Monthly Archives: December 2015

Power of Possible

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” –Helen Keller

As I reflect on 2015, I consistently marvel at what can happen when people unite in a common, optimistic purpose. This year, as a result of collaboration among our family of organizations, we helped make it possible for 70,000 people to  change the course of their lives, their work, and ultimately, their legacy, through job placements, educational services, training, a variety of assessments, and behavioral and health services. I am proud of the commitment I witness every day by my colleagues who work alongside our customers. Our staff is dedicated and hardworking, joined in their common vision to improve the lives of those we serve through innovation, creativity, problem-solving and action. I am humbled by the work I witness, done in service to our customers. But even more, I am humbled by the optimism, the faith, the hope, and ultimately, the courage it takes for those we serve to invite change—especially change that will have far-reaching, long-lasting consequences for generations to come.

I have done a lot of research on change theories. I have learned that the majority of people—even those faced with life-threatening illness or danger—do not opt to step away from what is familiar into what feels like dangerous and unknown territory.

What does it take to effect change? Change starts with vision, with hope, and with optimism. It starts with imaging what is possible. For many of our customers, it means stepping away from the constructs of history and stigma to imagine a world where opportunity is equal, where there is a chance for economic independence and where it is possible to change the course of one family’s story.

Change cannot happen without vision, hope and optimism. But it takes sustainable action to truly drive change. Action looks like showing up for class or work day after day, even with transportation or child care issues. It means pushing through the stigma of a past history to create a new future and believing in success. It means trusting someone when trust has been missing before now. It means believing there are choices when the course may have seemed prescribed for generations past.

As I look to 2016, I am ever more optimistic about what all of us can achieve working together. We have plans that reflect our commitment to work that is sustainable, relevant, and which will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people. The power of possible is boundless. I am excited to share this journey with you. I believe that together, we can imagine—and create—a new paradigm for independence, dignity and joy for many thousands more people. What do you imagine is possible?

 

A Savings Account Can Change a Life of a Young Person in Foster Care

The statistics for youth aging out of the foster care system are startling:

  • 24,000 young people age out of the foster system each year.
  • 1 in 5 become homeless.
  • Only half will be employed by age 24.
  • Fewer than 3% will earn a college degree.
  • 71% of young women will become pregnant.
  • 1 in 4 will suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder.

We know that one of the key issues for youth aging out of care is lack of support for fundamental living skills, including high school completion, finding employment, accessing health care, securing housing and living arrangements, and support the world of adulthood.

Few young people today are “adult” based on the traditional markers of adulthood: leaving home, finishing school, starting a job, getting married, and having children. A new FC Pictureperiod of life is emerging in which young people are no longer adolescents but not yet adults. Changes in the world around them have altered the very contour and content of early adult life. Many youth transitioning from the child welfare and juvenile justice systems receive little to no instruction or support about how to survive and thrive in the adult world, and often face a losing battle. Ultimately, serious problems occur in the lives of youth in care, because they leave the system without having been provided by their appointed caregivers, the necessary beliefs, aspirations and tools required to succeed.

It was these realities that led Fedcap to “dig deeper” into the concept of building a platform for self-sufficiency for young people in care—adding a forth pillar to the traditional child welfare construct of safety, permanency and well-being. Over the past six years, Fedcap has identified five core elements that lead to self-sufficient lives: 1) inspiration and belief in self-worth, 2) support in establishing bold goals, 3) understanding how to access educational pathways, 4) learning to manage emotional triggers and tapping into personal strengths, and 5) building networks of professional support.

Let’s briefly explore the concept of inspiration.   Did you know that a simple savings account can serve to inspire a young person in care to go to college? And because 70% of youth in care say that they want to go to college, and less than 10% actually matriculate and of those, fewer than 3% graduate—this seems like a critical area of focus.   One of the first steps towards preparing a child for college is ensuring that he/she aspires to go to college. Simply put, children who start planning early to go to college are more likely to enroll in college. Several rigorous Random Control Studies show that starting children with college savings early in life can have positive impacts on their socio-emotional development and impact their long term academic success. The research in this area finds that children develop ideas about their higher education plans early on; that college savings help children think of themselves as college-bound; and that savings accounts help children build a financial plan around paying for college. Children with $500 or less saved for college are 3 times more likely to enroll and 4 times more likely to graduate.

The savings account as one of many strategies Fedcap employs that says “we believe you can go to college, you can succeed”.

Imagine the impact—economically and socially—were we to ensure that every child in foster care had a college savings account.   What would it take; what could it take?

I believe it is possible to change the statistics and outcomes for youth aging out of care. What do you think?

Supporting Our Troops—Proactive planning for our returning veterans

 

Our returning veterans face unique health and employment issues that prevent them from an easy transition back to civilian life.

We know that in the last two years, unemployment for returning veterans was 9.0% vs. 7.2% for the overall population. Specifically, for 18 to 24-year olds, the rate has been documented at 21.4% vs 14.3% for their civilian counterparts. For twenty-five to 34 year old veterans, the unemployment rate is 9.1% vs 7.3% for the overall population.

We also know that one in four veterans returning from active combat suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that at least 20% of these veterans suffers from substance use disorder. 22 veterans commit suicide every day– and the majority of these are impacted by substance abuse and mental health issues. Mental health and substance use disorder causes more hospitalizations among veterans than any other cause.

There are successful programs that exist that focus on job training and substance use disorder treatment for veterans. Fedcap’s national recognized Career Design School has curriculum expressly tailored to meet the unique challenges that veterans face—including tapping into the GI Bill.   Our Easter Seals New York subsidiary supports businesses in their efforts to integrate veterans into their workforce. Our programs have served as national models. We have designed military to civilian translation tools, employer based training and sustained support for substance use disorders and mental illness.

What if we were to be proactive about supporting our veterans—even before they are deployed? What if there were a promise ahead of time of employment slots?

What if it were common business practice to have specific training and education set aside for veterans to reintegrate them into the workforce?

And what if, instead of placing the burden on the veterans and their families to “reintegrate,” we changed the way we view veterans and extend our civilian selves to meet them more than halfway by training and educating our non-military workers about the unique challenges that face their veteran coworkers?

What if we listen and believe the statistics around substance use disorder and often accompanying mental illness and/or traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder and decide to change the outcomes?

What if our workplaces were equipped to treat and hold the sustained effort it takes to support a veteran—even one challenged with mental illness or substance use issues? What would this look like? What could this look like?

We have the power to change the outcomes for our veterans.

Our work is to get in front of the statistics and the challenges for our returning veterans. Yes, we must continue to provide services in response to the issues facing veterans as they come home. But offering hope, a promise of security and safety, and operationalizing that hope by integrating it into the fabric of our workplaces would change the statistics, challenge the stigma, and support our veterans in concrete ways that will transform and dissolve the barriers for our servicemen and servicewomen to whom much is owed.

I welcome your thoughts.