Promise the Children is a community of activists for children within the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta. We are a unifying voice for our faith community to speak and act on behalf of children. We advocate for a public agenda that ensures the well-being of all of Georgia’s children. And we put our faith into action through direct service, working with organizations that serve children in need.

We are committed to a world where children are safe, healthy, educated, employable, and connected to their family and community.

Leave a comment

Filed under About Promise the Children

Boulevard Food Coop Opens – and UUCA is Present at the Creation

 

This is the story of the brand new Boulevard Food Coop and UUCA’s role in its creation.

Coop logoIt’s the story about how UUCA members – with a lot of good will, much enthusiasm, some good connections and savvy leadership – helped poor residents of the Old Fourth Ward start feeding themselves.

Food Coop

It began a few years ago … with some milestones along the way. The Food Coop which kicked off on Thursday, November 20 was a very important step! Here’s how it happened …

Promise the Children, UUCA’s advocacy and action group, had been thinking about children and hunger for several years. The congregation’s serious involvement with hunger began three years ago. PTC member Beth Davis had a question: “Almost all the children we tutor at Hope-Hill Elementary get free breakfast and lunch at the school. What do the children eat in the summer?”

From that question grew a two-year project to get half of Hope-Hill students into summer enrichment programs. Those summer programs provide FOOD, as well as learning and a safe environment!

UUCA networked together a group of non-profits and churches that helped the Summer Enrichment program achieve good success. And UUCA became a strong supporter and partner of Operation PEACE, which is one of the best of those After School and Summer Enrichment Programs.

packingAbout a year ago, Promise the Children organized UUCA members for a Thanksgiving Food Drive. Remember last Thanksgiving? About 125 member families participated. We raised money, families donated food, and many helped box it up and deliver it to our friends at Operation PEACE … We delivered – literally – a TON of food to families.

About the same time PTC member Joy Borra began asking a similar question of UUCA’s partners in the Old Fourth Ward (O4W) … and especially of Kwanza Hall, the city councilman for the district. “How many people in the Boulevard Corridor regularly don’t know where their next meal will come from? What can we do about it?” she asked.

Kwanza decided to start a year-long “Working Group on Hunger in O4W,” and all those partners began to look for answers. A long-term solution required long – term, community – wide action … And that’s where UUCA member Annie Archbold volunteered to go to work.

Annie is passionate about food … a real FOOD ACTIVIST! Annie served on the working group’s steering committee. She served as a vital “go to gal” for Kwanza’s overworked staff. Annie did everything. And she gave wise counsel from her long experience at the CDC on hunger issues.

The project that the Hunger Working Group agreed on was to begin a Food Coop. They modeled it on the very successful Georgia Avenue Coop that had existed more than 20 years. It would take a lot of work … but with the right support, the Food Coop would empower poor people to feed themselves.

Another UUCA member had the key to ultimate success. Rob Ohara works for the federal government’s regional VISTA Volunteers program. He heard about the O4W project. “Why don’t you apply for two VISTA Volunteers to do the organizing work that will be needed?” Rob suggested. “There are already VISTAs working with the O4W’s urban gardening program, Truly Living Well. It could be a perfect match!”

The end of the story is that everything came together … with a lot of good will, much enthusiasm, some good connections and savvy leadership …

The new food coop is launched!

Here’s what VISTA Volunteer Sara Thorpe wrote for Kwanza Hall’s Facebook page last week:

Earlier this evening, 15 families from District 2’s Boulevard corridor launched the first resident-run food co-operative for low-income families in the neighborhood. The launch of the co-op was one of Kwanza’s top goals for the 2014 edition of his Year of Boulevard initiative.

The Boulevard Food Co-Op is the result of a year of careful planning and monthly working group meetings in partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Truly Living Well Urban Agriculture. The founding families of the co-op come from the Bedford Pines community and the Atlanta Housing Authority’s Cosby Spear Highrise community.

Members pay a one-time $5 membership fee and a $3 charge for each food distribution, which takes place on the first and third Thursdays of the month at our host site, Fort Street Memorial United Methodist Church.

Unlike a typical food pantry, the Boulevard Food Co-Op is a member-based initiative, designed to foster community among its members over time. Members organize and supervise every aspect of the twice-monthly food distribution, from collection of fees and arrangements for child care to the equitable distribution of food and produce among members.

As the founding members become comfortable with their responsibilities, the Boulevard Food Co-Op will expand, welcoming new members and creating new cohorts in 2015. For more information about the Boulevard Food Co-Op, contact co-op coordinator Sara Thorpe: sara.thorpe@trulylivingwell.com.”

Well Done! 

Leave a comment

Filed under Child Health--Insurance, Obesity, and Other Issues, Help for Homeless and Struggling Families, Hope-Hill Neighborhood Partnership for Academic Excellence, Our Stories

Notes from the Lunch & Learn Forum on Children’s Issues

After UUCA’s Children’s Sabbath services on Sunday, October 19, 2014, Promise the Children Advocacy and Action Group hosted an opportunity for members to have lunch with “in-house experts”… UUCA members and friends who have experience working in children’s issue areas.

It was intended to the first of a series of issue-oriented learning sessions.

The belief is that knowledge will lead to more effective action on behalf of children.


REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT CHILDREN Discussion Group NOTES

Definitions:
Ellen Beatty brought the group up to date on definitions of refugees, immigrant children and unaccompanied children.
Refugees possess legal status which is generally obtained overseas by those who have fled in fear of persecution or death. When refugees flee to another country, there are generally three possible outcomes – they may return home, resettle in the country to which they fled, or be resettled elsewhere. Children who are refugees may have spent time in a refugee camp, their schooling will have been interrupted, and they may have experienced trauma.
Immigrant children are often those who enter without legal status or whose parents have no legal status. They may be moving constantly, have no legal access to some services and live in poverty. Often families are separated and/or marginalized because of language barriers, illegal status and poverty.
Unaccompanied children are those who come into the country with no parent or guardian accompanying them. They are very vulnerable during their journey and also have no legal status. The number of unaccompanied children coming across the border into the U.S has increased dramatically in the last few years. 1800 unaccompanied children have been placed in Georgia this year.

Update on Fiesta de Libros
Laura Murvartian brought the group up to date on Fiesta de Libros. That program sees children who desperately need help with literacy skills. They see children who move constantly, have no access to libraries or any books outside of school. They do often have parents who are engaged and want to help their children. Most children are under 10, with the majority between 5 and 7 years old.
The program plans to expand next year with the possibility of permanent space at the Plaza, extended services and hours. They are in the process of incorporating as a non-profit organization.

What are the needs?
In the area of education, Ellen Beatty stated that stabilization academically helps all – children and families.
Refugee adolescents have particular challenges. They often have far less education than their American peers. They are dealing with the struggles of adolescence while trying to adapt to a new culture, language and environment. Tutoring and mentoring are needed by many of these immigrant and refugee children. Families also need support.

Ways UUCA Members can help
UUCA could promote volunteerism with these organizations:
. Refugee Family Services (now Pathways for New Americans),
. Global Village Project (a school for refugee girls) and The Latin American Association.
. Dekalb Co. International Student Ctr. serves recently arrived kids who need English tutoring and academics.
. Here is a listserv that people can join to keep up to date –https://girrc.wordpress.com . Georgia Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition.



Education and Inequity/Social Immobility Discussion Group NOTES

What are the most important facts?
What is the “key” need?

No society can surely be flourishing and happy when the far greater part of its members are poor and miserable.

PTC Guest John Childs started as a teacher at Parkside where the school had everything it needed. John visited Hope-Hill and saw that they did not

The difference was night and day – Resources, Look of the school, Attitude of students

Parkside is a not a wealthy … 80% free and reduced lunch, but parents are involved there.

Living in poverty has the same psychological effects as living in a war zone.

Many students don’t’ get food without the meals at school. APS is now providing dinner to about 50 schools… “Supper on Site”

Historical trauma is different than consciously holding onto the past when it resides in your ancestral memory and DNA.

750 families live in Bedford Pines , the home for many Hope-Hill students. Median annual income there is only $3000.

The situation is generational and cyclical. John thinks it is exposure of the children to other things.

Baltimore City Schools study showed that regardless of aptitude, good students can get off track due to their home situation.

How do we reach the parents?

America is built on a system of inequity. Need to eat the elephant one bite at a time. We all need to do our piece.

Poor kids don’t see success like richer kids.

UUCA member Rebecca Kaye who is an executive in Atlanta Public Schools: All students deserve on grade level instruction.

We have to organize.

We are now at a place where our school has a voice.

How can willing volunteers make a difference?

Parenting matters – we need to get more involved and be strong parents.

Rural districts are also in need and should not be forgotten.



UUCA Promise the Children Lunch n Learn — Mental Health table

Facilitators
Danae Evans, MD, Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist — George Institute of Technology, Stamps Health Services
Ruth Perou, PhD, Child Development Studies Team Leader, CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

Discussion Notes
GA Crisis and Access Line: connect to any provider in state: 1-800-715-4225
Ruth autism info:
With earlier identification, intervention can work See Learn the Signs, Act Early on CDC.gov . Free materials for schools, parents, communities.

Question: for Parents w/o income, and they see their child has issues, where can they go?
Danae answer: One of the main issues at the intersection of poverty and mental health is access to care. Poor children used to be able to access quality care through the Grady Child Psychiatry Clinic, but this clinic was closed in December of 2012.
Now: Community service boards within each county are supposed to have child services to cover this
Fulton did not accept state funds, so they do not have a community service board for this, but they do have a clinic for children. See the Oak Hill Child Adolescent & Family Health Center at http://fultoncountyga.gov/home-ohk
The other option is CORE providers, like CHRIS Kids.
Children can qualify for government-sponsored early intervention programs: Call the Babies Can’t Wait program and say “I have concerns about my child” for a child up to age 3 (there is a right to assessment)
From ages 0 – 5, “Part B” comes in which uses Headstart.
Also, see http://idea.ed.gov/ for more related information about learning disaibilities programs for ages 3 – 21.

Follow up Q: What about PeachCare?
Answer: This is a type of Medicaid. See https://www.peachcare.org/FaqView.aspx?displayFaqId=101 for details

Question: What about Obamacare (ACA)?
Answers:
Georgia has not opted in for expansion of Medicaid coverage. Many mental health providers do not accept Medicaid insurance due to reimbursement complications
CDC is working with SAMSHA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to find providers of mental health services across the lifespan.
Under ACA, 62 million more Americans became eligible for coverage due to how it builds upon the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. See http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/mental/rb_mental.cfm for more info.
Legacy for Children Study findings:
Find more here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/legacy.html
LA Prenatal, Miami at birth: increase IQ, reduce behavioral issues with follow-through to 4th grade. Program focuses on bringing mothers together and providing guidance for discussion and collaboration
Key findings full info: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/features/legacy-for-children-keyfindings.html

Question: What % of students at-risk for ADHD?
Answer: State of GA has this information. See http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html for info
More needs to be done to bring this information to pediatricians, because they will be more likely to see children before any other professional mental health provider does
Ron notes: most of the children involved with Operation PEACE cannot focus on tasks
Danae notes:
As a provider, I know what interventions children need, including parent-child-interaction therapy or parent management training, but these programs are difficult to find for lower income families and pediatricians lack the knowledge about them. They often end up medicating when other behavioral therapies and parent training are either better or also necessary.

Question: What info is available for lay people?
Answers: CHADD web site, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Note: Information is free, but many organizations do not follow-through on taking advantage of it
CHADD will work with you and the school system

In response to question about difficulty of finding providers for children, Danae notes: GA used to graduate 7 new child psychiatrists per year, an already very low number, but next year will have only 5. Three of my own classmates left the state after completing training this year.

Question: why do so many people leave?
Answer: Graduates often leave GA as its mental health system is ranked very low and they become discouraged working in a very limited and resource-poor system.

Question: Trauma versus ADHD: “It seems to me like ADHD is overdiagnosed. Does it ultimately all resolve back to trauma?”
Answers: CDC is working on adverse childhood experiences. Four or more experiences are correlated with early onset of many diseases, and even with cancer
See ACE study info: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/
More answers about trauma: this depends some on family history, some on environmental factors. How it relates to autism is not fully understood yet, though it’s partially related to the father’s age.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paternal_age_effect
Smoking may also be a risk factor
Drinking as well, which also raises the risk of Fetal Alochol Syndrome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_alcohol_syndrome
Trauma affects us biologically

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126637629

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3182008/

Question: Where to find info about adoption and health risks?
Answers: Most kids coming out of foster care are eligible for Medicaid, but the therapists who accept this are limited
Follow up question: But where is the list of actual providers who do accept it?
Check the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychitary’s finder page: http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Resources/CAP_Finder.aspx
See Georgia Psychological Association’s site: http://www.gapsychology.org/search/custom.asp?id=2175
SAMSHA will help too
Personal referrals

Question: What red flags are there for children of parents who themselves have mental health problems?
See http://www.mentalhealth.gov/, a brand new site for info about suicide prevention, and other issues
Note: There is a lawsuit that is forcing Georgia to improve its adult mental health care. Details here: http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/following-patient-reentry-orders-georgia.html
See AJC article series “Hidden Shame”, archived here: http://www.gmhcn.org/files/Articles/AJCSeries_DEATHINGEORGIASMENTALHOSPITALS.html
More info: http://www.gcdd.org/blogs/gcdd-blog/2578-before-olmstead.html

CALL TO ACTION: Lawmakers need to hear your voices!

Question: What training and role do school nurses, counselors, and psychologists have? Can’t they serve children’s mental health needs in their school?
Answer: one person has to serve many and is overloaded. Parents need to understand their rights under IDEA and know that sometimes they will have to be forceful to get schools to comply and get what their kids need.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Informed Advocate

UUCA’s Children’s Sabbath is Sunday, October 19

Sabbath flyer-4

Leave a comment

October 1, 2014 · 1:02 pm

Register for “Lunch and Learn” after the Children’s Sabbath

Lunch and Learn

Leave a comment

October 1, 2014 · 12:26 pm

We’re Cooking Dinner for Homeless Families at Hagar’s House

UUCA members will be cooking the evening meal at Hagar’s House  each night from Sunday, September 21 thru Friday, September 26. Would you (and perhaps your children) like to prepare and serve one of these meals? Here’s who to contact: Dana Boyle, 770-365-5551, danaboyle@me.com.

We need 2- 5 volunteers each night to prepare dinner for 30 residents and a few staffers. Cook at home and bring it ready to serve (heating OK). Then eat with the residents. On-site volunteers show you the serving “ropes.” We have lots of suggestions about food from Decatur Cooperative Ministry, which sponsors this shelter. Just contact Dana!

Hagar’s House is a shelter providing transitional housing for women and children. The facility, which operates only at night, can accommodate up to 30 guests per evening, and each family enjoys a private room and bath. While residing at Hagar’s House, families receive housing, two meals per day, laundry facilities, limited transportation assistance, resources and referrals, computer training opportunities, and other services as needed. Hagar’s House is unique in that it can accommodate very large families and families with teenage boys – two groups that typically struggle to find emergency shelter.

This direct service opportunity is sponsored by UUCA’s Promise the Children advocacy and action group. Contact us at promisethechildren@uuca.org!

Leave a comment

Filed under Help for Homeless and Struggling Families

Bring Many Cans!!!

cans1

cans2

cans3

Leave a comment

Filed under Child Health--Insurance, Obesity, and Other Issues, Help for Homeless and Struggling Families

Hope-Hill Seeking Volunteers for Easy, Short-term Projects on June 16th and/or June 17th

Hope-Hill Elementary has put out a call for volunteers to help inventory teaching supplies and organize media center (library) materials on Monday, June 16th and Tuesday, June 17th. Work sessions will run from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM each day. Volunteers can choose to work one or both days and the length of time they want to work, i.e.1 hour, 2 hours, or more. No heavy lifting required. School staff will be available to provide guidance. This is a great opportunity for member/friends who want to support UUCA’s work with Hope-Hill but who are not able to volunteer on a regular basis. Contact Richard Bergman at 404-345-5983 or via e-mail at bergmanrf@yahoo.com to sign up or for more information.

Leave a comment

Filed under Our Stories