Friday, February 11, 2011

Aspiranet Advocacy in Action

This week Aspiranet traveled to the State Capitol in Sacramento on behalf of a program near and dear to our hearts: Transitional Housing Program Plus. THP-Plus provides support and affordable housing to emancipated probation and foster youth who have aged out of foster care between ages of 18 to 24. 

Lately you may have noticed our advocacy appeals on behalf of THP-Plus on our website, twitter, and facebook pages asking you to raise your voice in support of THP-Plus by calling and writing letters to legislators. Governor Jerry Brown proposed a $19 million reduction to THP-Plus and we are committed to advocating to preserve the funding to this program. 

We arrived at the capitol Tuesday afternoon to an auditorium full of current and former foster youth, social workers, and legislative advocates ready to testify on behalf of THP-Plus to the Senate Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. 

The goal of the afternoon was to have California State Senators Mark DeSaulnier, Elaine K. Alquist, and Bill Emmerson put forth a recommendation to reject Governor Jerry Brown's proposed reduction to THP-Plus. More than 50 passionate individuals shared emotional stories of the success of the program, with the line to testify reaching the back of the crowded auditorium for close to an hour. 

Much of the testimony returned to one simple point again and again: THP-Plus works by giving foster youth the opportunities and resources they need and deserve to be successful. 

Aspiranet's own Caryn Romero, THP-Plus Program Manager in Stockton CA shared powerful stories of the success of THP-Plus in her office. Visit our youtube channel to view a live recording. 

"I am here in support of THP-Plus funding and want to impress upon you that the former foster youth we are talking about are more than those three words depict. They are individuals with names, a history, goals, dreams and desires...just like my own teenagers.  
You will receive a lot of information including statistics demonstrating how supporting these young people has positive outcomes. But I don't need to read those reports because I see those positive results in my office everyday: 
Sheila came to us two years ago having dropped out of a four year state university during her freshman year, overwhelmed. She just left our THP-Plus program last week with a degree in audio engineering from Pinnacle college and got to work at the Carried Underwood concert in Stockton this past summer. 
Carlos was living at the Salvation Army homeless shelter for men at the age of 19 when he applied to our program. He exited after close to two years working for a window installation company, making almost as much as the case managers that helped him get on his feet..."
The Senate Subcommittee on Health and Human Services decided to bring the issue of THP-Plus funding before the full Senate Budget Committee instead of rejecting Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to reduce funding to THP-Plus. We are confident that the testimony provided Tuesday will help inform our legislature's decision regarding the program in the coming months.

We thank all of Aspiranet's supporters for your advocacy efforts for THP-Plus. In the future, be sure to follow our blog, facebook, and twitter for opportunities to advocate with us. The California families, children, and communities we serve always need your voice.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Lisa Project Comes to Kern County

Are you looking for something to do this weekend?

Head over to The Lisa Project in Bakersfield!

The Lisa Project is an interactive multi-media exhibit allowing visitors to experience the life of an abused or neglected child.  A powerful 20-minute audio tour narrated from a child's perspective guides visitors through a room-by-room open house depicting the reality of child abuse and neglect.

The Lisa Project is free and open to the public every weekend in February:

Thursday and Friday: 5pm to 9pm
Saturday: 9am to 5pm
Sunday: 1pm to 5pm

Location: Bakersfield Heart Hospital (link to map) at 3001 Sillect Avenue, Bakerfield CA 93308

Aspiranet staff, including our Chief Executive Officer, Vernon Brown previewed the exhibit last week. All attendees said that The Lisa Project is a sobering reminder of our collective responsibility to report abuse and do whatever we can to protect children and strengthen families.

We look forward to seeing you at The Lisa Project this month!

If you have any questions, leave us a comment on this post or call Jana Davis at (661) 859-2135.

The Lisa Project is sponsored by Aspiranet and collaborative partners in Kern County, including the Kern County Department of Human Services, Kern County Network for Children, First 5 of Kern, the Bakersfield Police Department and other community partners. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Third Annual Holiday Toy Drive Results

Over the past few weeks, Aspiranet foster families, children, and social workers have shared touching stories with us about our 3rd annual Holiday Toy Drive in partnership with Starbucks. From November to December, 168 Starbucks stores throughout California collected 3,500 gifts for California children in foster care. 

While the number itself is impressive, the stories behind that number inspire us to continue toward our vision of "taking collective action to support communities and families as they love and care for children": 
  • In Bakersfield, one woman fulfilled the gift wishes of 19 foster children
  • In San Bernadino, a former foster child reached out and cheered on a child currently in foster care with the donation of a special toy horse
  • In Visalia, a man saw a wish ornament bearing the same first name as that of his late father and purchased a skateboard and carrying case for the young boy in his father's memory. The child had been wishing for a skateboard of his own for a long time
  • In San Bernadino, a man donated his own clarinet along with an offer to provide lessons to a child who wished for the opportunity to learn how to play a musical instrument
Although we cannot adequately communicate in writing the heartfelt joy, smiles and tears that our foster children and families shared with their social workers upon receiving their Starbucks wish gifts, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank our individual donors and Starbucks partners for their outpouring of generous support.

Are you an organization or individual looking to use your unique voice and talents to benefit children and families in need of support? Please contact us. We'd love to have you join us in our service to the community.