Monday, April 27, 2015

Children Matter: Defining Success

By Children's Program Director Josh Chittum

In March, I sat down for a routine check-in with the Children Program volunteers before program began. I asked the volunteers to share things that have either gone well or made an impact on them in the previous month. When it became my turn to share I struggled to think of a worthy anecdote. After a few moments of silence an image of a specific child flashed in my mind. It was a child that left Community LINC under stressful circumstances several weeks ago.

His name was Eliot. His gregarious personality easily filled an entire room and his thirst for program time was infectious. He was the kind of child that wanted to be on the move all the time. The most fun I saw him have was when some friends of mine came to do a musical performance for the kids. He danced and laughed and jumped with excitement the entire evening, rarely taking pause to catch his breath. Unfortunately, not every aspect of his life contained such unadulterated revelry. In fact, during the latter part of his family’s time at Community LINC, things seemed to grow increasingly stressful by the week.

I never once questioned his parents love and commitment to Eliot. I did fear that the battles they were facing, however, put Eliot in an unsafe situation, particularly because he had special needs. After staffing the situation with my supportive colleagues and supervisor, I made a call to Social Services. An investigator arrived the same day and by that evening Eliot was in protective custody with a family member. The parents understood, but were shattered.

The emotional rawness of the situation has subsided some. While it’s still sad, I think of the good and the possible good as a result of Eliot being taken from his parents. It’s good and comforting to know that Eliot secured a safe place to live for the time being and he will have the protection of Children’s Division in the months that follow. The possible good is Mom and Dad may find themselves in a place to better address their difficulties.

I often yearn to write about grand successes of our residents. I realized last month as I spoke with volunteers, however, that this situation with Eliot was not only a story of brokenness. Were it not for Community LINC and the work of our staff there is only speculation as to what may have happened. We were here to advocate for Eliot and lying amidst the debris of a family going through a tumultuous time, I find a type of success as well. Not just for Eliot, but for his parents too.

This advocacy comprises the foundation of our Children’s Program. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our children, not just physically, but emotionally is central to our work. Sometimes it requires us to give a voice to children placed in harm’s way.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mental Health Matters: It Really Does Take A Village

By Director of Mental Health Services Griselda Williams

The old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” seems to ring just as true today as ever before. As originally used in the sense to help take care of other people’s children, today you can attribute this proverb in a combination of ways using vigilance, wisdom and compassion.  For a family experiencing homelessness, Community LINC becomes that village for the families who need our services.    

As one of the largest single-site providers of Interim Housing for homeless families in the greater Kansas City area, Community LINC serves some of the most vulnerable.  When most families walk through Community LINC’s doors they are living below the federal poverty line and have experienced significant debt and housing related barriers (judgments, evictions, and outstanding utilities bills).   It is during these tough times that we become that village.

As Director of Mental Health Services, I have the opportunity to witness everyday how the impact of community works utilizing the village proverb.  The Community LINC village is a place with a dwelling made of a strong and substantial foundation. A place that feels safe and protective.  A home that has doors and windows that opens freely, helping to make the village a pleasant place to dwell. 

The people that tend to the village are warm, inviting and have faith and understanding to know that from time to time every person needs a village to go to for support. Those who enter the village need someone to listen to their journey without judgment, someone to help them maneuver through the often treacherous events that occurred before they arrived, someone to learn basic life skills from, someone to help them manage life and even someone to pray for them. 

I have witnessed all of these village-like activities in the past 8 months at Community LINC. It is in these tough times that we become their “village,” a safe haven for our families.  Our collaborations provide the most effective, efficient, client-centered services to provide a helpful hand that takes care of their individual needs.

I smile as I think of Daria, a single mother of two.  Daria has spent much of her life without the support of family and friends.  She found herself at yet another homeless shelter not knowing what tomorrow may bring for her family.  I share these short words of Daria as for the first time she found a village that provided her with the tools needed to remove the barriers to self-sufficiency.  Through her active engagement in the programs provided through Community LINCs village of services, Daria has a new job and a new home for her family. 

I have witnessed the full impact of the village concept for ‘those in need’ here at the Community LINC village.  “It takes a village to help raise a community,” and, I am truly proud to be one of those who tend to the village.