National Adoption Month. #FlipTheScript

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Honoring and listening to the most underserved  voices in adoption and foster care.

About the author: Katie Stickles-Wynen, MSW, a Colombian adoptee, has a Masters in Social Work. After college, Katie worked at Hyde School in CT where she helped design a program for adopted youth and parents. Katie studied under Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao in Boston before moving to California and joining the Pact staff where she leads groups, works with tweens and teens and provides psycho-educational counseling to pre-adoptive parents.

adoption_month1November is National Adoption Awareness Month. This month originally started as a week in the state of Massachusetts to promote the need of adoptive families for children in foster care and was eventually expanded to a month by President Bill Clinton. The month now recognizes all adoptions, but does continue with a focus on children in the foster care system.

The adoption narrative/discussion is often lead by adoptive parents; the triad member most directly served in the adoption process. The voices of birth/first parents and adoptees is ignored; the triad members most directly affected by the adoption process. Fed up with the shiny, happy, lucky, narrative of adoption, The Lost Daughters began a movement in November 2014 called “Flip The Script.” This movement features the voices of adult adoptees who have lived experience. They share the struggles, complications, loss and trauma of adoption and their personal journeys.

While adoptee voices are becoming louder, the voices of birth/first parents are still being silenced. Birth/first parents are often painted in a negative light as parents who “threw away” their children. If birth/first parent voices were honored as much as adoptive parent voices, the public would know that each journey is different, that the media representation of birth family is not accurate and that the voices of birth/first parents are essential to understanding the adoption process and supporting adoptees.

Adoption is complicated. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. All voices of the adoption constellation need to be heard and honored, especially those of adoptees, foster care youth/alums and birth/first parents.

Check out these 3 non-profit organizations that support the underserved members of the adoption and foster care communities and learn how you can help:

slm-for-web-e1432840609939Silver Linings Mentoring is a non-profit in Massachusetts that empowers youth in foster care to flourish through committed mentoring relationships and the development of essential life skills. If you live in MA learn how you can become a mentor. If you live out-of-state your donation will help provide services for foster youth. Donate Now »

On Your Feet Foundation empowers, unites, and supports women who have placed a child for adoption.oyff-logo OYFF provides critical services to support and empower birth parents who currently live in California or who have placed a child for adoption in California. Academic and counseling grants are offered to birth parents in addition to Birth Mother Retreats three times a year to provide birth mothers with a unique opportunity to share common experiences, participate in therapeutic workshops and build community. Donate Now »

pact-logoPact, An Adoption Alliance serves adopted children of color by providing not only adoptive placement, but lifelong education, support and community for adoptees and their families on matters of adoption and race. Pact’s adoption placement program serves families of color seeking to adopt, as parents of color are greatly underserved in adoption. Pact also leads support groups for adult adoptees and foster alum of color, birth/first parents of color and hosts two, week long camps that provide support, community, education and empowerment to adopted youth of color and their families. Donate Now »

#FlipTheScript, get involved and donate to these and other organizations whose mission is to serve the underserved in the adoption community.

Katie Stickles-Wynen, MSW
Pact, An Adoption Alliance

5 Easy Ways to Help the Homeless

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Many of us could be steps away from homelessness. The loss of a job, sudden illness, or family death could be the route to total despair. People on the streets and in shelters across America have lost their homes and been deserted by family and friends. Here are 5 super easy ways to make a difference that you can incorporate into everyday:

  1. Develop lists of shelters. Figure out where your local shelters are and what services they offer, you can find shelters through the Homeless Shelters Directory. Print them on some cards or papers and hand them out to homeless people that want that information.
  2. Carry extras. Keep stuff in your car or a few items in your bag and hand them out to people that need them.
    • Things like hats, gloves, socks, heat packs and blankets can go a long way in the winter. (Knit some stuff for fun instead of buying it!)knitting_unsplash_small
    • Feminine hygiene products are SUPER important, and can be difficult for homeless women and girls to get a hold of.
    • Walgreens or Starbucks gift cards, so they can decide what they need.
    • Keep some food items with you, try to be aware of common food allergies when you decide what to carry. When you pass someone who asks for change, offer them something to eat.
  3. Give them money. You never know a someone’s life situation just because they are on the street. Something you can give to anyone that is useful, lightweight, and portable is MONEY. That money can be used by a number of things. For more information on why money is important check out Lily A Rayne’s response to blessing bags which features a great response from a homeless person about what they really need.
  4. Volunteer. food_line_unsplash_smallThere are so many ways you can volunteer, pick what feels best to you: Shelters, follow-up programs and soup kitchens, can almost always take more help. Find out where you can provide your professional services or your hobbies (no matter what you are good at, you can find ways help the homeless with your talents and skills).
  5. Donate to nonprofits. One of the most direct ways to aid the homeless is to give money. Donations to nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless go a long way.

No matter what, don’t judge people you see on the street, you don’t know why they are there. A little compassion and kindness goes a long way…especially in winter. Go help someone today!

Are People in Your Neighborhood Going Hungry?

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43 million Americans are going hungry. Can you tell who in your neighborhood is going without food? 1 in every 8 people you pass by on the street could be missing meals.

The latest statistics on hunger from Feeding America tell us:

  • 1 in 8 Americans go hungry every day.
  • 1 in 6 children in the United States don’t have enough to eat.
  • 1 in 12 seniors in the U.S. struggle to access enough food.

Feeding America provides an interactive map of food insecurity in the United States. Check out your district to see how you compare to others. Is your neighborhood hungry? What can you to do change that? How can we make this better?

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Easy Ways to Make a Difference for Hunger

Donate Food. Find a local food bank that’s collecting food. Check their website or call and ask what food items they need, but them and deliver them to the food bank. Make sure to check their hours for accepting donations.

Start a Food Drive. Move for Hunger has great information on how to set up a food drive in your area. Check out their tops, find a great location and get your community involved.

Fundraise. Create an online fundraiser and get others involved in raising money for charities solving hunger issues. You can set one up in minutes on JustGive and post your appeal on social media to get your friends and family involved. When someone asks what’s on your holiday gift list, tell them gifts of charity for the hungry would mean the most to you.

Volunteer. Find a local food banks, soup kitchen or rescue mission serving meals and collecting food.  Find a few and call around to see who can use the help and set up a time to go. Their need is ongoing; offer to help as often as you can.

Give.  There are a lot of nonprofits doing great work to fight hunger, and your donation gives them the ability to do more. It doesn’t take much to make a big impact. We have a short list of recommended hunger charities on the JustGive site, and here are a few examples of what your gift can do:

Let’s take action today and do something for the more than 43 million Americans who don’t have enough food to eat . . . so no one goes hungry.

 

Contributions pour in for victims of the Orlando shootings; here’s how you can help

Thousands gather during the Sunday evening vigil in San Francisco's Castro district to mourn and honor the victims of the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, Special To The Chronicle

Thousands gather during the Sunday evening vigil in San Francisco’s Castro district to mourn and honor the victims of the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, Special To The Chronicle

In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, a gunman, who has now been identified as Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in an attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The nightclub is one of the most popular LGBTQ clubs in the city.

As authorities comb through evidence and Matten’s background to determine the why and how’s of the tragic event, millions around the world are mourning the tragic loss of life in what has become one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. The tragedy has also inspired great acts of charity and kindness from around the nation.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a gofundme campaign to aid the victims of the shooting (families of the deceased and those injured) has raised over $4.5 million dollars. The campaign was started by Equality Florida, statewide organization advocating for gay and lesbian rights. The donations have come from nearly 97,000 individual donors.

Another organization, Lutheran Church Charities based in Chicago, IL, sent their K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, composed of 12 golden retriever dogs, down to Orlando to comfort first responders, mourners and victims who were hospitalized after the shooting. The canine crew has been working through Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando, which has an outreach ministry aimed at the local LGBT community.

The Walt Disney Company announced a donation of $1 million to the OneOrlando Fund that benefits non-profits in the community. The purpose of the Fund is to provide a way to respond to the needs of the Orlando community, now and in the time to come, after the effects of the Pulse tragedy.

The National Compassion Fund is also distributing 100% of the funds received directly to victims, which has already totaled over $4 million. Pulse, the nightclub where the shooting took place, has also started an Employee Recovery Fund to provide financial assistance to employees while they are out of work.

JustGive sends our condolences out to all victims and their families of the Orlando shooting. To contribute to any of the above efforts for Orlando, use the links below:

Pulse Victims Fund – GoFundMe
OneOrlando Fund
Pulse Employee Recovery Fund
The National Compassion Fund

– The JustGive Team
http://www.justgive.org

High Magnitude Earthquakes Hit Ecuador and Japan

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It’s Monday morning and rescuers are searching for survivors and missing people in Ecuador and Japan. Over the last few days both countries have experienced high magnitude earthquakes resulting destruction, death and injury.

The island of Kyushu, Japan has been experiencing powerful earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks since April 14, 2016 when a 6.2-magnitude quake struck the island. The worst the island has felt was a 7.0-magnitude quake on April 16th.  Rescuers in Southern Japan are working to help injured and displaced people while hoping the death toll doesn’t rise higher than its current 42.

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The coast of Ecuador was also hit Saturday, April 16, 2016, with a major 7.8-magnitude quake along the coast. With nearly 300 dead in Ecuador and more than 2,500 injured, rescuers are rushing to find survivors.

It is devastating to see these quakes happening at the same time. Rescue forces are in place.  Please make a donation to support the relief efforts for Ecuador and Japan:

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-Julia Hughes
Product Manager

Giving From Your Heart

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Follow your heart. Listen to your heart. Your heart knows the way.

There are a lot of clichés that encourage you to be guided by what you feel and take action based on what you believe in your heart. And in this National Heart Month, rather than focus on physical heart health, let’s talk about emotional heart health.

15910043680_5b040e7726_mYou never know when one word or one helpful gesture or act of kindness can mean the world to someone else. Giving them reason to go on, to believe in goodness again, or to get through a rough patch. You don’t know when a smile hides incredible sadness and pain, and how reaching out in some way when the inclination strikes you can change the course of a life. The best we can do is to follow our hearts and try . . . not shying away from feelings, but paying attention to ­­­­them.

The emotions and beliefs we have about giving are not something we talk about as much in the business world as in nonprofit circles. Disasters and deaths, though, can break through our veneer and are when we more publicly express emotions.

When it comes to charity, we give because of the good it will do—and the impact it can make. We also give because something that happens in life gets to us, and we want to make things better. We give because we care.

I’m borrowing from a familiar credit card commercial message, but I believe giving from your heart is “priceless.”

3211153569_b93ba33f2a_mI know we’re a month past making resolutions for this year, and actually, I’m not asking you to make a new resolution for 2016. I’m asking you to make a resolution for your life: make giving from your heart a part of how you show up in the world.

I’m not going to try to sell you on the benefits of giving or why it makes us happy. I’ll just say this: giving money away can improve your health and is, quite literally, good for your heart.

And this heart month, I challenge you to listen, find what connects for you, and take action. Starting now.

Support what touches your heart

Have you lost a loved one to a terrible disease or personal tragedy? Give to help find a cure for the health issue that has personally touched you, to keep tragedy from striking other families, and to provide support for someone else who has to deal with it.

kitty_love_unsplashAre the commercials that show abused animals so hard to watch you switch the channel? Don’t push those emotions away, do something about it. If you aren’t in a position to give money, volunteer your time or donate old blankets—doing what you can for something you feel so strongly about. Put your energy to work so the day comes when there’s no reason for those commercials to exist.

Are you frustrated by our education system, worried that kids don’t have all the resources and opportunities they need to succeed, and concerned about what they’re not getting at school (food, support, exposure to the arts, more)? Give them access to what they need to change their lives.

Do you believe we need to make sure the basic needs of others around the world are taken care of?  Support the nonprofits sending them global aid—for better health and life-saving services that we too often take for granted.

I have a sensitive heart. I feel things deeply, and family members and friends know that about me. But I don’t make any excuses for who I am. And I hope I’m known for being true to who I am, all the time. When I care, it’s sincere. When I feel it, I react. And when I give, it’s from my heart.

This month, I challenge you to do the same.  Give from—and for—your heart. For your life.

If you need help finding a charity:

And if you want to help with today’s pressing issues, read our blog. Better yet, subscribe and we’ll automatically send you an email every time we post a new blog.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Real Help for the Homeless

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Living in California for the last 20+ years, I see people who are homeless more than I ever have in my life.  As the weather gets bitter, I shudder when I think about men and women sleeping on cardboard in San Francisco. I’m also haunted by the growing number of homeless teens I see hanging out at a local gas station. And I know there are so many more….

It is not my imagination that there are more homeless people in the Golden State. Latest statistics show five states—California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts—accounted for more than half of the homeless population in the United States. This past year, according to US Department of Housing and Urban Development, California experienced the second-largest increase in the number of homeless people among 50 states.

The Face(s) of Homelessness

 

On any given night, the National Alliance to End Homelessness says nearly 579,000 Americans are homeless. Of that number, more than 362,000 are individuals, and over 216,000 are people in families.

While homeless young people are more transient and challenging to count, it’s currently estimated that about 50,000 youth in the United States sleep on the street for six months or more.

homeless-man-552571_pixabayIt’s hard not to look away from the homeless—in person, and in my heart. Whenever I’m asked for money or read a sign someone is holding at a light or freeway ramp, I get skeptical and wonder how they’d use any money I give.  So I pause.

The most recent data shows, in general, that the number of people sleeping in shelters and transitional housing is increasing.  This suggests communities and nonprofits are doing a better job getting people off the streets and under a roof. To me, that seems like a good place to start helping.

Three Ways to Make a Difference for Homeless People

Donate food and items.
The next time you’re in an area where you expect to see a homeless person, bring along an extra cup of coffee, sandwich, or a meal package with protein-rich foods like trail mix and beef jerky (the most sought-after food). If you have the time, take the homeless person to a nearby fast food restaurant to order the meal they want.

Contact your local shelters and ask what they need. (You can find one in your city here.) Are there specific food items they’re short on? Or are blankets, clothing, socks, band aids, lip balm, lotion, children’s toys or something else more in demand? Share the season’s spirit of giving; get your family involved in buying and dropping off a holiday care package.

Volunteer.
It’s easy to help prepare or serve a holiday meal at a local shelter or church this time of year. But volunteers are needed year round. What skills can you contribute? Consider volunteering on a regular basis, and offer to clean or help rehab buildings, design a website, provide accounting support, play with or tutor children, write resumes or help prepare a homeless person to interview for a job—depending on your talents. Access this directory to find an agency near you.

Give money.
One of the most direct ways to help the homeless is to give money. Donations to nonprofit organizations can go a long way:

  • At Front Steps, $25 takes care of basic hygiene needs. Donate now
  • With $60, the Covenant House gives a homeless child clean clothes and cozy bedding. Donate now
  • For $100, Big Sunday supplies 25 bags of everyday essentials for homeless people. Donate Now

For more charities helping the homeless, check out the JustGive Guide.

More Ways

These are a few ways to help the homeless—here’s a list of many more.

wanderer-814222_pixabayIf you’re not in a position to do any of these things, remember that a smile, kind word and respect go a long way. People who are homeless deserve our empathy.

As for me, I’m re-training myself not to ignore homelessness, and in any way I can, to help. Just as there are many reasons why people become homeless, I know there are just as many ways to start making things better.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Help the Hungry in 5 Ways

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It’s the season when get-togethers and festivities revolve around food. Many of us worry about eating too much at our Thanksgiving or holiday meals, or indulging in extra treats. But there are so many children and families who can’t even relate to that thought. Sadly, the latest hunger stats tell us:

  • 1 in 7 Americans go hungry every day
  • 1 in 5 children in the United States don’t have enough to eat

Not having enough food most affects:

  • 3 million households with seniors age 65 and older
  • 3 million rural households
  • 1 in 4 African American households
  • 1 in 5 Latino households

So while you and I may worry about weight gain, and even waste more than 20 pounds of food every month, the demand for food is growing.UNEP_photo-_needs_to_be_resized

This year, food pantries across the country are reporting shortages and long lines. Researchers think that’s happening because the employment gains we’ve seen as the economy recovers are from part-time and low-paying jobs which still leave people struggling to pay bills and put food on the table.

How can we make it better?

5 Ways to Make a Difference for Hunger

Good FoodDonate Food. Find a local food bank, grocery or bank that’s collecting food and donate canned goods. Or start a food drive yourself.

Fundraise. Create an online fundraiser and get others involved in raising money for charities solving hunger issues. You can set one up in minutes on JustGive and find charities to support, add your special message and compelling video/photos—then email friends and family, and post your appeal on social media. When someone asks what’s on your holiday gift list, tell them gifts of charity for the hungry would mean the most to you.

Volunteer. The holiday season brings out a lot of volunteers for food banks, soup kitchens and rescue missions serving meals and collecting food.  While always happy for volunteers, these charities could really use help more throughout the year. Their need is ongoing; offer to help as often as you can. (If you don’t know local charities, you can find them here.)

Give.  There are a lot of nonprofits doing great work to fight hunger, and your donation gives them the ability to do more. It doesn’t take much to make a big impact. We have a short list of recommended hunger charities on the JustGive site, and here are a few examples of what your gift can do:

$35 to No Kid Hungry helps children get 350 meals.
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$55 provides 550 meals through Feeding America’s nationwide network.
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With $70, Meals on Wheels can send home-delivered meals to 10 seniors.
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Raise Awareness.  Start a conversation with your friends and family about hunger. Share posts on social media—this blog and other videos and stories you see—and get more people talking. Raising the volume about the issue.

Let’s take action today and do something for the more than 49 million Americans who don’t have enough food to eat . . . so no one goes hungry.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Three Ways You Can Save Animals

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The Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion on a hunting trip in July sparked a media flurry and got people clamoring about protection for animals.

Americans are animal lovers. In a recent Gallup poll, 32% of us said we believe animals should have the same rights as humans, and 62% believe they deserve some protection.

I’m one of those people. The story and images of the skeletal 2-year old dog found tied up outside a Georgia church this past weekend made me more than cringe. How can anyone be so cruel and heartless?

cc_rileyWhen you share your life with animals and they’ve captured a special place in your heart, you care about what happens to them.  I know my soft spot for animals has grown exponentially since we got our goldendoodle Riley three years ago. And I can’t imagine what kind of person could neglect, harm, abandon or mistreat any animal.

Animals give us unconditional love and bring joy. They bond with us. They watch over and protect us.  We know animals feel pain and fear, and miss us. Their eyes, expressions and behaviors tell us what they don’t have the voices to say.

Dogs, in particular, give many humans a “new leash” on life. They guide the blind and visually impaired, provide comfort for seniors as well as children who are sick or have to appear in court, improve the lives of people with disabilities and autism, can save diabetics, give independence to veterans, and help parolees turn their lives around.

Yet, sadly, according to the ASPCA, every 60 seconds an animal is abused.

THREE WAYS TO HELP

To save animals, we can be their voice, channeling our passion into action.

1) Watch for signs of abuse.

When you’re out and about, do you see animals left in hot cars or dogs chained up for hours? Have you ever walked by a house and seen so many animals you worry about their care? Pay attention for:

  • Neglect: When an animal is denied adequate food, water, shelter, medical care (injuries left untreated), clean area, socialization (is it aggressive or timid when approached by owner?), or chained up in a yard.
  • Violence: When an animal is deliberately tortured, beaten, or mutilated.

2) Speak up: report animal cruelty.

sb_finnAlmost all acts of animal violence or neglect are punishable by law. Animal cruelty laws vary from state to state, but 49 states have laws that contain felony provisions. (South Dakota is the only one that doesn’t.)

If you suspect abuse or neglect of any animal, report it to your local police department or area animal control agency. If you’re traveling, call the local police department (911).

3) Support animal organizations.

Put your money where your heart is, and donate—giving for animal protection and care. (You can even make an ongoing commitment with a recurring monthly gift.)

rox_pomoIf you don’t know where to start, here are 5 great charities:

I can’t stop all animal abuse and mistreatment. But I can do my part and support dedicated people who are protecting and caring for amazing animals like my Riley. Won’t you join me?

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

10 Ways to Prevent Crime in Your Community

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We used to keep our porch lights on and open the door when the doorbell rang, even if we didn’t know who was there. We don’t do that in the world we live in now. But there are many ways to take back control and prevent crime in your community. It just takes communication, commitment and time.nno

In honor of National Night Out—an annual community-building campaign held the first Tuesday every August—here are 10 ways to make your neighborhood a safer, better place to live today.

  1. Work with your local public agencies and other organizations (neighborhood-based or community-wide) on solving common problems.
  2. Set up a Neighborhood Watch or a community patrol, working with police. Make sure your streets and homes are well lit.
  3. Report any crime or suspicious activity immediately to the police. There’s even a free app for that: McGruff Mobile, available on iTunes or on the Google Play store. The app is powered by AlertID, a national online and mobile service, and includes a virtual neighborhood watch where you can share photos and info about activity with neighbors, police, and even Homeland Security. (It also shows you an interactive map of crimes and sex offenders in your neighborhood, and you can receive alerts and information via email or mobile device.)
  4. If you own a dog, be a part of your local Dog Walker Watch crime awareness program (sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch), and serve as “extra eyes and ears” for local law enforcement agencies in ongoing crime prevention efforts.nno_FB
  5. Volunteer to help clean up your community. Call your city offices or local waste management company and schedule a dumpster for the event. Then pick up litter together. Show you care about where you live and each other.
  6. Organize to help clean and improve parks in your area. Well-kept play equipment and a clean park can attract enough people to discourage illegal activities. Insist that your local government maintain the parks, immediately repairing vandalism or other damage.
  7. Adopt a school. Help students, faculty, and staff promote a sense of community through your involvement in a wide range of programs and activities. Work with the school to establish drug-free, gun-free zones if they don’t already exist.
  8. Mentor young people who need positive support from adults—through programs like Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
  9. Create a community anti-violence competition. Include speech, dance, painting, drawing, singing, musical instrument acting, and other creative arts. Get young people involved to plan it and suggest prizes. Make it a fun, local celebration. You can hold it in a local park, and even include an old-fashioned potluck.
  10. Support organizations that help make communities safer, like the National Crime Prevention Council.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant