August 14, 2015

Vermont’s children and families need people like Lara Sobel

Posted in Commentary, DCF tagged , , , , at 10:04 am by Lund

The recent murder of Vermont Department of Children and Families social worker Lara Sobel outside the Barre State Office Building where she worked was a senseless tragedy that has affected the entire State of Vermont profoundly. For those that work in human services, the impact weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of those charged with continuing the work of keeping children safe and helping families thrive.  With the loss of Lara, we have lost an passionate advocate and dedicated professional.  We know that she improved the lives of so many people in her short time on earth.

The business of helping families is challenging and for social workers within the Department for Children and Families even more so.   Their work is frequently challenged and critiqued without the public knowing the full information.  We are facing increasingly challenging times in our State with the prevalence of addiction and mental illness and the lack of adequate capacity to serve the children and families that need our help.  Now, more than ever, Vermont’s children and families need people like Lara Sobel.  Lund’s Director of Residential and Community Treatment, Kim Coe, states, “At Lund we are proud to work closely with DCF and to support them in their work to make life safer, healthier and happier for Vermont’s children and their families. We honor Lara’s life by continuing to carry forward the mission that she lived by and believed in, all children deserve the right to live safe and healthy lives.”

Lund is committed to the safety of our staff who work in the community teaching family education, providing adoption support services, conducting substance abuse screening and assessment, and supporting clients in their recovery. The security of our workers is key as we support them in delivering the best possible services to men, women and children safely, with confidence and without fear or excessive worry.  We have taken immediate steps to review our safety protocols and provide opportunities for staff members to discuss their concerns.

We are firmly committed to our shared mission with DCF of helping to make life better for children in Vermont. We will support them and stand in solidarity at this very sad and frightening time.  In honor of Lara and all the people that dedicate their lives to improving others, we shall remain steadfast in our pursuit of safety and well-being for all children.

Flowers

August 10, 2015

“You have to bring snacks at Kindergarten.”

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , at 12:01 pm by Lund

It’s a cloudy morning in the LECP playground, early August.  The preschoolers are outside digging in the sandbox, chasing each other around the play structure and pretending to be wolves.   “Let’s be bad wolves,” says one boy to a friend, growling and baring his teeth.  “No,” she replies, “I am good wolf.”  “OK,” he agrees and they bound off together.  In two weeks, six of these preschoolers will move on to Kindergarten.  The teachers have worked with them throughout their time in preschool to build the social/emotional and cognitive skills that they will need to be successful in Kindergarten and have put special emphasis over the past months on helping the children to be excited about this next important step.

Many of the children Lund serves have experienced significant trauma, and the primary focus begins with strengthening children’s social and emotional development. The teaching practices allow children to develop social/emotional competence and self-help skills, as well as offering children the opportunity to explore and experiment safely with different tools and  materials. As children develop, teachers begin to focus more on other skill building activities and curricula that address concepts and domains for learning as addressed in the Vermont Early Learning Standards.

Sharing the playground with children from the toddler room, it is easy to see the difference between the younger kids and these confident, articulate five-year olds.  “Take a picture of me,” one girl shouts as she executes a complex jump from the play structure.  I look at the teacher nervously, “Is that allowed?”  “Oh it’s safe, they do it all the time,” the teacher replies.   These children, and their aerial maneuvers, seem ready for a bigger adventure.  But what do they have to say about it themselves?

Tell me about Kindergarten:

“I’m going to climb a tall tree because they will ask me to.”   – B

“In Kindergarten, I will read books and play.  It’s going to be fun.  The teacher will probably spend the night.  Does the teacher spend the night?”  – J

“It’s a good thing I have a lunchbox.  You have to bring snacks at Kindergarten.  I’m going to bring apples, oranges and goldfish on the first day.”  – A

“Drawing.  I want to do drawing in Kindergarten.  I wish all my friends were going to Kindergarten with me.”  – M

“I know all about Kindergarten because my brother was there.  You get to play on a playground and read with letters.” – J

"This is Jess, my teacher."

“This is Jess, my teacher.”

August 5, 2015

Supported and Successful Transitions – Family Engagement at Lund

Posted in Family Education, Family Engagement, Program Spotlight, Residential tagged , , , , at 7:50 am by Lund

The topics of conversation around the table on Pinterest Tuesday at Lund’s recently formed alumni group wanders between questions about the project at hand – making bags from old T-shirts – milking cows, what to do with avocado oil and the animals at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

The group is run by Lund’s Family Engagement Specialists Laura May Ackley and Meagan DeWitt and is for women who are about to transition, or recently have transitioned, from living at Lund’s Residential Treatment Facility into living in the community.

“The women who have been living in the residential program are always surrounded by a community of peers and providers,” says Meagan. “When they transition into the community they might still have providers coming to their home but their level of peer support drastically changes. Many women also discover that finding safe and sober peers, that can also relate to their experiences as a parent in the community can be difficult. The group allows them to remain connected to a peer group that shares the experience of having been at Lund’s residential program. It also allows women who are preparing to transition to connect with other women in the community.”

The group focuses on activities that teach and reinforce independent living and parenting skills. “The specific activities are chosen by the women in the group,” says Laura May.  “The women that are getting ready to transition want to learn about certain topics or the women already living in the community struggled with certain things in their transition and want to know more about it.” The recent shopping bag activity came as part of a four week long session on bargain shopping and was inspired specifically by one of the group participants expressing her frustration that no bags were available at the Farmers Market to carry home her purchases.   The previous week, Lund’s nutrition specialist, Jillian Kirby came to the group to dispense tips and tricks on how to get the best deals at the grocery store.

Making grocery bags from old T-shirts.  Find out how here: http://www.instructables.com/id/No-Sew-10-Minute-T-Shirt-Tote/

Making grocery bags from old T-shirts. Find out how here: http://www.instructables.com/id/No-Sew-10-Minute-T-Shirt-Tote/

“A lot of our topics have an underlying theme of living with financial restraints,” Meagan reports, “while we want to offer them information on resources or a given topic, we also want to encourage them to think out of the box and be creative with what they have. Lastly we like to have fun. Life with children can be chaotic especially after leaving a residential program. This is a place where for 75 minutes where they can laugh, play games and connect with others and relax.”

The alumni group is only part of the family engagement work that Laura May and Meagan do. The focus of their position is to strengthen family support systems for women in treatment. They do this by working with women before they leave Lund and for six months afterwards to help them reconnect, repair and redefine relationships with family members, friends and community organizations that will be supportive of and helpful to them.   They can help women manage the practical needs of independent living and parenting while in recovery and follow up with them to make sure that all the pieces are in place and that they and their children are thriving in the community. They travel all over Vermont to follow up with women who have returned to their hometowns or relocated elsewhere in Chittenden County.

The work is funded by the SAMHSA grant that Lund received in November of 2014 Both Meagan and Laura May’s are new positions but the need was not. Clients would frequently leave Lund doing really well and then start to struggle after a couple of months. Clients themselves would also often say that they wished they had something to hold on to after they left. “Before this position began there was limited availability for the providers whom a client has become so close to, to work with them after they leave,” states Meagan. “We can act as a transitional provider in the community who knows where they have come from and help them get where they want to go.” Life at Lund is very structured and women are constantly surrounded by supportive staff members and peers. Moving to living independently has the potential to be lonely and isolated. Family Engagement provides a coordinated and comprehensive approach to continued support after discharge.

Family engagement looks different for each client as it based on the needs of their particular family. It can be practical parenting support such as working with a mom to help her feel comfortable having her child sleep is his own bedroom after sharing a room with him at Lund since he was born or going with a mom to the grocery store to help them shop within their budget.   Laura May and Meagan also work with older children in a family who have not been living at Lund with their moms, perhaps helping a mom to write letters to an older child to get them ready for mom being a more regular part of their lives once she leaves Lund or connecting with the father to help find appropriate therapists for older children. Laura May and Meagan work closely with Lund’s case managers and clinicians to provide comprehensive, wraparound support to families and help them have the best possible chance for success when they leave Lund.

“Transitioning from a treatment facility to the community while maintaining sobriety and managing a family is difficult. Having a provider that you have already built a relationship with makes the transition feel more supported and more successful,” says Laura May.

 

 

 

August 4, 2015

Introduction to College Studies at Lund

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, New Horizons Educational Program tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:00 pm by Lund

For many people around the country, August means ‘back to school’.  While Lund’s education programs are year round and do not break for summer,  we cannot help but join in with the excitement of this time of year.  Our preschoolers transition to Kindergarten, backpacks full of school supplies are donated for foster children, and across the agency there is a sense of new beginning that comes with the autumnal tinge of this time of year.   One of the most exciting ‘back to school’ things happening at Lund is the first meeting of the Introduction to College Studies class (ICS) that the Community College of Vermont teaches on site at Lund’s Hoehl Family Building in South Burlington.  The class is open to students at New Horizons, Lund’s high school completion program for pregnant and parenting young women, and women living at our residential treatment facility.

The class runs for 13 weeks and offers pre college coursework that helps students to develop the foundational academic skills that they need to be successful in college and beyond.  The goal is to help students develop strategies for college and career success focusing on study skills, the financial aid process, goal-setting, and career exploration and planning.  Data from CCV shows that students who complete this class are 18% more likely to enroll in college.  Last year, 600 students were served by this class statewide at CCV’s 12 campuses as well as other locations, such as Lund.

College work at Lund

Clients from Lund had previously enrolled in this class at CCV locations in downtown Burlington or Winooski but had not often been successful due to the difficulties  of securing transportation and finding childcare.  Many of them also found it hard to coordinate the class schedule with the demands of their schedule at Lund.   It was also hard to complete the work required without additional support.  The solution was simple – bring the class to the students.  “Many of our clients are not ready to attend class in a college environment,” says Tammy Santamore, Learning Together Coordinator, “It can bring up a lot of anxiety for clients or cause them to feel too pressured.  The partnership with CCV has been invaluable in supporting our students in engaging in college level work, in a supportive and familiar environment, by allowing their focus on higher education to compliment their treatment and parenting responsibilities.”

Last fall 15 students from Lund completed the ICS class.  Two of them went on to enroll in another class at CCV in the spring semester and two more took a class over the summer using the tuition voucher that all students who complete the ICS class receive.  The voucher provides the next step in their college journey and can be used up to a year after completion of the class.   Continuing at college is not the path that all of our moms will take but the skills learned in this class are relevant and applicable to high school completion, vocational training or employment.  “The ICS course is a great first step not only for high school students but also adult learners who want to explore post secondary education, those who want to build their resume or explore vocational training and future career choices and build upon their academic skills,” says Tammy.

“We partner with Lund and other non-profits across the state to increase access to the class for our most vulnerable students.  The young moms at Lund certainly fall into this category and we’re happy to help them start the path towards college and career success,” says Katie Mobley, Director of Outreach and Development at CCV.  “As the faculty member who had the privilege of teaching the ICS course offered at Lund, I can speak to the high quality of support that students received in order to make attending ICS a possibility while juggling many other priorities, including motherhood.”

“We are excited to have CCV  back with us this fall, and hope that the collaboration between Lund and CCV continues to improve post secondary enrollment and retention for our families both current and future generations,” says Tammy.

July 24, 2015

Making ‘Small Talk’ at Lund – Guest post from Let’s Grow Kids

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:33 am by Lund

(This blog post appeared as an e-mail sent by Let’s Grow Kids to their supporters, partners and fans.  We’re happy spread the word on our blog too)

Last Sunday, at an event called “Circus-palooza” in Shelburne, a single dad took a deep breath and admitted on camera, “Sometimes it feels like you might as well just sit at home and not work at all. Because the expenses of child care are overwhelming. I can’t keep up.”

This hard-working dad was participating in an interview for Small Talk, a new initiative of Let’s Grow Kids and several key partners to collect the personal stories of Vermonters who have interacted with Vermont’s early childhood system.

The Circus-palooza interviews were a test run for Small Talk’s official launch event this past Tuesday at the Lund Early Childhood Education Program in South Burlington. The Small Talk team interviewed seven more Vermonters at the Lund site—including parents, providers and State Representative Barbara Rachelson, who is the Executive Director of Lund (below speaking with LGK Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire).

“We were so honored and thrilled to host Small Talk at Lund, and we’re grateful for all the work that Let’s Grow Kids is doing to spread awareness about the importance of Early Childhood Education in Vermont,” Barbara said. “The families that we work with at Lund are faced with many challenges when trying to find affordable, high quality childcare for their children so that they can work, pursue treatment or continue their education. Helping to make Vermonters aware of these issues and giving a forum for people to share these stories is so critical, and Small Talk is a great way to do that. As a child advocate, working parent, employer, director of a nonprofit organization devoted to the wellbeing of children and families in Vermont and, finally, as a legislator, I am proud to support the work of Small Talk.”

IMG_2868

Community Education Director Molly Loomis and Small Talk Coordinator Lisa Boege Loomis conducting interviews.

This summer, the Small Talk team—LGK community education director, Molly Loomis and Small Talk coordinator, Lisa Boege Loomis (left)—will be on the road, meeting Vermonters across the state and recording their stories on camera. The Small Talk van, a mobile video-editing recording studio, will visit fairs, markets and other community events for scheduled interviews. Small Talk will also visit communities on request. Click here to see a list of currently scheduled Small Talk events or to request a visit to your region.

What will Let’s Grow Kids do with the stories? “Policymakers, community leaders, and others need to hear these stories to understand why the early years are so important and how we can do a better job of giving every child a strong start and equal chance in life,” says Molly. Some of the videos will be posted on the Let’s Grow Kids website and YouTube channel, and will be available for sharing via social media and email.

In one of the Small Talk interviews at Lund a mother said, “We need so many more Lunds. I was incredibly fortunate to find it—I feel like I’ve won the childcare lottery! But if I’ve won, how many other moms have lost?” This mom was speaking to the fact that quality child care is unaffordable and inaccessible for too many families who rely on it in Vermont.

“If I want my son to go to college one day or if we want to do fun stuff like take trips, or go to the beach, or go to the zoo, I can’t afford to keep working in the job that I love,” said an early educator at Lund. Child care professionals in Vermont and across the nation often don’t earn a livable wage because the costs of offering quality care are high, and providers know they can’t fully pass those costs onto the shoulders of already financially strapped parents.

“We really believe in the need for affordable, high quality child care that is accessible to all families,” says Charlotte Blend, communications coordinator at Lund. “The work of Let’s Grow Kids is making important and needed steps in getting this message out to the public and to the agencies that can affect real change. The voices that come out of these Small Talk videos represent the reality that so many parents and teachers face and we were very happy to have this avenue to help share those voices.”

Voices from Lund on real early childhood experiences and challenges.

Voices from Lund on real early childhood experiences and challenges.

To find out how Small Talk interviews work or see a list of potential questions you might be asked, visit letgrowkids.og/small-talk. Small Talk’s next stop is at Lamoille County Field Days in Johnson this weekend. Sign up for that event here.

Let’s Grow Kids is grateful for the support of its excellent partners: Building Bright Futures, Vermont Community Access Media, and The Vermont Folklife Center.

July 1, 2015

Adoption Support Group in Brattleboro – Guest Post by Graham Kidder

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , , at 10:25 am by Lund

In my role as Permanency Planning Counselor for Lund and Project Family, I facilitate an adoption support group for adoptive families in Brattleboro, Vermont with my colleague, Danna Bare who is a Post Permanence Specialist for Lund. The group meets from 6:30 to 8:30 on the second Monday of every month at the Brattleboro Savings and Loan community room.

I co-founded the group with Nancy Birge (formerly with Casey Family Services) in 2003. The group was called ‘Adoption Support for Families of Younger Children’, and was designed as a group to offer support and guidance for families of younger children, who might otherwise be scared by some of the stories and experiences shared by families with teenagers. While the group maintains its original name, several of the original members continue to attend the group; hence the group is no longer solely for parents with younger children.

This adoption support group is a safe and supportive environment for parents to share the joys and frustrations of parenting. The format is based on what families need.  We usually check in to see if anyone has any burning issues they need to discuss.  We split the time up depending on the number of participants, and try to allow for everyone to have equal time to talk.  Group members understand that sometimes they will need a little extra time, but there are also usually members who don’t need their full allotment.   When a participant starts, he or she can let us know whether they are looking for advice, or just need to vent. Parents know that what they share in group remains confidential, and will not circulate back into the community. Parents have expressed gratitude for having a space where they can talk about how frustrated they sometimes become, knowing that the group members recognize that they still love their children even if the stories they share don’t always convey that love.

CC Image Courtesy of Emilio P. Doiztua on Flickr

CC Image Courtesy of Emilio P. Doiztua on Flickr

Group members have truly formed a supportive environment for each other, and they come to recognize that they are not alone.  Danna and I often find ourselves observing as group members empathize with each other’s struggles, and offer advice and encouragement.  Members often talk about how in stressful situations at home they often remember some advice from the group, and are able to tap into that knowledge to help themselves through the moment.

We welcome new members, whether you have adopted internationally or locally, either through public state adoption or private agency. If you are interested in learning more about the group, please do not hesitate to contact me or Danna.

Graham Kidder – Permanency Planning Counselor for Lund and Project Family  – (802) 368-7260 – grahamk@lundvt.org
Danna Bare – Post Permanence Counselor  –  (802) 258-0308 –  dannab@lundvt.org

 

 

 

graham@lundvt.org

June 25, 2015

‘Looking Toward Tomorrow’ – Kit Stone Award Winner 2015

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Awards, Events, New Horizons Educational Program, Residential, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Workforce Development Program tagged , , , , , , , at 12:03 pm by Lund

Smiles and surprises all around as the winner of this year’s Kit Stone Award was announced.  The recipient was completely surprised and had even been lovingly misled by a staff member in order to keep this wonderful achievement a secret. “Deb told me all week it was someone else,” said Chelsea Mitchell, 2015 honoree after she had recovered from hearing her name read out. “Oh my God, I was thinking, no way, no way, are you guys serious? I can’t believe this is happening. I was convinced it was someone else and I was getting ready to clap for her. I heard my name and was like ‘WHAT???’ Everyone had been telling me what a big deal it was and how its hard to get it. It’s amazing.  I think there’s a lot of people that do what I do so I was totally surprised and psyched.”

The Kit Stone Award is named after a former long time board member and supporter of Lund.  It is presented each year to a woman who meets the following criteria:

  • The young woman will recognize the value in using what you’ve been given to blossom in life.
  • The young woman will take the opportunities presented to her and make them work for herself, her family, her peers and her community.
  • The young woman will demonstrate a commitment to her education and/or vocational training.
  • The young woman will demonstrate compassion, kindness and goodwill for others.

Chelsea was nominated by a record 5 different staff members – Greeta Soderholm, Dinah Larsen, Deb Mayville, Jenny Labelle, and Amanda Johnson.

Chelsea currently lives at Lund’s transitional housing facility, Independence Place, with her almost 3 year old daughter.  She works in the front office with Deb, Jenny and Amanda at Lund’s Glen Road building as part of the Workforce Development program.  “I answer phones, greet people, do a lot of paperwork, copying, faxing, scanning, mail, spreadsheets.  I help the girls out with stuff and take donations in.  Wherever they need me to be, I’m there. I love it. I love helping people. I greet people and they tell me I always have a smile on my face.”

Before moving to Independence Place, Chelsea lived at Lund’s Residential treatment program for substance abuse and mental health disorders.  “I just banged the program right out. They were surprised I had such a short stay but it was good for me. My daughter came to live with me a month after I got there and I was so happy.”

Chelsea with members of the New Horizons staff and Honoring Ceremony speaker, Ryan Esbjerg.

Chelsea with members of the New Horizons staff and Honoring Ceremony speaker, Ryan Esbjerg.

In her nomination she was praised for her hard work, determination and constant commitment to doing the best thing for her daughter.  “She talks about her future, going back to school, taking the steps she needs to make, knowing things take time,” said Deb in her nomination. “What I see now in Chelsea is a woman who is determined to make the most out of her life for her daughter and herself. She’s strong, determined and presents a can do attitude. Even when she has a day when life is not easy she maintains a positive attitude, looking toward tomorrow and not concentrating on the negatives.”

“Chelsea came to Lund with a  huge uphill battle and had not been parenting her daughter for a great deal of time,” said Greeta who was Chelsea’s clinician and helped her take the important steps she needed to take before being able to come to Lund.   “Her addiction had taken a full grip on her and she had lost everything because of it. She worked so hard to do what she needed to do to get into treatment, and there were a great number of barriers. Chelsea took advantage of all Lund offered and demonstrated wonderful parenting capacities once the barriers were removed. She is getting back out in the workforce while also balancing all the busy aspects of being a single parent. She is out in the world, independent, and the future looks so much more bright for her as a result of all her hard work and dedication.”

Chelsea plans to pursue Personal Care Assistant Training through the VNA this summer and hopefully then move into a job in that field. “I’ll go to peoples’ homes, cook them dinner, do whatever they need me to do. I think I’ll be good at that. If I like it I’ll go from there and proceed to be a nurse. Right now I want to make sure I like it. It’s hard work but I’m a hard worker so I’m pretty excited,”  she said.  Though so doing would mean that she would have to leave her work placement at Lund.  “I’m debating on that at the moment.  I don’t want to go,” she admits.  “But when I leave Independence Place, I can come and sub as a residential counselor there or at Glen. I would love to work here someday. This is my ideal job.  I can start as a sub and go from there. I am 100% going to do that, no doubt in my mind. I wish I could do it now.”

Dinah’s tribute perhaps describes most succinctly the key to Chelsea’s success, “She took the opportunity given to her to take a deep breath and try to create a life that could be different and better for herself and her family.  She woke up every day with a smile on her face and a strong focus in her head to forge ahead when she easily could have given up.  She is kind, thoughtful, and a good friend to other people as well as a loving and nurturing mother to her daughter.”

Congratulations Chelsea on being the 2015 Kit Stone Award Winner.

June 16, 2015

‘Any obstacle is worth overcoming’ – Honoring Ceremony 2015

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Employees, Events, New Horizons Educational Program, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach, Workforce Development Program tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:22 pm by Lund

Today is your day,” said Executive Director of Lund, Barbara Rachelson to the students of the New Horizons Education Program. “I know the path you took to get here today was not always easy or fun, and yet, you endured.  Parenting, pregnancy and being a student, each in their own right presents challenges.  There are lots of ways for you to find to not show up – if your baby is sick, if you didn’t get sleep, if you are having a hard day but you persevered.  I hope that you are glad that you did and you feel proud.  I certainly feel proud for you.”

Six graduates were celebrated for obtaining their high school diplomas at this year’s Honoring Ceremony. Many more students were recognized for academic achievement, college studies, participation in Lund’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach Program, and attendance at Lund’s Workforce Development Program.  It was a joyful and very proud occasion.   New Horizons is Lund’s licensed education program for pregnant and parenting young women but it is so much more than just a school.  It is a place where students find acceptance, support and a community of peers and teachers committed to helping them be successful students and parents.    On a normal school day you are likely to find a teacher holding a baby while explaining how ions are made, students discussing how often their babies use pacifiers over lunchtime or a teacher helping a student follow up with a potential apartment rental during study hall.    Academic achievement and family support are weaved together through every aspect of the program.

Graduates from the Class of 2015 arrive at the Honoring Ceremony

Graduates from the Class of 2015 arrive at the Honoring Ceremony

The Honoring Ceremony is a time when students, family members, staff from NHEP and other Lund programs, community partners, members of the the Lund board, guests and friends come together to celebrate the students’ achievement and progress during the school year.  Babies and toddlers are integral members of the audience and crying (from children and proud adults alike!) is accepted and celebrated.   In addition to Barbara, this year’s ceremony saw speeches from Kim Coe, Director of Residential and Community Treatment Programs at Lund, Ryan Esbjerg from Flex Your Face and Lund Board President Sara Byers.  But the most powerful words came from the students themselves, many of whom stood up to read from speeches they had written.  Excerpts are given below:

“I would like to thank all who have pushed me to accomplish so much.  My daughter is my hope and motivation to get far in life.  Every student here has achieved so much, from doing their best to come to school every day with or without their kids to being able to ask questions when they get frustrated. ” – Brittany, 18, senior.

Mom and daughter addressing the crowd with their words of thanks and congratulation.

Mom and daughter addressing the crowd with their words of thanks and congratulation.

“I like the opportunity Lund gives us for school because it is a better place for us.  We are all teen and young adult moms and regular high school did not work for us.  High school was difficult because we all have kids.  Some of us are single moms and we don’t have people to watch our kids when we need to learn.  NHEP works for us.  When we need to learn, we can bring our kids with us.” – Fatumo, graduate.

“Three years ago I was supposed to graduate, but I put it aside.  I got pregnant and high school was no longer a priority.  With the help of Lund and my teachers I returned to school to finish my education.  They continued to push me to achieve greatness.  I have learned that any obstacle is worth overcoming.”   – Natalie, graduate.

“Every day I come to school and I’m surrounded with amazing and strong women who have struggled and been hurt but they are here choosing to change their life for themselves and for their children.  When you’re here you aren’t judged, you’re accepted and welcomed.  This program has changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Because of this program, I can watch my daughter grow into an amazing and smart girl while working hard to build our future.  Coming here was one of the best choices I have made for my daughter and myself.   I can finish school and still follow my dreams so when my daughter is older she can finish hers. ”  – Grace.  Student at NHEP since January.

The ceremony was followed by cake, photos and hugs and congratulations at every turn.  “It’s pretty much the best day of the year,” said Courtney Farrell, Assistant Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, who couldn’t stop smiling all day.  Her feelings were shared by all, especially those students who left the ceremony with high school diplomas in their hands.

June 10, 2015

‘I found my home’ – The real voice of foster care

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , at 12:07 pm by Lund

Sierra was adopted through foster care at age five. She has memories of her previous foster homes and living with her birth parents. As part of a school project, Sierra wrote about her story. Her poem, “I’m Just an Orphan” captures the experiences of early trauma, foster care, and adoption. Her writing is expressive and provoking. Sierra shows courage and awareness in writing about her story. She is willing to share her poem in hopes to create more awareness about the adoption journey for adoptive parents, service providers, and educators. Sierra also hopes other adoptees will read her poem and know they are not alone.

 

I’m Just an Orphan

From the day I was born,

I’m pretty sure everyone knew I was different,

The parents at each and every house I went to,

They would treat me different too,

They treated me like I had no brain,

When really I knew it wouldn’t last there either.

 

I finally got a real house,

A real family,

More siblings too,

Animals,

And even food,

Something that you think everyone should have,

But that’s not the cold hard truth.

 

I started going to church with my new mom,

Her mom too,

Sitting in the back row,

Felling judged,

But also feeling at home.

 

Listening about how God has a plan for everyone.

Everything happens for a reason,

Questioning my faith,

 

Well if everything happens for a reason,

Why the hell did this happen to me?

Why do I listen to fighting,

And witness my birth mom getting hurt?

Why did my parents get into drugs,

And treat me like I was worthless,

Pretend I wasn’t there one minute,

Then yelling at me and throwing stuff the next,

Did they not think I was too young to remember what they did,

Did they not realize that someday I’d be looking at my ceiling and wondering,

What did I do wrong?

 

Why didn’t you love me,

What was wrong with me,

Why didn’t you care?

 

I thought that was all done,

I thought you were finally out of my life,

I thought I could move on,

It was time so I did.

 

Christmas came,

My first real Christmas,

I got real presents,

Not just stuff that could have been stolen,

I got food,

Not just scraps that weren’t eaten,

Smiles and laughing,

Not tears and yelling,

The feeling of warmth running through my veins,

The love I could feel,

The love I could feel until the end.

 

I thought I was done with you,

I thought you were in the past,

I have a new family,

A new family that will last,

But I started school and the teachers gave us a task,

What they asked, Made me think different about myself and I know now you’re going to last.

 

My teacher said we all have to do a task about our family,

What parent you look like,

What parent you act like,

When did you start to talk,

When did you start to walk,

All these questions in my head,

They make me feel well dead.

 

How am I suppose to know,

These are my parents,

You can see it,

I can too,

But these aren’t my biological parents,

None of us know these answers,

So how am I suppose to?

 

It’s not my fault,

I didn’t mean to,

If you want me to be honest,

I don’t know what to do,

I think of them all the time,

What I did wrong,

Why they didn’t care.

Not everyone lives or knows their mom or dad,

So why should I have to do this,

To remind me that I’m different,

Or to remind me that they didn’t care,

Truth be I think about it all the time and I don’t think it’s fair.

 

But now kids have started saying stuff,

Stuff that keeps me up at night,

Stuff that should never be said,

Stuff that keeps running through my head.

 

They look and they stare,

Trying to pick something out on me to make me feel bad,

As I’m walking through the hallway,

I can start to hear them saying,

She’s the one, who could be at different houses different days,

Then I go home to get away from everything,

Then I that that DING,

The,

You have a message DING,

Dreading opening it after that day,

I bite my lip and do it anyway.

As I hold back my tears,

I reread it over and over again,

The words stinging the back of my head,

Reminding me of all the hell that people have said,

This one is the worst,

 

This one is always in my head,

“IF THE TWO PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO WERE SUPPOSE TO LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING COULDN’T NO ONE CAN”

 

I know what they mean,

I feel it too,

How do they love me,

Is it true,

They say I’m amazing,

They say I’m worth it,

They say everything I’ve never been told,

I try to believe them, but because of everything people say,

It gets harder every day.

 

But I know I’m worth it,

I know I’m amazing,

I know I can be loved,

My parents chose me,

Yours are stuck with you,

And I know that to be true.

 

But this is life,

We are all just orphans,

The only difference is,

I found my home,

Have you?

June 5, 2015

Cold, rainy, windy, awesome! – The 7th Annual Lund Ride for Children

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Donor Spotlight, Events tagged , , , , , at 10:54 am by Lund

Look at the raindrops flying from the speeding wheels of these dedicated 55 mile cyclists!

Look at the raindrops flying from the speeding wheels of these dedicated 55 mile cyclists! PHOTO: Julie Richards Photography

It takes a very dedicated cyclist to come out in the rain and unseasonable cold conditions that we saw last Sunday during the 7th Annual Ride for Children presented by NorthCountry Federal Credit Union.  This year’s ride was filled with them!  Serious cyclists who love the route, bike enthusiasts who were ready for a challenge and many dedicated friends of Lund whose enthusiasm for our work couldn’t be quashed by a few raindrops. Then a few more.  Intrepid bikers took on 55 mile, 30 mile and 16 mile routes through South Burlington, Shelburne, Charlotte and Ferrisburgh and well waterproofed families took on the 4 mile route along the South Burlington Recreation Path.  All rides ended at Lund’s Hoehl Family Building on Joy Drive in South Burlington where there was warm food, uplifting live music from teacher Collin Cope’s band Rumblecat and fun activities for children.  It really was a wet day but the big smiles and positive energy of the riders and volunteers made it great.

Here are some testimonies from riders:
“As Vermonters, we are used to inclement weather and my feeling of connection to Lund’s mission meant that I would ride regardless, but during the ride I continued to think how much more pleasant the ride would have been if it was sunny.  Having a couple days distance from the ride, I realized that having to struggle through the ride gave me a different kind of connection and a metaphor for thinking about what Lund’s clients might be experiencing with their journeys.  When utilizing Lund’s services there may not be a lot of sunny days and it takes a tremendous amount of perseverance to move forward when it is pouring rain and you are headed into the wind but there is a tremendous feeling of triumph that comes with completing the journey.”   – Stephanie

“My name is Ella Byers and I am 10 years old.  I have done the Lund Bike Ride for the past 6 years.  This year, it was raining, but my friends still came to support the Lund.   I have fun with my family and friends, but that’s not the only reason I do the ride.  I do it because I think everybody deserves a happy family, who loves and supports them.  Every time I go to the event, I am proud of myself and everyone else who is participating.” – Ella

Ella_Byers_bike_15

Ella and friends having fun despite the rain. PHOTO: Julie Richards Photography

 

“We had a blast riding for Lund on Sunday! It was cold, it was rainy, it was windy, it was AWESOME! We smiled the whole way and can’t wait for the ride next year!”  – Julia

“Will Curtis (7) made sure his dad was up and on time for the ride. Shaking off a few raindrops and a little chill was easy enough once they got going, especially when there are police cars to see, downhill stretches (and a bridge!) to speed down and even what appeared to 7-year old eyes a rainforest or Ewok village terrain (depending on your preference) on the way to Szymaski Park. Every rider had a smile on their face and these two “pedal-powered” their way right back to the start for ice cream and a burrito wrap to cap things off. All in all, a great way to spend the morning all in support of Vermont families and a terrific agency.”  – Will and Chris

Will and his Dad getting ready to take off from the Family Ride rest stop

Will and his Dad getting ready to take off from the Family Ride rest stop

All the money raised from this ride, over $83,000 so far, will go to support Lund’s education, treatment, adoption and family support services that help over 1,500 families in Vermont each year.

Here at Lund we have spent the week sorting out and putting away equipment from the ride, pulling raffle winners, returning items we borrowed from community members, writing thank yous and sharing wonderful photos and video from the event.  As we go through all of these wrapping up activities we are all filled with huge amounts of admiration and gratitude for the riders who participated and worked hard to reach their fundraising goals, the volunteers who braved the conditions to be ready for all the jobs that needed to be done and our generous sponsors who support helped to make the event possible.   Thank you to everyone for all that you did to make this year’s Ride for Children so successful and fun.   (We hope your bike shoes have dried out and the feeling is back in your fingers!)

Don’t forget to check out Lund’s Facebook page to see wonderful pictures of the event from the marvelous Julie of Julie Richards Photography.

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