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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.


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

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)?
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

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.

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“Love thy Neighbor” food sharing is Sunday. Then what?

(Read all the posts in this series about food insecurity. Click “like” at the bottom, and you will get them automatically.)

“Love thy Neighbor” food sharing is Sunday.

Then what? 

This Sunday, Nov. 24, many UUCA members will bring food to donate. 

They have shopped for 100 food insecure families in the Old Fourth Ward community.  We’ll pack the food in cardboard boxes, and drive the boxes downtown.  Families will pick the food up from our partner, Operation PEACE.

But, Promise the Children advocates always keep in mind:  This project is not an end;  it must be a beginning.  Even though this is a large food sharing project, next month, the families will be hungry again.

So. What’s next?

It’s pretty exciting! 

On Thursday, December 5,  UUCA will help City Councilman Kwanza Hall host  a “Community Conversation about Food Insecurity in the Old Fourth Ward.”  (10:00 a.m – noon, Fort Street Methodist, 562 Boulevard Ave.)

We expect this will be the first of several conversations aimed at identifying the gaps between all our good intentions and people who still lack adequate food.

If food insecurity is an issue you care about, let us know. We’re building UUCA group to work with the large and varied group  in the Old Fourth Ward – a long-term food project.  

If you have an interest, let us know… this is NOT committing you to DOING anything!  Email PromiseTheChildren@uuca.org.

More  Background:

Food Insecurity.  It means people who don’t have regular access to enough nourishing food for a healthy, active life.

In the Old Fourth Ward, food insecurity isn’t just some fancy words… It lives and breathes; it haunts many residents.

We are concerned about the children who are doing poorly in school because they do not get enough food or the right kind of food at home.

We are concerned about our elders whose often limited incomes and limited mobility to make it hard for them to get enough nourishing food.

There are questions we want to ask:

          –   What is the extent to which hunger is  a problem in the Old Fourth Ward           neighborhood? 

          – What  groups are helping with food and nutrition in our area?  How successful are we being at helping people keep food on their tables?

          – What is missing; where are the gaps? 

          – What can we do together, pooling our efforts,  to bring more food nourishing food to citizens in the Old Fourth Ward? 

Who will be attending the “Conversation about Food Insecurity”? 

          – People who have the experience of not getting enough to eat at the end of the month, when SNAP benefits have run out.

          – Schools, day care centers and senior centers where hungry people gather.

          -And the organizations that provide food – from the food bank to the local churches that serve hot meals.

UUCA’s Role: 

UUCA has worked in the Old Fourth Ward for two decades at Hope-Hill Elementary School. We provide tutors, after school clubs, and other resources that the school lacks. 

For the last two years, UUCA has built a coalition with other churches and neighborhood organizations to make sure that most Hope-Hill students attend summer enrichment programs that feed both their minds and their bodies.

Through a broad community coalition, UUCA will be supporting  a larger  conversation about how to increase the amount of nutritious food  for families of Hope-Hill Elementary children and for the elderly who live in the area.


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November 18, 2013 · 4:13 pm

Who is hungry in Bedford Pine?


Food Insecure – unable to afford enough food for a healthy life.

In this month of Thanksgiving, UUCA is undertakinga BIG food sharing program ( think of 130 food boxes – a pile 10 ft. long x 4 ft. wide x 5ft high… BIG!!)  This is a project for all and we want you to help!  Details at https://promisethechildrenatuuca.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/food-insecurity-1/

The food we collectwill go to families in the Bedford Pine neighborhood in the Old Fourth Ward.  Very many of the Hope-Hill Elementary students UUCA members tutor live in this very poor neighborhood. 

But, you may ask, WHO is hungry in Bedford Pine? 

 We talked to friends at Operation PEACE who live and work in the area and who know the families well…

“Bedford Pine isa federally subsidized housing project with 689 units and 1368 occupants.  Bedford Pine covers 17 city blocks starting at Boulevard & Wabash Ave to Ponce De Leon Ave.  From Parkway Dr & Wabash Ave to Ponce De Leon.

“EVERYONE who lives here is poor99% of the Bedford Pine families  have income below $10,000.00 yearly,  the Federal category of extreme poverty. 

“Here is what a  typical family faces in Bedford Pine Apartments:

“Megan Berry, who has been looking for employment since June of 2012, is a typical family in Bedford Pine. She has three children and receives $330.00 monthly in AFDC benefits.  For her four-member family Megan also receives $668.00 in SNAP benefits (food stamps). Since she is actively looking for employment, $120.00 out of the $330.00 in AFDC benefits goes back to the government towards child care expenses. (AFDC – Aid to Families with Dependent Children)

“Because SNAP benefits were cut this month (Nov), the Berry family will get $36.00 less.  That means four fewer meals for her and her three children, which of course, will result in little or no healthy food. 

“Megan is typical.  The majority of our residents receive food stamps. They are all  people struggling to put healthy food on their tables,“ explained Edna Moffitt, director of Operation PEACE.


Food Insecurity.  Defined as:The limited or uncertain availability of enough food, and nutritionally adequate foods for an active, healthy life.  or “People who aren’t sure whether they’ll have food for dinner tonight.”

Being Food Insecure.  It haunts about 20%  of our neighbors in Atlanta. It haunts MOST of the people who live in  Bedford Pine.  It is a way of life for very many of the children who attend Hope-Hill school.

In the coming days, our PTC Food Insecurity posts will consider: Hunger 101- Why people in Bedford Pine are hungry. The Hows and Whys of SNAP.  A Challenge to live a week on SNAP.  Sources of food for food insecure people. What will we do to change it.

Please follow along, and please, let the subject of food insecurity be a topic of conversation with family and friends and colleagues around you!

Here is a link to a 5 minute PBS story that reveals the struggle to eat and live on minimum wage.  It is excellent.  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/nation/july-dec13/minimumwage_11-04.html


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Filed under Help for Homeless and Struggling Families, Uncategorized

PTC Celebrates the Georgia Juvenile Justice Bill

There was much to celebrate this May as Gov. Deal signed the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill into law.

UUCA members, child advocates and a host of partners worked tirelessly with legislators for two years to get this ground-breaking legislation passed.  For five years before that, a smaller group, that also included UUCA members, worked to bring stakeholders to consensus and write the law that was submitted.

Why is the juvenile justice bill important?

As Governor Deal signed House Bill 242, Georgia joined a short list of states making sweeping changes aimed at slowing the ballooning costs of incarceration while also steering petty offenders away from a life of crime.

Under the measure, Georgia will lock up fewer juvenile offenders and send those accused of less serious crimes to community-based programs. It also will seek to address the root causes of minor offenses such as truancy, running away or being unruly.

Once the youth law takes effect on January 1, 2014, so-called “status offenders” arrested for minor offenses won’t go into the criminal justice system at all. Instead they will be sent to social services programs equipped to address the underlying reasons for their trouble, often found in their home lives.

Teenagers accused of misdemeanors and low-level crimes like drug possession will not be sentenced to a juvenile prison. Instead they will be diverted to community-based programs.

Those who commit designated felonies will be separated into two categories. Crimes in which no one is hurt will mean no more than 18 months locked up plus another 1 ½ years of intensive probation. Designated felons who harm someone could be locked up for as many as five years.

Georgia currently has 1,820 juveniles in either a short-term regional youth detention center or at a youth development campus, akin to a prison for adults. Forecasts show 640 fewer teenagers locked up in Department of Juvenile Justice facilities, saving $91,000 a year per bed.

Advocates say money saved will go into expanding community-based programs now in place in only a few counties, such as Clayton and Newton. Georgia has $6 million in state and federal dollars to spend on pilot programs. To prepare for the January 1 effective date of the law, the state has already asked dozens of juvenile courts and local groups for proposals for community-level juvenile justice programs.

Clayton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Steven Teske explains, “We are having a lot of low risk kids who have very high needs because of family dysfunction going into these (youth detention centers) with razor wire fences.

“They don’t belong here.  We’re making them worse, resulting in a 65 percent recidivism rate when they get out.”  Judge Teske has served in the Clayton County juvenile courts since 1999 and a frequent national speaker on this subject.

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Filed under Juvenile Justice--Student Discipline--Keeping Kids in Class, Our Stories, The Informed Advocate