attend their games/activities. Share family activities/outings on a regular basis.

I believe social workers have encouraged family unity through which each family member is believed to be and is treated as a vital part of the family. That includes parents taking time to nourish themselves and each other.

What would you like to tell the general public about your work?
As with advice to parents, social workers must allow themselves to be nourished daily by family and friends. I love my work. Although it is demanding and sometimes discouraging and painful, it energizes me to know that I am helping children become adults who know that they are loveable and valuable. When I see one child smile with pride because he knows he is good and loved, then for that alone, my work is complete.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ventura Chamber Mega Mixer is a Big Hit

Host Steve Yapp, owner of Pods, the best moving & storage idea ever, celebrated the business’ five year anniversary on April 22nd in Ventura. This mixer was a blend of chambers from three cities; Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura. Donations were taken at the door, with the proceeds donated back to Aspiranet, Boys and Girls Club, Casa Pacifica, Food Share and Turning Point.

How fun was this event? Performances by Elvis and World class entertainer Raymond Michael dazzled the crowds. Aspiranet had a booth with a very cool Sprint Car simulator to promote the upcoming "Community Go-Kart Challenge" at the Ventura Raceway on May 29th

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Meet Tiffany Moody - Aspiranet Foster Care Social Worker, Ventura

"A social worker’s role is just one of many that contribute to change and development within our communities. People must gain more insight and understanding of what it takes for social change to occur. We must work together. It takes a village."

What motivates you to do this work?
Children. They are immensely resilient and I continue to be amazed at their abilities to grow, develop, love and be loved, despite their history or circumstances.

What are some of your guiding principles?
I believe it is important to always be honest and never make promises that cannot be kept, especially to children. I believe that people should not be judged and that everyone deserves respect. I believe that it is important to maintain integrity in every situation. I believe that everyone has the potential to change, grow, and heal.

What led you to choose this career path?
My love for children and the passion to be a part of a greater effort to improve the lives of children, families, and the community I live in.

In what ways do you feel you’re making a difference in the lives of children?
I would hope that by establishing relationships with children, being consistently present in their lives, and following through with the commitments I’ve made, I’ve shown them compassion and given them hope, even if in the smallest sense.

What sort of challenges do you face in your work as a social worker, and how do you rise above/meet those challenges?
The biggest challenge I have found is that of having to support a case plan recommendation that I do not feel is in the best interest of a child. Getting to know our children and understanding their specific needs, it becomes difficult when they are reunified too quickly or permanency is not pursued because a child may be older and not considered ‘adoptable.’ I believe that establishing good working relationships with other service providers and persistent advocacy has allowed me to rise above this challenge. People will eventually listen.

Another challenge I face is separating work from my personal life. As a social worker, it is sometimes hard not to become emotionally invested and bring the work home. With particularly difficult cases, I have to remind myself that I have put forth my best effort. Having good boundaries is important. Self-care and spending time with my family allows me to clear my head and recharge so that I can return to work and give 100%.

What do you find to be rewarding about your work generally? Specifically in working for Aspiranet?
The staff, the families, the kids. My Aspiranet family is my other family. Despite being a large office, we are a close-knit team, and I continue to be amazed by the skill level and expertise of my coworkers. Working with amazing foster families is also rewarding. These families love their foster children unconditionally, provide excellent care, and are not afraid to speak up and advocate on their own behalves. I rest assured knowing that my foster families are using good judgment, instinct, and their years of parenting experience each day to care for children in foster care. The children on my caseload never cease to amaze me. I love the hugs, the giggles, the smiles on their faces and being a part of their lives, even if for a short time.

In what ways do you think social workers inspire community action? And you specifically in your own work?
I would like to think that as social workers, we have the capacity to instill hope in others. Through community involvement, we can educate and inspire others.

What “makes it all worth it” at the end of the day? Can you provide a specific story or situation which was particularly rewarding/memorable?
What makes it all worth it for me is jumping on a trampoline with a child, watching a baby take his first step, or receiving a picture from a teen’s high school prom. Watching children enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood is precious. Adoption finalization hearings are always rewarding for me. It signifies the end of a (usually) long journey and the birth of a new one.

A recent high school graduation I attended will remain in my mind and heart forever. The graduating teen entered an Aspiranet home more than 25 school credits deficient as a sophomore. In two years time, he attended high school and community college and successfully graduated with his class and with one college semester completed. I will never forget the accomplished expression on his face as he walked onto the field at the commencement of the graduation ceremony. He always had the potential; he just needed the right foster family to nourish it. As an adult, this emancipated foster youth remains in the foster home, as they continue to help him prepare for independence.

In what ways do you think social workers have helped shape the quality of American life?
I think social workers in general work to promote growth and development within all populations. By advocating, educating, and providing resources and services, social workers help individuals in need gain the tools necessary in order to achieve fulfillment in their lives. I believe foster care social workers strive to reinvent the concept of family.

Lean more about Aspiranet >

Monday, May 10, 2010

Meet Kerstin Manderson - Aspiranet FFSN and Foster Care Worker, San Jose/Salinas

"I pour my heart into my work. I have compassion for the children I serve and still find myself grieving over the injustices that have occurred to them. I find that I connect most with the children by taking them out for ice cream or throwing a football with them. They become open, honest, and willing to listen to advice."

What do you do as a Social Worker?
I see myself as a bridge creating opportunities for foster children to be successful. I spend time with foster children, counseling them, and ensuring their safety and well-being. I work collaterally with therapists, WRAP teams, County Workers, birth parents, foster parents, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) workers, and other community members such as education liaisons.

What motivates you to do this work?
The bond formed with the foster child and foster family is the highest motivator. Knowing that the child is safe, cared for, and is in the current placement environment encourages me to continue working.

What are some of your guiding principles?
I strive to be empathetic with the foster child and see behavioral acting out as a means of communicating pain and lack of coping skills. I have respect for the foster family and see them as the experts with the foster child. Instead of lecturing I listen and challenge the foster child to create an individual set of beliefs through questioning and thinking while considering the positive and negative consequences.

What led you to choose this career path?
In college I wanted to be a missionary pediatrician because I liked children and I wanted to help those who were not given the same opportunities as I had been given. I questioned my choice when in school I was doing nothing but studying science. I then learned of the social work profession and it seemed to make sense, because I realized that I could get paid for the volunteer work I had been doing and enjoying.

In what ways do you feel you’re making a difference in the lives of children?
I am working with the foster families and monitoring that their children are in safe and supportive environments. I spend time with the children listening to, caring for, and challenging them.

What sort of challenges do you face in your work as a social worker, and how do you rise above/meet those challenges?
I often feel I am pulled in too many different directions. People often tell you what to do and add more work to your load. So, I learn how to set boundaries and prioritize. The kids and foster families are absolutely my number one priority.

What do you find to be rewarding about your work generally? Specifically in working for Aspiranet?
I find it rewarding when I see or hear success stories from the foster children. The foster families working with Aspiranet are extremely caring and dedicated. My co-workers are also very dedicated to their jobs.

In what ways do you think social workers inspire community action? And you specifically in your own work?
I think social workers provide support for, believe in, and challenge people to be successful. We also work as advocates on behalf of our communities. When the California budget proposed a cut to foster care, I and many foster families wrote letters advocating against the cuts.

What “makes it all worth it” at the end of the day? Can you provide a specific story or situation which was particularly rewarding/memorable?
Recently, I was able to connect a foster family unwilling to adopt with a foster family willing to adopt and the County Social Worker. The adoptive family is ecstatic and has begun visiting with the children. The possible adoption has now gone from one identified child to possibly his three other siblings as well. How admirable of a family to be willing to adopt a sibling set of four children, one autistic and another being tested for developmental disabilities. And in addition to a previously adopted son with autism!

In what ways do you think social workers have helped shape the quality of American life?
Social Workers act as the voice for the speechless. They advocate for safety and opportunity.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Steadfast Foster Mother

by Gretchen Lee

This Mother's Day, we'd like to salute Sherry Davis. After nearly 20 years as a foster parent with Aspiranet, Sherry Davis has taken in almost 40 children. For many years, she specialized in caring for hard-to-place teenaged girls -- a difficult niche for agencies to fill, because many foster parents feel unprepared for dealing with the demands of adolescence.

"There’s hardly anybody that will take teenagers. The whole thing is that they’re always right and you’re always wrong anyway. That’s a teenager. So it’s really hard for them to keep families. Sometimes, when I took the older kids it was like, 'God, what am I doing this for? I don’t need the abuse,'" she says. "But then some little thing will happen, you think 'Well, this is the reason I’m taking them'."

"One little girl I had -- she was really good if you could keep her home," Sherry recalls. "So we finally got her to where she wouldn’t run off as much. And then she would tell me, 'Well, you know, I’ve never had the nurturing you give me.' Then you think maybe you are doing something."

Two of the first children she fostered were each eight years old when they came to live in her home. One stayed in Sherry's home until she was 17 years old. The other stayed until she turned 15 and was reunited with her mother. Both of the girls have remained close to her even after leaving her care.

"They’re both just like my daughters," Sherry says. "The one that left when she was 15 -- she’s got a baby who is a year old now. She comes back and sees me all the time. She's a single mom. She works all the time, and she's doing really good with her baby. The other girl has just married, and visits often, too. Especially with her background, I was always worried about her." Sherry says. "When I got her at eight years old, she was really torn. The bad thing about getting them at eight years old is that it's hard to get their trust because they've been tossed around and lied to. But she's come out of it," Sherry says. "She's always been really good with kids, and now she works at a school with handicapped kids. She's doing really good."

"Aspiranet has always been real good with me. If I have any problems, they’re usually always there. Just like one of my teenagers, we were butting heads, and so they took one of the social workers and set up a training just for me. When I first got babies, I didn’t have anything, so they kinda got together and we all got around and gathered up stuff so I didn’t have to buy it all, and they’re just always there if you need anything. My social worker’s very good. In fact she’s real close to me. If I need anything, I can call the office, because they all know me. I mean, I’ve been there so long. And all I have to do is put a call in."

Currently, Sherry is foster mom to an 8-month-old boy born with fetal alcohol syndrome and a 19-year-old girl with developmental delays. In consideration of the older girl's special needs, Sherry has retired from fostering teenagers and transitioned to caring for infants.
But even the infants she cares for come with some degree of challenges -- especially the one she's now fostering.

"When I got this baby, he was four months old and he was like a newborn. They kept telling me 'He isn’t going to be able to do this, and he isn’t going to be able to do that.' Well, now he’s crawling! He still can't sit up because he doesn't have enough muscle structure, so we have to help him build up his torso to where he can sit. I put him in a high chair and I give him little Cheerios to pick up, because he also has a problem bending his little fingers, his joints are so stiff , and his physical therapist says that will help. They told me that with his condition he would probably never be able to do a whole lot. And I said, 'Okay, we'll see.' Because with my babies and my kids, I always work with them."

Sherry's ability to meet every challenge, and her dedication to nurturing and raising so many foster children over the past few decades makes her an outstanding foster parent. You inspire us, Sherry!!!

Happy Mother's Day to all the hardworking and dedicated foster mothers who are also making a childhood brighter. Your commitment does not go unnoticed. You have touched so many lives and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

National Foster Care Month California Capitol Kick-off Event

On Monday, May 3rd, Aspiranet joined other supporters of California foster youth in marking the beginning of the 22nd annual National Foster Care Month with the “Day at the Capitol” event in Sacramento. The day's events included a walk-a-thon, ice cream social and honoree awards program featuring Jimmy Wayne, Country Singer & Founder of Project “Meet Me Halfway”.

For more information about Aspiranet's Foster Care Month events please visit http://www.aspiranetfosterparents.org/

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