May 20, 2015

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach at Lund

Posted in Employees, New Horizons Educational Program, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach tagged , , , , , , at 1:31 pm by Lund

Guest Blog from Kelsey Francis, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach Specialist.

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month—a time for youth, adolescents, parents, educators, service providers, and beyond to think about how pregnancy impacts the goals and future of young people, as well as how to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy and STI transmission. It is also a time to educate and empower our youth and teens to be informed, intentional, and responsible about their sexual and reproductive health and wellness.

Kelsey in action at the "Let's Talk About Sex" screening hosted by Lund and Planned Parenthood Of Northern New England in celebration of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Kelsey in action at the “Let’s Talk About Sex” screening hosted by Lund and Planned Parenthood Of Northern New England in celebration of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Over the past 25 years, the United States has been making great strides in reducing the national teen pregnancy and teen birth rate. Since 1990, the teen pregnancy rate has declined by 51%, with the current rate of 57.4 pregnancies per 1000 girls, aged 15-19. The teen birth rate has also declined significantly, with a decrease of 57% since 1991. Currently, the national teen birth rate is situated at 26.5 births per 1000 girls, aged 15-19

Vermont has seen declines in both teen pregnancy and teen birth rates that surpass the national decreases. Since the peak year of 1988, Vermont’s teen pregnancy rate has decreased by 60%, and is currently 32 pregnancies per 1000 girls, aged 15-19. Vermont’s teen birth rate has seen a 63% decrease since 1991, currently reported at 14.5 births per 1000 girls, aged 15-19.

Despite great progress in reducing the national teen pregnancy and birth rates, teen pregnancy creates significant educational, social, and economic barriers for young mothers and fathers, as well as their children. Consider the following statistics:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 girls will become pregnant at least once before her 20th birthday
  • Of the young women who have a child before the age of 18, only 38% will receive a high school degree by their 22nd Only 2% will earn a college degree by the time they turn 30.
  • 9% of males aged 12-16 will father at least one child before his 20th birthday
  • Teen fathers are also 25-30% less likely to graduate from high school than their peers who have not fathered a child
  • Less than 25% of teen mothers receive any child support payments from the father of their child. 63% of teen mothers receive some form of public benefit within the first year her child is born.
  • Daughters of teen mothers are three times more likely to become pregnant during their teenage years themselves, compared to mothers who had a child at age 20-21.

Given the various immediate and long-term challenges associated with teenage pregnancy, prevention efforts are essential. Lund proudly offers several pathways to help our youth, clients, and community gain knowledge, insight, and perspective concerning teenage pregnancy. Our Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach (TPPO) Program combines accessible information and demonstrations regarding contraception and STI prevention with real-life stories about the realities of pregnancy and parenting at a young age. Additionally, our individualized services ensure that each client’s reproductive health and wellness needs are addressed and supported. Lund’s TPPO program and services work to empower our clients and community to be knowledgeable, thoughtful, and proactive about their bodies, their choices, and their lives.

Tune in next week, as we discuss more about Lund’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach program!

May 7, 2015

Taking Time to Appreciate Teachers at Lund

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Employees, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), New Horizons Educational Program tagged , , , , , at 10:40 am by Lund

Lund staff members took time this week to appreciate amazing, committed and inspiring work of the teachers in our educational programs as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.  We have 3 teachers at New Horizons Education Program (NHEP) and fourteen full time and 2 part time teachers at our Early Childhood Education Program (LECP).  All of these staff members work hard every day to educate, guide, and encourage their students whether they are 2 or 32!

New Horizons Education Program is an alternative high school placement program licensed by the State of Vermont for up to 35 pregnant or parenting students from age 12 onwards.  Older students meet with Lund staff to assess whether our program can best meet their educational needs.  Students come from as many as 15 different school districts per year.  NHEP staff establishes curriculum agreements with each sending school to ensure that students receive academic credit and have the opportunity to walk with their classmates at graduation ceremonies.  Licensed teachers provide instruction in the four core subject areas, as well as art, physical education, life and parenting skills.  Babies aged up to six months can come to class with their moms.   Students at NHEP share common experiences and form a close community where they can give each other support through the challenges of being a young mom.  Last year NHEP began offering the Community College of Vermont’s Introduction to College Studies Class onsite at Lund to allow students to explore further education options after high school.

The teachers in this program work with students on all aspects of their lives.  A recent lunchtime at NHEP saw one teacher helping a student to write e-mails in response to apartment listings she had seen online, another teacher helping a student with her math homework and a group of students enjoying the presence of one of their sons who was a special guest at school that day because his daycare was closed.    Students will frequently state that if it wasn’t for New Horizons they would not be in school and would have no chance of graduation.

Thank you New Horizons teachers for all your hard work.

Ann Klinkenberg, Mary Farnsworth and Kathy Rossman - outstanding NHEP teachers

Ann Klinkenberg, Mary Farnsworth and Kathy Rossman – outstanding NHEP teachers

Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program serves 50 children from birth to aged 5 with consistent, nurturing and high quality care and education allowing their parents to engage in education, employment or treatment programs. For many of the children this program represents the only stability in lives filled with transition and uncertainty. The teachers work hard to ensure that the program is a resource for the whole family by providing connections to necessary resources both within Lund and in the community to ensure that they have what they need to be successful. Examples of these resources include assistance finding housing or food, parenting education, financial education and providing needed clothing or shoes for their children. Parenting is a partnership between the teachers and the families. The program provides the essentials of safety, food and attention and, equally as important, makes the most of this time of crucial brain formation with activities that optimize and prioritize healthy development. The play based program values curiosity, early exposure to art and music and outdoor play. Lund partners HowardCenter to provide embedded counseling and developmental services in the preschool classroom.  LECP is a 5 STAR program, the highest rating in the state’s STep Ahead Recognition System.

Every day LECP teachers sing, do art projects, play outside, work through problems together, encourage children to try new things and teach the importance of being good friends, helpful community members and joyful participants in the world. They are patient, loving and creative.  Every day they value and cherish every child.

Thank you LECP teachers for all that you do.

Some of our truly dedicated early childhood educators.  (The others were too busy to have their photos taken!)

Some of our truly dedicated early childhood educators.

May 5, 2015

Employee (s!) of the Quarter

Posted in Adoption, Awards, Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , at 4:08 pm by Lund

Lund staff members are dedicated, energetic, hard working and passionate. The work that we do is often challenging or difficult. Lund’s leadership team is committed to celebrating the hard work and the amazing efforts of staff members to help the children and families we serve. The Employee of the Quarter award is a way of showing appreciation for this work. This quarter there were two individuals and one team who won the award. So many wonderful staff members, it was impossible to narrow down to one recipient! Meet them here:

Deb Mayville and Director of Operations, Bob Robinson

Deb Mayville and Director of Operations, Bob Robinson

Deb Mayville – Office Administrator
Deb works in the front office at Glen Road and Joy Drive and makes sure that everything runs like clockwork. Deb is often the first face that people see when they arrive at Lund and she immediately makes them feel welcome and supported whatever the reason for their visit. “Deb continues to maximize her role and the impact it has on the agency overall. She does so because she genuinely cares about Lund and wants it to be the best place it can be for all,” says Bob Robinson, Director of Operations. “She continues to grow as a ‘go to’ person and wants to help those she can, when she can. She delivers on her word and with a smile. Every day she takes time to appreciate people she interacts with – both staff and clients. This has had a positive impact on her direct staff and on the culture of the front office.” When asked what her favorite part of her work was, Deb replied, “What I find the most rewarding is watching our clients grow, seeing how open & strong they are to share their life experiences, watching their relationships with their children grow and seeing them transition successfully. I love being able to spend my days working with such caring staff who give so much of themselves and being part of the Lund team.”

Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator and Kristin

Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator and Kristin McClary

Kristin McClary – Toddler Teacher
Kristin works with the younger toddlers at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program and can often be found engaged in art projects, reading, playing outside, and taking every advantage to help the children she works with follow their interests and discover new things about the world. “Kristin is the ultimate team player, in that she truly makes sure that she understands the perspectives of others before moving into problem-solving or decision-making,” says Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator. “Kristin exemplifies the best of what Lund represents; she’s compassionate and insightful, educated and experienced and very intentional in everything she does. Her quiet unprepossessing place of truly simply wanting to do what’s best for children, families, the program, and the agency shines through everything she does.” Kristin truly loves being with the children and cites sharing in their joy everyday as being the best part of her job.

Julia Connor and Kate Van Wagner, Private Adoption Team

Julia Conner and Kate Van Wagner, Private Adoption Team

Julia Conner and Kate Van Wagner – Private Adoption Team
Julia is Lund’s Private Adoption Coordinator working with families who want to adopt an infant through Lund. Kate Van Wagner is Lund’s Options Counselor and works with pregnant women as they explore the choices they have and provides lifelong support whatever decision they make. It has been a busy start to 2015 for Julia and Kate and they both have faced difficult situations where they have had to think in new and innovative ways to make sure that every client was able to get the support they needed. Julia and Kate are both exceptional collaborators, working well with each other and with the Department of Children and Families and other agencies that Lund works with. Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette, says, “It is a honor and a privilege to be able to work with such professional, thoughtful, ethical, caring and strong social workers who every day go above and beyond for the betterment of our clients.” Both Julia and Kate refer to the excellent members of the adoption department as great support and inspiration in their work.

Thank you to these wonderful Lund employees for the work that they do every single day to help children and families thrive.

April 23, 2015

Lund’s 125 years of helping families in Vermont celebrated at the Statehouse

Posted in Events tagged , , , , , at 10:58 am by Lund

Click the link below to read about Lund’s recent trip to the Statehouse to celebrate 125 years of helping children and families thrive. (We’re trying out a new type of blog)

https://medium.com/@LundVT/celebrating-125-years-of-helping-children-and-families-to-thrive-6ea6cae81676

125logo

March 31, 2015

Creating an alliance of respect – Community Health Centers of Burlington at Lund

Posted in Employees, Residential, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:26 pm by Lund

Monday afternoon in the medical office at Lund’s Glen Road Residential Treatment Center is a busy time. Nurse Practitioner Diana Clayton and Nurse Kaitlin Reese, from the Community Health Centers of Burlington (CHCB) come every week to set up a medical clinic for the women and children living at Lund.   Diana and Kaitlin provide routine preventative medical care for moms and children as well as treating acute issues that come up.   They meet every woman and child who move into the building and work with the Lund staff to begin a relationship of medical care.

This partnership was started by former CHCB Nurse Practitioner, Annika Hawkins, who was experienced in community outreach. She realized she was seeing so many patients from Lund that an onsite clinic would be beneficial and make things easier for everyone. “The women feel comfortable at Lund,” Kaitlin explains. “With a lot of mental health issues, there is difficulty trusting people. Lund is a safe haven for the women and so to have a provider come into that community helps them to feel that they can trust the provider too. They feel more comfortable coming into CHCB later on when they have met someone at Lund first. It takes time to establish a comfort level with someone and here we have time to do that.”

It is obviously more convenient for the women to receive medical care in the place where they live without having to pack up their children in the cold weather, negotiate public transport and work appointments around treatment groups and daycare schedules. The ultimate goal though is to encourage each family into going to appointment at CHCB’s Riverside Avenue location as they get closer to leaving Lund and preparing to live independently.

Medical care can be overwhelming and intimidating for women who have not had good experiences with medical providers in the past due to their struggles with substance abuse. “I find that now they are in treatment, many of these women have these chronic pain issues that they have never felt were taken seriously. It was seen as malingering or drug seeking before. This is the precedent we need to work from. We need to build up relationship of trust and an alliance of respect,” says Diana.

Kaitlin and Diana work closely with Jessilyn Dolan and Leslie Swayze, the medical team at Lund and Dr. Bill Grass, Lund’s Medical Director. Before each clinic they get an update from Jessilyn and Leslie about each client on the schedule that day and then before they leave they pass on the important items and updates from each visit that might need to be shared with the client’s larger team. “Jessilyn is the glue between us,” says Diana. “She doesn’t hesitate to get in touch with us to confirm the accuracy of what the clients are telling her or to find more information.”

Leslie Swayze, Diana Clayton and Kaitlin Reese onsite at Glen Road

Leslie Swayze, Diana Clayton and Kaitlin Reese onsite at Glen Road

This collaboration has already expanded since it began in June of 2014. . The first provider from CHCB came alone and now Diana and Kaitlin come together. Diana is a lactation consultant and has met with staff at Lund to see how she could be helpful in supporting breastfeeding. CHCB also brings in Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Anna Leavey, twice a month to meet with clients and provide additional mental health support.   CHCB reports that in the last eight months, Diana has seen 87 women and children onsite at Lund and that there have been 340 patient visits since the program began.

The docket is full every Monday afternoon and the exchange of information between the medical and treatment teams at Lund and providers at CHCB is lively and comprehensive. This is a successful, practical partnership that is working now and that has real benefits for the women and children in the future. “I think this is a really important role to play as the women grow into motherhood,” says Diana. “There is a huge opportunity to change the dynamic of the relationship between these women and their providers. It’s such an important example to set for their children.”

March 24, 2015

An Open Letter to Early Childhood Educators*

Posted in Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , at 9:35 am by Lund

Paint hands

Dear Teachers,

Thank you for loving, looking after and teaching my child when I cannot be there. Thank you for being as interested in him as I am. Thank you for practicing patience, love and energy in every single interaction.   I have never seen you look tired or frustrated or even distracted. The work that you do is hard, and repetitive and sometimes must be disheartening. But I would never know. Thank you for reading the same book over and over, thank you for making Play-doh, thank you for picking up thousands of blocks, thank you for singing, thank you for putting mittens on and taking them off and putting them on. Yes, thank you especially for the mittens.

What you do allows me to do what I believe to be good and important work in the world. The ripple effect of you taking care of children allows so much to happen. You are doctors, lawyers, teachers, grocery store clerks, social workers, internet marketing specialists and more. With 700 neurons being formed per second in the little minds you are taking care of, your productivity rate beats everyone else in the world. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that you are forming the future of my family, the community and the world. Your job is the most important one.

You support me as a parent. You often advice, share funny moments and don’t judge when I forget to bring more diapers, provide you with only most erratic collection of spare clothes for wet afternoons and cannot execute the swift goodbye needed when there are tears. The last goodbye is always for me.

You are the few people in the world who understand my child’s words in the same way that I do. You listen to his voice and you hear it. I see so much of you in his play, his interactions and his words at home.   I wish I could take credit for many of his more refined and reasonable behaviors but really it should be yours to celebrate.

I know that you are not well paid and that most people don’t understand the absolutely crucial nature of what you do. This is through no fault of your wonderful school but a statewide, perhaps nation wide, under appreciation for the work of Early Childhood. I know your hours start early in the morning and continue until late in the afternoon. I know that you cannot leave until the last child has been picked up, the chairs put up and the dishwasher running.   There is no long summer break for you. You have to follow all sorts of regulations, rules and recommendations. So much, every day is your responsibility. I admire you even more because of these things.

I could not do what you do and I am so thankful that you do it. Please know that so much of our success as a family and my peace of mind at work is because of you. There is so rarely time to say it in the morning when I am watching the clock, filling you in on horrible night’s sleep and how my toddler’s emergent speech appears to have him swearing like a sailor at the moment. And in the evening there are boots to struggle on, toys to be pulled away from and the overhanging perennial question of what will we have for dinner. So I say it to you now, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for loving my child.

A grateful parent

*Shared by permission of the author and applicable to teachers everywhere

March 18, 2015

Kim Coe appointed to Building Bright Futures Council

Posted in Awards, Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , at 10:56 am by Lund

Kim Coe, in her office at Lund's Glen Road Residential Treatment Facility, Spring 2015

Kim Coe, in her office at Lund’s Glen Road Residential Treatment Facility, Spring 2015

Kim Coe, Lund’s Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, has been appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin to Vermont’s Building Bright Futures Council for a two year term.  Kim sits on the council as a representative of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network.

Of her appointment, Kim says, “I am honored to be appointed to the council. Its membership includes many dedicated and inspirational people who have committed their career to early childhood issues and it’s great to be a part of that environment.  It is exciting to be on the front end of the activity as Vermont is rolling out all of our Early Learning Challenge – Race to the Top Grant activities.”

Kim has been working at Lund since 1996 after seven years experience working at Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) in Burlington, VT as an investigative social worker.  As the Director of Residential and Community Treatment Programs, Kim oversees Residential Services including our 26 bed residential treatment facility and our transitional housing program, Substance Abuse Treatment Programs, Children’s Services, Transitional Services and Education.   Kim’s wealth of experience and unending commitment to vulnerable families has led her to receive many awards and recognitions. Her work has been recognized in Vermont by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association in appreciation of efforts to advance the substance abuse treatment field to support women and children.  Kim received the Outstanding Professional Award from the KidSafe Collaborative in 2011.  She has served as President of the Vermont Foster and Adoptive Family Association for six years and also President of the Vermont Coalition of Residential Providers.

The Building Bright Futures Early Childhood Advisory Council was created in 2006 by Governor Douglas and then in 2010, Building Bright Futures was established in Vermont statute, Act 104, protecting it from changing political climates. In July 2011, Building Bright Futures became a nonprofit organization that now serves the dual role as the State Early Childhood Advisory Council and the governance structure for the early childhood system, aligning the work at the State level with the work of 12 regional councils across Vermont to promote improvements in access, quality and affordability of prevention and intervention services for families and young children birth to eight. This work includes maintaining a formal system for planning, coordinating and integrating early childhood programs, policies, information and resources that are recognized, consistent and supported at the State and regional levels. ( http://www.buildingbrightfutures.org)

Lund is a Parent Child Center and works with Building Bright Futures in all of our early childhood work – our Early Childhood Education program, Children’s Integrated Services, Home Visiting and Supervised Visitation.   We fully support their goal that all Vermont’s children by healthy and successful.

 

 

March 16, 2015

Driving Brings Freedom and Opportunity to Young Parents

Posted in Events, Reach Up tagged , , , , , , , at 2:14 pm by Lund

Imagine if your child was in part time child care from 11am to 2pm every day and it took you an hour to get there on the bus from your home. Then imagine you have to take a different bus another 30 minutes to get to your job placement. You could then only work for a maximum of 2 hours before having to get back on the bus to go and pick up your child. But this only works if you can arrange your timing to exactly fit the bus schedule. Now imagine doing all this in February temperatures well below freezing in a bus system that rarely runs on time.

Or imagine getting a call at work that your child is sick and having to wait 25 minutes for the bus to take you 40 minutes to their daycare to pick them up. Imagine then having to take another bus, with your sick child, to the doctor, and then another bus to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and yet another one to get home.

Relying on public transport as a young mother on Reach Up in Vermont is hard and unsustainable for long term success. As Lund Reach Up Case Manager, Jamaica White, points out, “Vermont is one of those places where having a car is an essential thing. It really is a lifeline. If you don’t have one, it can really be a struggle.”

Screen shot 2015-03-16 at 2.11.13 PM

There are many reasons why Reach Up clients and other women that Lund works with don’t have access to a car.

  1. Money – Owning a car is expensive. Reach Up can give limited help towards specific costs for participants who already have a car but ongoing maintenance, insurance and gas all are very hard to pay for when on a very low income.
  2. Having a license –There are costs associated with getting a permit and a license, though Reach Up can help with some of these. But you have to take the test which can be hard for women struggling with anxiety or who have a learning disability or who have taken the test several times without passing and have simply become discouraged. Then you have access to Driver’s Education or someone to drive with you to practice. Then you need a legal car in good working order to take the test in.   There are a lot of points in this process at which someone could get stuck.   Lund Reach Up Case Manager, Siobhan Long, says, “I have had people who have done Driver’s Education and then got stuck because they didn’t have a car to take the test. Lots of people are stuck in that place.”
  3. Fines – Many people have fines but simply cannot pay them while living on a limited income through Reach Up. They just don’t have the money available even to participate in payment plans through the Judicial Bureau. When you have to drive to keep your job and bring your child to daycare, you might have to keep driving despite having fines or perhaps even despite not having a license. “You can quickly dig yourself into a hole,” says Siobhan. “And the fines just pile up.”

It is to address this last point that the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office in collaboration with the DMV , the judicial bureau and the Agency of Transportation to hold a Driver Restoration Day on March 20th from 8am to 4:30pm at the Chittenden County Superior Court at 32 Cherry Street in Burlington. The purpose of the program is to help people to become restoration ready by allowing them to settle all their delinquent tickets for $20.   This will help to make sure that all drivers on the road are fully licensed and fully insured.

There are certain very specific eligibility criteria for this program:

  • Delinquent tickets can only be from Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille and Washington counties and must be more than 75 days past due but not yet forwarded to a collection agency.
  • Participants must call 802-863-2865 before coming to the courthouse to provide their names, date of birth, license number, ticket numbers, address and phone number.
  • Cash will not be accepted only credit cards, money orders and bank checks.
  • There are no appointments so come early and expect a long wait.

Click here for more information and phone numbers for assistance

For the people who are eligible for this program and can settle their debts, it will have an important impact on their lives. “Having a license gives you hope,” says Siobhan. “It means a lot to people. Whether you have a car or not, it gives you freedom. It gives you extra opportunity.”

March 10, 2015

Outreach and Information is Key in Finding Homes for Children in Foster Care

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Employees, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , at 3:13 pm by Lund

February 21, 2015: Ashley Sargent, Lund’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter set up an informational booth at the University Mall in South Burlington as part of NFI’s 4th Annual Youth and Parent Expo.  This event provides information and resources to families as well as lots of hands on activities and fun.  Ashley’s main goal was to inform the public about children in foster care waiting for forever families and encourage people to learn more about foster care. “I believe it is important for Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and Project Family (Lund’s partnership with DCF to find homes for older children in foster care) to have a presence there to help inform individuals that every child deserves a loving and nurturing family that will support them. Every child is adoptable and it is important to provide recruitment and informational events to educate families. On any given day there are about 60 children in foster care that are waiting for families to adopt them. The youth on my caseload are typically over the age of 8 years old and individuals need to be aware that even older youth need families.”

 

Ashley at the Expo

Ashley at the Expo

Ashley works as part of Lund’s partnership with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids which is a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.  The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids website gives this description of Ashley’s work and that of the other 203 recruiters across the U.S. and Canada – “These professionals, known as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, work on caseloads of children the system has forgotten, ensuring they have the time and resources to give each child as much attention as he or she deserves. These recruiters employ aggressive practices and proven tactics focused on finding the best home for a child through the starting points of familiar circles of family, friends and neighbors, and then reaching out to the communities in which they live.” (www.davethomasfoundation.org)

Many people just don’t know that there are older children in foster care in need of permanent homes and forever families.  Events like this one allow people a chance to learn more and to find out what they could do to help.   “During the event people were most interested in speaking about how they wish they could help the youth; but that they were currently unable to. I was able to refocus them on seeing if they have any friends, family, etc, that would open their heart and home to the youth,” says Ashley.   Families are created in many different way and families find each other in many different ways so every outreach event has the potential to start a chain of action or open up a door for a youth currently in foster care.

To learn more about Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and their child centered recruitment, check out this video.

February 12, 2015

Burlington Tedx Ed Brings Together Teachers, Parents, Advocates for Young People

Posted in Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:39 pm by Lund

“Because everyone knows that it’s not OK to take food from the fridge and use your  body to smear it all over the floor, right?” Asked Gail Rafferty during her recent TED talk at the Burlington TEDx Ed put on by Building Bright Futures and Let’s Grow Kids.  Gail, a Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Coordinator at Howard Center in Burlington, was recounting a moment from her children’s early years when her inattention and distraction led to an extremely joyful session of ‘yogurt skiing’ while her back was turned.  Her talk titled, “Parenting: A Completely Natural and Improbable Undertaking” spoke about the need for all parents to connect to each other, to support each other and to have help in parenting so that moments of inadvisable food use become happy memories and not triggers for anger and regretful snap decisions.

Gail’s was one of 8 TED talks from local educators, consultants, and medical professionals all themed around growing up. Hosted and emceed by Jane Lindholm, the talks took us from the power of play to basic brain development to parenting advice.  All were sprinkled with compassion, humor and genuine amazement at the power and limitless potential of children.  Some were more scientific and presented hard data about brain development and the current pattern of investment in educational systems and some used rubber chicken feet.  Lisa Guerrero of ‘Serious About Play’ waved them provocatively at the audience trying to find out who had lost their play instinct and who was ready to dive right in and allow themselves to remember and revel in the power of play.  And some of the talks called a little upon on the magic of childhood.  Tracey Girdich, an interventionist in the Early Childhood Program of the Child, Youth and Family Services division of Howard Center, described how she entices children into connection, social thinking, early literacy and therapeutic play by telling stories with fairies who come out of her sparkly story box.

The stage at Main Street Landing with a fleet of bikes, a sure symbol of growing up.

The stage at Main Street Landing with a fleet of bikes, a sure symbol of growing up.

All of these ideas, theory and scientific insight was translated into practical advice that anyone who spends time with children could take away and apply.  Read, tell stories often, model the behavior you want to see, listen, play without inhibition.  Mark Redmond, Director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services made this concrete in his talk entitled, “What Advice Would you Give a Room Full of Parents?”  There was a furious shuffle of note taking as Mark gave  insights from his own parenting journey and his work as Director of an Organization that works with young people battling homelessness and substance abuse.  His bulleted list of advice can be boiled down to this – be there, love unabashedly, and hold kids accountable.

With conversation and opinion sharing well facilitated by Jane, a welcome musical break from A2VT with their irrepressible hit ‘Winooski My Town’ and several videos of talks from the National TED stage, the day was filled with the vibrant exchange of information and inspiration.  The talks were filmed by RETN and will be added to the TED website in March so they can be shared widely and enjoyed by those who couldn’t get tickets to this sell out event.

Now since I have finished putting up a picture of Jackie Robinson (share stories of inspirational people with children) while enjoying yet another viewing of ‘Winooski My Town’ on Youtube (connect with people from different cultures and embrace community), I think I might go and see if the Preschoolers want to do some yogurt skiing…

Jackie loves yogurt

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