November 25, 2015
“Being a parent is a lot of work. At least there’s something out there for people,” said one parent at last week’s educational event for legislators about Parent Child Centers and the work that they do in the community. Parents and staff members from each of Chittenden County’s three parent child centers gathered together at the VNA Family Room in downtown Burlington where legislators from Chittenden County were invited to join them and hear first hand the importance of these essential community resources.
Parent Child Centers are a network of non-profit organizations serving all of Vermont. There are 15 in total and the focus of each is to provide support and education to families with young children. The goal is to help all Vermont families get off to a healthy start, promote well being and build on family strengths. This support and education helps to prevent problems such as school failure, poor health, welfare dependency, family violence and abuse. A reduction in these problems helps to strengthen every community and to ultimately save the state money further on in the life of the child. Families who are at risk for substance abuse, mental health conditions, trauma, domestic violence and poverty face significant barriers to accessing the help that they need. Parent Child Centers offer help in ways that take these barriers into account and form trusting relationships with vulnerable families while engaging them in services.
The need for Parent Child Centers grows every year as the problems of opiate abuse, multi generational poverty and concerns for child welfare further permeate the community. Yet state funding has remained level since 1995. The goal of this meeting was to help legislators to understand the work of the Parent Child Centers to gain their support for the Parent Child Center Network’s legislative platform for the upcoming session which is to request additional funding – $135,000 for each center in Vermont for a total appropriation amount of $2,025,000.
Imagine that in one year that each Parent Child Center prevents one birth to a teenage mom, one woman entering the Correctional Facility, one child being placed in foster care, and one single mother receiving public assistance. This would save the state $2,131,041 over that year which is less than the funds being asked for in the legislative session. Of course each Parent Child Center does this critical prevention work with multiple families each year.
“I am so thankful we found Milton Community Center,” said one Mom at the meeting while her son played in the room nearby. “My son was born prematurely and has developmental delays. I have learning difficulties too. Without MCC he would never have come as far as he has. Our children are the future of our world, how we raise them and the support team that we have is so important. Milton Community Center is my second home. I will never forget what they have done.”
Parent Child Centers are key in breaking multi-generational cycles of poverty, addiction and abuse because they work with the children and their caregivers at the same time. “I know I’m going to be the total opposite of what I knew growing up,” said another Mom who had used multiple treatment and family support services here at Lund. “It’s hard to trust people if you grow up a certain way but Lund is like my second family and they are there for me when I need help.” The most important investment in the community needs to happen early and in a way that best supports the safe and healthy development of children. As Vermont moves forward in developing innovative health care delivery systems, the Parent Child Centers must remain an integral home base for families.
One mom who came to participate in the meeting shared her struggles with post natal depression after the birth of her daughter and how she searched and searched to find something or someone who could help her in the way that she needed and in so doing asked the question that was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. “I needed someone to tell me that I was doing a good job. I needed someone to watch and learn from. I found that here at the Parent Child Center. But how are they going to keep doing this without the money?”
November 18, 2015
“The visual of the night he came into custody is forever burned in my memory. The sights, smells and sounds trapped in my muscle memory so different than any of the other memories I have. How late it was, how sad he was, how relieved he was when he saw it was me waiting for him. Even now that picture brings tears to my eyes. I cannot believe that three years have flown by because truly it feels like just yesterday.
At first he was with me “just the weekend” and that first weekend was pure fun. Trying to keep his mind off of things, showing him around the farm, driving the tractor, making s’mores over the fire. It wasn’t until the following week when he found out he wouldn’t be going home for at least 3 months that things got real. The honeymoon was over. All bets were off and I met the angriest, saddest, guiltiest, most self loathing little eight year old boy there ever was.
And even then in our darkest hours he was also plainly the sweetest most compassionate, brilliant glowing ember I am sure I will ever know. People ask me how I could see that in him so clearly when so much was trying to quash his true self. I don’t know. And yet, there it was. Big as life for anyone who spent time with him to see. Never has there been a more committed team of people from Project Family, DCF, the school, and mental health to Post-Permanence Services. I continue to feel that this group of people truly created a positive outcome where there could have been a much different one. We had this table full of unconditional love that just wouldn’t give up.
I should interject here that there were certainly moments when I thought I couldn’t go on, times when the boulder felt too heavy. There were thousands of dollars of property damage, physical aggression that left me
breathless and bleeding and the running away!!!!! That was tough. It was the self harm though and threats to self that finally pushed me to ask for a higher level of care. It took three bouts of residential in two different places as well as a couple of short term crisis placements to teach, heal and nurture my child to the point of stability but we made it. He has been living at home for over a year now. He has friends. Real friends, the kind who invite him over for sleepovers and to their birthday parties. It may sound like just a normal kind of kid thing but it isn’t. Recently when he got his first base hit the bleachers and dugout were full of screaming children and adults. He is all of ours. To know him is to love him and he is enveloped in a community of love.
He used to say that his dream was to one day be a normal kid. Somehow, that reality just snuck up on us. Here he is, my normal, so much more than normal, football playing, avid reading, friendly, well balanced kid.
I hope anyone reading this doesn’t think I have blinders on to the reality of our world and what it may always be because I don’t and I recognize that statistically we are an anomaly and that this may be short lived. Every time we have a good day it goes in the savings to be stockpiled for the next storm. Man, do we have a small fortune in there right now.
-Bianca, Adoptive Mom
October 21, 2015
“Happy Anniversary,” said Governor Peter Shumlin in a speech at the Hoehl Family Building in South Burlington. “I am the biggest cheerleader for Lund because for 125 years you have been fighting for the most vulnerable folks who actually have extraordinary potential to make a difference for Vermont and for their families and to be the great moms they want to be.” The anniversary that Governor Shumlin was referring to was Lund’s 125 years of helping vulnerable families in the state. In celebration of this long and important history, Governor Shumlin declared October 19, 2015 to be Lund Day in Vermont. This was an exciting and unprecedented tribute to the organization. As Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson said, “This is the first time in 125 years that a Governor has proclaimed a day for us. Making Lund Day throughout the state and drawing attention to the issues that are near and dear to us is very important and we are so grateful. Even though much has changed over the last 125 years, we are still true to the heart of the mission.”
In addition to Governor Shumlin and Barbara Rachelson, Board President Sara Byers, Lund program participants Chelsea Mitchell and Megan Clogdo, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, and Secretary of State Jim Condos all offered testimony to the positive impact of Lund’s services in the community, the state and their own lives. “I believed I was above addiction. It wasn’t something I thought I would have to deal with. Fast forward two years and there I was in need of somewhere or someone to help. Newly sober and pregnant, I mustered as much courage as I could and reached out to begin my long journey with Lund. It is a decision I never regretted. I needed to learn how to live again,” said Megan, who gave birth to her twin sons while living at Lund’s residential treatment program for substance abuse and mental health issues. “I cannot think of another place where I could have successfully done that.”
Governor Shumlin touched on the prevalence of opiate addiction in Vermont, the need for high quality early childhood education and every child’s right to grow up in a loving family during his remarks and implored the gathered crowd to continue to work together with Lund on these critical issues. “Let’s use this 125th anniversary to say as a state that we will support Lund and everything they do with all the resources that we have. And we’re going to continue to have the honest conversation about the problems that lead too many to need the services that are provided here. Let’s hope that 125 years from now, Lund continues to thrive.”
After signing the proclamation and being presented with cookies baked that morning by students at Lund’s New Horizons Education Program, Governor Shumlin took a tour of Lund’s Hoehl Family Building. His first stop was the Early Childhood Education Program where he observed the youngest children in the baby room and then took a moment to talk with teachers during their lunch break. Governor Shumlin is unendingly personable and cheerful and makes the people around him feel comfortable, never stumped for something to talk to people about. “They’re best when you leave them. They go red and wrinkly and then they’re perfect,” he said to one teacher about the pomegranate she was eating. “Oh goodness,” said another, relieved when she saw the pomegranate. “I thought he was talking about babies!”
The last stop was New Horizons where Govenor Shumlin strode in and asked, “Now who made those delicious cookies I just ate?” and talked to the students and teachers and inviting them to pose with him for pictures. “Keep up the good work,” he told them all. “I’m proud of you.” He echoed this sentiment through all the departments at Lund and to the agency as a whole and was later heard saying to a reporter outside the building, “Lund has touched over 50,000 lives. But you know that 50,000 is not just a number, it’s 50,000 stories of moms who want to do better for their kids. It’s an incredible history.”
Thank you to Governor Shumlin and everyone who attended the celebration. Happy Lund Day to all our friends, partners and supporters!
To catch up on media coverage from this event, check out these links:
- From FOX44 ABC22: http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/lund-family-center-celebrates-125th-anniversary
October 16, 2015
The windows are open in Chelsea’s upstairs apartment at Lund’s transitional housing facility, Independence Place, welcoming in the first warm day of the Spring. Chelsea’s three year old daughter, Serinna, is napping in her bed wrapped in a Minnie Mouse blanket. The breeze blows lazily through the apartment. “Where shall I start?” says Chelsea. “Shall I tell you the whole story?”
She takes a deep breath and begins. Her story rushes through periods of using drugs, homelessness in the cold of the Vermont winter, repeated stints in rehab, losing custody of her daughter, her boyfriend being sent to jail and periods of despair where she couldn’t do anything but sleep all day. The Department of Children and Families became involved with her when Serinna was just over one. She was connected with Lund Substance Abuse screener, Amie Baker and Lund clinician Alice Larned, both of whom work out of the Burlington DCF office as part of ongoing collaborations between DCF and Lund to provide early screening and assessment in families where substance abuse is a concern. It was Amie who helped get her into rehab for the first time, though her time there was very short and unsuccessful. It was during this time that Serinna wen to live with Chelsea’s mother in law while Chelsea worked so hard to get her back.
Chelsea can’t pinpoint the exact moment that things changed for her but during yet another stint at rehab when there were only a few months left before her parental rights would be permanently terminated, she had a realization. “This is crazy. Serinna misses me so much. I can’t lose her.” So she stuck at it, left rehab successfully but she was homeless and unable to be with Serinna when she left.
That’s when she knew she had to come to Lund’s residential treatment facility. She knew of the program as a DCF worker had mentioned that coming to the program would be the quickest way to regain custody of Serinna. “I came to Lund in September of 2014 and within a month, Serinna was spending some time there with me. She was so happy to be there. she was ecstatic. When she left I would cry and cry and cry. Within another month she was living full time with me and everything changed. I worked all day in group treatment, worked on housing, got Serinna into daycare, got my driver’s license, had three front teeth replaced, joined peer council, started a workforce placement position. And I had stopped using drugs. I moved here into Independence Place after seven months. They had to pick who moved in and I was everyone’s top pick. Lund helped me get everything; this apartment, furniture, money for clothes, a place at a daycare where I don’t have to pay a co-pay. Even Christmas presents. It’s amazing but I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”
Serinna begins to stir, waking from her nap as Chelsea thinks about one last question. “What do I hope for her? I hope she never uses drugs, that she goes to college and we have a great life. I want to get a house and make it good for her, not mess up. I want to her to be happy in school and help her with her homework. I want her to be a happy healthy girl.”
“I can’t believe I let it go on so long,” she says, pausing to reflect for a minute. “I would never in a million years trade one day with her.”
You can read more about Chelsea’s story and her experience with Lund’s Regional Partnership Program in an interview that she recently did with the Burlington Free Press: Vt Program Guides Parents
October 1, 2015
Teachers and children at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program love volunteer Phyllis Palmer. The children love that whatever she is doing with them, she makes them feel important and cared for and the teachers feel exactly the same way. Phyllis has taken on the charge of caring for the whole program. Childcare Coordinator Judy Harvey says, “Phyllis has gone above and beyond what I could ever expect from a volunteer. Her work with the children is amazing and everyone loves her. She just does what needs to be done, whatever it is. And she takes the most wonderful care of the teachers. It feels like she has been here forever. I hope she stays here forever.”
When there is something that needs to be done, Phyllis gets to it. “I hope that in the few hours I am at Lund each week I can contribute to the collective effort that makes the center so special and run so smoothly,” she says. “Sometimes that includes sweeping the floor after snack, wiping down rest mats or washing a few dishes. It also might mean rubbing the back of a restless 3 year old, or reading a book to whoever needs a lap and some one-on-one time with an adult.”
Phyllis, a retired Kindergarten and First Grade teacher, is especially dear to the older preschoolers. She brings intentional structured activities to work with the children on early literacy and math skills. She is able to bring small groups of children out of the classroom to play learning games and practice the skills that they will need in kindergarten. The children love Phyllis and look forward to their time with her. They refer to her days as “Phyllis Days” and take the “schoolwork” or “kindergarten work” they do with her very seriously. These children would not have such focused exposure to these activities without Phyllis. She is actively improving their level of kindergarten readiness and giving them tools and experiences that will help them succeed in kindergarten from the very first day. The children are excited about school and know what to expect when they get to Kindergarten.
This genuine and considerate care does not stop with the children. She takes great care of the teachers at the program as well, knowing that the work they do is challenging but crucial for the happiness, stability and education of the children. One rainy summer day she dropped off a new copy of “Blueberries for Sal” and homemade blueberry bread for the teachers to enjoy. She accompanied her gift with an uplifting note that said, “Blueberries need the rain.” She knows and appreciates how hard it is to be stuck inside because of rain with active toddlers and preschoolers who need to run, climb and get outside in the fresh air. She also has volunteered for two years in a row (in searing heat in 2014 and cold, windy rain in 2015) to work at the rest stop at the Charlotte Senior Center providing snacks and help to riders participating in the Lund Ride for Children.
The teachers at LECP were delighted to nominate Phyllis for a United Way Building Block Award for her outstanding commitment to the program. She was honored, along with many other community members, at the United Way’s celebration breakfast last week held at the Flynn Theater in Burlington. “Receiving a United Way Building Block Award was quite a surprise! If somehow it sheds light on the amazing job the whole staff at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program does every day of every week, then I am both honored and humbled.” Once again not missing the chance to celebrate and look out for the teachers who are so happy to work alongside her.
September 3, 2015
When you ask about treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders at Lund, you might hear the following answer. Lund’s treatment programs are family centered, strengths based, and trauma informed. Lund uses a variety of treatment techniques, approaches and models based on the needs of the client but all are informed by those three important tenets. This sounds pretty logical and correlates with other things you might have heard about what sort of programs produce the best outcomes but what do these terms really mean?
The focus of family centered treatment is creating and maintaining healthy connections to others, especially children and other family members. Such treatment provides a full array of services to tackle the problems that women and their family members must overcome in order to reduce substance use and improve individual and family outcomes. The goal of family centered treatment is to create a healthy family system with good structure, appropriate roles for each family member, and good communication that allows the family to function well as a unit while concurrently supporting the needs of each individual member.
Family-centered treatment includes both clinical treatment, and community support services addressing substance use, mental health, physical health, and developmental, social, economic, educational and environmental needs for women and their families. This sort of treatment is highly individualized based on the needs of the family and changes as those needs change. Participation and length of involvement can look different for each family member.
Women live with their child or children at Lund’s Glen Road facility while they receive treatment. Not only do they work to address their substance abuse or mental health challenges but they learn parenting skills and are connected to Lund’s job training, education and other family support services.
The very simple definition of this approach is self evident in the phrase – emphasis and focus on a client’s strengths. The idea is to identify what is going well, do more of it and then build on it. The core belief of a strengths based approach is that everybody has strengths and has the capacity for growth and change. The focus is not on the deficits or perceived failures of the client but on positive future outcomes.
Many women who come to Lund have suffered from trauma in their past due to substance use, domestic violence or other physical abuse, sexual abuse, childhood abuse or neglect, poverty, criminal activity or other complications of life as an addict.
A trauma informed treatment approach:
- recognizes the widespread impact of trauma on every aspect of someone’s life
- supports clinicians, social workers and others who work with the client to identify the signs and symptoms of trauma
- integrates the knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices at the organization
- actively works to avoid re-traumatization
Safety, trust, transparency, peer support, empowerment and collaboration are key values at the forefront of trauma informed treatment.
Between July 1st, 2014 and June 30th, 2015, 67 women received treatment at our residential facility while living with their 74 children who also received developmentally appropriate services. 65 young parents, mostly mothers but 4 fathers were also treated, accessed our community based outpatient substance abuse treatment services. 81% of women discharging from our residential treatment and 75% of participants discharging from our community programs showed a decrease in frequency of use. These percentages are higher than national averages.
Lund helps parents in recovery to change their lives and supports them as they seek to realize the hopes and dreams that they have for their children. Our talented, compassionate and dedicated employees are constantly pursuing training and educational opportunities in their fields because they are committed to working towards the best possible outcomes for the women, children and families at Lund.
As one client says, “The reason I keep going is for my daughter. All my work is centered around her and giving her the life I didn’t have. The work that I do at here Lund is so I can continue to raise her. I learn and practice parenting skills so I can best meet her needs. I want to get back on my feet and have my own place with my daughter. I want to put my legal past behind me. I want to provide for her to the best of my abilities. Lund is helping me do all of that.”
August 14, 2015
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.
August 10, 2015
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
August 5, 2015
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.
“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.