Too hard to say goodbye to a foster child? One foster mom
Sheryl Carter and her family decided three years ago to open their home to Arkansas foster children. They live in Sebastian County, where there are more than three foster children for every available foster home bed.
She and her husband of 16 years, Craig, attended a meeting at their church held by The CALL, an organization that works with churches statewide to help the Arkansas Department of Human Services recruit foster parents.
They watched a video of a family service worker trying to find a foster home for a child. “She dialed number after number after number and could not find a home to take this child,” Sheryl said.
And with that, the Carters knew they had to become foster parents. Two weeks after opening their home in 2013, a family service worker called looking for a home for a 6-month-old baby girl.
The little girl was with the Carters almost a year. She changed their lives..
“We went into this strictly to provide foster care, and we just fell in love with her,” Sheryl said. “I said to myself, ‘Can I really let her go?’” But the Carters had gotten to know the little girl’s biological family and had formed a very strong bond with them. “When it was time to say goodbye, we felt that being back with her family was where she needed to be.”
Everyone in the Carter family, including Sheryl and Craig’s four daughters, cried the day the little girl returned home. It seemed like a test – could the Carter children stand the emotion of letting another child go who’d become part of the family?
“The kids all said, ‘We hope you get a call right after this to take another child.’”
Since that first child, the Carters have shared their home with about 20 foster children, with as many as four at a time. They currently are sharing their lives with two sisters, ages 18 months and 8 years old.
People often tell Sheryl they could never foster because they could “never say goodbye.”
“I almost take that as an insult. It’s not easy for me to say goodbye, either. It’s both happy and it’s sad and it’s hard for us every time. We cry every time a child leaves. Saying that is like saying, ‘I would love you too much, so I can’t take care of you at all,’ which doesn’t make sense.”
Currently there are over 4,900 children in the Arkansas foster care system. Want to help them by becoming a foster parent? Go to www.fosterarkansas.org and click on “inquire.”
10 Reasons to Adopt a Teenager (#9 is so, so true!)
Right now in Arkansas there are teens hoping a family will adopt them and provide a forever home. There are lots and lots of reasons to start that process. Here's a list to get you started!
1.No diapers to change.
2.You can sleep through the night.
3.You can show them that someone will love them for just being themselves.
It’s hard growing up without a family. Though the children in foster care did nothing to get there, they may worry that they could have done something different or better to keep their parents from abusing or neglecting them. That could lead to a lack of self-worth. These kids are lovable and need someone willing to commit to showing them.
4.There will be someone to teach you how to use the latest phones.
Let’s face it. You just learned how to operate the DVR, you have no idea why your iPhone battery is running down so quickly and you still can’t figure out how to hail an Uber car.
5.You don’t have to wait 16 years to teach someone how to drive.
No more carpools! Your teenager can even drive you places or run errands.
6.They are cooler than toddlers.
Yes, toddlers are adorable and have the cutest chubby cheeks, but they also throw tantrums, wet the bed and babble. Teens are fun. They can teach you about the latest music, carry on conversations about something that fascinates them and make sure your clothes are appropriate for this decade.
7.Teens need families as much as little ones to make their way through life and into adulthood.
Remember middle and high school? No one should have to traverse that world without the support and love of family. You can teach her how to maintain positive relationships, how to apply for college and serve as a positive role model in case she decides to have children one day.
8.Teens’ caseworkers have a good idea of the difficulties these kids face.
This information will help you be better prepared to meet his needs because you’ll know how he copes with difficult situations and the areas in which he could use additional supports.
9.You can change a life for the better; they can change yours.
Without a support system that families provide, teens who “age out” of the foster care system face a more difficult life and are more likely to experience homelessness, poverty, depression and joblessness. You could give them the support and love necessary to reach their full potential.
10.Everyone deserves a family.
Though their early childhoods may have been traumatic, they have the same wants and needs as other kids their age. They want a warm bed, a family to cheer on their successes and to hug them when they fail. They need someone to encourage them to get an education and love them no matter what.
Click here to meet some of the children available for adoption in Arkansas.
For some, child care just means day care – a place for children to stay and play while parents are at work. But Tonya Williams, who oversees early childhood education and regulation for the state of Arkansas, saw the potential for it to be so much more.
“We now know, based on research, that a great deal of really important brain development happens during those first five years of life – before children are ‘officially’ in school,” said Williams, whose title is Director of the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. “We wanted children to have a better beginning to their education.”
So Williams and her team created the Better Beginnings program, a Quality Rating and Improvement System that is voluntary for licensed early childhood education and child care centers that serve children from birth through at least age five. It is mandatory for other programs, such as those that receive state funding for pre-k classes. Federally-funded Head Start programs have included participation in Better Beginnings as one of its strategic goals in Arkansas as well. Better Beginnings sets the stage for how well our children learn, how they think of themselves and how they interact with their world.
When it started in 2010, the number of children considered to be in higher-quality child care in Arkansas was 49,856.
Today, that number is 108,563.
Williams said the state is now working to expand the program even more because “all children deserve the chance to build a strong foundation for learning early in life.”
The program rates child care centers with 1, 2 or 3 stars based on several things, including:
Education of employees
The learning environment for children
A curriculum, even for infants and toddlers
Within 18-24 months, DHS hopes to begin the process of expanding to 4-stars and 5-stars for facilities that exceed DHS requirements.
If you’re a provider or parent, follow this link to learn more about the program: http://arbetterbeginnings.com/. You can find the curriculum and helpful tips like how to choose a daycare and how to keep your child healthy.
Governor to Ask Legislature to Shift Funding to Cover Services for Over 500 on Waiting List
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a proposal on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, designed to reduce the number of people with developmental disabilities on a waiting list for certain Medicaid-funded services.
During his announcement at the Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission quarterly meeting, Hutchinson told commission members that a portion of tobacco settlement money that goes to the Department of Human Services (DHS) is earmarked for the ARHealthNetworks program, which no longer exists. He said he’d be asking the State Legislature to allocate the roughly $8.5 million in annual settlement funds to cover home and community-based services that help keep people with developmental disabilities out of institutional settings. If approved by the Legislature during the next regular session, that money would be used as match to receive additional federal funding of over $21 million. Services would be available July 1, 2017.
Hutchinson detailed why he believes this is an ideal way to reduce the number of residents on the waiting list.
“This allows me to push forth a very doable proposal that I hope will be embraced by the Legislature,” he said. “It gives them hope. It gives them a solution. It gives an answer to a problem that’s been nagging our state for decades.”
But why is Hutchinson’s announcement and plea for support such a big deal?
It’s estimated that between 500 and 900 people on the waiting list will be able to get Medicaid-funded services under this proposal. There are more than 3,000 individuals total on the list, and some have been on the list since 2007.
“This is unallocated money from a program that has ended,” Hutchinson said. “Therefore, it’s available, and I think this is a wise use of it.”
“This is progress. This is hope. This shows the seriousness of the state to address the waiting list,” he said. “Once you start whittling down that waiting list, you’re going to move up on it much quicker.”
Melissa Stone, director of the DHS Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, said Tuesday that the Governor’s request will have a significant and meaningful impact on families all across the state.
“I talk with families waiting for these types of services all the time, and I can tell you that this funding could be life-changing for them,” Stone said.
Paula Fontinel said her grandson, Cade, has been on the waiting list since he was 6. He’s now almost 16.
“Oh this gives me chills,” Fontinel said when she learned about the Governor’s proposal. “I’m almost 70 years old, and I think about people like me who don’t have a lot of support. I certainly hope this goes through.”
If the Legislature approves allocating the money for the waiting list next year, eligible families will be notified by DHS and scheduled for an independent assessment to determine the level of services they will receive.
Department of Human Services Hosts Food Trucks, Craft Fair on Friday in LR
LITTLE ROCK – The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities Services Fall Food & Craft Fair this Friday will showcase the vast talents of its clients in a fun, family-friendly environment.
The event will take place Friday, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Little Rock on 7th Street outside the central DHS offices. That portion of 7th Street will be closed to traffic during the event.
Nearly two dozen vendors will have for sale everything from dog treats to handmade rugs, bird houses, piggy banks, paintings and other crafts. Meanwhile, some of Little Rock’s best food trucks will be in attendance.
DHS Program Administrator Yvette Swift is excited about the Fall Food & Craft Fair and what it represents to the people with developmental and intellectual disabilities that DHS serves. This is the first year that DHS has hosted such an event.
“This is a chance for our clients both in those living in human development centers and those living in the community to showcase their talents,” Swift said. “They’ll bring their arts and crafts, paintings, Christmas ornaments, calendars, and cards. We even have a client who works with a dog biscuit company that makes organic dog food."
The fair will help to provide financial assistance to the participating clients from community programs throughout the state and the five DDS Human Development centers located in Arkadelphia, Booneville, Conway, Jonesboro and Warren. Clients keep 100 percent of the proceeds from their sales
Cindy Alberding, executive director of Independent Case Management, said the Fall Food & Craft Fair has the participants enthused.
“They understand that when they sell their products, they get money,” she said. “It’s very exciting for them to have any venue to sell some of what they’ve done. And it’s very productive. They take great pride in the work they do.”
Josh Fleming -- who helps to delivers pies, does artwork and assists in making dog treats – is among the clients who will participate in the Fall Food & Craft Fair. He has big plans for the money he’ll earn Friday.
“It feels good to make money,” Fleming said. “I want to save the money to buy a house, get married, have kids, get food, and clothes.”
The Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) provides funding for community and facility-based care and services to thousands of Arkansans who have developmental or intellectual disabilities.
“We are working hard to give adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities opportunities to work and be creative, and the Fair really represents our efforts,” said DDS Director Melissa Stone. “I encourage people, especially those who work in downtown Little Rock to come out and show their support.”
Some vendors can only accept cash, although some will accept credit cards. For more information, contact Swift at email@example.com or 501-682-4268.
Department of Human Services to provide GED
Beginning next week, the Department of Human Services (DHS) in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Career Education (DCE) will begin offering free GED® courses at two sites to employees and others in the community who were unable to previously satisfy high school graduation requirements for jobs.
The GED® test certifies high school-level knowledge and skills in the core academic areas of Reasoning through Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematical Reasoning. Upon successful completion of the test, the Arkansas High School Diploma is awarded to the student.
Recent grad and DHS employee Susan Ferriel can personally attest to the effectiveness and convenience of the GED classes.
As a 17-year-old, Ferriel opted against continuing her high school education in order to start a family. Some 30 years later, the mother of two and grandparent of five could not move into other positions at the Arkansas Health Center where she works because she didn’t have a GED, so she decided to pursue it last year. Now 48, she is enthusiastic when expressing how much the decision to complete the GED has enhanced her life.
“I knew that having that certificate could open doors,” she said, “and after four months, I earned my GED at Pulaski Tech. I applied for a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) on my campus and got it. I love what I do. I go home feeling happy and accomplished. I see my GED certificate and CNA license hanging in my living room, and I am proud.
“I’m hoping one day to further my career and be a Licensed Practical Nurse,” she said. “In short, you’re never too old to go back to school and pursue your dreams.”
In 2009 the Office of Personnel Management began to require all state employees have a GED® or high school diploma. Persons who were already members of the DHS staff who did not meet the requirement were allowed to continue their employment with the state. However, advancement for those individuals has become difficult. The pool of potential direct care staff at state-run facilities is smaller, especially in rural areas, because of the requirement. State employees who do not have a high school diploma or GED® – or those who need to brush up on the areas of math and reading comprehension – are strongly encouraged to register.
GED® classes are being offered in conjunction with Arkansas Tech University, Pulaski Technical College and the Warren School District. The host sites for the classes are the Arkansas Health Center in Haskell and the Booneville Human Development Center. Classes will begin later this fall at the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center in Warren. For more information about class times and locations, contact the sites directly at 501-860-0500 in Little Rock, 479-675-2121 in Booneville, and 870-226-6774 in Warren.
USDA Under Secretary praises DHS-Goodwill partnership
LITTLE ROCK – Kevin Concannon, the Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, visited Little Rock on Thursday, Sept. 21.
Concannon toured the Goodwill Industries of Arkansas headquarters where he lauded the possibilities that will be presented through a new Arkansas Department of Human Services-Goodwill partnership that supports efforts to provide education and job training to beneficiaries in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He said he is anxious to watch partnerships like this provide needed support for SNAP beneficiaries that will improve their lives.
“What can we do to help them become less dependent on us? That’s the ultimate goal,” Concannon said. “For me, the motivation isn’t so much we hope our caseloads go down - it’s more about positioning people differently. The motivation for me is to enable people to be more self-sufficient.”
The primary principle of SNAP Employment and Training programs are to provide services that help participants eventually create their own success and to make them more job-ready. Most notably, the program will assist single moms, persons who were once incarcerated and adults on SNAP who aspire to get a GED or learn a specialized skill.
Goodwill is funding half of the project and that money is matched by USDA so no Arkansas State General Revenue will be expended.
SNAP is under the umbrella of the DHS Division of County Operations, which is supervised by Mary Franklin.
“This employment and training program is an endeavor that we’re excited about and are confident will be extremely successful,” Franklin said. “The opportunities that are provided will help many Arkansans on SNAP, and give them genuine hope for an even better standard of life.”
Goodwill Industries of Arkansas CEO Brian Itzkowitz (from left) gives a tour of their Scott Hamilton facility recently to SNAP Southwest Division Director Dwight Crudup, USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannan, and Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe.
AmeriCorps Celebrates Opening Day, 100 Members Take Oath of Service
LITTLE ROCK – In the midst of a festive, jubilant atmosphere, more than 100 AmeriCorps members serving Arkansas collectively took the oath of service during Opening Day as the national group celebrated its one-millionth member!
Opening Day at the Clinton Presidential Center was a joint venture between AmeriCorps and City Year, celebrating the concepts of community service and being a trustworthy leader, as the new members pledged to serve over the next 365 days. AmeriCorps is also known as the domestic Peace Corps and is a part of the Division of Community Service and Nonprofit Support with the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
AmeriCorps members and volunteers serve with national and community nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, schools, and local agencies to help meet community needs in education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, economic opportunity, disaster services, and supporting veterans and military families. In Arkansas, AmeriCorps members serve with Boys and Girls Club, City Year, Our House, Teach for America, and several more groups.
President Bill Clinton sent remarks that were read at the ceremony to mark this monumental achievement for AmeriCorps:
“AmeriCorps members represent the very best of America, and I know that those taking their pledges today will continue to build on the tremendous legacy of those who have come before them. Thanks to them for answering this call to action.”
Several special speakers were on hand, including Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore and DHS Program Management Consultant Ashley Moses.
An AmeriCorps alumna, Moses acknowledged that the opportunity to speak during Opening Day rekindled her passion for serving the citizens of Arkansas.
“Speaking at this event was exciting for me," Moses said. "it reenergized me seeing so many young people committing to a year of community service through AmeriCorps and makes me happy about the future of our community.”
During the oration, Moses referenced how AmeriCorps impacted her life, inspired her to be a compassionate servant of the people, and led to her pursuing her overall calling.
Moses - who urged members of AmeriCorps and City Year to accept the challenge of being a community leader and to build relationships with their peers - also enjoyed the task of leading the AmeriCorps Pledge.
“As an AmeriCorps alum I love that I had the chance to share my story with the current members,” she said. “Hopefully I gave them advice they could take with them throughout the year as they continue to learn and grow.”
A self-proclaimed AmeriCorps fanatic, Moses stated that the organization presents a multitude of community service opportunities.
“The beautiful thing about AmeriCorps I tell people is, no matter what your interest, skill or aspiration, there’s a program out there for you,” she expressed.
About AmeriCorps Arkansas: AmeriCorps Arkansas provides opportunities for citizens of all abilities and backgrounds to serve their communities and country through programs like AmeriCorps State, AmeriCorps VISTA, City Year, National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), FEMA Corps, Delta Corps and Senior Corps. Members and volunteers serve with national and community nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, schools, and local agencies to help meet community needs in education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, economic opportunity, disaster services, and supporting veterans and military families.
About City Year: City Year is dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members provide high-impact student, classroom and school-wide supports to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school, ready for college and career success. A recent third party study showed that schools that partner with City Year were up to two to three times more likely to improve on Math and English assessments. A proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network, City Year is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, local school districts, and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations and individuals. Learn more at www.cityyear.org, City Year’s Facebook page, and on Twitter.
About City Year Opening Day Nationally: In 28 cities nationwide, over 3,000 City Year AmeriCorps members will swear in on Opening Day to focus on improving overall school climate and providing individual support to students to help them stay in school and on track to graduate high school, ready for college and career success. Working side-by-side with teachers, City Year AmeriCorps members use research-based tools and techniques to help improve students’ attendance, behavior, and course performance. City Year’s Opening Day is sponsored nationally by Comcast NBCUniversal at all 28 City Year locations.
Crystal Barker Named DHS Employee of the Year 2016
HOT SPRINGS – Crystal Barker has a big personality, and she uses it to do good on and off-the-clock from her job at the Department of Human Services (DHS).
Barker – who’s a member of the DHS Office of Human Resources – was named the overall DHS Employee of the Year on Thursday, October 20. Barker received the esteemed honor during the 2016 Arkansas Human Services Employee Association Awards Banquet at the Arlington Hotel.
“Crystal Barker promotes the DHS mission daily, both on and off the job. As an instructor for DHS Organizational Development and Training (ODT) as well as in the community, she strives to reach people where they are. Crystal adjusts her workshop material to accommodate the specific needs of her participants, and works on “real world” issues during class time,” said Dr. Elizabeth Langevin. “Crystal makes sure that those around her and those touched by her many activities are made to feel that they matter. Her workshop materials and content are evidence of her care in helping DHS employees become more effective in fostering independence and promoting better health.”
Barker takes great pride in being a member of the DHS staff. She doesn’t view her duties as work. Instead, Barker deems her DHS responsibilities as an avenue to serve the citizens of Arkansas.
“Being selected as the DHS Employee of the Year is truly far beyond my imagination. I strive each day to engage, encourage and empower every employee that I come in contact with,” she acknowledged. “I understand that some jobs are just jobs. However, DHS is not just a job, but a ministry to serve. The recognition and award is truly an honor, but the reward is feeling that I am making a difference in the lives of others.”
The DHS mission is: Improving the quality of life of all Arkansans by protecting the vulnerable, fostering independence and promoting better health.
Barker is adamant about helping the DHS uphold its principle of presenting the best possible living environment for all Arkansans.
“Crystal Barker’s performance is indicative of her optimism that DHS can and should be one of the best places to work, simply because we serve others,” Langevin said. “The quote displayed in her office reveals her philosophy, ‘I don’t come to impress, I come to bless.’.”
Also at the AHSEA Awards Banquet, Susan Love was named the Office of Communications and Community Engagement/Division of Community Service and Non-profit Support Employee of the Year.
Love, the State Voluntary Agency Liaison, has embraced the arduous task of assisting people who are experiencing extreme moments of uncertainty.
“Susan has been in this position for almost three years. Her role is to connect and communicate with non-profit and faith-based organizations that activate in times of disaster,” said DHS Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer Amy Webb. “She is a self-starter and looks for work opportunities to raise awareness, connect with groups and improve disaster relief in Arkansas.”
Helping Desha County get a $125,000 grant to aid a long-term flood recovery plan is among Love’s impressive outreach endeavors over the last year. And after a fire displaced more than two dozen residents from their apartments in Brinkley, it was Love who organized a one-day assistance center for the individuals and families who were impacted.
In all, 16 DHS employees were recognized for their excellence during the banquet.
From the Division of Behavioral Health Services – Sharon Thompson; Division of Child Care & Early Childhood Education – Justin Foster; Division of County Operations – Rhonda Kay Lasley; Division of Services for the Blind – Amy Jackson; Division of Aging and Adult Services – Angela Ziegenhorn; Division of Medical Services – Sandra K. Smith; Division of Developmental Disabilities Services – Rebecca Burns; Division of Youth Services – Marshelvia Thompson-Collins; Division of Children and Family Services – Jennifer Dulaney-Watkins; Office of Legislative & Intergovernmental Affairs – Lori McDonald; Office of Procurement – Vivian Lee; Office of Chief Counsel – Sandra Hough; Office of Information Technology – Becky Adams; and from the Office of Finance – Norma Owens.
Crystal Barker (at left) receives the DHS Employee of the Year Award for 2016 from Director Cindy Gillespie at the annual Arkansas Human Services Employee Association Awards Banquet, held Thursday, Oct. 20 in Hot Springs.
Arkansas Girl Adopted from Foster Care Says Not All Super Heroes Wear Capes
By Keith Metz
DHS Communications Specialist
Most times, when someone asks children who their heroes are, typical replies include a parent, first responders or maybe even an athlete or a movie star. For one girl in Boone County, “hero” means something entirely different.
This is Red Ribbon Week (a national drug prevention campaign), which is celebrated in many schools across the state by holding themed dress up days for faculty, staff and children. Tuesday was “Super Hero” day at 11-year-old Cooper Knoll’s school in northwest Arkansas. Students were encouraged to come dressed as their favorite hero. Cooper didn’t have to think very hard about her choice – her favorite hero is her former DHS Division of Children and Family Services caseworker, Ashley Young.
Cooper was in foster care for more than two years before being adopted by her foster parents in July 2016. Ashley was the caseworker who removed Cooper from her biological mother’s care in 2014, and based on Cooper’s choice for her hero, she made quite a positive impact on young Cooper’s life over her time in foster care.
“I cannot tell you how honored I was that Cooper considers me as some sort of a hero,” Ashley said. “All we are used to hearing is the negative stories about DCFS, so it was nice to be reminded that we as an agency do make an impact on children, even when we don’t realize it.”
Ashley has worked with DCFS in Arkansas for five years. Cooper is just one of many children who have been positively affected by Ashley’s dedication, compassion and advocacy.
Here’s to Cooper’s hero – and ours, too! – Ashley Young.
Reggie Dillard provides inspiration at Conway HDC
By Kev Moye
CONWAY – Some people have the innate ability to always inject joy into any place they go.
For Conway’s Human Development Center, Reggie Dillard is that person.
Now in his 36th year of employment at the CHDC, Dillard has become an invaluable source of happiness and inspiration for employees and clients alike.
And though he’s not a physically imposing human being, Dillard – who is completely impaired of hearing – has a presence that looms large throughout the massive CHDC campus.
“For me the past 22 years, he’s been like a brother … more than just an employee,” said CHDC Laundry Operations Manager Jimmy Garris. “That’s how most everybody that knows Reggie feels about him.”
And that’s how the 56-year-old laundry worker would prefer to be viewed.
“I have fun working around all the people here,” he said via an interpreter. “It’s up to other people if they want to be around me and learn. I just love to learn and be alongside other people.
“And the people who have issues, I stay away from.”
When working with his contemporaries, Dillard gladly assumes a “big brother” type of role.
“I try to teach people how to do things throughout the laundry room,” he passionately stated. “I simply want people to learn, so I’m always willing to help them out.”
In essence, Dillard embodies the CHDC mission.
The facility specializes in providing programs that upgrade the quality of life for people who have an intellectual disability. The overall concept for the CHDC is to create normalcy and comfort for its clients, and any opportunity he receives to lend assistance places Dillard in a state of delight.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., Dillard refuses to be hindered by his lack of hearing. He strives to live the typical American life. Dillard goes to work, returns to his own home and enjoys fellowshipping with family and friends when he has the chance.
Sarah Murphy, superintendent of the CHDC, appreciates the work ethic and benevolent persona of Dillard.
“Reggie is an inspiration to people with and those who do not have a disability. He’s an extremely hard worker,” Murphy said with a smile. “He’s an encourager. CHDC is fortunate to have had him as an employee for the last 36 years.
“He adds life to the facility.”
At some point, the positive vibes and great leadership Dillard bestows will not be readily available for the CHDC. He plans to retire and eventually relocate back to Missouri.
When he finally decides to depart the CHDC, Dillard will be sorely missed. A vital presence that eagerly provides wisdom, motivation and glee for the CHDC will be gone.
“He’s such an inspiration. Reggie is like family. If he’s absent, we want to know where he is,” Garris said. “That’s because he’s such a joy and inspiration on a daily basis. When he does retire, I’m sure some of the laundry family will probably cry. They’ll miss his inspiration, his upbeat personality so much.”
DHS Moves To Stabilize Child Welfare System
DHS Moves To Stabilize Child Welfare System
Every week, executives at the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) tracked the numbers – the rising number of children in foster care, the constant turnover among caseworkers, the high caseloads, and the need for more and more foster families.
Clearly in the midst of a crisis in child welfare, new DHS Director Cindy Gillespie in May convened what would turn out to be a four-month “war room” with staff from across the department, not just child welfare experts. Working with the DHS Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the group put forth clear goals that could make a meaningful and lasting positive impact on the child welfare system:
• Strengthen families at risk of foster care involvement so children can remain safely at home by filling gaps in services and family supports.
• Improving the foster care for those children who come into the system for placement by increasing the number of foster homes and better supporting the workforce and community organizations that are part of the child welfare system
• Build a statewide mental health and substance abuse system that is equipped to better serve children and families.
“It took time to really dig into all of these issues and identify what policies and processes were creating stumbling blocks in the system and all the different workforce issues that needed to be addressed,” said DCFS Director Mischa Martin. “It was amazing to have other DHS divisions and offices – Medicaid, Behavioral Health, IT, Developmental Disabilities, Procurement and more – at the table helping us find innovative ways to fix what we found.”
The group met three times a week, discussing everything from how much time family service workers spend doing clerical work to potential federal funding streams that could be tapped to fund prevention programs to help children stay out of foster care. The group outlined dozens of steps that DHS could take to achieve the goals outlined during the war room meetings and stabilize the child welfare system.
Included in the steps are:
• Increasing the percentage of relatives who step in and care for children in foster care to at least the national average of 29 percent by removing system barriers.
• Streamlining the DHS foster parent application process and improving relationships with faith-based and non-profit organizations that help recruit foster and adoptive parents.
• Recruiting additional foster placements for children with special needs by working with organizations that provide services to children with developmental disabilities and better supporting organizations that recruit therapeutic foster homes.
• Better supporting foster families through increased communication and senior-level staff engagement.
• Improving relationships between caseworkers and foster parents by creating an experience that is focused on customer service.
• Better supporting caseworkers by shifting overtime funding for a pilot program to employ a second shift – nights and weekends – of workers for “after hours” calls, placements and services.
• Developing a texting system that allows caseworkers to reach out to foster families when a home is needed so that caseworkers do not have to spend hours calling families.
And, Gillespie noted, they found internal resources to bolster DCFS’s work that may not have been discovered if only child welfare experts had been at the table.
“Our Division of County Operations realized certain processes were causing delays for healthcare applications for children in foster care, so they are working to fix that and Behavioral Health was able to shift existing funding to help cover substance abuse treatment for families in crisis,” Gillespie said. “We at DHS really came together as a team through this work, and I think that team atmosphere will help us as we move forward and address other issues in the agency.”
The findings also were presented to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has requested an additional $26.7 million next fiscal year to help DCFS care for the more than 5,200 children in care and to hire new caseworkers and other field staff to support the work done in these meetings.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK (Nov. 19) – Children and adults warmed by jackets and gloves grabbed sandpaper and paint brushes Saturday morning as part of Arkansas’ inaugural Family Volunteer Day, which celebrates the power of families working together to make a meaningful difference in their communities.
The group spruced up tables in a pavilion at the Eugene J. Towbin Veteran’s Healthcare Center in North Little Rock, sorted donations and visited veterans in the hospital.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services Office of Communication and Community Engagement and local U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs staff sponsored the event in conjunction with a national effort spearheaded by Points of Light and generationOn.
Michael Dobbs, Chief of Volunteer Services for the Central Arkansas Veteran’s Administration Healthcare System, donned a huge smile as he watched volunteers stain tables with their children.
“It’s important that everyone gets out and be a part of the community, it’s a way to give back. It also shows the importance of our veterans,” Dobbs said. “As a veteran, it’s great to see people come out and support us. It’s a great feeling to see that people are taking time out to support our veterans.”
DHS Volunteer Program Coordinator Ezell Breedlove was delighted by both the turnout of about 40 people and camaraderie among the volunteers.
“Anytime you can get people to come together to help veterans, it’s a really good thing,” he said. “Veterans give so much of themselves, this was just a small token of our appreciation; showing them that we support the work that they do.”
Dobbs explained that volunteering to aid veterans can be more than just an annual act of generosity. There’s always plenty of work for Arkansans who want to find a way to say thank you to individuals who have protected the liberties of this nation.
“There are many volunteer opportunities for the Central Arkansas VA Healthcare System,” he says. “You can drive golf carts, participate in a veteran’s history project, people can also help out as ambassadors with information. Just give us a call at (501) 257-3288 or donate. Or visit us online at http://www.littlerock.va.gov/giving/index.asp . We also support needs for veterans such as hygiene items or socks, t-shirts, underwear.”
Handmade greeting cards are often a much appreciated gift for the veterans. The creating of cards for veterans is an easy project to do with groups of all sizes, at school, home, work, or with church or civic groups.
Pulaski County Courts, DHS Celebrate National Adoption Day
By Kev Moye Communications Specialist
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On a beautiful, sunny, fall afternoon, the Pulaski County Adoption Day celebration was held on the steps of the Pulaski County Juvenile Court.
The theme for the Nov. 17 event was “Celebrating a Family for Every Child,” and coincided with National Adoption Day
The Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services organized the festivities with the family court and Project Zero, and highlighted the importance of youths being in a forever home.
Jessica Foreman addressed the attendees from the viewpoint of an elementary school teacher and an adoptive parent.
“Everybody needs somebody. My husband and I decided to take this journey, and it’s had its ups and downs – but at the end it was all worth it. Our children have blessed us tremendously,” Foreman said. “We have learned from them. They’ve made us better people. They’ve helped me become a better teacher and to look at situations from a parent’s side and not just as an educator.
“I’m happy for everybody who’s played a role in making a difference in a child’s life,” she said. “You not only make a difference in their lives, they’re making a difference in your lives.”
Cory and Christina Jones also advocate for adoption.
Mr. Jones provided a powerful testimony of how adoption has given both he and his wife a renewed stance on parenting.
“This has been such a beautiful and wonderful experience for us. It’s opened our eyes to so many things,” he said. “It’s opened our eyes to our own inadequacies as people and as parents. Before I was a parent, I thought I knew everything about parenting. But foster care and adoption has humbled us in so many ways.
“It’s opened our eyes to the reality that kids need the ability to tell their full story,” Jones emotionally said. “It’s wonderful for them to understand where they come from.”
Judge Joyce Warren with the family court made a passionate plea to the crowd, with an emphasis on all youth deserving a chance to reside in a permanent, loving environment.
“November is special to all of us because it’s National Adoption Month. Children of all races, gender and ages get to experience the joy of finding their Forever Family once an adoption is finalized,” she said. “The sense of community is so important, and we all need to do everything we can to ensure that every child has a positive, supportive community in which to grow and develop.”
Warren also referenced the low adoption rates of teenage youth, and one in three in the child welfare system in Arkansas is a teenager.
“Statistics show that teens are less likely to be adopted than younger children. So we think about what we can do in the judicial system to change that,” she acknowledged.
“One thing we can do is to promote positive attitudes toward permanency. We have to believe and set expectations for others that all children are adoptable.”
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” Warren said. “We have about 5,200 children in foster care in Arkansas with about 500 waiting for their own forever adoptive family.”
The event concluded with the finalization of several adoptions and the release of red and purple balloons.
There are children of all ages, genders and races – including only children and sibling groups – in need of an adoptive family. There is no cost associated with adopting through the Arkansas Department of Human Service Division of Children and Family Services. Some children will qualify for financial benefits. For more information, visit www.adoptarkansas.org.
Judge Joyce Warren gives her address during the Pulaski County Adoption Day ceremonies, emphasizing the need for forever homes for teens.
Center eager to present holiday event
CONWAY – Smiling faces and feelings of glee will be in abundance next week when the Conway Human Development Center opens its campus and antique train to the public as part of the second annual Polar Express holiday event.
The public is invited to attend from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8 at the center’s train station, 150 E. Siebenmorgen Road.
Kids and adults will have a chance to ride the train, participate in crafts and take a photo with Santa. All activities are free. Photos with Santa are $5, and the money goes back to the center’s volunteer council.
Sarah Murphy, the center’s superintendent, deems Polar Express as a gift to the community.
“It’s such a fun time for our residents and our staff,” said Murphy. “We’re so happy that we can share the moment with the community.”
The train has a 1950s Ford model 600 tractor engine. It has 32 horsepower and the transmission is from a Ford three-quarter ton truck.
“It’s a historic piece,” Murphy said. “It’s been totally remodeled.”
The Conway Symphony Orchestra Quartet and carolers from Chic-fil-A Leader Academy will provide additional Christmas cheer.
The center sits on an expansive 409 acre campus and provides comprehensive residential care to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
“This year we were able to add a lot of community support. We have non-profits, churches, real estate agents who have participated,” Murphy stated. “With the increased support from the community, it will be more fun for everyone involved.”
Compass Academy, Pam McDowell Properties, Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County, Children’s Advocacy Alliance, Village Park of Conway, Kindred Hospice, Life Song Baptist Church of Greenbrier, The Bethlehem House, CHDC Recreation Departments, the Habilitation and Training Team, Intensive Training Team, Individual Assistance Team and the Total Care Team all created Christmas scenes for Polar Express.
The free coffee is complements of Zeteo Coffee.
For additional information about Polar Express or services of the center, call (501) 329-6851.
Santa Claus greets a group of children.
Gingerbread Tree Program brings a smile to the faces of adults, children alike
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Hanging from a large Christmas tree in the Central Offices of the Arkansas Department of Human Services in mid-November were more than 300 paper ornaments in the shape of a gingerbread man.
Each decoration represented a foster child between the ages of 12 months and 12 years. The name of a boy or girl, age, ethnicity, home-county, clothing sizes and a “wish list” of three preferred gifts of the child were listed on each one.
Employees, their families and friends agreed to sponsor a child – and some chose sibling groups – to ensure these vulnerable kids who might not find a lot of joy this holiday season would have some reason to smile.
“At this time of year, DHS employees both inside and outside the Division of Children and Family Services have an opportunity to impact a child in a very tangible way,” said DCFS Division Director Mischa Martin. “The smiles they have on their faces when they bring in bags of toys and other gifts are contagious! It’s a wonderful way to spread the Christmas spirit to those we work with, those we care for in the child welfare system, and our communities as a whole.”
There are upward of 5,200 youths in Arkansas currently in foster care. Through no fault of their own, they are brought into care, sometimes with nothing other than the clothes on their backs. Taken from their home, oftentimes their schools and churches, it can be a sad time to be away from what’s familiar despite the circumstances. While many foster kids will receive gifts from either a foster family or through a community outreach project, some reside in counties where resources are limited and opportunities to receive a quality gift are scarce.
This week, bikes have been rolling into DHS offices across the state, along with Barbies, Tonka trucks, books, stuffed animals and toys of every type. Meanwhile, fundraisers were held throughout the year, culminating with the Holiday Bazaar, for the purchase of high-ticket items and gift cards preferred by teens. And for a second consecutive year, nearly $10,000 was raised for adolescents in the child welfare system in Arkansas. In the next two weeks, the gifts will be delivered by family service workers to the kids in their care.
“The sparkle in a child’s eye when they see the brightly wrapped packages and find a much-hoped for gift can bring a tear to mine,” said Martin. “And we are callled to care for and love these children as our own, especially at this time of year.”
It’s through the generosity of DHS employees and others – but especially the hard work by Olivia Bates, Darlene McClendon, Keith Metz, Tricia Persons and Velma Sorrows who coordinate the program – that Christmas will be a little brighter for these tender hearts. If you would like to donate, you can still do so by calling Keith Metz at 501-683-2040.
A collection of Christmas gifts, provided by DHS sponsors, will soon be distributed to various youth in the state foster care system.
Man blinded by gunshot earns state achievement award
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – David Cameron of Little Rock, who was suddenly blinded from an accidental gunshot wound, has been named the state’s outstanding Consumer of the Year by the Department of Human Services Division of Services for the Blind (DSB).
Due to his injury, Cameron, formerly from Beebe, lost his job as a plumber. After facing many challenges, he moved to Little Rock to accept a job as an Assembler/Fabricator with Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind. The DSB Board selected him for the achievement award because of his determination to overcome adversity and succeed at work.
Cameron said he was close to becoming a journeyman plumber when a relative, who thought his gun was unloaded, accidentally shot him. The gunshot rendered him totally blind in both eyes. He has experienced some hearing difficulties related to his gunshot wound. Nevertheless, Cameron has a remarkably positive attitude about the accident.
Prior to his selection for the state award, Cameron was one of only 14 people in Arkansas who received area awards. Other area award winners were Angela Felton of West Memphis, staff member, L.R. Jackson Girls Club; Anthony Velte of Conway, staff member, Martinez Chiropractic; Deborah Clark of Helena, teacher, KIPP Delta Public Schools; Edward Howell, Jr., of Fayetteville, sales clerk, Walgreens of Springdale; Elizabeth Davis of Fordyce, cook, Dallas County Medical Center; Dr. Geraldine Buckingham of Pine Bluff, assistant professor, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff ; Laddie Middleton of Locust Grove, shift lead man, Ozark Mountain Poultry in Batesville; Patricia Buggs of El Dorado, nurse, Medical Center of South Arkansas; Robert D. Brown, formerly of Malvern and Texarkana, team leader, Alphapointe of Kansas City; Ronald D. Smith of Fort Smith, customer service representative, Alphapointe of Kansas City; Thomas Tatum of Little Rock, professional painter, SIDECO Inc. of North Little Rock; Sandra Hicks of Texarkana, administrative assistant, DHS Division of County Operations; and two individuals who wish to remain anonymous.
The state award presentation was made December 9, after the DSB Board meeting at a reception honoring the nominees and their employers. Cameron’s employer, Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind, was recognized as the state’s outstanding business partner for its commitment to promoting the employment of persons with vision impairment.
Cameron and his wife Beverly have a son, age 6, and a daughter, age 5. Cameron volunteers at local charity events. His hobbies are karaoke and sports. He is a Razorbacks fan and his favorite NFL team is the Green Bay Packers. A kind doctor provided him with a spare set of prosthetic glass eyes with the team logos; he said when he wears them, people think they’re contact lenses.
This is the ninth year that DSB has given Consumer of the Year awards to recognize individuals who have managed their rehabilitation plans, gained marketable skills, secured good jobs, and become role models for others.
DSB provides vocational rehabilitation services to adults who are blind or severely visually impaired and whose goal is successful employment. The division also serves youth and older blind individuals. For information about DSB’s programs and services, visit the DSB website at http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dsb/Pages/default.aspx or call 1-800-960-9270, 501-682-5463, or TDD 501-682-0093.
Shown in the photo, from the left are: DSB Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Darlene Tucker of Batesville, DSB Board member James Caton of Little Rock, David Cameron of Little Rock, and DSB Board Chairman Terry Sheeler of Fayetteville. Cameron was recognized as the State Consumer of the Year by the Department of Human Services Division of Services for the Blind Board on December 9, at a reception in Little Rock. Cameron’s employer, Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind, was recognized as the state’s outstanding business partner for its commitment to promoting the employment of persons with vision impairment.
Summer Food Program Provider Application Open Feb. 20-April 28
January 5, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Brandi Hinkle, DHS Deputy Chief of Communications
Arkansas Department of Human Services 501-683-5286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer Food Program provider registration begins Feb. 20
The 2017 Arkansas Summer Food Service Program (ASFSP) application opens Feb. 20 for schools and government agencies and March 20 for other potential provider sites. The Department of Human Services (DHS) program provides healthy snacks and meals to children, ensuring children who receive free or reduced lunches during the school year have nutritious weekday meals when school is out.
“Unfortunately, we are tied with Mississippi as the most food insecure state in the nation, with one in five Arkansans suffering from not enough to eat in the last year,” said Tracey Shine, DHS Health and Nutrition program administrator. “We are down to ninth for child hunger, but that’s not good enough. Less than 15 percent of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches during the school year are getting the same high-quality meals in the summer. ”
Last year, three million meals and snacks were provided to children in Arkansas at nearly 700 sites across the state. Youth ages 18 and younger, regardless of age, color, sex, race national origin or disability, and people over 18 who are deemed either mentally or physically handicapped are eligible for assistance. The program is federally-funded at 100 percent by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and therefore all meals and snacks must meet USDA nutritional guidelines.
Typically schools and daycares are summer food program providers, but any public or non-profit summer camps, community centers, churches, government agencies or similar groups can apply. Providers will be asked to supervise the production, distribution and administrative tasks of their site.
Potential ASFSP sponsors must complete an eligibility process that includes training and approval by DHS, USDA, and the Internal Revenue Service. Organizations that qualify for the program will be reimbursed the costs for meals and snacks served.
The application deadline is Friday, April 28. For more details about the program call 501-628-8869 or visit https://dhs.arkansas.gov/dccece/snp/SummerInfoM.aspx to complete the application.
To find sites across the state to assist children and adults in need of free food, Arkansans should visit www.whyhunger.org or call 1-800-5HUNGRY or text their ZIP code to 1-800-548-6479.
A village and divine intervention - A teen adoption nearly eight years in the making
By Keith Metz Children and Family Services Communications Specialist
2,310 days. 24 caseworkers, aides and support staff. Three adoption specialists. One family to say yes. “It Took a Village." These words adorned shirts worn by Arkansas Department of Human Services staff at an emotional adoption finalization hearing Tuesday for a young man who had grown up in foster care and his new family.
Dawn and Brad Bailey had no intention of ever adopting. They were parents to three children, two of whom were in college. Adopting a foster child was never on their mind. All that changed, however, in November 2015 when divine intervention led them to meet a young man named Chase and the dedicated Department staff who had worked so hard to bring him to that point.
It was Thanksgiving 2015, and television station THV11 had just shown a new episode of its “A Place To Call Home” adoption awareness series. This episode focused on a then 15-year-old named Chase, who's now 16. He had been in foster care since 2009 and wanted more than anything to find an adoptive home before he aged out of foster care.
Friends began texting the Baileys.
“Brad was in the woods hunting,” Dawn said, “and two friends texted me about the television show.”
They said there was something about Chase that made them think he’d be a perfect fit in the Bailey family. The next day, another friend texted about the episode and Chase. At this point, Dawn and Brad knew there was something special at work here.
“It really is a God thing how it happened,” Dawn said prior to the adoption. They knew God was calling them to open their home to Chase. They watched the TV special and found Chase’s adoption profile on the Arkansas Heart Gallery (www.adoptarkansas.org) and the Project Zero website (www.theprojectzero.org). They decided that weekend to do whatever it took to adopt Chase.
Adoption Specialist Haley Casey was preparing to board a plane when her phone rang. Chase had been helped by many agency staff during his years in care. They all had supported him as he often struggled with how to process the abuse and abandonment that had brought him into foster care. It had not been easy, but they all had done their part to put Chase in position for success. Haley had gotten calls about Chase before, but each time she detailed his struggles, the families withdrew. Haley expected this call would end similarly.
“The moment Dawn told me she wasn’t afraid of the effort needed to help Chase,” said Haley, “I knew she was the momma I was looking for.”
Chase knew, too. Haley vividly remembers a phone call from Chase where he told her, “I think they’re the one.”
Over 50 people squeezed into the courtroom, and as the hearing concluded lots of laughs, hugs and tears were shared between those who had been at Chase’s side over those 2,310 days. With a final stroke of the judge’s pen, Chase gained a new family … and added a few new members to his village.
Cities, towns recognized for excellence in community service
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Community service is among the ways to preserve the culture, beauty and quality of life of a respective area.
And the importance of Arkansans using their gifts or talents to serve others was on full display Thursday afternoon in the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Statehouse Convention Center.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Community Service and Nonprofit Support (DCSNS), the office of Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Municipal League awarded 12 cities with the Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year Award.
Of the 31 municipalities which applied for COYA, the communities that received the honor were: Benton, Bentonville, Cherokee Village, Clarkridge, Fayetteville, Greenbrier, Heber Springs, Little Rock, Maumelle, McNeil, Mountain Home, and Van Buren. A panel of citizens from across the state served on the selection committee.
“It was an honor to participate in an event that celebrates what makes Arkansas such a special place: its people,” said DCSNS Program Recognition Specialist, Kimberly Simpson. “The Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year Award is about the citizens and a willingness to do their part to assure that their particular town or city is a wonderful place to live.”
At the ceremony, which was held in front of several hundred members of the Arkansas Municipal League (AML), representatives from each of the 12 communities received a commemorative plaque. Additionally, Hutchinson commended members of the AML during a keynote address.
“We’re a state comprised of growing cities, but we’re also comprised of those small communities which are so critical to our state, to our way of life, and to our sense of community,” he said. “You are key to that success and to that (positive) future for our state. Thank you for what you do.”
The DCSNS promotes and supports volunteerism in the private, nonprofit, and governmental sectors as a means of enhancing the quality of life for all Arkansans. Each year, the division recognizes communities that band together in serving its neighbors. Winners typically have overcome obstacles such as limited funding for projects, taking a new approach to an old problem or recovering from natural disasters.
Shown in the photo is Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson addressing members of the Arkansas Municipal League during an event at the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Statehouse Convention Center.
New job training program ‘coming together’ at SEAHDC
By Kev Moyè
WARREN – An expanding opportunity with Kohler Co.’s Sheridan manufacturing facility and clients of the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center (SEAHDC) involving Velcro is coming together.
Typically, Velcro is thought of as a two-piece material that binds an item of clothing together, maybe even a shoe. But a select group of SEAHDC clients are becoming acquainted with an unusual use as they assemble an access panel for certain Kohler toilets.
“Kohler connects the strip to a panel used in wall-mounted toilets often installed in commercial buildings,” said SEAHDC Assistant Superintendent Linda Scales. “A plastic door behind the wall can be pulled down, and it’s held on by the Velcro strips. That way a plumber can come in, take the door off, work and then later Velcro the door back on. The strips that hold the door on are being produced at our center.”
The Warren center is one of five residential Human Development Centers operated by the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services of the Arkansas Department of Human Services for people with developmental disabilities. The smallest of the five, SEAHDC houses on average 100 people who have an intellectual disability and various levels of physical condition, functioning and age.
The Kohler project began in October with an initial order of 7,000 pieces. A small group of clients are involved now, but Scales hopes to see the program grow.
“This type of work develops self-esteem, hand-eye coordination and mathematical skills, as well as teaching clients how to work beside someone,” Scales said. “The environment will allow clients to expand their personal and professional lives through their work as they develop skills that will open doors for some of them to transition into the community at some point.”
The center provides speech, physical and occupational therapies as well as daily living and social skills trainings for its residents to help them become as independent as possible. Its Supported Employment program provides jobs to one of every four residents, with many in the recycling workshop, and has already produced two full orders for Kohler. Recently, residents began a second Kohler project that involves applying decals to the power button of a nightlight toilet seat.
“The clients are very excited about the work,” Scales said. “We’ve always done shredding and recycling, but this is a whole new adventure. And our clients are doing a great job of completing the purchase orders ahead of schedule.”
Center residents are paid based on the number of Velcro strips they produce, which is one of the ways the participants are taught the importance of initiative.
“It gives them the opportunity to learn a trade while it teaches them the responsibility of getting up each morning, going to work, producing a product, going home each day with that satisfaction and getting paid at the end of the week,” Scales said. “We’re so thankful to Kohler for looking to us and providing this opportunity.”
Residents of the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center in Warren work on their independent living skills while completing contract work for the Sheridan manufacturing facility of Kohler Company. The program is one of several across the state’s five residential centers for individuals with intellectual disabilities to help clients learn a trade and become more independent.
About Kohler Co.
Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, Wis., Kohler Co. is one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies comprised of more than 30,000 associates. With more than 50 manufacturing locations worldwide, Kohler is a global leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products; engines and power systems; premier furniture, cabinetry and tile; and owner/operator of two of the world’s finest five-star hospitality and golf resort destinations in Kohler, and St Andrews, Scotland.
About Arkansas Department of Human Services
The mission of the Arkansas Department of Human Services is to improve the quality of life of all Arkansans by protecting the vulnerable, fostering independence and promoting better health through a wide array of services, public assistance programs and licensing and regulatory functions.
Special AmeriCorps team to build, grow gardens at Human Development Centers in Arkansas
Special AmeriCorps team to build, grow gardens
at Human Development Centers in Arkansas
Members of AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps will be working in April, May and June to design, build, plant and harvest community gardens on the grounds of the state’s five Human Development Centers, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Friday.
The residential centers are part of DHS’s Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) and provide therapy, education and workforce opportunities for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental delays to become more independent and enjoy a higher quality of life.
“This project will provide our residents a chance to learn and grow gardens while connecting Corps members with local communities and state social services,” said DDS Director Melissa Stone. “These gardens also will be a practical way to provide workforce training and socialization for residents.”
Stone said the gardens also will increase community access to fresh foods.
The fresh produce will be used at the centers for meals, and residents will sell the surplus at local farmers markets. The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and its network of food pantries across the state have begun encouraging and supporting the construction of community gardens to address hunger and food insecurity in the state.
The handicap accessible design of the center community gardens also will allow others within the community to garden. The centers are partnering with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, GardenCorps and Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention. The National Civilian Community Corps is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18-24 that aims to strengthen communities and develops leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. Drawn from the successful models of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military, AmeriCorps NCCC is built on the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens and that national service programs work effectively with local communities to address pressing needs.
“Because Corps members will work hand-in-hand with selected residents in cultivating the gardens, they will be able to build relationships and understanding of those with disabilities,” Stone said. “Working with a population that can often be seen as different will offer new insight into the abilities, vibrancy, and needs of this community.”
For more information about Arkansas AmeriCorps, contact the DHS Office of Communications and Community Engagement at 501-320-6451 or visit Facebook.com/AmeriCorpsArkansas.
GardenCorps teams have previously worked programs similar to that being developed at the Human Development Centers. In the above photos, volunteers cultivate gardens at local elementary schools.
Governor, Principal Recognize Youth Writers with Special Luncheon
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Deputy Chief of Communications
Governor, Principal Recognize Youth Writers with Special Luncheon
The writing abilities of a select group of students were on full display Friday at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center (AJATC) in Alexander. The Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services (DYS) houses boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 20 who require residential treatment and provides community-based services for many more.
The state’s eight centers provide counseling, treatment and education to residents. As part of the curriculum at the Alexander site, a writing competition focused on diversity was held in February.
Upward of 30 students entered the contest with essays and poems, and five were awarded a special “Lunch With the Principal,” in addition to special recognition by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. On the menu was a tasty treat – meals from Burger King.
“Providing youth in our care with opportunities for success and the tools they need to succeed is a core part of the DYS mission,” said Director Betty Guhman. “These are extremely talented young people who have a lot of potential, and I’m proud of them for earning this recognition from the Governor.”
The governor provided each winning student an official letter of commendation for a job well done. It encouraged the kids to embrace the art of writing, noting how it can change lives and influence the world in a positive manner.
“Receiving a letter from the governor was amazing,” said AJATC Principle Martha Wall-Whitfield. “The students were all very pleased and very proud.”
Governor signs resolution which prompts singing and dancing
With state legislators, the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the mayor of Springdale, Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie, and a large contingent of the Marshallese in attendance – Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed House Concurrent Resolution 1012 on Wednesday afternoon. The resolution was celebrated in what evolved into a festive, joyous gathering.
The resolution instructs DHS to submit a state plan amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide access to Medicaid coverage for migrant children and pregnant women from The Compact of Free Association Islands. The individuals eligible to benefit from the resolution are to have migrated from: The Republic of Palu, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
“This is a legislation that our delegation and the general assembly have worked very hard on,” Hutchinson said. “We recognized how important it was to the Marshallese community.”
The governor also commended the Marshallese for the positive impact they’ve made in Arkansas.
“We’re very proud of the relationship we have with you,” he said. “You’re so much a part of the fabric of the community of Northwest Arkansas.”
The signing concluded with a Marshallese song performed in the native language and dancing in the Governor’s conference room.
DHS celebrates national service
Today the Department of Human Services (DHS) joined mayors, county judges, volunteers and the National Corporation for National and Community Service in celebrating the national service in Arkansas during the 5th annual Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service.
The celebration included government officials, representatives from AmeriCorps State & National offices, VISTA, RSVP, the Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Companions, and City Year.
“It’s important for the citizens of Arkansas to see how many service members are in Arkansas, tutoring youth, building gardens, helping the homeless and so much more,” said Will Roark, Program Administrator for Arkansas Service Commission, which oversees the AmeriCorps programs in Arkansas. “These people are serving Arkansans because they want to improve people’s lives, and you could tell that on their faces today as we recognized them.”
The national service gathering at “Our House” was one of many held across the country.
Opal Sims, the Arkansas State Program Director for the Corporation for National & Community Service, praised how supportive city, county and state governments have been of the federally-funded programs the Corporation oversees.
“This celebration was outstanding. We had over 230 national service members in attendance from all the programs that make-up our portfolio,” she said. “We were honored to have two mayors with us: The mayor of Little Rock Mark Stodala and the mayor of Jacksonville Gary Fletcher. This has been an amazing year for national service. It’s getting bigger and better. The support and recognition for our volunteers just continues to grow.”
Stodala praised national service members for their desire to make a positive societal impact.
“I’m very proud to join over 3,500 mayors from around the country, county officials, and tribal leaders to highlight the impact the volunteers have in improving lives in our city and state,” he said. “I know I speak for all mayors and county officials when I say that your service is indispensable.
“Charge on. You’re making a real life, real-world change in the lives of people right here in Arkansas.”
Established in 1994, AmeriCorps engages more than 80,000 Americans in intensive service each year at 21,600 sites – including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the nation.
To remain abreast of events, and outreach opportunities – you can follow the national service programs on social media.
Facebook: National Service | AmeriCorps | Senior Corps
Governor Wraps Up National Volunteer Week with First Family Challenge
As part of National Volunteer Week (April 23-29), Governor Asa Hutchinson and First Lady Susan Hutchinson issued a “First Family Challenge”, encouraging all able Arkansans to volunteer 10 hours over the next 12 months. Hutchinson recently announced the challenge at CareLink Meals on Wheels as part of the launch of a new website, www.VolunteerAR.org, and social media hashtag #Volunteer10.
“We’re going to volunteer, and we’re challenging all of you to volunteer as well. We’re doing it as a first family,” he said. “We’re also volunteering in the governor’s office. We all are engaged in it and supporting it.
“We want to challenge each of you to participate in this spirit of volunteerism for Arkansas. We can get more accomplished by working together than any other way possible.”
The new website provides Arkansans with a central way to find volunteer opportunities; assists nonprofits in Arkansas in the recruitment of volunteers to address critical social issues; tracks volunteer and community engagement; educates the public about critical social issues and attainable outcomes; and promotes volunteerism and community engagement statewide.
The portal also will serve as a central location where public assistance beneficiaries on programs with a work or volunteer requirement, such as SNAP, can find opportunities to serve and track their hours of service.
The website was developed by the Department of Human Services Office of Communications and Community Engagement in partnership with HandsOn Connect and the Arkansas Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
“I like the website," Hutchinson said. "It makes it easy to find community service options and figure out where you want to volunteer. We want everyone to participate. Everybody can do something.”
The Governor also challenged state agencies, businesses, faith organizations, and other groups across the state to participate by pledging 10 volunteer hours for each employee or member, which is less than one hour per-person, per-month. In response to that call, more than 140,000 volunteer hours have already been pledged. According to the national organization Independent Sector, one volunteer hour in Arkansas is valued at $19.66, making the pledges announced today worth more than $2.7 million.
Director Cindy Gillespie has pledged the agency's 7,500 employees will commit to 75,000 volunteer hours over the next year. Other organizations pledging hours include
• Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield
• Arkansas Children’s Hospital – 2,500
• Arkansas Department of Education – 3,750
• Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality -350
• Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration – 25,000
• Arkansas Department of Health – 2,000
• Arkansas Department of Human Services – 75,000
• Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism – 8,000
• Arkansas Department of Workforce Services – 8,250
• Arkansas Economic Development Commission – 1,000
• Arkansas Health and Wellness – 1,250
• Arkansas Insurance Department – 1,710
• Arkansas State Police – 9,480
• Ascent Children’s Health Services – 1,000
• Baptist Health – 1,210
• CareLink – 1,000
• Geographic Information Services -100
• KARK Channel 4
• Millcreek Behavioral Health – 500
• Office of Medicaid Inspector General - 300
• Office of the Governor – 500
• UA Little Rock
“With this many hours pledged, volunteers can truly transform this state, and DHS is happy to be a part of that effort,” Gillespie said. “Our agency is full of public servants who want to affect positive change for their communities and neighbors, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.”
The agency will continue to take pledges and encourages organizations to upload volunteer opportunities.
“We need organizations that need volunteers," Gillespie said. "It doesn’t matter if the organization is faith based, non-profit, or whether you are a government agency. We need you to put your volunteer opportunities on the website; short term and long term.”
At the end of the challenge in April 2018, the organizations with the most volunteer hours served will be honored. Organizations wishing to pledge should send an email to volunteerAR@dhs.arkansas.gov. In order for hours to be counted toward an organization’s pledge goal, employees/members must register at www.VolunteerAR.org and log their hours on the site.
DHS, Community Partners Rally for Child Abuse Prevention
As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and several community partners recently rallied on the steps of the Capitol to bring awareness to the issue. There are 5,172 children in foster care in Arkansas due to neglect, or physical or sexual abuse.
“It takes our communities working together with government to solve an issue as complex as child abuse, and we in Arkansas have some amazing community partners working with us to prevent abuse,” DCFS Director Mischa Martin told the crowd that had gathered. “That is why our theme for today is building hope, building communities.”
Many people at the rally held up blue pinwheels, which is a symbol used across the country to represent child abuse prevention. Child abuse can include physical or sexual abuse, inadequate food, exposure to violent environments, medical neglect, and psychological abuse. In 2016, Arkansas received 35,493 calls to the Child Abuse Hotline reporting suspected abuse. Of those reports, DCFS and the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police confirmed 10,117 children were victims of some type of abuse or neglect.
Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson, DHS Director Cindy Gillespie and Second Chance Youth Ranch Operations Co-Director Rachel Hubbard also spoke at the rally, emphasizing the importance of community partners that work in Arkansas with the child welfare system. Community partners who were holding large puzzle pieces with their logos on them stood on the step next to the speakers to symbolize how it takes many organizations working together to prevent child abuse and support families so we can end cycles of abuse and neglect.
Child maltreatment occurs in all types of families and communities, rich or poor, with no respect for socioeconomic status, race, or educational levels. However, studies show that parents and caregivers who have support from family, friends and their community are more likely to provide safe and healthy homes for their children. Martin said one core component of prevention is focusing on strengthening families, because parents who lack those resources or feel isolated may be more likely to make poor decisions that can lead to neglect or abuse.
Protective factors that have been linked to lower incidence of child abuse and neglect:
*Concrete supports for parents. Parents need basic resources such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and access to essential services that address family-specific needs.
*This can include things such as child care, health care for children and caregivers, and mental health services.
*Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development. Parents who understand how children grow and develop can provide an environment where children can live up to their potential.
*Social connections. Trusted and caring family, friends provide emotional support to parents by offering encouragement and assistance in facing the daily challenges of raising a family.
For more information, visit www.stoparchildabuse.com or www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, report it to the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964 . If there is immediate danger, call 911.
DYS Hosts “Youth On the Rise” Job Fair at Alexander Facility
ALEXANDER – Among the chief goals for the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Youth Services (DYS) is to help youth in the system, successfully transition back into their respective communities.
That tenet was on full display recently at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center (AJATC) in Alexander, as the fourth annual “Youth On the Rise” job fair was held.
“The job fair was awesome. The students were receptive to the information that the employers had for them,” said DYS Vocational Manager, Antoniette Thomas. “It was truly a great event.”
DYS houses boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 20 who require residential treatment. The state’s eight centers provide counseling, treatment, and education to residents. One of the options available for students of the Alexander facility is to meet with potential employers, with plans to expand the successful job fairs to the division’s other facilities around the state.
During her address to the students, DYS Director Betty Guhman referenced the significance of developing the right perspective about what lies ahead.
“You will eventually leave us and return to your communities. You’ll strive to graduate from high school or get a GED,” she said. “And you will then search for job opportunities. So we have a goal to assure that while you’re with us, you understand the importance of properly planning your future.”
The keynote speaker of “Youth On the Rise” was Pastor Perry Black of Family Church Bryant. He detailed the hard work it took to overcome the turmoil of his own youth to eventually become a community leader. Black passionately urged the youth to believe in their ability to make a positive societal impact.
“You’re valuable. I want you to believe in you,” said Black, who’s also the founder of Second Chance Youth Ranch. “I care about you – and your instructors care about you. They all want what’s best for you.”
There were also nine vendors in attendance. Representatives from those companies spoke with students, issued pamphlets, and provided one-on-one advice on how to either gain employment or enroll in college.
“We are so grateful for the members of our community who came out to support our students,” said AJATC Principal Martha Wall-Whitfield.
Overall, “Youth On the Rise” perfectly embodied one of the primary precepts of DYS.
“Our mission is to always give the students information so when they transition from DYS, they have jobs or career opportunities available to them,” Thomas said.
Cutline: In the photo, Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services Director Betty Guhman provides words of encouragement for youths in attendance at the recent "Youth On the Rise" job fair held at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment Treatment Center (AJATC).
Division of Youth Services enjoys quality union with Rite of Passage
ALEXANDER – The Department of Human Services (DHS) partnership with Rite of Passage is an ideal model of a successful union between a public agency and private organization.
ROP – which operates the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center on behalf of the Division of Youth Services – uses the concept of normalcy to holistically treat AJATC clients. While at the center, students are taught the importance of empathy, integrity and work ethic while obtaining an accredited education and the judgment skills needed to excel upon transitioning to their home community.
"What many people don't realize is that our students are just kids,” said AJATC Principal Dr. Martha Wall-Whitfield. “They crave the normalcy of simple things like changing classes, eating ice cream, and engaging in sports after school.”
The center, located in Alexander, is one of eight residential juvenile treatment programs in Arkansas. Governed by the DHS Division of Youth Services (DYS), the juvenile assessment treatment centers are for youth who have committed a serious offense. After youth complete their treatment at the facility, they return home to their communities while receiving aftercare services to help ensure a successful transition.
Working in collaboration with DYS, ROP has focused on creating an environment akin to that of a traditional school.
"We're happy with the things they're doing, providing mentorship and positive role models for the youth,” said Adam Baldwin, DYS Manager for System Reform. “They're focused on normalcy and treating the youth as students instead of inmates. It's called Strength Based Programming and research shows it’s critical to successful rehabilitation of justice-involved youth.”
In regard to healthy, beneficial relationships, there’s a solid rapport between ROP employees and the students. Instead of the youths being under the surveillance of guards, they’re surrounded by mentors and coaches. The center also offers intramural activities such as: soccer, basketball, flag football, and cheerleading.
"Anything that supports healthy, positive relationships as part of a larger group, these kinds of things are good for kids," Baldwin says. “Normalcy is the most important thing. It shouldn't feel like a jail. It should feel like a school."
ROP fuses athletics into the treatment as a method of helping students learn valuable lessons about teamwork and developing healthy, positive relationships – something many of them need help doing, which is often what brings them into the juvenile justice system to begin with. Youths at DYS facilities across the state are also able to take the ACT or GED and enroll in various vocational programming.
Wall-Whitfield recognizes the importance of providing a safe, normalized environment for youth as a foundation that will help them to learn and overcome problematic behaviors.
“Sadly – for some of our kids – this is the first time ever that they’ve been fed regularly and have had a safe place to sleep or shower,” she said. “These kids are survivors and they deserve the best we have to offer, which are the tools to create a better life.”
“There can't be a totally separate environment that doesn't connect with the outside world,” Baldwin said. “That’s because youth in our facilities are eventually going home and we want our programs to teach them how to be successful in the real world.”
Cutline: In the photo, Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center Principal Dr. Martha Wall-Whitfield presents a Rite of Passage shirt to Perry Black, pastor of Family Church Bryant, after he provided a motivational address to a group of AJATC students.
90 Arkansas foster children are recognized for reaching academic milestone
The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) recognized 90 foster youth Wednesday during the 2017 Education Achievement Ceremony held at Fellowship Bible Church.
The celebration paid tribute to the youths for defeating the odds and showcased the value of perseverance.
Each of the individuals honored have recently graduated or will soon graduate from high school. Or, they’ve earned a GED this year.
For Arlinda McDaniel, a graduate of Arkansas Christian Academy in Bryant, the ceremony was another reminder of how life has a way of working out – if the proper decisions are made.
“Once I accepted who I was and moved forward with my life, that made a big difference. Had I not done that, I’d still be stuck where I was,” she acknowledged. “I used my past homelife as an excuse to not do my best. The turning point was coming to Second Chance Youth Ranch and having a family that was willing to push me to succeed.”
Second Chance Youth Ranch, located in Paron, is a faith-based program designed for youth in foster care who are in need of a safe, stable environment. McDaniel, who is among the most recent success stories of from the ranch, will attend Christ for the Nations Institute in Texas this fall.
“I plan on going into youth ministry, but I’m also keeping my mind open on my major,” she said. “I’m going to keep my mind open for whatever God calls me to.”
Among the people who addressed McDaniel and her fellow honorees was Phyllis Bell, Senior Advisor on Child Welfare and Intern Director for the Governor’s Office, Bandi Hartsfield, the Arkansas Youth Advisory Board President, Milton Graham, DCFS Area 6 Director, and Jo Thompson, former DCFS employee and current SHARE Chief Operations Officer.
As the keynote speaker of the event, Thompson emphasized the importance of being responsible and striving for success.
“I know that it wasn’t easy, but you did it,” she enthusiastically told the graduates. “You’re winning. You’re winning for yourself. You’re winning for those around you. And you’re winning for the people who are following behind you.
“You remained focused on finishing your high school education. You focused – and you did it.”
The graduates deserve praise for the positive examples they’ve set, said Kandis Romes, DCFS Transitional Youth Services Program Specialist.
“It’s important to hold this Educational Achievement Ceremony,” Romes said. “We love to recognize our youth in foster care and show them a lot of people care about their well-being and are proud of the accomplishments they’ve made.”
McDaniel expressed gratitude for DCFS and the community partners who were involved with the ceremony.
“It feels great to be recognized. A lot of people place negative stereotypes on foster children,” she said. “They assume that foster children are the bad kids who will not do anything positive in life. So being recognized for doing well is really cool.”
DCFS is responsible for child abuse and neglect prevention, in addition to protective, foster care, and adoptive programs. For more information about the foster care system in Arkansas or to begin the application process to become a foster family, visit FosterArkansas.org or call 501-682-8770.
To get a complete list of DCFS programming, visit http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dcfs/Pages/default.aspx.
Cutline: Jo Thompson - the keynote speaker of 2017 Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services Education Achievement Ceremony - passionately addresses the honorees.
Johnson leads quest to fund cancer research
Christi Johnson becomes emotional when referencing why the American Cancer Society is so important.
Unfortunately, like too many people, Johnson’s life has been impacted by cancer. Thus, she receives a sense of fulfillment when leading the numerous activities of the Conway chapter of ACS.
“Cancer has affected me personally,” she said.
The aforementioned statement primarily details why Johnson is dedicated to making sure that the Conway chapter of ACS is thriving.
Johnson was recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
Due to her relentless efforts while leading the Conway ACS, Johnson has garnered a lot of attention from individuals throughout Central Arkansas. She knows that the dedication of ACS volunteers and having a surplus of funds for research, are major keys to eliminating a disease that has touched so many families.
“Christi is a committed advocate for the American Cancer Society,” said OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator Kim Simpson. “She’s chair of the celebrity waiter event, yet she also goes into the Conway community and finds the time to collect contributions from several area businesses.”
Fundraising for the ACS is often Johnson’s primary volunteer focus.
“With the cancer society, it’s about raising money so we can hopefully provide a cure and provide services for cancer patients,” she says.
Johnson – who is the COO of Capital Investments of Conway, LLC, and Keller Johnson Construction – rarely receives an opportunity to relax. Her presence is typically in demand. But she remains afloat due to knowing this mission is about saving lives and preserving families.
“Sometimes I get worn down,” she admitted. “But when I see the rewards from an ACS event and the impact it makes, that helps. But I just have to pray. And God continues to give me the strength.
“We all pray for those that we are fighting for, that one day there will be a cure. It's not easy but God has seen us through for several years now and I know he will continue to give us the strength to keep fighting.”
Johnson is grateful for the help and recognition she has received.
“It feels great knowing that I have such a wonderful support system – which includes my family especially,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my family and the committee, I don’t know if I could do what I do.”
Ellis is a respected presence in Benton
Participating in volunteer efforts gives Selena Ellis great joy.
In fact, fulfilling the needs of others is far more than the occasional act of kindness for Ellis. Serving her fellow residents of Benton is a way of life.
“I just can’t get volunteering out of my system. It’s just there,” Ellis said. “It makes me happy. I like to see things improve. Volunteering keeps me active. It keeps me involved. It keeps me sharp.”
Ellis was raised in a household where following Christian principles and being a positive presence in the community was expected. Doing your part to improve the community is a concept that all people should embrace, according to Ellis.
Among her church activities are: president of the Episcopal Church Women, executive council of ECW, serving as the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Sunday School Superintendent and Sunday School teacher. Outside of church, Ellis volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, is a charter board member of the Royal Players Community Theatre, and is a widely respected master gardener.
Ellis was recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
Ellis is an active member of Benton’s arts community. She’s always enthusiastic about her volunteer work with the historic Royal Theatre.
Ellis’ willingness to assist the theatre and participate in several other endeavors, has resulted in her becoming an adored resident of the Saline County city.
“Selena Ellis is an amazing woman and loves giving back to the community of Benton,” said OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator Kim Simpson. “Selena’s drive and dedication only means that even more great things are forthcoming for the city of Benton.”
A visionary who often thinks of the long-term status of Benton, Ellis is also an advocate of youth volunteerism. She’s not coy when encouraging youth to become active in their community.
“It’s wonderful to have the youth involved in volunteering,” she says. “Also, there’s a correlation between young people who are regulars in volunteering being able to stay out of trouble.”
One of the ways to cater wholesale change is for the people to unite and strive to create an improved living environment, according to Ellis.
“Everyone who volunteers contributes to making the world better,” she stated. “If everyone was to volunteer, together we could make the world a much better place as a whole.”
Cutline: Ellis, on the far left, speaks with a group of Benton community leaders during a meeting outside the Royal Theatre.
Welch uses the arts to help individuals with developmental disabilities
Peyton Welch is adamant about assisting individuals with developmental disabilities.
“Knowing that what you do is important, it makes a difference,” Welch said. “When you focus on positive things, you’ll make a difference in the lives of others and your life will change as well.”
For Welch, he uses acting classes to provide a form of mental development for clients of Easter Seals of Arkansas Center for Training and Wellness.
At the center, Welch teaches a Drama Therapy course.
“What I try to focus on is the things we can do instead of the limitations and restrictions,” he stated. “Sometimes people focus too much on what they don’t have. They should actually focus more on what they do have. And that’s a big part of my teaching.”
Welch was recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
A personal tenet Welch adheres to is: Living with hope, creativity, and personal worth – despite one’s disability.
Welch developed the belief due to having his aspirations of being a big-time actor momentarily subdued because of Epilepsy. Welch, when in Los Angles pursing his career, suffered several Epileptic seizures. He had brain surgery in 2011 and a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted in 2013.
“It’s beautiful how Peyton doesn’t allow his ailment to suppress the passion he has for acting and giving back to the community,” Kimberly Simpson, OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator said. “Peyton’s perseverance and compassion is impressive.”
Following his brain surgery, Welch – who’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in Drama Therapy from Kansas State University – focused on ways he could help the community. So he conducted an internet search and that’s how he discovered KSU’s Drama Therapy program. He later attended a Drama Therapy conference in Yosemite National Park. It was during that event in which Welch opted to become immersed in Drama Therapy.
“I sat in on the classes and learned how people used Drama Therapy with individuals who have special needs,” he said. “That’s when it clicked for me that I could use theater to help change people’s lives.”
Everett family is committed to serving Saline County
The Everett family has developed a true community presence in Saline County.
Susie and Dwight Everett - owners of Everett Buick/GMC in Benton - have established a reputation for being a champion of community activism.
“It’s a huge priority,” said Lacey Brooks, Everett Buick/GMC Community Relations chair. “Our owners are very active in the community and wanted their company to be the same way.”
The Everetts were recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
“The Everett family has a well-established track record for being active in the community,” said OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator, Kim Simpson. “They’re generous in using their resources to serve the citizens of Saline County.”
A family that prides itself on Christian values, the Everetts are in fellowship with numerous civic groups.
Mrs. Everett is on the Saline Memorial Health Foundation Board and is affiliated with the Christian Community Care Clinic. She also teaches Sunday school and vacation bible school at her home. Meanwhile, the Everett’s daughters are involved in numerous activities which provide mentorship for the youth.
“They truly care about the community,” Brooks said. “They love Saline County and Central Arkansas as a whole.”
And yes, the employees of Buick/GMC are also encouraged to give back to the community. Several of the staff members volunteer for various organizations. Additionally, Everett Buick/GMC participates in the Relay for Life making table decorations for the banquet, or by having staff in the actual walk.
“Our owners are big on giving money, but they also emphasize to us being present at events and helping out. They want us to be active in volunteering our time as well,” Brooks said.
In regard to donations, several of Saline County’s civic organizations and youth athletic programs have received handsome financial contributions from Everett Buick/GMC. The Everett family credits the people of Saline County for helping them remain closely connected to the community.
“What we do is only possible because of the customers we have,” Brooks stated. “We always have customers refer us to great volunteer opportunities.”
Sisters convert heartbreak into a unique civic organization
Through an unexpected loss, a beautiful program was created.
“It’s a total God-thing,” Sarah Adams said. “He has had his hand on this situation from day one.”
The “situation” Adams referenced is Mamie’s Poppy Plates. She, along with her sister Britney Spees, founded the organization not long after a tragedy occurred.
“There are a lot of hurting people who want to recognize their children,” Spees said. “Through Mamie’s … God has given us creative ideas and surrounded us with talented people to provide the outlet so many parents need.”
What is the recognition of children in which Spees alluded to?
The loss of an infant.
At 37 ½ weeks into Adams’ pregnancy, doctors were unable to detect the heartbeat of her daughter Mamie. Sarah gave birth to Mamie, who was stillborn, hours later.
After she returned home, Adams found an ornament designed for Mamie’s footprints. At that moment she had an epiphany, and the mission of Mamie’s Poppy Plates was in full bloom.
The plates provide a lasting memory for parents who endure the stillbirth of an infant or the loss of a child. Various people volunteering their services and providing finances, help to keep the organization running. Through generous support from the community, Mamie's now has a presence in hospitals statewide and is slowly expanding beyond the borders of Arkansas.
The plates are a unique and highly sentimental way to both honor the life, and deal with the death of a child.
“When it first happened, I felt so alone,” Adams said. “But through Mamie’s Poppy Plates, it’s been great healing for me. It’s been a pleasure being a helpful ear to families who are grieving. We’ve also realized that a lot of moms who are grieving have found comfort in coming here and helping us by participating in our volunteer nights.”
“This is just a way to remember Mamie and also help people,” Adams said. “Helping people is what we’ve been called to do. I feel like that’s the reason Mamie existed.”
Adams and Spees were recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
Spees – Adams’ older sister – is comforted in knowing that Mamie’s Poppy Plates provides heartbroken people with a source of hope and comfort.
“Grief is such a taboo subject, especially with parents who have lost children,” Spees said. “But there are so many people touched by the loss of a baby … unfortunately.”
The sisters’ generosity and goodwill toward parents who have lost a young child is a beautiful act of humanity.
“Dealing with the loss of a baby, and turning it into a civic service program like Mamie’s Poppy Plates is an admirable act,” said Kim Simpson, OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator. “The work of Britney and Sarah is heartwarming.”
Two social workers strive to assist foster teens
Eric and Kara Gilmore decided it was their job to be the change they desired.
As a result, the lives of several people have been impacted in a positive manner.
“My wife and I couldn’t pretend that we didn’t see what we saw," Mr. Gilmore said. "We felt compelled to do something about it.”
But what exactly did the Gilmores witness?
“We’ve had some situations where we got to establish a bond with some of the youth who aged out of foster care that became homeless or endured different crises,” Mr. Gilmore said.
For the Gilmores, who both have experience as social workers, remaining idle was no longer an option.
Therefore, they established Immerse Arkansas.
The organization's goal is to fill gaps in the child welfare system.
Immerse Arkansas teaches teens in foster care how to live in an economically, socially, and spiritually responsible manner. The group also assists youths who were victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The Gilmores were recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
"Eric and Kara do outstanding work through Immerse Arkansas," said Kimberly Simpson, OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator. "The Gilmores are to be applauded for their overall dedication to a special cause."
One development in particular got the wheels in motion for the founding of the program, which currently has four homes, two for girls and two for boys.
“There was a young woman we met while being house parents at a group home," Mr. Gilmore said. "On her 18th birthday she was dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in North Little Rock.
"All she had was a bag of clothes, one night’s worth of her medication, and a one-way ticket to Fort Smith to live with some bio-family members she hadn’t seen since she was 12."
The Gilmores gave the young lady the few dollars they had in their pockets and some food.
That occurrence prompted the Gilmores to establish an initiative that would provide guidance for people who were close to aging out of the foster care system. And in August of 2010, Immerse Arkansas received its first clients.
Soon after, the Gilmores faith was tested.
“It was hard at first, within five months it kind of blew up on us," Mr. Gilmore said. "We didn’t know what we were doing.”
However, through perseverance, modifying the goals, and receiving community support, the Gilmores corrected their mistakes. For that reason Immerse Arkansas is now going strong.
Cooper promotes the importance of gardening
Beau Cooper uses an activity he enjoys to address a major void in the community.
Cooper is a devoted gardener. A former AmeriCorps Arkansas GardenCorps member, Cooper is dedicated to helping people and organizations plant gardens.
“It’s very important to be involved in the community and do what you can to give back,” he said.
Cooper was recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
Understanding that unhealthy eating options can cause a person several issues, Cooper is a staunch proponent of homegrown produce.
“Having a well-balanced meal is something I’ve always thought was important. There are a lot of people who don’t know the basics of healthy eating,” he said. “I’ve always supported environmental awareness and being a good steward of the planet. There’s definitely a relationship between a better environment and foods that are grown in a garden.”
Being a part of the Fit 2 Live community garden campaign was an eye-opening experience, Cooper added.
“It felt great to get involved with the community through Fit 2 Live. It was good for me to learn how different people and different organizations approached the issue of food deserts, hunger, and nutrition education. People came to us as members of Fit 2 Live to put in community gardens to solve those issues.”
Cooper, a respected gardener, is often called upon to create a garden’s plan, infrastructure, irrigation system, and its growing calendars. Additionally, he led the Reaching Our Children and Neighborhoods (ROCAN) afterschool program. Through ROCAN, Cooper introduced gardening skills to youth from low-income backgrounds. Cooper has also conducted a six-week healthy cooking class at the North Little Rock Boys and Girls Club, and the Laman Library Argenta Branch.
“Beau is the perfect example of how to use a special skill to assist in the well-being of others,” said OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator Kimberly Simpson. “Beau is adamant about making sure the residents in his community have access to healthy eating options.”
The grandchild of a 1978 CSA honoree, Cooper has participated in community service his entire life. Cooper is humbled by the positive attention he receives for doing something he loves.
“It’s a big honor for me to be recognized just as my grandmother did,” he said. “Those are definitely big shoes to fill.”
Roberson proves you’re never too young to make a difference
As just a pre-teen Alexis Roberson has become an esteemed resident of Craighead County.
In fact Roberson, who helped to establish the Kindness Konnection civic group, is so respected that she has a day in her honor. Yes – that's correct. In Caraway, there's an officially declared Alexis Roberson Day.
“I'm proud that my community recognized what I was doing," Roberson says. "Having a day named after me, I am delighted. I’m just 12 years old.”
In regard to Kindness Konnection, it’s a means to provide aid for citizens of Caraway and the surrounding communities.
“Kindness Konnection is a group that goes around and helps people in need," Roberson said. "I have a partner who helps me collect donations and also deliver them.”
Alexis' parents, David and Kathy Roberson, are pleased with their daughter's passion for assisting individuals who are in need.
“Alexis has been taught to try and always provide help for people who need assistance," Mrs. Roberson said.
Roberson was recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
An avid reader, Alexis enjoys being a source of hope in her community.
Some of her charitable acts include: distributing box fans to senior citizens, providing survivor kits for local first responders, and she once collected coloring books and crayons for a friend who eventually passed away. Ultimately, as several people and organizations began to help with the project – over 1,400 coloring books and 498 boxes of crayons were collected and donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Additionally, during the holiday season she leads a toy drive in order to provide gifts for youths who may not receive anything for Christmas.
She's been active in the flood relief efforts of 2017, providing various items for the effected residents of Northeast Arkansas.
"Alexis recognizing the needs of her community, and then finding ways to address those issues at just the age of 12 is awesome," said Kimberly Simpson, OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator. "We can all learn from the selflessness and initiative that Alexis exudes."
Alexis' generosity is a byproduct of her wanting to simply put a smile on the faces of all people.
“We’re very proud of all that she does," Mrs. Roberson said. "She just loves to help people.”
Phillips’ leadership has helped to shape Lake View
Virgie Phillips’ impact in the town of Lake View is impossible to ignore.
The community has benefited immensely from the multifaceted contributions of Phillips.
“It’s important to be involved in community service,” she said. “Certain things which take place should make you want to get involved and make improvements to your community.”
Phillips – a golden member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc. – is part of the Lake View Ladies Fire Auxiliary, Alumni Association of Lake View, and serves as president of the Nancy Profitt Federated Women’s Club. A member of Pettis Memorial Church, Phillips is chair of the Lake View Clinic Board of Directors, and established the annual county-wide Health Awareness Program.
She also spearheaded a successful effort to convince state lawmakers to allow the buildings from the now defunct Lake View School District, to be officially placed in the control of Lake View residents.
Phillips was recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
“Phillips’ remarkable leadership and love for her townspeople are clearly evident,” said Kimberly Simpson, OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator. “She’s dedicated to helping her fellow residents of Lake View have access to a life of happiness and comfort.”
Unfortunately, Phillips experienced a tragedy when her son, Dr. Fredrick Phillips unexpectedly died due to Sleep Apnea at the age of 34. To her credit, she uses the heartbreaking development to enlighten the general public about the dangers of Sleep Apnea.
“My husband and I decided to do an annual event in honor of our son,” she said. “We have people from Mississippi and throughout the Arkansas delta who attend the event. We truly want to make people aware of Sleep Apnea and educate everyone about respiratory issues.”
A retired educator, who spent 45 years in the classroom, being inactive is not in Phillips’ DNA.
“I was always taught, live for something,” she says. “My son advised me to retire to something, instead of retiring from something. That’s always stuck with me.”
In regard to the youth, though she’s no longer a teacher, Phillips’ vigor for teaching and influencing the leaders of tomorrow has not waned.
“I’ve always encouraged the students to seek opportunities to help someone,” she said. “I always want the young people to know there’s hope. I want them to continue to make strides in the right direction.”
Reunification and Redemption: Rosie
June is National Reunification Month, and we want to share a reunification “success story” from our colleagues in Baxter County in north central Arkansas. It is a story defined by struggles, setbacks, hard work, commitment, mercy and ultimately, redemption. This is Rosie’s story.
Looking back now, Rosie barely recognizes the person she was a few years ago. She abused methamphetamine and stayed in a marriage with a violent man. Her 7-year-old daughter, Chelsea, suffered as a result – no supervision, no stability and no consistency. The Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Arkansas became involved. For weeks, workers offered Rosie help in an effort to keep Chelsea at home – consistent discussions with the family about the risk being created by the drug use and ways to cope with stress other than using drugs, as well as an assessment for drug treatment. However, Rosie could not overcome her addiction, and Chelsea had to be placed in foster care to ensure her safety.
Current DCFS Area 5 Program Administrator Chuck Hurley was a new caseworker in Baxter County at the time, and he was assigned to Rosie and Chelsea’s case. He remembers the family very well. “Rosie had her struggles along the way,” Chuck recalls. Rosie refused the inpatient drug treatment she needed and chose outpatient treatment instead. After she completed her outpatient program in July 2013, she relapsed a day later. “She still had a lot of deception and instability in her life.”
But Chuck felt Rosie had the ability to be a great parent, so he continued to support her in her recovery and put her in position to get Chelsea back. “He always believed in me,” Rosie noted, “and there were many times he didn’t have much reason to. I couldn’t have asked for a better caseworker.”
At Chuck’s urging, Rosie entered a new inpatient drug treatment program in September 2013, eight months after Chelsea had entered foster care. This time, Chelsea was able to live with her mom while she received treatment. Rosie stopped using drugs. She replaced her old friends with a new, positive support system, including a new boyfriend and his extended family. Rosie also discovered her faith.
“If you really want to turn your life around, you need to make changes – get a great support system, find a good church, trust your caseworker,” Rosie commented. “But the most important thing is to have faith in God and know He will pull you out of any situation.”
Rosie completed treatment in early 2014 and her new support system helped her find a job, an apartment and furniture and a car. Chuck was steadfast in his belief in Rosie, and she recognized the gifts she had been given – sobriety, support, and a second chance as a mother. She was determined not to waste this opportunity.
Over the next few months, Chuck could see that Rosie was ready to be a great parent without his help any longer. Rosie remained clean and away from any bad influences, she maintained a job as a dog groomer that she loved and was very good at, and she and Chelsea were healthy and happy and surrounded by people who loved and supported them. In the summer of 2014, the court agreed that Rosie had done everything it and Chuck had asked of her and that she was more than prepared to safely and appropriately parent Chelsea, and it closed the case. But the story doesn’t end there.
Rosie has been employed at the same business for three years and has received a number of promotions with increasing responsibility. She still has her own apartment and car. Chelsea is now a thriving 12-year-old young lady with fantastic grades and plenty of friends. Most importantly, Rosie has remained clean and sober.
Chuck and Rosie have remained close, and this weekend he’ll have another opportunity to support Rosie – he’ll attend her wedding to the boyfriend who has been beside her the whole way, along with his whole family.
Rosie is in a great place and is ready to share her strength with others in the same position she was in back in 2012. She and Chuck are collaborating to establish a parent mentor program in Baxter County. “I would love to help parents break the addiction cycle,” said Rosie, “and show them that it is possible and share my story with them.”
We hope they listen, Rosie. Your story of reunification and redemption is one we’re proud to help you tell.
Randolph County staff showcases mettle during a tough situation
The dedication, resourcefulness, and resiliency of staff from the Department of Human Services (DHS) Randolph County office is being tested.
And much to the delight of many, they’ve excelled while dealing with a major inconvenience.
“We’re just working hard as usual,” said Brenda Poindexter, Randolph County Administrator.
Last month, a series of rain showers flooded several communities in Northeast Arkansas. The Randolph County office is located in the town of Pocahontas, one of the areas ravaged by the floods.
The office sits in close proximity to the Black River. In fact, its banks are visible from the office. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the building has been flooded. It was also overwhelmed by waters from the Black River in 2011. It took six months for the facility to reopen for business.
To assure that staff would be properly prepared if the waters ever rose to a similar height, county staff created a flood evacuation plan and included it in the county procedures plan. Additionally, staff has been encouraged to closely monitor the weather and river levels. The employee observations typically begin in March.
“About a week-and-a-half before this flood I had a staff meeting,” Poindexter said. “We addressed exactly when to have items out of the office, and when to contact the supervisors of the various divisions for direction as to where they would be housed. Milissa Gentry, county administrator for the Lawrence County office, also started developing a plan for how to accommodate the Randolph County staff, if the flood occurred. We had it all set. Staff was excellent. Everybody knew their responsibility and they took care of it.”
Some staff members worked on Sunday to process case actions to ensure that clients were properly served, and to also make sure the processing of case actions was timely.
Nevertheless, the plan was accompanied by a small dose of anxiety. In fact, on the day of the evacuation, Lawrence County staff along with family members assisted Randolph County in moving essential items to the Lawrence County office.
“It was chaotic and nerve wracking, but we all get along well and work well together so that made it easier,” Andrea Jennings, Randolph County Program Eligibility Specialist said. “But we were much better prepared for it this time.”
Currently, there’s no timetable for when the office will be ready to resume normal operations.
In the meantime, several staff members are working out of a single room in the Lawrence County DHS which is located in nearby Walnut Ridge. Two of the employees are also working out of the Craighead County office. Meanwhile, a satellite office has been created in Pocahontas, where Randolph County clients can drop off important paperwork.
“We’ve processed lots of applications from people who lost food in the floods,” Jennings stated.
Overall, the work is constant; the burden immense, but Randolph County staff has still shined bright.
“This has been challenging. We’re sitting on top of each other,” Poindexter said. “We’re trying to work. It’s been tough on Lawrence County also. They now have 20 additional staff being there. But the staff is doing a wonderful job.”
The 40th annual CSA celebrates benevolence in Arkansas
Volunteers have a vital role in both preserving and enhancing the well-being of their community.
Some of Arkansas’ most compassionate volunteers were recently recognized during the 40th annual Community Service Awards.
Sponsored by the Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism – the 2017 CSA was an event celebrating a group of individuals who embrace the idea of being active in the community.
“The need for public-private partnerships is critical in order to address the social issues of our state. The Governor’s Commission on National Service and Volunteerism and the Office of Communications and Community Engagement serve as the catalysts, connecting citizens with service,” said Shana Chaplin, Deputy Chief of Community Engagement and Faith-based Partnerships. “The Community Service Awards afford the opportunity to model public-private partnerships, as the Governor’s Commission, DHS and KARK work together to celebrate some of the shining volunteers serving our communities.”
This year’s CSA honorees were: Christie Johnson of Conway; Selena Ellis of Benton; and Virgie Phillips of Lake View. Meanwhile, Eric and Kara Gilmore, Sarah Adams and Britney Spees, along with Peyton Welch, all reside in Little Rock. Alexis Roberson of Caraway received the Youth Humanitarian Award. The Corporate Humanitarian Award was given to Everett Buick GMC of Benton. The National Service Award went to North Little Rock’s Beau Cooper.
Dallas Cowboys owner, and North Little Rock native, Jerry Jones received the 2017 Distinguished Citizen honor.
“Among the highlights for me was listening to the acceptance speeches of each honoree,” said OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator, Kimberly Simpson. “I enjoyed listening to how each honoree started volunteering, their plans to make the community better, and the appreciation they had for the people who helped them get started. It was also great watching everyone take pictures with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the first lady, and Jerry Jones.”
“All of the honorees were very humble, excited, yet nervous knowing they had to give an acceptance speech. But each of the honorees did an outstanding job.”
There’s one concept that each of the persons recognized, beautifully displays.
“We all have the power to make our community better and with the right people and resources – anything is possible,” Simpson said.
DHS joins battle against youth hunger in Arkansas
For too many youth, hunger becomes a major issue during the summer months when they don’t have a school providing them with at least two adequate meals – five days a week.
As a means to combat youth hunger in Arkansas, the Department of Human Services (DHS) is participating in the 2017 Cereal Drive.
A project sponsored by THV 11 and the Arkansas Foodbank, the DHS Volunteer Activities Council (VAC) is spearheading the cause within Donaghey Plaza.
VAC member Myra Spring – Division of County Operations Administrative Analyst – has been involved with the drive for over a decade.
“I want to help make sure that every child has what they need,” she stated.
The goal set by VAC is to collect 3,800 boxes of cereal, or amass an amount of money which equates to the established target. Donations for the cereal drive go to the Arkansas Foodbank, which then purchases cereal. Each dollar counts as one box of cereal. In order to donate money, contact Spring via e-mail. Additionally, cereal drive drop-off boxes are located near the elevators on every floor of the Donaghey complex. The cereal drive concludes June 21.
“This drive is very important,” Spring said. “This year we’re doing a floor-by-floor challenge throughout the cereal drive. The winning floor in Donaghey Plaza will receive a huge bowl of candy to share.”
The drive has been ongoing since 2000. And for good reason, DHS is an annual participant in the community outreach event.
“Just think if it was your child who didn’t have food available,” Spring said. “You’d try very hard to make sure your child would have exactly what they needed. With school not being in session, we simply want to make sure that children have breakfast and lunch throughout the summer.”
DCFS GEM Awards Presented
The Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has begun a new employee recognition program called the GEM Awards, named for staff who Go the Extra Mile for their colleagues or families they serve. There are four precious gems – diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds – so each month, up to four GEM Awards are presented.
After announcing the GEM Award program in April and presenting the initial award to Family Service Worker Latoya Maxwell in Sebastian County, DCFS received several very deserving nominations in May. Four winners were chosen, and surprise presentations were made to the winners in their respective county offices.
Our first May winner was Norine Pippin of Benton County in northwest Arkansas. Norine typifies what these awards are all about. Currently, she is simultaneously the Benton County Supervisor, the Differential Response Supervisor and the Transitional Youth Services Supervisor! Until recently, she also was the Adoptions Supervisor, Resource Supervisor, and ICPC Supervisor! Extra miles are nothing new to Norine. Thank you, Norine, for all that you have done and continue to do for your staff and for our children and families! We appreciate you!
The second winner of the month was unique -- the ENTIRE Arkansas County staff was recognized for their commitment to teamwork and to serving their clients and partners with positivity and integrity. Led by County Supervisor Deb Steverson, the Arkansas County staff in Stuttgart and DeWitt have been doing it the right way for a long time. Thanks to Deb and Area 10 Director Cassandra Scott for cultivating a culture of excellence in southeast Arkansas.
GEM Award #3 of the month was presented to Becky Terrell in Sebastian County. Becky's nomination came directly from DCFS Director Mischa Martin, which should tell you something about how highly Becky is thought of across the state. Becky's claim to fame is her commitment to our youth with developmental disabilities and challenging behaviors who reside in Arkansas Support Network homes in the Fort Smith area. She maintains quality, personal and caring face-to-face interaction with each youth. She makes sure they have everything they need and strongly advocates for each youth and does whatever she can for them, regardless of which county they come from. For Becky, it's always about the youth. Congratulations, Becky!
Our fourth and final GEM Award of May was presented to a true DCFS gem, Marilyn Carter. Marilyn is a Program Assistant, or PA, in Montgomery County, which means that she does a little bit of everything to support the work done by the caseworkers and supervisors in both Montgomery and neighboring Polk County. Through the normal course of her job there, she transports clients, conducts homemaking skills classes and parenting classes, files and delivers important documents and so on. Her colleagues absolutely gushed about her commitment to be available to her clients and to her fellow staff members at any time, day or night, to lend a helping hand. Much of what a PA does is "behind the scenes" by design, but we wanted Marilyn and all of our hard-working support staff to know that we see and really appreciate all that they do.
If you know a DCFS staff member who you feel routinely goes above and beyond and would like to nominate him or her for a GEM Award, please contact DCFS Communications Specialist Keith Metz at email@example.com or 501-683-2040.
DHS joins the #300-for-300 challenge
The Department of Human Services (DHS) advocates for youth, community partners, and organizations associated with the state foster care system.
Hence the reason 150 members of DHS staff enthusiastically convened in the Donaghey South conference room to participate in the #300-for-300 challenge Wednesday morning.
“It was amazing. We had so many people come out to participate that we had to turn people away because we ran out of space,” said Amy Webb, DHS Chief of Communications and Community Engagement. “The people in the room were from every division of DHS - not just employees from the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS).”
KARK Channel 4 anchors Aaron Nolan and D.J. Williams, spearheaded the #300-for-300 challenge with the goal of raising awareness about youth in Arkansas – who will age out of the system without a family.
And for good reason, DHS opted to join the mission.
“When we heard about this awareness campaign, we became excited. We wanted to do our part as DHS to support D.J. and Aaron because they are supporting youth in foster care,” said Keesa Smith, DHS Deputy Director. “This is a small step in bringing attention to this particular need. Pushups aren’t easy. But our staff was extremely committed to the challenge.”
For more information about foster care in Arkansas, go to http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dcfs/Pages/default.aspx. You can also log on to http://www.fosterarkansas.org/ to acquire information about adopting or mentoring teens in foster care.
Forever different, forever redeemed: Misty and Justin’s Story
This is the third in our series of successful reunification stories for National Reunification Month. This week’s success story comes to us from our partners at Second Chance Youth Ranch in Paron, AR.
Justin and Misty Wagnon wholeheartedly embrace the idea that their primary role as caregivers at “the Ranch” is to prepare children to be reunified with their biological parents whenever safe and appropriate. But that doesn’t stop them from connecting with and loving these children as if they were going to stay there forever. Their emotional recollections about the first sisters they fostered and the girls’ father provide a glimpse into how the Ranch works so hard to invest in its children and prepare them for a better, stronger, more stable life with their real parents.
“When the girls first arrived in our home,” Misty commented, “they were angry and hardened, and they carried the weight of what they had been through everywhere they went and in everything they did.”
The older sister wore black clothing all the time and always had her hair covering her face. Her younger sister cried every single night for nights on end. The pain and neglect they had experienced at home showed on their faces and remained fresh in their minds during their first days at the Ranch, and they adamantly resolved to never forgive their father.
However, the goal of the girls’ case was reunification, so they and their father started therapy together. This was tough work for the girls, and Misty remembered lots of late night tears and heart-to-heart conversations with both sisters. But Misty and Justin consistently encouraged them to allow room in their hearts for healing.
“Slowly, the healing started to take place,” Misty commented. “And we watched as the walls came down.” They learned that the older sister, despite her sullen outer façade, was really a kind, gentle, and hopeful soul. Her sister showed herself to be enthusiastic, quite opinionated, and witty. She became the energetic, fun-loving child that she really was, and got very excited when Misty put hair bows in her hair. Her sister started wearing colors other than black and became much more confident, proudly showing her beautiful face instead of hiding behind her hair.
Despite the positive changes in the girls, both held onto a significant amount of pain and uncertainty concerning their family situation. The father knew he had made mistakes in the past, but he was determined to do whatever he could to make it right. Misty recalled that the older sister refused to speak to her dad for the first several times he called, but that he kept calling. He understood the rejection, and he resolved to put his own hurts aside and keep trying.
Justin and Misty made a point to speak with the father as often as they could to help support him. Justin recalled “He was always courteous and respectful to us as foster parents, which we know had to be difficult for him. We were raising his daughters, but he chose to work with us instead of giving in to resentment.” The father impressed everyone with his commitment to be the father that his daughters deserved. He fully acknowledged his issues and actively sought treatment and support.
“He did everything asked of him in order to be reunited with his daughters,” remembered Misty, and the best moment, she said, was the first time that the father embraced her after a counseling session. “It was the best way he knew to express how he felt about the way we loved his daughters.”
After nearly six months of being in foster care, reunification day finally arrived. The girls were ready and so was their father, and Misty commented that even though she and Justin loved the girls tremendously, “the girls and their father proved that when family doesn’t give up on each other, amazing things can happen, and life can be forever different, forever redeemed.”
We’re so thankful for Misty and Justin Wagnon and everyone at the Ranch and the way they love, support and nurture our children while working so hard to help achieve reunification with biological parents.
NCCC team makes an impact in Arkansas
The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) Earth 6 Team toured Arkansas, lending their talents to an important endeavor.
Earth 6 helped establish gardens at the Human Development Centers (HDC) in Arkadelphia, Booneville, Conway, Warren, and Jonesboro.
“They are a great group of young adults who were not afraid to get dirty in order to complete a task,” said Deb Wilson, Arkadelphia HDC Volunteer Program Coordinator. “We enjoyed them immensely.”
Dana Harvey, Southeast Arkansas HDC Volunteer Coordinator, admired the selflessness of the team.
“They dove into each task without hesitation,” she said. “We immediately adopted them as part of the SEAHDC family.
“Words do not express the depth of appreciation the staff and our residents have for the team.”
Earth 6 operates as part of AmeriCorps NCCC, which is a full-time, team-based residential service program for individuals who desire to partake in community service projects. The focus of NCCC is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through civic service, as members complete projects such as: building and refurbishing homes for families in need, to cleaning city parks, streams, trails, or shorelines
As for the HDCs, each facility specializes in working with individuals who have developmental disabilities.
“The team constructed raised beds for planting. They lined the beds with fabric and plastic, and filled the beds with soil.” said Jonesboro HDC Volunteer Coordinator/Applicant Recruiter, Cynthia Wilson. “It was great to host such an amazing group of young people.”
Elizabeth Litton, Volunteer Coordinator at the Conway center also became enamored with the team.
“They’re very hard workers. They were very respectful,” she says.
Through their gardening efforts, the team has helped the centers move closer to several goals. For starters, the gardens are likely to present opportunities for staff to further assist in the maturation of the residents. The gardens will also enhance the rapport between the respective centers and their home communities.
“We want to give our residents an opportunity to take what’s harvested from the garden to different farmer’s markets and sell the items,” Litton said.
The gardens can also provide clients with an additional sense of purpose.
“Our residents take a lot of pride in telling people that the vegetables are from their garden,” Cynthia said.
“The team helped create a garden for some of our clients to work and receive a paycheck,” Deb stated. “The garden also gives the clients a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
At the Booneville facility, staff is enthused about the potential of their herb garden.
“Our center will have a stand at the local farmer’s market to sell herbs,” said Vanessa Wyrick, BHDC Assistant Superintendent. “The residents will work at the stand. In the process, they’ll receive additional community involvement.”
Rachel Cain and Eva Haykin are members of Earth 6. Both volunteers spoke glowingly about completing an important task for HDC residents.
“Everyone in our group was dedicated,” Cain said. “We really worked well as a team. We were happy to help with the project.”
Haykin enjoyed this service mission.
“It’s been really rewarding,” she said. “It’s been uplifting, building something that will last a long time and will provide opportunities for so many individuals.”
The project has been emotionally fulfilling for HDC staff as well.
“I’m very thankful for this program being created,” Litton says.
“The NCCC team was amazing to work with,” Wyrick stated. “Our staff and clients enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside them.”
Cutline: A member of the NCCC team joins staff from the Conway Human Development Center in creating an irrigation system for the center's newly established garden.
Foster Grandparents are celebrated during annual conference
There was a substantial aura of joy throughout the 2017 Foster Grandparent Conference.
Foster Grandparents from various regions of the state convened at North Little Rock’s Wyndham Hotel to attend the highly informative and entertaining two-day event.
The conference featured symposiums on health insurance, physical fitness, healthy eating habits, and overall expectations for volunteers. There was also an awards ceremony and a fashion show.
“The conference was fantastic. I enjoyed socializing. I enjoyed the wonderful meals,” said Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) volunteer, Yvonne E. Taylor. “The entire conference was a pleasure to be a part of. I want to thank the Department of Human Services (DHS) for the Foster Grandparent Program.”
“I’m grateful to be part of an organization that gives senior citizens a chance to work with children and serve the community.”
The program is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service Senior Corps and DHS Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE). FGP allows individuals 55-and-older who meet the income requirement, to serve 20-plus hours per week at a school, head start program, human development center, approved child care center, or an accredited community site. The volunteers provide support services for at-risk children and youth who have special or exceptional needs.
“The Foster Grandparent Program helps the youth. But it also provides older individuals with a chance to get out of the house and be around other people,” said Jimmie Sue Wade, FGP Coordinator for the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center. “It provides the volunteers with a purpose to live for.”
In regard to the conference it also provided an opportunity for the foster grandparents to interact with one another, have fun, and establish beneficial relationships.
“Seeing the volunteers together and smiling, being engaged in fun conversations is among the occurrences I appreciated the most,” said Betty Dukes, FGP Administrator. “I enjoyed seeing the foster grandparents overall participation. The fashion show and recognition awards were also great to see.
“Most of the attendees complimented us on things like: the fellowship, facilities, great food, how the focus was on them being a better volunteer, and how to simply get the program off to a good start.”
Wade, who is a longtime proponent of FGP, was thoroughly impressed with the festivities.
“The conference was very organized,” she stated. “The organizers did an outstanding job. This surpassed my expectations.”
The event was the ideal conclusion to a year full of accomplishments for everyone associated with FGP.
“I had nothing but joy knowing that a goal had been achieved,” Dukes said. “All the hard work that was put into it was worth it.”
For more information about FGP, contact Dukes via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (501) 320-6454.
Cutline: Foster Grandparent Administrator Betty Dukes and FGP volunteer Lucille Howze share a laugh during an awards ceremony.
HDC gardens can be a valuable link between centers and surrounding communities
HDC gardens can be a valuable link between centers and surrounding communities
By Kev Moye Communications Specialist
Each of Arkansas’ five human development centers now features a garden. Those gardens were established or enhanced due to the help of volunteers from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). The NCCC team and the gardening project were recently celebrated at the Arkadelphia Human Development Center (AHDC). AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, team-based residential service program for individuals who desire to partake in community service projects. Meanwhile, the HDCs specialize in working with individuals who have developmental disabilities. The centers provide opportunities for residents to experience normalcy and a form of independent living.
“This program fits in perfectly with what we’re trying to do long term at each of our centers,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) Director, Melissa Stone. “We want to continually expand the employment opportunities for clients. Our clients deserve and want the opportunity to work.”
Among the highlights of the celebration was a ribbon cutting, performed by an AHDC resident who has his own portable, raised garden. Additionally, the NCCC team was publicly commended for completing the endeavor. “This is a great opportunity to enlist the aid of our community. We’ve linked up with Master Gardeners and the Cooperative Extension Service of Bradley County,” said Mark Wargo, interim superintendent of the Southeast Arkansas facility. “We also have organizations in Warren working with us to bring volunteers to campus for an educational program about growing healthy food. The gardening project will also serve as a way to provide vocational opportunities for our clients.”
Jonesboro Human Development Center Superintendent, Steve Farmer, is confident the gardens will create a bonding experience between residents and members of the community. “This offers a true opportunity for the communities to understand what we do,” he said. “It will also show how important it is for our clients and residents to be included in the normalcies of life. This garden project presents a way for clients to learn how to have a successful transition into community life.” “The program will provide our residents with a chance to learn about and grow gardens with local community volunteers,” said Johnathan Jones, AHDC interim superintendent.
“These gardens will provide workforce training and socialization for residents. These types of public and private partnerships are often a success because it brings government, local businesses, and civic organizations together for a common goal.” Jeff Gonyea, Booneville HDC superintendent, likes how the program has given residents something to be excited about. “This project benefits our clients by helping them become active outside of the center. It will help them develop social skills and agricultural skills,” he said. “Through the gardening program we can pay them minimum wage. Our clients will also take the products to the farmer’s market and sell to the community.” The work of NCCC has greatly impacted the Conway HDC as well. “This project with AmeriCorps NCCC has already made a difference for our center. The garden has brought community members to our campus to participate in a program that changes lives,” said Sarah Murphy, CHDC superintendent. “These gardens will increase the employment opportunities for our residents due to selling the produce. This program has further enhanced the center and our relationship with the community.”
Stone is elated about the possibilities associated with the garden program; most notably strengthening the rapport between center residents and members of the community. “This garden is another wonderful employment opportunity provided by our centers,” she said. “We’re definitely going to continue to expand upon the opportunities at the human development centers and with our community programs.” To acquire additional information about the HDCs, go to http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/ddds/Pages/default.aspx. For details pertaining to AmeriCorps and NCCC log on to VolunteerAR.org.
Teens enjoy YAB Leadership Conference
The 2017 Youth Advisory Board (YAB) Leadership Conference, which was recently held at the picturesque Arkansas 4H Center, provided an opportunity for teens in foster care to learn life skills, bond with their peers, and be better prepared for their future.
The Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is made up of a select group of youth in foster care from across the state. YAB members plan the conference for other teens in care with help from the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Not only DCFS staff, but many foster parents and DHS volunteers spent hours prepping and then assisting during the conference, leading group activities and facilitating relationships between the youth and their peers as well as adults.
For the first time, the conference was split into two sessions.
“The needs for our 14-to-16 year olds are very different from the needs of our 17-21 year old youth. Our older youth are about to transition out of care,” said DCFS Assistant Director, Christin Harper. “That’s why we had a program like Independent City which gave the youth an idea of what life as an adult is like. We want the youth to be prepared for the real world. We also want to make sure they’re aware that they can be involved in their own transitional planning. Our older youth need to understand how to properly be their own advocate.”
Dedicated to teens ages 14-16, the first session July 31 to August 1, brought together 130 teens from across the state. The younger group attended workshops that focused on relationships, coping with various situations, overall expectations for teens in care, and avoiding dangerous encounters.
“The smaller groups provided us with more room to do various activities and even provide new things at the conference,” said YAB immediate past-president Arlinda McDaniel, who now attends Christ for the Nations Institute in Texas.
“Seeing everyone get along was great,” McDaniel continued. “We divided the conference into age groups so the thought processes of the participants would be the same. Within their groups, the people naturally had more in common due to their similarities in age and maturity level.”
The second session – held a week later – had 56 attendees. It featured sessions that catered to young adults ages 17-21. The older group also had a good time, but many of their tutorials emphasized ways to successfully transition from foster care into life as an adult.
Ray Lozano – founder of Prevention Plus, a program that encourages youth to avoid drug use – gave the keynote address during the first session.
“I love working with organizations like YAB,” said Lozano, who also taught a drug prevention course during the conference. “With a group like YAB and its conference, the importance of avoiding drug use will continued to be taught. It’s not just a one-time situation. So this is the kind of group I really enjoy working with and speaking to.”
The keynote speaker for session two was Phyllis Bell, child welfare senior advisor and intern director for Governor Asa Hutchinson. Bell’s address encouraged youth to have high aspirations.
As part of the lecture, Bell provided “professional” attire for audience members to take out of “baggage” and put on. The changing-clothes activity was to remind the youth that past baggage doesn’t have to hinder their present or future.
“There are two building blocks to an individual’s future,” Bell said, “The choices made on a daily basis, and having someone – a mentor – in our life to offer hope. A ‘Hope Builder’ is someone who sees a person’s potential but also is truthful when that person is making choices that are harmful to themselves or others.”
DCFS Transition Youth Services Program Specialist Kandis Romes said the conference was a success.
“We were able to implement a lot of exciting outdoor activities and I believe the younger group really enjoyed it,” Romes said. “The things which were offered, these youth may not have a chance to do in most instances.”
For more information about the child welfare system or foster care, visit www.fostercare.org.
Cutline: Youth Advisory Board (YAB) member Amanda laughs as she participates in a team building exercise with other teens in foster care during the Youth Leadership Conference at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale.
Inaugural Family Day gives residents, families an opportunity to re-connect
Helping teens successfully transition back into the community, when they leave one of the residential treatment centers for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, is among the chief aims of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Youth Services (DYS).
“We want to see the kids thrive when they go back home – get back in school, stay out of trouble and really plan for their future – and we know that the support of their families is key to making that happen,” said DYS Director Betty Guhman. “But we can’t wait until teens are out of our custody to engage with families and help rebuild the bonds between parent and child.”
Therefore, DYS hosted its inaugural Family Day Aug. 4 at all seven of the Arkansas managed treatment centers. The events brought a sense of normalcy for youths in custody.
In all 93 youth had 302 family members attend the festivities.
“The most important thing to our youth returning home and being successful is the support they receive from their family,” Guhman told residents, parents, and staff of the Mansfield facility at its Family Day event. “Having great family support is one of the best ways to help a youth return home.”
The residents, their families, and facility staff played games, shared a meal, and talked with one another as a way to establish a stronger rapport.
“We wanted to give parents and youth an opportunity to do things most people take for granted, having a meal together, playing board games, or taking pictures with one another,” said DYS Deputy Assistant Director of Residential Services, April Hannah. “It was an idea I shared with Betty and Marq Golden (DYS deputy director), they approved of the vision and it eventually came to fruition.”
“I truly believe the youth and their families enjoyed the time they spent together,” Hannah said. “We’re going to make this a regular event for our centers.”
At the Colt Juvenile Treatment Center in East Arkansas, the campus was abuzz due to Family Day. Everyone involved was ecstatic with how well it went.
“This was a productive event for residents, staff, and the families,” said Colt Director, Connie Robinson. “It not only allowed us a chance to play games, eat, and have fun – it gave us the opportunity to discuss collectively how we as staff members and family of the respective resident, can help the individual better progress through their program.”
Families having a candid dialogue with their youth and center staff, does a lot to aid the transition process.
“Family Day was great,” said Mark Barton, director of the Mansfield center. “Getting the family involved helps us out. It becomes much easier to assist our youth when the family is involved.
“Besides the judge and probation officer, the family receives a monthly report on how their youth has behaved.”
At the Dermott center, director John Whaley enjoyed the enthusiasm Family Day created.
“Family Day gave staff a new way to learn about the residents as we try to provide the best possible services,” he said. “In return, it allowed the families to speak with case managers, therapists, direct care staff, administrators, and other families who also have a child in state custody.”
Jonathan Godbolt, Lewisville facility director, emphasizes the concept of restoring optimism in the lives of residents. He acknowledged that Family Day makes that goal easier for the Lewisville staff to obtain.
“We believe that each of our clients have the ability to improve, become a better person, and achieve anything they hope to be,” he said. “My hope is that it proves to our clients that even though they’ve made mistakes in the past – they’re still loved and supported.”
Cutline: A resident at Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center (middle) laughs with his parents as they play cards during the first-ever Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Youth Services (DYS) Family Day at the Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center.
High 5 Dads provides hope, enthusiasm for the youth
The first High 5 Dads of the 2017-2018 academic year was dominated by big smiles, laughter, and lots of enthusiasm.
Spearheaded by the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE), Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS), Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and the Arkansas Head Start State Collaborative Office (AHSSCO), High 5 Dads were in force on the opening day of school. Based on the reaction of students, parents, faculty members, and volunteers, the youth motivational venture was a major success.
“Together we made a difference in the lives of our children. All it took was just a single hand held out to greet and encourage the students as they entered the school,” said AHSSCO Director Jackie Govan. “Actions of that nature increase a student's self-esteem and will help them have a better day. As a result, the youth has an attitude that is apt for learning. I salute all the men who volunteered for High 5 Dads.”
“It was a humbling and exciting experience seeing fathers engaged in their child’s social, emotional, and educational endeavors,” said DBHS Early Intervention and Prevention Director, Tenesha Barnes. “It is important to remember that children represent our future. We should always encourage, support, and provide them with proper guidance.”
High 5 Dads was held at Bale Elementary and College Station Elementary in Little Rock, Bryant Elementary, and Grenville Elementary, Dollarway Elementary, and W.T. Cheney Elementary in Pine Bluff.
Men representing various fraternities, churches and civic organizations joyfully greeted the students as they helped promote four standards:
Proper behavior practices
High self-esteem; confidence in their ability to excel academically and socially
Reminding men – especially fathers – to embrace the idea of remaining involved in their child’s life
A program of the AHSSCO and DCCECE Fatherhood Initiative, High5 Dads embodied the importance of divisions and agencies collaborating to enhance the standard of living for Arkansas’ youth.
“Seeing the unity between each of the men gave me a strong sense of hope,” said DCCECE Program Administrator and Fatherhood Initiative Chairman Ivory Daniels. “Those men volunteered their time to help deliver the message that we want dads to be involved in their child’s educational, social, emotional, and developmental well-being.”
“Collaboration is extremely necessary in the success of the fatherhood mission and vision. Each entity brings resources and ideas to this initiative,” Daniels stated. “Through its Project Launch grant, DBHS was able to provide the students with gifts and school supplies. DCFS supported the mission as it had staff participate in this event as well. Each of those entities had a major role in the planning and the implementation of the events.”
Elementary schools that have a high volume of its student-body residing in low-income households were selected for High 5 Dads. The Fatherhood Initiative will work with those same schools throughout the year. The next High 5 Dads is slated for test-season, when school districts administer government mandated standardized tests.
Daniels wants High 5 Dads to have the same impact during that juncture of the year as it did on the opening day of school.
“Some of the students looked upset, sad, or scared as they walked to the school building,” he said. “But seeing their disposition suddenly change when they saw the excitement of the men motivating students to strive for success was certainly a tear-jerking moment.”
Cutline: Ivory Daniels, of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE) (center) joins several other men in greeting students of Little Rock's Bale Elementary during a High 5 Dads event on the first day of school August 14. Dads from throughout the community greeted parents and children with fist bumps, high fives, and cheers as they entered school. The High 5 project is sponsored in part by the DHS DCCECE, Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS), Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), AETN, Project LAUNCH Arkansas, and the Arkansas Head Start State Collaboration Office (AHSSCO).
Nolte overcomes the odds to excel academically, socially
Donning a pristine burgundy cap and gown, Catherine Nolte sat restlessly among her classmates. With each passing moment, her anxiety increased as the Benton High School Class of 2017 awaited the start of their commencement exercises.
Though reaching that milestone was a foregone conclusion for some, Nolte is among the individuals who had to overcome unique circumstances to obtain the feat.
Hence the reason she intensely searched for her loved ones as she shifted in her seat. Nolte wanted to make sure they were able to witness the life-changing accomplishment.
“The whole process felt surreal,” Nolte said.
While looking for her family, Nolte heard a woman say, “Look at all those graduation cords.”
She then quickly realized the lady was referring to her. Nolte was an honor student finishing in the top percentile of her class.
The woman said to Nolte, “I bet you did all your homework assignments and respected all your teachers?”
Nolte, the daughter of Chris and Christi responded, “Yes ma’am.”
An unassuming 18-year-old with brown hair, Nolte has the look of a typical teen. Her appearance would not suggest to the inquisitive woman – or anybody else – that she overcame developmental delays resulting from a premature birth en-route to becoming a Suma Cum Laude high school graduate, who scored 32 on the ACT.
“I remember the moment I found out that I got a 32,” said Nolte, who received several scholarships. “I screamed. … I couldn’t believe it.”
“Catherine has earned everything she’s received,” Chris stated. “I look forward to seeing what she does in college and beyond. I’m proud to be her father. I know it hasn’t been easy for her, but Catherine is a fighter. I know she’ll make it.”
The Noltes keep several mementos to commemorate their daughter’s various triumphs. Among them is a box that contains a bed of cement. Inside the cement are an imprint of a miniature pair of hands and feet.
A mere 48 hours into her life, Catherine’s heart and lungs hemorrhaged and she stayed in the Intensive Care Unit for 45 days. Though she made a full recovery physically, doctors determined that Catherine’s premature birth resulted in her having a delayed mental maturation. Once they were aware, the Noltes sought immediate aid for Catherine.
Subsequently, they were introduced to “Early Intervention” through First Connections Early Intervention services.
Provided by the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS), Early Intervention is designed to support parents and other caregivers in helping their child develop and learn through specialized services. The plan also supports the infant or toddler who has a developmental delay or disability by helping him or her actively participate in typical child and family activities as a means to develop new skills.
When referred to First Connections, the Noltes developed their Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) with the help of Early Intervention staff.
“The parents do the planning with the support of Early Intervention professionals on their IFSP team,” Staff Development & Policy Coordinator Ravyn Hawkins said. “The parent also uses the family plan to implement various strategies to promote their child’s early learning and skill development, just like a classroom teacher would use an Individualized Education Plan in a classroom.”
The Noltes’ plan included developmental therapy, which helped Chris and Christi better assist their daughter.
“It was a daily task trying to keep Catherine well,” Christi said. “It was not until I met with a DDS employee and a representative from Kid Source and observed how well they worked with Catherine that I realized there was hope for her to flourish.”
Catherine’s situation continually improved, and she eventually tested out of any form of developmental therapy.
“It was such a blessing for our daughter. We were able to receive help not only for Catherine, but also for our family,” Christi said. “At first she had problems socially, but Early Intervention helped Catherine make a full development. Early Intervention is truly a special program.”
Aside from the occasional church or school- related trip, the Noltes have always remained close to Catherine.
However, their tight-knit family dynamic has been changed. Catherine is currently a student at John Brown University in Siloam Springs.
But are the Noltes worried about Catherine adapting to her new environment? Not hardly.
Catherine is excited. A staunch Christian who will major in public relations and minor in Christian Ministry, Catherine expects to excel at JBU. The confidence she exudes was birthed years ago. A member of Holland Chapel Baptist Church in Benton, she knows how to respond when times get tough.
“When I was having the developmental issues, it helped knowing my family always supported me. When I got older my situation improved,” Catherine said. “However, I still became somewhat nervous to try something new. Each time, my parents remind me of how far I’ve already come and that God is with me.”
Overall, Catherine wants to be a source of inspiration for all individuals who battle developmental disabilities.
“For any person who has dealt with similar obstacles as me, in regard to their social life, I’d inform them to always be themselves. I’d let them know to not be afraid of what makes them different,” she said. “As for academics, I want any person who’s like me to remember to focus on what they’re good at and have fun with it. When it comes to subjects they’re not strong in, just work at it. Do not get discouraged.”
DHS Continues Re-organization to Strengthen Agency’s Internal Integrity, Controls
For Immediate Release
Amy Webb, Chief of Communications and Community Engagement
501-682-8946 or email@example.com
DHS Continues Re-organization to Strengthen Agency’s Internal Integrity, Controls
The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Thursday it will re-organize several units into a new Office of Security, Compliance and Integrity as part of an effort to strengthen the agency’s internal integrity and controls and bolster its ability to find and fight fraud. The new office will report to David Sterling, Senior Legal Advisor and Chief Counsel at DHS.
“After significant re-organization in other areas, we are now able to beef up the work we do to protect the integrity of our programs and do more to identify beneficiary fraud and fraudulent activities in the programs we administer. This new office will help us do that,” said DHS Director Cindy Gillespie. “It’s incumbent upon us as an agency to protect the integrity of programs so that they remain strong for those who need them and to ensure state dollars are used wisely.”
The Office of Security, which is led by retired U.S. Secret Service Special Agent-In-Charge of the Little Rock field office Brian Marr, will be renamed the Office of Security, Compliance and Integrity. It will oversee the Fraud and Internal Affairs units, as well as a new “watchdog” unit focused on non-Medicaid program integrity under its Compliance and Integrity arm so that all can work more effectively together. Michael Crump, a former prosecutor in Pulaski County, will be responsible for managing the Compliance and Integrity arm of the office. He will work closely with the independent Office of Medicaid Inspector General, which investigates Medicaid provider fraud and is responsible for Medicaid program integrity.
Crump has worked for DHS for 10 years, most recently as Assistant Director of Operations within the Division of Medical Services. He also recently participated in an intensive Lean Six Sigma training program and will use those new skills to oversee four Lean Six Sigma projects dealing with identifying, investigating and prosecuting beneficiary fraud. Lean Six Sigma is a team-based approach to systematically reducing waste and variation in business processes. Gillespie said the hope is that by improving processes, the agency will identify and investigate more beneficiary fraud allegations in programs like SNAP and Medicaid and will work more closely with prosecutors across the state to seek convictions.
Marr will continue to be responsible for planning, developing and administering security and safety programs and procedures for DHS personnel and facilities across the state, DHS’s emergency assistance functions, as well as overseeing the new Compliance and Integrity arm.
“I’m confident that Michael and Brian can lead this department in making sure our programs are strong and are upholding the highest standards of integrity, and that people who are receiving services are truly eligible and are doing what is required of them to participate,” Sterling said.
Health and Nutrition Unit hosts special conference for its community partners
The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE) Health and Nutrition Unit (HNU) aims to strengthen its rapport with partnering food program sponsors and providers.
Therefore, HNU – in conjunction with Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance – recently presented the 2017 Partnership Meeting in Little Rock at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.
During the event, information was distributed relating to the following topics: feeding the children of Arkansas, application concerns, nutrition training, review findings, and provider claim issues.
A participation game with winners receiving a special prize was also held.
"We want to create a new culture for our Health and Nutrition institutions and providers," said Thomas Sheppard, DCCECE assistant director of health and nutrition programs. "In recent years HNU has had to deal with developments that weren't positive. So our goal was to create a situation where we had a positive interaction with our sponsors and providers."
Numerous conversations with HNU staff and several food program providers, prompted Sheppard to organize the meeting.
"I want providers to see the Health and Nutrition Unit as partners in feeding the children of Arkansas instead of an overseer of the regulations," Sheppard said. "Previously, I just felt that providers were hesitant to call us for assistance. They were hesitant to reach out to us for pertinent information. That’s what typically occurred because many of the partners viewed us as an overseer instead of a partner."
Just under 90 people representing food program providers from throughout the state attended the meeting. Sheppard noted that the conference was a good start to modifying the relationship between HNU staff and food program providers. Nonetheless, what all parties involved must remember is the guidelines are in place for a reason.
"We have regulations that must be followed. There's a level of integrity for the programs, which must be kept in-tact," Sheppard says. "The regulations exist to protect the children, make sure they're fed properly, and to protect the taxpayer's dollars. I expressed to the providers that they must view this as us protecting their tax dollars as well; as they’re also taxpayers. Basically, we just want to help guide them through the regulations."
HNU staff is currently answering the provider’s questions which were presented during the meeting. As part of that process, they’re also creating an on-line document which will address the inquiries. The staff has offered to do web-based trainings which will give providers easy, continual access to information.
As a whole, the conference produced the desired result.
"The feedback I've received has been positive," Sheppard stated. "I had providers tell me that for the first time, they now feel like we're there to lend support. My leadership team and I have decided that we want to be accessible, helpful, and properly assist our partners."
Cutline: In the photo above, Thomas Sheppard - DCCECE assistant director of health and nutrition programs - speaks with a client during the 2017 Partnership Meeting.
DBHS reminds youth to avoid use of alcohol and drugs
The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) provides a litany of programs devoted to curving the tide of youth drug and alcohol abuse in Arkansas.
Among those initiatives is the DBHS Youth Prevention Leadership Conference.
The 2017 event was held at the C.A. Vines 4H Center. More than 30 organizations – each of which receive government funding from DBHS – and nearly 300 youth, were represented at the summit, which emphasized the importance of avoiding drug and alcohol use.
“The conference provides a forum for youth in Arkansas to express their views on the causes of underage drinking and prescription drug use,” said Tenesha Barnes, DBHS early intervention and prevention manager. “The ways to possibly deter youth from partaking in those dangerous acts was also discussed. Throughout the summit youth attended workshops that focused on the prevention of underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. There were also workshops which educated our youth on team building skills.”
This year, several of the aforementioned courses and discussions were planned and conducted by the youth. The teens were encouraged to assist in organizing the summit in an effort to further promote leadership, responsibility, and quality decision-making abilities.
“The basic focus of the conference was to build upon the knowledge our youth already have about the negative impact of drug and alcohol use,” said DBHS Prevention Services Program Manager, Joycelyn Pettus. “The youth are well-versed on the dangers of drug and alcohol use due to the continual prevention measures they’re taught throughout the year by the leaders of their respective organization.”
Candid conversations about situations, causes, and results of drug and alcohol abuse also highlighted the summit.
“We discussed community-based processes which combat youth drug and alcohol use,” Pettus says. “The topics of community team building, systematic planning, collaborating with different agencies, how to alter the social norms, and how to help establish policies in their schools received plenty of attention, as well. We also explained to the teens the prevention treatment spectrum and the maintenance and recovery spectrum and how they’re tied together.”
Courses offered during the conference were: Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF 101) – which addressed all things relating to substance abuse prevention; the rising opioid epidemic and how prescription drug awareness can be used to combat the crises; leadership and motivation – which encouraged youth to be genuine and not fall victim to peer-pressure; being humble while pursuing various goals; and inspiring friends to make the right choices.
In terms of levity and entertainment – a fashion showcase, MidSouth Madness challenge, group activity sessions, color fun competitions, and a luau were held.
“The teens love this conference,” Pettus said. “They’re always eager to interact with their colleagues from other regions of the state to show them the drug and alcohol abuse programs they are using in their respective communities. And of course, the teens like having good, clean fun as well.”
DBHS is responsible for ensuring the provision of public behavioral health services, including mental health and substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services throughout the State of Arkansas. The Division supports, certifies, licenses, and funds behavioral health providers throughout the state.
For more information about the services of DBHS go to http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dbhs/Pages/default.aspx
Cutline: In the photo above, Tenesha Barnes - DBHS early intervention and prevention manager - showcases t-shirts worn by a group of youth during the leadership conference.
DCCECE enjoys partnership with UCA Dietetic Intern program
The Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE) Health and Nutrition Unit (HNU) has expanded its civic outreach through an internship with dietetic program graduates from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA).
“Our division is fortunate to have this opportunity to work with the University of Central Arkansas, hosting its students as interns for the Health and Nutrition Unit of DCCECE,” said Tonya Williams, DCCECE director. “The students brought new ideas and enthusiasm to the agency.”
In increments of three, the Dietetic interns completed a two-week tour of service, assisting HNU staff with a myriad of projects. In the process, students were introduced to some of the responsibilities of HNU.
“The interns received hands-on experience in providing technical assistance, in addition to outreach and marketing. The students also helped develop nutrition resources, such as hand-outs and activities that emphasize hands-on learning and training at schools, day care centers, family day care homes, and summer sites,” said HNU Training Program Manager Mitzi Langley. “I enjoy mentoring the interns. I love being a positive role model in the field of nutrition.”
“We wanted to give the interns a sample of all the things we do,” said HNU National School Lunch Program Manager Mariska Jordan. “We wanted them to have duties they could learn from, while also being helpful to HNU staff. It was a great experience. During the second week of the rotation, the students always seemed to get comfortable. However, by then it was time for a new group to rotate through the program.”
According to Jordan, the presence of the interns was timely.
“Working alongside the summer feeding programs, the months of June, July, and August are very busy for our team. Our review team is often out in the field working hard,” she said. “However by hosting the students this summer, we were able to get a lot done. We weren’t as stressed, because the interns were dedicated, learned fast and completed tasks at a high level.”
Their DHS experience was a pleasant surprise for the interns.
“We enjoyed the interns, and many of them admitted that DHS is totally different than what they originally thought it was,” Jordan said. “Some of them also admitted that they were impressed with how HNU addressed child hunger in Arkansas. This program exposed them to what HNU is and our various responsibilities. We look forward to reinstating this partnership with the UCA Nutrition Department in the summer of 2018.
DDS presents second annual fall festival
The second annual Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) Fall Food and Crafts Fair was defined by good times, laughter, big smiles, and a mission accomplished.
Presented in a block-party style format at the DHS Central Offices in Little Rock, the Fall Festival allowed individuals with developmental disabilities to sell their crafts.
Each of Arkansas’s five Human Development Centers (HDC) were represented. Additionally, seven community providers had booths at the festival.
Among the items sold were coaster sets, sugar scrubs, wreaths, hand woven rugs, fruits, vegetables, snow globes, Christmas ornaments and decorations, faith-based home décor, bird houses, and various paintings.
The event also featured several food trucks and a pair of auctions in which the clients’ crafts were bid upon.
“Hosting the festival in front of the office provided more space for everyone. We were able to accommodate more vendor booths and food trucks this year,” said DDS Program Administrator, Yvette Swift. “The variety of provider vendors was a hit. The HDC mini Farmer’s Market and the celebrity auction – featuring Roger Scott and Rex Nelson – were crowd pleasers. The weather was perfect and we had zero incidents.”
Several clients and administrative staff from the HDCs – which are located in Booneville, Arkadelphia, Jonesboro, Conway, and Warren – enjoyed the jovial nature of the festival.
“This event helped instill an additional sense of pride into our residents,” said AHDC Interim Superintendent Johnathan Jones. “Our residents always enjoy getting out into the community. The Fall Festival was a great opportunity for them to go out and interact with others.”
BHDC Superintendent Jeff Goneya, was proud to observe his clients selling their popular hand-woven rugs.
“It was a great experience for our clients and staff,” Gonyea stated. “The event was a great setting for clients to sell to the public. We gained a lot of exposure for our rug program which is a direct benefit to our clients.”
“Our residents who attended the festival are still talking about how much fun they had,” said CHDC Superintendent, Sarah Murphy. “It was wonderful to see them interacting with attendees and shoppers. Our residents were proud of the products they sold. They truly did a fantastic job. They demonstrated a sense of pride in their work and accomplishments.”
The social development aspect of the festival and the overall happiness of the clients impressed SEAHDC Interim Superintendent Mark Wargo.
“Events like the fall festival provide our residents with the opportunity to expand their social circle while developing the vocational skills they need to be more independent and self-sufficient,” Wargo said.
JHDC Superintendent Steven Farmer was also excited to see his clients embrace the festival’s atmosphere.
“The social interactions create “normal rhythm of life” experiences. It adds value to their human experience,” he stated. “Clients enjoy a relaxed environment interacting with staff and others in a non-therapeutic environment. But also, they receive a reward for their hard work when people purchase their products.”
Public, private collaboration leads to creation of work program at AJATC
The Division of Youth Services (DYS) by way of the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center (AJATC) has implemented a program that teaches youth the importance of responsibility and having a good work ethic.
In cooperation with Goodwill Industries of Arkansas and Arkansas Rehabilitation Services (ARS), AJATC – operated by Rite of Passage (ROP) – is providing students with on-campus employment opportunities via a special work program.
The work program began in August and offers opportunities in gardening, janitorial, clerical work, culinary arts, maintenance, and various other duties made available by AJATC staff.
There are 10 students in the first program, all of whom are at least 16 years of age and have a developmental disability.
“This program paves the way for our students to transition back into their home environment with employable skills,” said DYS Vocational Manager Antoinette Thomas. “They receive an idea of what it takes to report to a job punctually and arrive immediately prepared to work. They’re also learning invaluable life skills by participating in this program.
“Most of all, when these students transition out of DYS they can potentially maintain their status with Goodwill. They can already have a job when they’re released. This is a huge opportunity for the participants.”
Goodwill representatives are excited to work with DYS students.
“This program is about preparing these young men for employment once they depart AJATC. We are pre-employment specialists at Goodwill,” said Goodwill Job Coach and Air Force veteran Vivian Bolden. “Therefore, we are going to teach them how to fill out applications and how to interview (for a job). We’re also teaching them about attitude, motivation and how to interact with others.
“Basically, we want them to know how to fit into society without going through any of the previous ordeals they’ve already had in their lives.”
This work-program also showcases the importance of public and private entities working together to provide an innovative service.
“Arkansas Rehabilitation Services and Goodwill approached ROP about using a restoration grant to help provide opportunities for youth that will help them gain employment and an understanding of the real world,” Morrow said. “We agreed to it. Everyone is excited about this. It’s the first program of its kind offered at this secured facility.”
“We’re working to provide other job opportunities,” said AJATC Program Director Marlon Morrow. “Everything is basic level, but the students are paid for the services.
“Our ultimate goal is to expose the students to the normalcy of society as much as we can,” Morrow said. “What we’re aiming for is that they acquire various skills that will help with their overall transition.”
Cutline: In the photo above, students who are part of the AJATC Work Program, wash a window at the Alexander facility.
DHS excited to partake in Fall 2017 Arkansas Drug Take Back
The Department of Human Services (DHS) is among the government agencies working to promote the proper disposal of prescribed medicines with a number of Drug Take Back events this week.
“The Arkansas Prescription Drug Take Back Program is an educational effort that every Arkansan can participate in. This is a chance for everyone to help reduce prescription drug abuse and misuse in our state,” said Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane. “The concepts of monitor, secure, and dispose of our prescription drugs have proven to save lives. In the process, those principles also protect the well-being of our environment.”
This Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Fall 2017 Arkansas Drug Take Back will be held at more than 100 sites throughout the state. This initiative is a joint effort of various government agencies and community partners.
The Drug Task Force (DTF) is primarily governed by the Drug Director’s Office. One of the chief responsibilities of DTF is to develop alcohol and drug program initiatives designed to address substance abuse across the state.
The University of Arkansas-Little Rock MidSOUTH Center for Prevention and Training, in collaboration with: the Arkansas Drug Director's Office, Partnership for Success grantees, Regional Prevention Providers, and Prescription Drug Overdose are spearheading the Fall 2017 Arkansas Drug Take Back.
“The Drug Take Back is a program that is near and dear to our Prevention Team,” said DHS Early Intervention and Prevention Director, Tenesha Barnes. “This initiative embodies community, safety, and educating the general public on the potential for abuse of prescribed medicines. We are truly excited about this opportunity. Moving forward, we will remain a staunch advocate of programs which educate the masses on the potential dangers of the improper use of prescription drugs.”
Arkansas ranks in the top 20 percent per capita of states for prescribed painkillers, and according to the latest data, from 2013-2015 more than a thousand Arkansans died due to a drug overdose.
For each of the entities involved in Drug Take Back Day, they’re also inspired to battle improper drug use because it often impacts the lives of youth in Arkansas.
“We simply want to raise awareness of the prescription drug epidemic within our state," said Prevention Program Manager at UALR MidSOUTH Center for Prevention and Training, Chuks Odor. "Several organizations are working with their local law enforcement to promote the Fall 2017 Arkansas Drug Take Back. It is through this statewide effort to collect unused prescription medications that we hope to keep these drugs out of the hands of Arkansas’ youth."
“What we must keep in mind is that our minors typically gain access to their first dose of opioids – and other non-medical use of prescription drugs – from the medicine cabinets of their parents, close relatives, or friends,” said DHS Program Officer for Substance Abuse Prevention, Joycelyn Pettus. “Drug Take Back Day is an invaluable opportunity to educate everyone on why it’s vital that prescribed medicines are always handled properly.”
For more information about the correct use and proper disposal of prescription drugs, in addition to a complete list of take-back locations visit www.artakeback.org.
Family Volunteer Day emphasizes communities building a rapport with law enforcement
The Department of Human Services Office of Communications and Community Engagement is excited to present Family Volunteer Day 2017.
Building a rapport with law enforcement is the theme of volunteer day which is on November 18.
“The community and law enforcement working together, being on the same page is important,” said Volunteer Program Coordinator Ezell Breedlove. “When reflecting on my tenure as a police officer, projects of this ilk always made me feel more appreciated.”
In Arkansas upward of 7,000 officers are affiliated with one of the state’s 237 law enforcement agencies. Officers often dedicate countless hours to their demanding duties without much recognition.
“We’ve worked with the Arkansas State Police and the Little Rock Police Department to identify ways that families can build positive relationships with their local police departments,” said Volunteer Program Coordinator Ashley Moses. “We as part of VolunteerAR want to encourage families to get to know their officers. A strong bond being developed between law enforcement and members of the community benefits everyone.”
The VolunteerAR team suggests three ways that a family can show gratitude for their officers.
One option is hosting a fundraiser to aid families of officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Several organizations provide assistance to the families of slain officers. For more info about those organizations and conducting a fundraiser go to https://www.volunteerar.org/FVD.
Creating a card or sign to thank an officer for their service is also recommended. The crafts can then be delivered to a local law enforcement office upon completion.
Taking a selfie-style photo is the third way a family can build a rapport with an officer. When seeing a cop, introduce yourself, learn something about the officer, and conclude the dialogue by taking a selfie with the cop. Afterward, post the photo on social media and use the hashtag #SelfieWithACop.
“Family service activities are an easy and fun way to show respect for law enforcement,” Breedlove said. “Officers risk – and sometimes lose – their own lives to protect a citizen’s safety.”
The three activities are bound to provide an unforgettable experience for families.
“There are several benefits to volunteering as a family,” Moses said. “It’s a great way to build memories, teach children about their community, and cultivate positive values.”
For more information about Family Volunteer Day and various community service opportunities in Arkansas, go to volunteerar.org.
Fall Drug Take Back was a major success
Community assistance is vital to the states’ efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and Arkansans are using the Drug Take Back events to do their part.
“This battle against prescription drug abuse is a matter of saving lives, preserving the well-being of families, and helping to reverse the tide of a growing issue,” said Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane.
Lane, who works with the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Aging, Adult, and Behavioral Health Services, estimates the state took in 28.9 million pills – that’s, 14 tons – of unwanted or expired prescription drugs during the Fall 2017 Drug Take Back. Arkansas ranked eleventh nationally in weight of drugs collected and fifth in weight collected per capita.
Lane said Arkansas is a leader in the Drug Take Back efforts because community members are committed to defeating the opioid crisis.
“Prescription Drug Take Back is a program that is near and dear to our Prevention Team,” said DAABHS Early Intervention and Prevention Director, Tenesha Barnes. “This initiative embodies community, safety, and educating the general public on the potential for abuse of prescribed medicines. Moving forward, we will remain a staunch advocate of programs which educate the masses on the potential dangers of the improper use of prescription drugs.”
It’s important to now build upon the success of the Fall Take Back.
The Take Back is one of many efforts DHS is participating in to address opioid addiction in Arkansas.
“This is a situation that warrants our attention throughout the year,” said Joycelyn Pettus, program officer for substance abuse prevention. “I’m happy that there was such an outstanding response during Fall Drug Take Back. But we must continue to battle the opioid crisis on a daily basis.”
“It’s important to get these drugs disposed of properly. Youth are taking them out of cabinets and giving them to friends.” Little Rock Police Department Lieutenant and Public Affairs Officer, Michael Ford said. “We as a community must come together and confront this problem.”
Garden program at Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center is celebrated
The recent event celebrating the Let’s G.R.O.W (Growing Redefines Our Worth) educational initiative at the Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center included smiles, laughter, and even tears.
The event, which promoted healthy eating habits and the benefits of growing produce, was spearheaded by the Department of Human Services Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education Health and Nutrition Unit, as part of the National Farm-to-School month project.
Division staff joined students, center staff, community partners, a U.S. Department of Agriculture representative, and Mansfield residents in celebrating the success and holistic impact of the center’s garden. The center is run by the DHS Division of Youth Services.
“The undoubted highlight of the event was bonding with the students and planting seeds in their garden,” said Program Manager Mariska Jordan. “Helping students plant the garden, it was surprisingly life changing for me because of their keen interest and the excitement on their faces.”
Aside from planting vegetable seeds, the team also had a lunch that featured food that was previously harvested from the garden.
“The students really seemed to love us being there,” said Child Care Specialist Leah Johannes. “In fact, one young lady was so happy that we brought them new gardening tools to use and seeds to plant that she asked us to come back soon to see the garden and visit with them once again. To see the students’ faces and smiles melted my heart; knowing we made a small impact on their life that day.”
For Division staff, the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the center’s students was the most rewarding part of Let’s G.R.O.W.
“I became emotional listening to one particular student speak,” Jordan said. “While the young lady was explaining what the garden meant to her, I realized this event was bigger than what I had originally intended for it to be. I was focused on awarding the center for doing such a great job and maintaining a garden. However, I received an award, too. My award occurred when I thought of how I played an indirect role in that young lady’s life. The feeling was priceless."
Warm Shoulders program helps Arkansas State Hospital patients, and the homeless population
At the Arkansas State Hospital (ASH), the Warm Shoulders program is an opportunity for participating patients to serve the community.
The project gives patients a chance to hand-tie fleece material blankets. The hospital then donates the blankets to Jericho Way Resource Center, which provides assistance to Arkansas’ homeless population.
“We’re happy to assist our guests and ASH’s patients,” said Jericho Way Director Mandy Davis. “It truly is an example of a community effort.”
When a patient completes a blanket, it’s common for them to hold it high in the air while their fellow-patients stare to get a better look at the accomplishment.
“Everyone gets up and walks over to get a closer look at the blanket,” said Ann Gevock, a social worker at the hospital. “The patients like to cheer each other on. When a blanket is complete, they all get a sense of pride from it.”
But why is Warm Shoulders, launched late last year, so important?
ASH is a psychiatric inpatient facility that provides rehabilitation services to promote recovery in a safe and caring environment. Warm Shoulders helps the hospital fulfill its mission to mentally rehabilitate the patients by helping them think about something positive.
“It’s very rewarding to see our patients involved with a program that’s for the benefit of someone else,” said ASH Psychology Doctor Rebecca Spohn. “Because our patients have struggles of their own, it’s sometimes a challenge to get them to consider the bigger picture and the suffering some other people in the world are going through.”
In 2017, over half of Arkansas’ homeless population did not have even an occasional place of shelter, according to Our House – a nonprofit that helps near-homeless families, the homeless, and the needy.
That lifestyle becomes dangerous in the winter because of the cold temperatures. So the blankets come in handy.
Jericho Way has received nearly 30 blankets from Warm Shoulders. Several Central Arkansas businesses, ASH employees, and individuals have donated money to support the program.
In fact, the blankets have become a hit with a specific group of Jericho Way clients
“A lot of our elderly guests drape the blankets over their legs to stay warm,” Davis said.
That’s why Warm Shoulders exists, to help patients make a positive impact in society.
“Before starting Warm Shoulders, we were always considering projects for the patients that encouraged volunteerism,” Spohn said.
“It’s a great feeling when I see our patients who often feel out of touch with the community, give back and support humanity,” Gevock says.
If you would like to donate to the Warm Shoulder program call Gevock at (501) 251-6562 .
Residents and staff of Conway Human Development Center enjoy the Valentine’s Day Prom
People decked out in formal dresses, nice suits, or shirt and tie packed the Conway Human Development Center gymnasium. The residents, staff – and even a few of the resident’s parents – smiled, laughed, jumped around, sung, and danced to popular tunes from the likes of Boyz II Men, Earth Wind and Fire, Beyoncè, and Kool & The Gang.
Perched on the gymnasium stage, surrounded by six of their fellow residents, were Ginger Holliman and Logan Wooten. The crowd clapped and cheered when Holliman and Wooten found out they were queen and king of the center’s first-ever Valentine’s Day Prom.
The event was a huge moment for the center, which is a residential training facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Chances for residents to have a normal life are an important part of their education. That’s why the prom was significant.
“A lot of our clients have never had a chance to attend a prom,” said Kimberly Garlington the center’s residential leader. “They shopped for their own dresses and their own suits.”
“Our clients love music. That’s another reason why we had the prom because they love dancing and they love music,” Garlington says. “I put this program together to see a smile on their faces. I knew they’d have a good time.”
Wooten – who wore black slacks, black vest, a bowtie, and a yellow shirt – eagerly accepted his king’s sash and crown.
“I had a lot of fun. I liked the trees and lights in the gym,” he said through his interpreter. “I like the crown, too.”
Holliman, who wore a pink dress and a white shawl, smiled while looking at the applauding crowd following the announcement.
“I had a good time,” the middle-aged woman said. “I like the tiara. I also liked getting ready for the prom.”
The prom consisted of more than classic jams, energetic dance moves, and people dressed to the nines.
There were opportunities few of these party-goers had ever had before. At the event, they had a chance to take photos, get small puzzles, pinwheels, and stick-on tattoos.
According to Teresa Bailey, the center’s quality assurance coordinator, the prom couldn’t have gone any better.
“Seeing the prom come together like it did was special,” Bailey said. “The residents had fun getting dressed up. I also believe the staff had fun helping the residents dress up for prom.”
Johannes uses weight loss to defeat self-esteem issues
How long I’ve kept it off: My name is Leah Johannes, I have not reached my desired weight, yet. But I have avoided gaining back any of the weight I lost. I continue to lose weight since my journey began in February of 2017.
Personal life: I am a wife, married for almost 12 years, with three kids. I’m part of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE). I’ve been a member of DHS staff for close to eight years. I currently work in the Health and Nutrition Unit as a Fraud Investigator Coordinator for the National School Lunch Program. My job is to go out to youth homes, juvenile detention centers, private schools, and foster care facilities, to monitor the food they eat. We aim to make sure the food is whole grain and meets United States Department of Agriculture standards. When I am not working, I’m running my kids around town to cheer, soccer, scouts practices or other social events. My youngest child is two so there is never a calm moment for me.
Keeping track of progress: I record my weight weekly on the Weight Watchers app. I also take pictures of my transformation as I go, in order to see the results. The Weight Watchers app is what I use to track all the food I eat and exercise I do. I also keep count of my daily points. I closely watch the points that I have available for the day.
Turning point: I got to where I did not focus on my health or what I ate. I would grab a candy bar here, a sugary coffee to stay awake, fast food or greasy foods. I waited so long to eat that I would get “Hangry” and go for whatever I could find. I had little care of what my eating habits were doing to my body. In hindsight, I’ve always been on some diet fix that everyone swore by. I would invest in the shakes, pink drinks, etc. But once I got off the diets, I didn’t know how to eat healthy so all the weight came back.
However, after I had my third child my weight got up to over 200 pounds. My self-esteem was awful. I became depressed about how I looked and that my clothes didn’t fit right. I got sick of buying plus sized clothes or wearing baggy clothes to hide my weight. I had no energy and I did not sleep well.
Diet plan: I turned to Weight Watchers, a program that worked for me in the past. I signed up online and because of that – I have a huge community to engage with regarding the weight loss battle. The program is not a lose weight fast or “Get Skinny Fast” type of program. It teaches you about the importance of eating real food and portion control. The program allows a certain amount of points a day based on your age, height, weight, and your activity on a normal day. They also give you “weekly allowance points” to use on the weekends and on some weekdays, when you have the urge to not “eat-clean.” You also have activity points you earn with each workout. With this plan, I was able to lose 30 pounds. The Weight Watchers plan encourages you to eat lean meat, vegetables, and lots of fruit. Plus, there’s an option to go to weekly meetings and weigh-in at the meetings.
Exercise routine: I do Crossfit in downtown Little Rock at Above and Beyond. It is the best motivation for anyone in their fitness life. The coaches really work with you and cheer you on. The teammate you workout with also supports you. There’s no person who’s left behind. We all finish together. I tested the Crossfit craze about three years ago, and I quickly became addicted. I started out not being able to lift 10 pounds, and today I can lift 115 pounds. The gym is a mix of cardio and strength training for high impact. Most workouts last 15 minutes or less. I competed in my first Crossfit competition last year called Women Warrior.
Biggest challenge: I would say eating out is hard. Also, especially during the holiday season, if I know I am going to eat out on a specific day, I try to study the menu before I go and make the healthiest choice I can. Each day is a new day and a new start. Holidays are hard, as I have a bad sweet tooth. It takes a lot for me to turn down the sweets. But I plan my meals out for the week and stick to the plan. On the weekends, I use those extra points I’ve earned to splurge on some of the foods I love.
How life has changed: I love how I feel now. I can keep up with my kids again. I am more confident in myself. I have learned to love fruit and vegetables, and I have learned what a serving size for one person looks like. I have a love for working out. I now encourage others around me to eat better and exercise more as well.
DHS Foster Grandparent program makes a difference in the lives of its volunteers
Four employees of the Full Potential Child Development Center nursery – most of them millennial aged ladies – made bottles, changed a diaper, or prepared lunch.
The nursery – which has baby beds neatly placed along the walls – was quiet. Small noises from an infant moving around in their bed or eating lunch in their baby chair accompanied the occasional whispers of center staff.
Suddenly a baby’s whimper interrupted the quietness.
Seated comfortably in a chair, Brenda Williams – a senior citizen who volunteers at the center as part of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Foster Grandparent program – softly told one of the young ladies to bring the child to her.
Once she got the baby placed in her arms, Williams swayed slightly. Meanwhile, she gently rubbed the child’s back. The baby who was once restless had quickly fallen asleep with its head rested on Williams’ shoulder.
Williams then carefully put the infant in a bed where it continued to sleep.
For the moment, Williams completed her task. As a Foster Grandparent, her job is to assist the staff of the child care center by helping with the children.
“I absolutely love working with the kids,” Williams said. “I’m very happy with the Foster Grandparent program.”
Through the DHS Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE), the Foster Grandparent Program is giving volunteers, all of whom are seniors, a chance to care for and teach special needs children. In the process, volunteers also get an opportunity to remain active.
The Foster Grandparent program is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service Senior Corps and OCCE. The federally funded program allows individuals age 55-and-older, who meet the income requirement, to volunteer 20-plus hours a week at a school, head start program, human development center, approved child care center, or an accredited community site.
“The Foster Grandparent program gives many of our volunteers something to look forward to,” said Foster Grandparent Program Coordinator Robert Watson. “Kids are very inquisitive. So working with the youth helps our Foster Grandparents remain mentally sharp.”
Ruenell Clayton loves talking to and singing with the children.
“Getting down on the floor reading to the kids and singing along with them – all of that helps me,” the volunteer said. “It keeps me active.”
For several reasons, Charlie Brown enjoys the program.
“Being a volunteer helps me because I know I’m making an impact,” she said. “Seeing smiles on the kids’ faces is a special feeling.”
“My grandkids are all grown. So the children I work with are my kids,” said Foster Grandparent Frances Schueler. “They give me a reason to get out of the house.”
For more information about the program, contact Watson at (501) 320-8902.
Caption: Standing in the photo above, Brenda Williams is on the left while Charlie Brown is on the right.