LUK, Inc. Blog

National Volunteer Week

by Hilary Amedy

National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Since then, every U.S. President has signed a proclamation promoting National volunteer Week. Governors, mayors and other elected officials also make public statements and sign proclamations in support of National Volunteer Week.

Volunteers are one of country’s most important assets. More than 62 million people volunteered last year, donating approximately 8 billion hours to non-profits.

During National Volunteer Week we would like to thank all the folks who have volunteered their time and talents to improve our community. LUK volunteers donate their time selflessly by serving as mentors, LUK Board members, Mentoring Advisory Board members, as members of Community Action teams, assist with trainings, and helping with fundraising events. Mentors alone average 4,000 hours per year with LUK mentees.

People volunteer for many reasons from wanting to give back to the community, make a difference, gain new skills or to meet new people. We know how volunteers help non-profits but volunteers benefit from volunteering as well. People who volunteer can increase their self-confidence, self-esteem and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Thinking of becoming a volunteer? See the following list of reasons that will help you make up your mind. (UC San Diego 9500 Gilman Dr. La Jolla, CA 92093 Copyright ©2016 Regents of the University of California.)

#10: It's good for you.

Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards. It:

  • Reduces stress: Experts report that when you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts usual tension-producing patterns.
  • Makes you healthier: Moods and emotions, like optimism, joy, and control over one's fate, strengthen the immune system.

#9: It saves resources.

Volunteering provides valuable community services so more money can be spent on local improvement

  • The estimated value of a volunteer's time is $15.39 per hour.

#8: Volunteers gain professional experience.

  • You can test out a career.

#7: It brings people together.

As a volunteer you assist in:

  • Uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal
  • Building camaraderie and teamwork

#6: It promotes personal growth and self-esteem.

  • Understanding community needs helps foster empathy and self-efficacy.

#5: Volunteering strengthens your community.

As a volunteer you help:

  • Support families (daycare, eldercare)
  • Improve schools (tutoring, literacy)
  • Support youth (mentoring and after-school programs)
  • Beautify the community (beach and park cleanups)

#4: You learn a lot.

Volunteers learn things like these:

  • Self: Volunteers discover hidden talents that may change your view on your self-worth.
  • Government: Through working with local non-profit agencies, volunteers learn about the functions and operation of our government.
  • Community: Volunteers gain knowledge of local resources available to solve community needs.

#3: You get a chance to give back.

  • People like to support community resources that they use themselves or that benefit people they care about.

#2: Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.

  • Community service and volunteerism are an investment in our community and the people who live in it.

#1: You make a difference.

A huge THANK YOU to all our LUK Volunteers!  If you are interested in becoming a LUK Mentor, please, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 800-579-0000.

Remember-

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t been in bed with a mosquito!” (Anita Roddick, The Body Shops)

May I Have a Moment of Your Time?

 By: Kelsey Cadran

The importance of Data

The phone rings, you answer. “Hello?” “Hi There, we are conducting a survey, may I have a moment of your time?” What is your first response? Hang up? Tell them you’re busy? Or take a few moments and answer the few questions? 

Data can be a powerful resource, but the information needs to be valid and plentiful for it to be useful. The more people that participate in the survey and answer those questions with sound responses the better the results. That moment in time you choose to answer those few questions can really help an organization, cause, or individual achieve a result that may just benefit you! 

Me? Yes, you! But how? 

Those surveys can gather enough information to find a need in a community, develop an idea that could address a common interest, or just in general get people more interested and invested. There is a reason why people offer discounts, or incentives for just a few answers. These persons and places rely on the information to help better serve the public, while yes, benefitting themselves as well. You may find that surveys, polls, and questionnaires are time consuming and just downright annoying, at times I’d have to agree. That phone call at dinner time, or while you’re just on your way out the door “Could you please answer a few questions?” is frustrating, but understanding why can change that mood. Simple questions like “do you have children?” or “what is your usual method of transportation” could be polling for information about whether a not a town may be considering spending money on putting in additional resources in the town for public use. 

Non-profits collect information on various data points to help understand the needs of the community they reside or serve.  With this information they are able to discover what might be areas of need, and direct them toward applying for certain grants. Once the funding is established data is collected to show progress and requirements of funders. Data elements can be anywhere from demographic to service related. Without collecting this information, there is no way to tell whether you are being effective with your method other than a case by case basis, and assumptions. There’s a saying that goes around “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.”

Recently I learned that a local museum in my town that is funded by a state agency is losing their funding. While I don’t know the exact reason, it leads me to wonder if they do not find value in funding a project that is just not getting the volume of visits it was expecting. When you walked in the door the first thing you see is a little note that says “Please sign our guestbook!” my immediate reaction was to think, they’re collecting data. They want to know how many people are stopping by, and where they are coming from. Something as simple as signing a guest book could be the reason a non-profit entity makes or breaks it. 

The idea of this blog entry is to get the message across that your input matters! So the next time you are faced with a survey, a simple questionnaire, a guestbook, take a second and respond. Your valid input is important! 

LINKS to some additional articles: 

Nonprofit use of Big Data:  http://allegiancesoftware.com/nonprofit-industry-news/nonprofit-technology/the-401-on-big-data-analytics-for-nonprofit-management/

Nonprofit Data Users – Challenges:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adnan-mahmud/nonprofit-data-users-3-ch_b_4960313.html

Nonprofit Performance Management: Using Data to Measure and Improve Programs.  https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2013/07/02/using-outcomes-to-measure-nonprofit-success/

“Where am I in my window?” How to become a trauma-informed parent

By: Beth Barto, Director of Quality Assurance

Have you ever had a poor parenting moment when you needed to respond to your child’s need but instead took the easier road because of exhaustion?  While parenting is the most important role in the world it can also be highly stressful.  The stress of the job is compounded when parenting a child who has experienced trauma.  For children who have not experienced layers of adversity your poor ‘tuning in’ moment will be viewed as a lapse in judgment and be forgotten in a matter of minutes. However, for a child who has experienced chronic stress, a parent who does not tune in or understand the big feelings under the big behaviors can be viewed as a threat in the storybook of fears developed through their experiences.   

Children who have experienced layers of adversity often have an overactive alarm system.  All humans have a built-in alarm system critical for our survival.  The alarm system signals us when we might be in danger.  Sometimes there can be false alarms.  False alarms happen when something we see, feel or hear reminds us of a time when we needed to be alert for danger.  Reminders can come in the form of people, places, smells, sounds, touch, taste and certain emotions. False alarms can be a way of being for children who have experienced chronic trauma.  Being hypervigilent of situations can also be exhausting for children and they can miss out on important developmental milestones as a result.

So, what can parents do to help?  Let us consider using ‘planned ignoring’ as an intervention for poor behavior.  This type of strategy can be useful for many typically developing children and shift a child’s attention seeking behavior.  However, using planned ignoring as an intervention for a neglected child can be a reminder of past abandonment.  This important behavioral management skill can trigger the false alarm and a child impacted by chronic adversity can fill up with anger and demonstrate aggressive behaviors.  Or, some children may shut down and go into their own inner world.  All of these responses are ways children deal when they think something is dangerous.  As parents it is important for us to understand that normal stress can trigger the false alarm and send a child to the extreme of rage or the extreme of numbing.  This is the child’s automatic survival response.  The “Window of Tolerance” (Ogden, et al. (2006); Siegel, 1999) is the optimal zone of energy where we are able to manage and thrive in every-day life.

The goal is to be able to be calm and peaceful and understand what events trigger the stress response.  In trauma-informed parenting the parent is aware of where they are in their window in response to a child’s behavior.  The parent understands that a child’s big behaviors are indicative of a false alarm and the behaviors tell a story of a child’s greatest fears.  The parent is able to take a step back and become curious not furious and respond to the need instead of the behavior. 

The main focus of trauma informed parenting is to reflect on one’s own state and become a detective of their child’s state of being.  In stressful situations it is important to exercise your “thinking” brain by asking questions of the situation.  When you notice concerning behavior, parents can step back and ask:

  • Where am I in my window? 
  • Am I calm and can I respond effectively? 
  • What can I do to become calm? 
  • Maybe I should breathe. Maybe I should think about what might be going on for my child. 
  • Where is my child in their window?
  • What is fueling their response? 
  • What is my child showing in their face, with their tone of voice in their approach and their mood? 
  • How do I let my child know that I understand them? 
  • What is the need the behavior is serving for my child?
  • What happened to activate the false alarm: change in routine, transition, loss of control, feelings of rejection, limit setting, loneliness, and sensory overload? 

Now that you have figured out what is going on you can have some great parenting moments.  Consider that the most important action as a parent is to bear a child’s pain by being there, offering support, and helping children name, understand and manage their feelings.  Consider being a reflective listener. 

Remember that for a child with a false alarm the stress they are going through will feel extreme even though the casual observer will think they are over-reacting.  Do not try to “change” the child’s feelings. The child will feel how they feel.  Use eye contact; nod your head, and respond verbally.  Do not interrupt or take over the conversation.  Think about a time when you wanted to be heard and respond respectfully.  Reflect back what you hear the child say and add that you can tell the situation is hard for them.  Reflect back the child’s feeling but always ask the child if you got their feeling right. If you did not get the feeling right, apologize for your error and just name what you see.  Don’t jump to problem solving.  Validate the feelings and situation first, then help your child come up with the solutions. 

A parent who is able to reflect on their own state in relation to the window will become an emotional container for their child. Please remember that we all have poor parenting moments just remember you can always go back when life is calmer and try again. 

For more resources on parenting a child with trauma go to: http://www.nctsn.org/resources/audiences/parents-caregivers

The Foster Care Drift

by Michele Morrissey

We have all heard the stories from former foster youth who grew up in the system. Their stories often share the same common problem of growing up in multiple foster homes – the foster care drift (Placement Patterns in Foster Care). More than one disrupted foster home is traumatic enough for a child, but it’s difficult to fathom the harm experienced by a child when they have moved through 5, 10, 15, or even 20 homes. 

What causes a child to move so many times? Who are these foster families that keep rejecting this child? Is the child welfare system so bad, that it cannot find permanency for these kids? The answers to these questions are not easy to find. It is too easy to say that the foster care system or foster family failed a child once again. It is also too easy for foster families to say, "I will never request a child be removed from my home." 

I have had a specific child on my mind for a couple of months now. I was at a provider meeting that included several foster care agencies and this child was presented, as he’d been on a waiting list for some time. In professional lingo it is called a ‘placement request’ where agencies collaborate on locating an appropriate foster home for a specific child. This male child is three and half years old and needed to be transferred from his current foster home to a new home because of behavior issues. Further information reveals that he was part of a sibling group of four children and they were trying to find a home for him and his sister. The brother and sister had been separated from the other two siblings also due to behavior issues. When placed, the newest foster home will be his fifth foster home. The mother side of my brain is already shouting, "For heaven's sake this child is only 3 years old, how bad can his behavior truly be!!!" 

Our intake coordinator presented his referral packet to a home and we found a match! The siblings had, what is considered, a long transition into the home. He finally moved into his new foster home with his sister. However, within days he was removed from the home due to severe behaviors and aggression. The little boy was screened by a state funded mental health team (the Mobile Crisis Team) and deemed safe to return to the foster home, but again, displayed very unsafe behaviors, property destruction, and aggression. He was moved to another foster home within our agency. 

So what happened in this small child's life that brought him to this place? Obviously, abuse and neglect by his birth family brought him into the foster care system. Why so many foster homes? Most people think of behavior problems as tantrums, hitting or something similar. However, a child affected by trauma can bring bad behavior to new levels that are hard to imagine. Some of the most challenging behaviors that I have seen are bed wetting, hurting a family pet, hurting or battling with another child in the home, or even acting aggressively toward a foster parent or their biological children. It should also be said that rarely does this bad behavior mean one isolated incident. It occurs frequently and patience, additional supports, therapies, and “thinking outside the box” may have no impact. Providing a loving home for a child with these kinds of challenges will test even the most seasoned foster parents. Can a foster family that has tried everything under the sun and had no success be blamed for giving up? 

One of the points that are taught in our MAPP (Massachusetts Approach to Partnership Parenting) training is that the safety and health of your own family needs to come first above the needs of a foster child. This is a hard concept to wrap the brain around until it has been experienced. 

Foster families are all created differently and each experience is unique. The thought of a child with extreme behavior issues has chased many potential foster families away because of fear. Not all foster children have extreme behaviors. I have often been surprised by a family who seemed to be tailor made to handle a particular child. I admire those who choose not to give up and I understand the heartbreak and grief of those who need to make a change. There are no black and white rules when it comes to children in foster care. 

The foster care system is working hard to minimize placement disruptions. There is now collaboration between state social services and private agencies to increase the chance of finding a home that fits a child's needs. Placing a child in a home that is good fit right from the start is an important piece of the puzzle.

 

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, take the first step. Please call LUK at 800-579-0000 to talk about your interest in becoming a foster parent. We will answer any questions you have, and will begin the process when you are ready to proceed.

Additional Resources:

 

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/placement/strategies/

http://cascw.umn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Path_BremerReport.pdf

http://adoption.about.com/od/working_with_social_workers/a/Why-Do-Foster-Care-Disruptions-Occur.htm

 

http://www.ocfcpacourts.us/assets/files/list-772/file-997.pdf

Gratitude and Well-Being

By: Karen P. Carlson, PhD

The fall/winter season is a time where people from a variety of cultural, religious and ethnic traditions engage in celebrations and rituals focusing on acts and expressions of gratitude.  Sometimes the gratitude and thankfulness is directed to a higher power and is thus considered a spiritual virtue.  Sometimes it is focused on the life forces and provisions given from people and the natural world.  In this sense gratitude is seen as a social virtue, a positive personality trait that helps one interact with the world in positive ways (Sansalone & Sansalone, 2010; Emmons & McCollough, 2003).  Religious leaders and psychologists agree that gratitude involves attitudes, emotions and actions that are given unconditionally, not when deserved.  The word gratitude stems from the Latin word gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, gratefulness (www.merriam-webster.com).  Gratitude is something that is both given and received.

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