Monday, September 30, 2013

Is this any way to treat the economy?

I was going to write about what is sometimes referred to as “the poverty trap”, but today is the last day of the government’s fiscal year. As of right now, we expect the government to shut down tomorrow because there is no continuing resolution, much less a federal budget to authorize government spending.
USA Today’s story “66 questions and answers about the government shutdown” ended with the following points about what it means in the long run:
“64. How much money would a shutdown save taxpayers? Most likely, it wouldn't. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says shutdowns cost money in terms of contingency planning, lost user fees and back pay. A government estimate after the shutdown in 1995-96 estimated its cost at $1.4 billion.
65. What effect would a shutdown have on the economy? Economists say even a short shutdown — of three or four days — would begin to shave decimal points off economic growth. A sustained shutdown of three or four weeks "would do significant economic damage," economist Mark Zandi told USA TODAY.
66. What about the stock market? The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 3.7% during the 1995-96 government shutdown, according to S&P Capital IQ. Stocks quickly rebounded after the government got back to work, rising 10.5% the month after the shutdown ended.”
The economic recovery hadn’t really trickled down to very low income people like the homeless families we serve, so we’re fervently hoping a fragile economy isn’t dealt another setback.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Children Matter: Invest in the parents to help the child

By Ryan Blake, Children’s Program Director

Single parent families with young children are among the fastest growing among the homeless populations in the United States. This statistic is consistent with the makeup of many of the families we serve at Community LINC.

The infants and toddlers from these families are at an extreme risk for developmental delay or deviations.  Nationally, an alarming 75 percent of homeless children under the age of 5 have a major developmental delay.  Over half of homeless preschool children score below the first percentile in receptive verbal functioning.  Of these children, 38 percent exhibit emotional and behavioral problems. Chances are these children will continue to struggle throughout their academic career.

Why do these young children struggle so much?

The circumstances homeless families go through challenges healthy infant development and relationships. Parents dealing with domestic violence, mental disorders, substance abuse, and housing insecurity are often unable to recognize and respond to the needs of their young child. Also, young parents experiencing trauma often lack the necessary parenting skills and support they need to form a secure attachments with their child.

The stressful experiences associated with homelessness are toxic to young children as well.  According to the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences); the amount of stress early in a child’s life is a reliable predictor of health and behavior problems later in their adolescent and adult life. These problems include suicide attempts, adolescent pregnancy, heart disease, alcoholism, and violence with their partners. But there is hope.  

A secure attachment with an adult caregiver can act as a buffer from environmental stress and the negative outcomes and the child. A consistent, nurturing relationship serves as a shield from these events which allow children to develop normally. 
One of the key parenting skills that homeless parents often lack is simply how to talk with their child. 

The research  conducted by Betty Hart and Todd Risley of University of Kansas found some shocking differences in the way parents communicate with young children. Their research showed that parents of children in poverty say about 616 words per hour. Children of a working class family experience 1251 words per hour, and lastly, a child from a more affluent professional family hear 2153 words per hour with a much more extensive vocabulary. 

By age 4 the average child in poverty might have 13 million fewer words of cumulative experience than the average child in a working-class family. The differences in the amount of speech and vocabulary attainment affect their brain development. This is the one of the reasons why I see many children who are 4 and 5 years old who can’t speak or have severe speech delays. These children are essentially starting school way behind their peers.

Furthermore, to ensure young children experiencing homelessness are receiving the services they need, it is essential for them to be enrolled with a high-quality early childhood education. The problem is, it’s tremendously expensive.  

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the annual average cost for an infant in center-based child care is fourteen hundred dollars more than the average annual in-state tuition at a 4-year university. 

But what about free head start programs for low-income families? For the entire state of Missouri there are only 2,242 funded slots for Early Head Start and only 15,638 funded slots for Head Start Preschool. This means that only 2 percent of eligible infants and toddlers are able to secure spots at Early Head Start Programs. 

Providing these children with high-quality early childhood interventions are vital for them to succeed later in education. Without them, these at-risk children are 25 % more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent, 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education, 60 percent more likely to never attend college, and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

For young children who are homeless the problems are many. The good news is there is hope. 

Providing their parents with the skills they need to interact, respond, and to read with their young children supports a healthy attachment that will shield the negative environmental stresses. Also, providing early childhood interventions and referrals helps to ensure that children will start school with the developmental skills they need to be successful. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Program Matters: Whose Values Should Prevail?

By Senior Director of Programs and Operations, Jeannine Short
A primary tenet of social work case management practice is cultural competence—the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.  The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) expands this principle to include the elements of self-identification and self-awareness;  and suggest that such is fundamental to recognizing and addressing how one’s own cultural values, beliefs, biases, experiences, and practices affect interactions with clients. They state “the social worker who practices such self-assessment can then recognize how cultural identity, in its multifaceted expressions, is central to the resilience of the individuals, families, and communities with whom [they] interact” (NASW, 2013, p. 29). What this implies is that where personal values conflict with those of the client, the propensity for ineffective (if not harmful) relationships is intensified.
To exemplify this point, Community LINC has seen a significant increase in the number of two-parent families entering the program. Of note, however, is that in many of these family systems, the “wife” has historically assumed primary financial responsibility. Consequently, it is she who demonstrates the fortitude and tenacity in utilizing the employment services component of our program to secure employment.  While this may be consistent with the values of these families, it may prove troublesome for the social work case manager whose personal values hold that such responsibility should be shared at the very least.  What results then is the question of whether or not failure on the “husbands” part to seek employment should affect the family’s successful completion of the program, or should acknowledgment of the family’s value system determine such? Perhaps NASW (2013) provides the answer:
The social work case manager needs to appreciate and affirm client’s cultural values, beliefs, and practices, especially the ways in which culture influences perceptions and practices related to… definitions of family, family communication patterns… and decision-making related to education, employment, financial or legal matters, health care, and housing. (p. 29)
Reference: National Association of Social Workers (2013): NASW Standards for Social Work Case Management

Monday, September 16, 2013

Therapy Matters: Fathers matter

By a Children's Mental Wellness Therapist

Some of the children in our program show increases in anxiety when they are learning to transition into the program and to be surrounded by other youth! 

In working with an only child showing that anxiety, one of our therapists gave the child a task to write a letter to someone who he cares about. The young man immediately chose to write a letter to his absentee father.  It took a while, but on the fourth session, the young man wrote a letter to his father describing his pain and the experience of living his life without him.  

The child was the given the opportunity his letter with the therapist, if he chose. It was a chance to express himself with a non-threatening person in a safe environment.  As a result, the young man reported feeling better, relieved and less stressed.  

Our young man is also working with therapist on learning the art of forgiveness and moving forward.  He admits that the challenge to write to his father was difficult but feels happy that he was able to release his emotions through writing and no longer feels angry or sad.

Jobs Matter: Overcoming Homelessness Employment Barriers

By Employment Services Jobs Coach, Constance Taylor

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national unemployment rate for August 2013 was 7.3%. The survey showed that the US unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage points in August to 7.3%. The unemployment rate peaked in October 2009 at 10.0% and is now 2.7 percentage points lower. 

In July 2013 the National unemployment rate was 7.4%. Missouri was at 7.1% with the number of persons unemployed in Kansas City at 69,607. This number increased from 68,797 unemployed in June. While the national level decreased the number of unemployed in Kansa City increased.

Many homeless individuals are part of the population of the unemployed. Their barriers to employment are extreme, with homelessness being at the top of the list.  The barriers are sometimes due to trauma (often experienced when they became homeless), lack of education, computer knowledge, job experience and other skills.  Subpopulations of the homeless also have barriers from incarceration, extended hospitalization, mental illness, and alcohol and/or drug abuse.

Research shows that people who are homeless do want to work. “Researchers with the Department of Labor seven-year Job Training for the Homeless Demonstration Program reported that with the correct blend of assessment, case management, employment, training, housing and support services, a substantial portion of homeless individuals can secure and retain jobs that will contribute to housing stability.”

Through studies, the Chronic Homelessness Employment Technical Assistance Center found that staff members are challenged while working with employers who also often share stereotypes that a homeless person with multiple barriers are not good candidates for employment. Employers sometimes automatically assume that they will have a poor appearance, will not have good hygiene and will not fit in the workplace because of stigma that comes with having no permanent housing.

To help individuals overcome and be successful, our Employment Program strives to develop individual employment plans based on each person’s short term, intermediate and long term goals. Our approach is to assist each person to develop a plan that will provide positive long term benefits that will prevent any more instances of homelessness.

It's even harder to search for a job without childcare.
We believe that if the person owns the steps required to get different results, with support from our staff and services, they will have long lasting success with security in employment and housing. 

We are striving to develop partnerships with other agencies like Connections to Success, Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission Second-Chance Program for ex-offenders, and will make referrals to other agencies and organizations in the community that will assist meeting the needs of those experiencing addictions and mental illness at the discretion of our Mental Health Director. Our aftercare program provides us the ability to follow a participant up to 9 months of recovery. 

In conclusion, in the book written by Liane Phillips and Echo Montgomery Garrett, “Why Don’t They Just Get a Job”, you witness the compassion of two community leaders who believe that there is hope even for those expelled by society.  We share the opinion of the authors that we must be the ones that help answer that question and believe that even the chronically homeless population can achieve stable employment with decent wages and health benefits, when they take the necessary steps to break the chains of poverty.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Families Matter: Rapidly re-housing homeless families

By Housing Coordinator, Tammy Mayhue
Community LINC’s Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) equips the families we serve to regain their self-sufficiency and their own housing. We establish the amount and types of assistance they need to rapidly obtain housing and supplement it with the services that will give them the skills and resources to keep their homes. RRH assistance is only available for families who are literally homeless - meaning they have nowhere else to go. They may be living in a homeless shelter, a motel, a car, or another place unsuitable for human habitation.
The Rapid Re-Housing Program is an excellent opportunity for families who lack means and support systems to move from an emergency shelter or a transitional living environment into a house or apartment they can afford with their present income.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Volunteers Matter: Giving Back with your Significant Other

Gerald and wife Stephanie volunteer together. 
By Volunteer Coordinator, Kate Nevins

Volunteering is not usually thought of as an activity for couples.

Dinner and a movie? Yes, that’s a date. 

Visiting the Nelson Atkins Art Museum and walking around on the Plaza? Yes, that’s a date. 

Going to help out in the Children’s Program at Community LINC on a Thursday night? This would not even occur to most couples as a way for them to spend time together, but Community LINC is fortunate to have several couples who volunteer their time together on a regular basis. Community LINC would like to thank Michael and Melissa Ashcraft, Katie and Ben Hollon, Stephanie and Gerald Ostapko, and Tina and Keith McHudson for their work in the Children’s Program. 

We certainly rely on people like them, and we have a feeling that they get something more out of being here than they would at home in front of the t.v.!