Gift Supports the Social and Emotional Needs of Students in Orange County

In a presentation at Orleans Elementary School on July 30, Hoosier Uplands awarded $20,000 to Youth First, Inc. to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students in Orange County.

Youth First partners with school districts to embed social workers in school buildings, where they become specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers. Youth First Social Workers build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with other valuable life skills.

Research shows these protective factors are the keys to preventing addiction, suicide, violence, and similar outcomes for young people. The organization’s positive outcomes are driving growth, with more schools seeking Youth First’s help to address the growing social and emotional needs of students.

“Hoosier Uplands recognizes the immense importance and need for mental health services for at-risk children in our schools,” said David Miller, CEO.  “In today’s world our schools, parents, and grandparents must work together to make sure children have the best resources available to them to handle the challenges they face on a daily basis. We are very pleased to be able to support Youth First in its work with Orleans and Springs Valley Schools.”

Youth First President & CEO Parri O. Black stated, “Our children are growing up in a complex and challenging world that puts them at greater risk for substance use, suicide, violence and harmful behaviors. Hoosier Uplands’ investment is critical to achieving Youth First’s mission. Working together, we can protect and heal the hearts of more young people and their families in Orange County.”

By Lynn Bell, LCSW – July 30, 2019

If you are a parent of a child with a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, etc., your child may require specialized accommodations at school. Your child’s needs may require individual arrangements for homework, tests, attendance, and medication dispensation.

There are important documents that will help protect your child and determine how these accommodations will be carried out. The sooner the documents are completed in the school year, the better. 

The process starts by requesting a meeting in writing with the school counselor, principal or school nurse. It is best if the letter includes the date on which it is written, as this starts the “time clock” for when the school must work to ensure your child’s needs are being met. 

The letter should include your child’s diagnosis and a list of your main concerns.  Your child’s doctor or medical social worker can be a wonderful resource to help you write the letter. Reputable websites that focus on your child’s medical diagnosis can also be helpful, as they often include samples of letters and documents as a starting point.    

A commonly used document is a 504 Plan of Care.  A “504” is an outline for how the school will provide accommodations and supports to remove barriers so the student has equal access to a general education curriculum.  

For example, for students with Type 1 diabetes, the plan will distinguish which school personnel are responsible for administering or supervising blood sugar checks, drawing and administering insulin, where these tasks will be completed (nurse’s office or classroom), what supplies the student will carry with them and who will be trained on how to administer medication in case of emergency.  

As a parent, it is helpful to educate yourself about the documents best used with certain medical conditions. Two helpful resources are the ASK (About Special Kids) and Insource websites, both of which are based in Indiana and include a parent hotline:

As you develop a Plan of Care, the most important thing to remember throughout the entire process is that parents and school personnel must maintain open communication. Do not be afraid to ask questions or state your concerns.

It’s also important to monitor how well the Plan of Care is working throughout the school year and discuss whether changes need to occur.

You will always be the best advocate for your child as you work toward the best Plan of Care with the school.

By Mary Haas, MSW – July 23, 2019

Change is hard for most of us. We typically don’t welcome change fearlessly with arms wide open. Transitions are sometimes our greatest fear and can provoke anxiety, even in adults.

When faced with changing schools, our child can share these same fears. Even though change is inevitably a part of our lives, it is rarely easy.

When transferring schools and changing educational environments, our children face not only new school buildings but also new faces, new routines, and many new adjustments. As parents, we need to do our best to combat their fears and anxieties to help make their transition as smooth as possible.

Make sure changing schools is the most appropriate option. If other options are available, weigh all of the choices and be sure this is the best thing to do for your child.  

Communication is important, because it is what connects us to our nervous child as they tackle this big life change. Talking to your child early and often throughout the transition will help make each step less scary and confusing.

As parents, it is important to remember that we are changing our child’s whole environment, disrupting their friendships and relationships, and taking away their familiar place of learning.

Because of these major life changes, it is crucial to include your child in the open discussion process. If possible, let your child be part of the decision-making process regarding which school they will attend or when the transition will take place. The more decisions they can be part of, the more they will feel in control of the situation.

Validate your child’s feelings about changing schools, including all of the things they are sad about leaving behind and all of the things they are anxious about going into. Show them that you are standing alongside them and support them the whole way. Communicating, validating, and nurturing this change can make all the difference in their emotional transition.

Making time to get to know the new teachers and staff ahead of the move to the new school can be an added support for both you and your child. This can be a chance for you to discuss any concerns or questions you may have regarding the school.

This is also the time to for them to get to know your child and to talk about your student’s needs to the people who will care for them throughout each day.

Another great way for your child to get involved in their new school is to join extracurricular activities. If your child is old enough they can try to join athletic teams such as soccer, basketball or perhaps other types of activities such as the debate or drama club.  

Getting involved will help your child connect with other peers that share the same interests. This can create friendships and help your child develop a sense of belonging to the school.

As a parent you can get involved by joining the PTA and attending school meetings. Become friends with other parents and plan play dates if your children are young.

Together with these tips and objectives, you can ease your child’s transition into a change of hope and a bright new beginning at a new school.

Yes, changing schools can be scary, but it can also be a wonderful new beginning in a child’s life.

By Aisha Givens, LCSW – July 16, 2019

Blended families or stepfamilies are more common than ever. These families form when two partners make a life together with children from previous relationships. When families blend, it is rarely a smooth or easy process.

These new families often form after a death, divorce, or separation of the birth parents. The transition to a new family unit can be very confusing and uncomfortable for children.

Children may feel they must choose between loving their original family or loving their new blended family. They may feel they will hurt someone’s feelings if they love someone new. They may be worried about how their relationships with their natural parents will change or how their relationships with their new parent and siblings will evolve.

Blending families creates a new dynamic, one where every person must find their role. Trying to replicate your first family can set you all up for confusion and disappointment. Instead, embrace your new family with the respect it deserves and allow for change and new growth.

The following are ways to build a stronger blended family and help children heal from the grief, disappointment, and resentment that can result from the loss or separation of their biological parents:

  • Positive Reinforcement – Give encouragement and praise to children often. Find ways to make them feel appreciated and valued.
  • Love – Give them positive attention and show them they are loved every day.
  • Safety and Security – The children may have had at least one family fall apart or one parent leave or die, so they need to feel very safe and secure in this new family.
  • Expectations and Boundaries – Talk to your new partner about parenting styles before your family blends. It’s best for the new parent to ease into a role of authority, but it is very important that both parents agree on how to parent all of the children before situations arise.
  • Patience – Children deal with a wide range of feelings during the transition into a new family. It is important to remember that any new bad behaviors may be a result of their confusing emotions. Love and patience are necessary.
  • Communication – Give children your undivided attention as often as possible. Prompt them to talk about their feelings and let them know they can be honest with you. Open communication with your children can be the best thing for all of you.
  • New Experiences – Create new memories as you experience new activities together. Take family trips, go on picnics, have game nights, paint together. Find things to do that you will all enjoy and make new, happy memories for the children. Take photos of your new blended family to hang in your home.
  • Family Meetings – As you are all adjusting to the new family unit, it is a great idea to hold regular family meetings and let each person speak their truth without being judged. This can be a time to talk about rules, feelings, events, or absolutely anything.
  • Respect – It is impossible to force all family members to like one another, but you can insist that everyone respect each other.
  • Limit Expectations – You may feel that you give a lot of time, energy, love, and attention to your partner’s children and get very little in return immediately. Think of it as an investment that will yield a great return one day.

You could do all of the right things and the children may still reject the new parents and resent your new family, but if you are consistent and genuine it will allow the children to know you are sincere.

By Jenna Kruse, MSW – July 9, 2019

Technology has become a large part of our society; we depend on it to learn, inform, and connect with others daily. However, it can have negative effects as well.         

Most of us probably know a young child who watches YouTube regularly. How often do we stop to watch and closely monitor what is on the screen?

A growing trend with children on YouTube is the fascination of watching other children play with toys. There is a countless supply of these videos, such as, “Surprise Eggs” and “Finger Family” which each have hundreds of thousands of views.

YouTube also added an auto play feature which allows similar videos to stream one after the other, continuously. Kids are then exposed far beyond their initial search and are soon plagued by this technology.

Parents across the country can attest to the fighting and tantrums thrown when the tablets, phones, or iPads are taken away from the children because they are so entranced by the videos.

Social media is another black hole, typically for older children. Teens can be subjected to cyber bullying, stranger danger, identity theft, phishing, and sexual exploitation.

Apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Whisper, Twitter, and YouTube can all be dangerous for teens if used incorrectly. Many teens have several accounts, some of which include “ghost accounts” which are used to hide from their parents.

Children are being sexualized by photos of celebrities and are taught that appearance is what matters most. Pressure is put on both girls and boys to look a certain way and “likes” and “follows” become addictive for young teen brains. Children can feel they need to post sexy photos and say extreme things just for more attention.

Now that we know some of the problems with technology, let’s try to avoid them. We need to help and support our children by closely monitoring what they are doing online.

This can include having clear rules for children regarding social media, checking the web browser regularly, activating privacy settings and parental controls on devices, and installing anti-virus hardware on your computer.

Talking openly to your children is the best way to ensure that they know the harms of the internet and social media. These may be uncomfortable topics, but they are very important for their safety. It is much better to have these conversations before a situation occurs rather than after.

There are many safety apps which help parents monitor and control their children’s online usage. These apps include but are not limited to, Netnanny, Mammabear, SafeKidsPro, Social Shield, WebWatcher, MyMobileWatchDog, Teensafe, and Phonesheriff. Each app is unique in what it helps control, so find the one that will work best for your family.

By Tyler Patchin, LSW – July 2, 2019

Being a male in a female-dominated field such as social work has its pros and cons, but in my opinion, the pros drastically outweigh the cons.

It was easy for me to choose such a demanding profession, but the lack of males in the social work program in college was truly shocking. I assumed, just like many other fields, that there would be some sort of balance between males and females. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the undergraduate program males weren’t prevalent, and there were even fewer once I got to the graduate program.

So why is there such a shortage of males in the social work field?

I think the answer is simple. Males are conditioned from a very young age to “act like a man” or told things like, “Suck it up. Don’t cry.”

These little phrases have more impact than people sometimes realize. Phrases like “man up” tell young boys that they have to act a certain way to obtain the things they want most in their lives. Boys look up to their parents, especially their father, and many of the fathers they look up to are the ones telling them who they should or should not be.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma against males who talk about their feelings or show emotion. Guys who show their emotions are sometimes viewed as weak or lesser, all because they are in touch with their feelings.

Yes, older generations had it worse. But the fact that it is 2019 and there is still an issue with males showing their feelings is concerning. I think being a male in such a female-led field shows young men that it is okay to talk about their feelings, it’s okay to feel sad sometimes, it’s okay to know how to express feelings to others. Not only does it positively impact the males on my caseload, but I also believe it leaves a lasting impression on the females as well.

Since there are more girls on my caseload, I would like to think having a male’s perspective helps them just as much as it does the boys. Many of them want to understand why a certain situation would happen the way it did and enjoy hearing a male’s point of view on the topic. It also shows young women that males can, in fact, be trusted people in their lives. Luckily I have had few, if any, students reluctant to talk to a male about their feelings, but that may not always be the case.

Unfortunately today, so many children are raised without a father figure in their lives, and that leaves a sour taste for many I have had the privilege of working with. Continuing to be a support person for the students in need and letting them know that I will be there unconditionally is something I take great pride in. I wholeheartedly believe that if there were more males in the school social work field, we could continue to break down the stigma against guys being open about their feelings.