The importance of diversified fundraising

Tim PriebeI’ve been fortunate enough to serve Family Builders for several years now. That has included time both as a board member and as President of the board.

In my day job, I’ve worked with a number of businesses and nonprofit organizations over the years. One of several things I’ve learned over time is the importance of fundraising.

Laura Gamble, our executive director, joined Family Builders back in 2011. Early on, she discovered that very little of our funds were coming from individual donors. Historically, the majority of our operating budget has come from DHS contracts and our status as a United Way Agency.

Laura quickly realized that by limiting our sources of funds, we were greatly limiting how much good we could actually do and how many families we could help.

In the investment world, it’s generally accepted that diversifying your investments is a good idea. That same concept applies to nonprofit organizations as well.

As a business owner, I would never want the majority of my revenue to come from a single client! In fact, I’ve seen other businesses close their doors because they lost their biggest client.

Is that a risk we want our nonprofits to take? Is that a risk I’m willing to let Family Builders take?

No!

As a fiscally responsible board member of Family Builders, I view it as a key part of my job to make sure we diversify our fundraising. And I’m glad that our executive director and I are on the same page on the topic.

That’s why I’ve personally put time and energy into introducing other individuals to Family Builders. Exposing more people to our mission means that there will be more people who are willing to help us serve Oklahoma families. Although not all of that help will be financial, assistance with time, money, and resources are all beneficial for effectively running an organization like ours.

Obviously, diversifying our fundraising effort is not a quick change in practice. Laura has been working on it for years. It’s a process, and takes time to implement. But I know Laura, my fellow board members, and myself will continue to move Family Builders in that direction.

Back-to-school safety tips

First day of schoolBack-to-school time is full of conversations about expectations and habits. It’s a natural time to remind your child how they should behave in all kinds of situations. You’re their first resource if they have conflict with their friends, are struggling in school, or don’t know how to tackle a problem.

You’re also their first safety resource. You’ve probably already had conversations with your child about crossing the street, avoiding burn hazards, and safety with sharp objects. Back-to-school season is a great time to remind your child of safety rules, including rules that can help protect them from kidnapping or sexual abuse.

Stick together

If your child walks home or to a bus stop before and after school, know their route. Children are safer in a group than alone in these situations, so help your child remember to stick with other children.

Be aware of predatory tactics

Help your child recognize signs that an adult might want to hurt them-before it happens. Remind them that adults don’t need to ask for help from children, and they don’t need to keep secrets with children.

Trust their gut

Let your children know they can say no and find another adult if any adult does something that makes them uncomfortable. Children should know this may be a stranger, or it may be someone they know.

Remind your child (often!) that they can always come to you if a grown-up does or says something to them that makes them uncomfortable.

You can protect your child in other ways, too. Make sure they’ve memorized their full name, address, your telephone number, and most importantly, 9-1-1. Have a safety plan for your child’s walk to and from school, or if they’re home alone after school, and help them think through how they would handle unexpected situations safely.

If you’d like more information for you and your child, KidSmartz, a program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has great resources here.

To learn practical ways to protect your children, schedule our More than Stranger Danger workshop. Contact Desiree Powell at dpowell@familybuildersok.org.

Building trust with Parent Child Interactive Therapy

Mom and daughter drawingWhen a child has experienced abuse, the response to that trauma is different for each child. But most children have some behavioral issues as a result.

Whether a child is cared for by a biological parent, family member, foster parent, or adoptive parent, those trauma-related behavioral issues can create significant parenting challenges. That’s where a service we provide-Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT)-comes in.

A few months ago, I passed by a small family leaving one of their first PCIT sessions. The little boy, about four years old, was having a complete meltdown because he didn’t want to leave the PCIT room where he got to play with toys. His face was red, he was crying and his breathing was shaky, and he was begging his mother to let him stay and play. His mom looked guilty and embarrassed but wasn’t sure how to get him to stop.

He had a difficult time transitioning from one activity to another and because he didn't have the verbal skills to explain his feelings, he would get mad and have a tantrum. He had also learned that his mother usually gave in to this kind of behavior because she didn't know how to deal with it.

I saw this family again after about several weeks, and it’s like he was a completely different child. He was much calmer. And his mom was different too-she had so much more confidence as a parent!

What is PCIT?

PCIT is a 12-16 week program that is designed to help children with severe behavioral issues and their caregivers. Parents receive training on discipline and, for our clients, on how to meet the needs of children who have been affected by abuse. The most important part of PCIT is hands-on training for parents when they’re interacting with their children.

Parents and children play in a calm, home-like environment with special toys so they can focus on each other. A specially trained therapist views the interaction through a two-way mirror and coaches the parent through an earpiece.

For the first six or seven sessions (Phase 1), the goal is to enhance the parent-child relationship. The child chooses the activity and the parent plays along, building a nurturing relationship and secure bond between the parent and child.

When the family is ready to move on to Phase 2, the sessions include more active direction from the parent and allows them to practice setting limits and disciplining their child while the therapist coaches them.

We’re proud to offer PCIT because we continually see how it improves the relationship between children who are victims of abuse and their caregivers, like the four-year old and his mom who had both changed so much.

Who is PCIT for?

PCIT is for children who have severe behavioral problems and/or have experienced trauma that results in behavior problems. That can be any number of things, but in our work we serve children who have been victims of abuse.

Since 2003, we have provided PCIT as a part of the reunification process to parents and children where abuse has occurred in the home. We know that not all families end up reunited so we are excited to now offer PCIT to foster and adoptive parents thanks to a federal VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) grant.

Ultimately, PCIT benefits children long-term by helping them form a strong, trusting bond with their caregivers. Children learn to behave better, and caregivers learn how to parent and discipline in a way that lessens their stress and helps their children feel safe.

Vacation safety for families

Family in airportWhen you’re taking a family vacation, your safety concerns as a parent will probably only grow. You’re visiting new places and trying new activities with kids who are bouncing off the walls with excitement-who wouldn’t be a little nervous?

Planning ahead will give you (and your children) tools for staying safe, and handling tricky situations appropriately if they do occur.

Two especially stressful places for traveling families are airports and theme parks. Here are a few ways you can take steps toward safety in these environments!

Airports

Divide and conquer. If you have two adults in your family, have one who is responsible for checking flight information, finding the gate, or checking in, while the other is watching the children. If you’re traveling with the kids as the sole adult, have an older child make sure everyone sticks together while you tackle logistics. Holding hands is a tried-and-true tool for this!

Plan it out. Airports can be very exciting (and distracting!) for a child. Talk with your children before, making sure they know to stay close to you and avoid distractions. Use the buddy system and make sure your children know who are safe adults to talk to if they get separated from you.

Theme parks

Decide on an emergency meet-up point. If you get separated, your child can wait for you there. Make sure they know what the uniforms of the park staff look like, so they can ask for directions, but remind them they don’t need to go anywhere or do anything they’re uncomfortable with.

Ride safely. Help your children understand why the buckles, harnesses, and safety precautions are important. If you choose not to ride, wait in line with your child, ensure they’re buckled in safely, and wait for them close to the exit of the ride.

Explain the rules. A theme park is very different from school, home, or anywhere else kids have to follow a certain set of rules. Remind your children that safety is important, and in order for so many people to be safe and have fun, there are special rules to follow. Let your children know about them ahead of time so they know what to expect, and model the behaviors you want them to follow.

In general, family vacations are a great way to remind kids of your family’s safety rules. Encourage them to find a park staff person, store staff person, or police officer if they need help in public and can’t find you. Make sure they have your phone number memorized as early as possible.

Once you’re sure they know what to do in an emergency, you can relax a bit-and hopefully enjoy your vacation as much as your kids will!

5 fun family activities in May

Mother and sonHenry David Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?”

May can seem like an endless to-do list for busy families: attend the awards assembly, buy a teacher gift, and video the year-end choir performance of one kid for dad, who’s missing it because of the last baseball game of another kid.

Who’s thinking of family fun and togetherness when you remember at midnight that your kid needs two dozen iced cupcakes for a year-end class party the next day and the only thing you can find resembling a cupcake in your pantry is a stale package of Oreos with the centers eaten out?

Parents can make sure they are “busy about” the important task of making happy memories, even during the chaotic month of May, by scheduling in one or two special kid- and parent-friendly activities.

Check out these upcoming, exciting and unique events around the OKC metro in May:

Sam Noble Museum of Natural History

Visit the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman starting May 5 and continuing through the month for their interactive Be the Dinosaur exhibit. This exhibit features video game stations where players move through a virtual world as dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period, making life and death decisions. Visit samnoblemuseum.ou.edu for more information.

Fairy Ball

Attend the Fairy Ball at the Crown Heights Christian Church Amphitheater on Saturday, May 14, 7-9 PM. Admission is free, fairy costumes are encouraged, and the evening promises to be full of creative, magical fun. Call 405-528-5568 for more information.

Full Circle Bookstore

Become a regular at OKC’s own Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 NW Expressway (bottom floor of 50 Penn Place building), for Storytime with Julie. This weekly event on Saturdays at 10:15 AM provides a different featured story each week, selected by the book-loving Full Circle staff, and sometimes even welcomes a special literary guest. For more information, check out fullcirclebooks.com.

Live on the Plaza

Try a family night out at one of the metro’s most fun monthly events, the Plaza District’s Live on the Plaza, Friday, May 13, 7-11 PM. This event takes place “rain or shine” every second Friday and features a different monthly theme, food trucks, kids activities, live music, local shopping and did we say food trucks? Visit plazadistrict.org for details on May’s event.

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Annual Chuckwagon Festival

Round out the month celebrating cowboy-style at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Annual Chuckwagon Festival, Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29. The festival offers traditional chuckwagon food samples and fun for children of all ages with bandana decorating, leather stamping, butter churning and even selfie stations. See nationalcowboymuseum.org for more information.

Don’t get caught in the May-hem! Make sure that deadlines, awards assemblies, field trips and class parties don’t keep you from spending that quality time with your family.

Red flags for your child’s safety

Red flag for dangerTeaching your kids about "stranger danger" doesn't help them as much as you might think. Most of the time, when a child is a victim of sexual abuse, the perpetrator is someone they know, trust, and love.

As a parent, you don’t have have to feel helpless in the face of that. There are still specific ways you can protect your child from potentially harmful people. Learning the tips below can help you know what to look out for to keep your child safe.

General tips

Be especially wary of an adult that wants to exclusively spend time with children. If you’re at a mixed-age gathering like a church or family event, and an adult only wants to spend time with the kids, that should catch your notice. It’s definitely a red flag if someone wants to only spend time with one child, but even an adult spending time exclusively with groups of kids can indicate grooming behavior.

Talk to your kids about right and wrong touch, and help them know what situations are safe and which are not. Don’t use the terms of good touch and bad touch, because that can be manipulated by an abuser or misunderstood by a child (for example, a child may not like a doctor’s touch but if it’s necessary, it’s okay).

Make sure your kids know the correct anatomical names for their body parts. For younger children, it’s also helpful to explain that nobody should touch them where their bathing suit covers, except to keep them clean and healthy. Let them know that includes diaper changes, applying medicine, and quickly helping with the toilet, so they know what you mean and won’t be confused by someone who wants to harm them.

Alone time

In some situations, like babysitting or music lessons, it may be necessary and even beneficial for your child to spend time alone with a trusted adult. Be sure to vet those people strongly, though-get references and run a background check for your caregivers. If the other adult consistently doesn’t want you in the room, that’s a red flag.

For your child’s babysitter, daycare, or even church group, make sure there are background checks on the people who will be with your child. It’s also a good idea to check in, show up at an odd time (or even early for pick up) to see if everything’s as it should be.

Always believe your child if they tell you something’s wrong. Know your kids and know how they act. If you see any changes in their behaviors or if they revert to an earlier developmental level, that may mean that there is an issue. If they’re acting out sexually, if they say or know things that are inappropriate for their age, investigate. These don’t mean abuse is going on, but it’s always worth asking your kids if there’s anything they want to talk with you about.

Remember, If you feel strange about a situation, play it safe. Removing your kid from a situation is much different, and less scary, than accusing someone. If you witness abuse, you need to make a report or call 911. But even if you haven’t witnessed abuse, if you feel uncomfortable for your child, it’s your job to trust that instinct.

Scarier than the stranger in the park

mother with son outdoorRemember the first time you were allowed to go somewhere unaccompanied as a kid? Maybe it was to the movies, or around the corner to the convenience store. Chances are, as you set off, reveling in your hard-won freedom and clutching the five dollar bill your mom had given you, you could hear her stern warning ringing in your ears, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Images of abducted children on milk cartons still cause parents to warn their children about strangers, and yet the truth that is a child is much more likely to be hurt by someone he already knows. Studies by child abuse experts show that in 90% of sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is someone the victim-and his or her family-know and trust.

This is the big secret that sexual predators do not want parents to know. They want parents to tell their children how to avoid strangers and what to do if a stranger approaches them in the park or their front yard or the mall.

They want parents to paint a picture of the scary, suspicious boogie man, not the friendly, approachable, trusted coach or neighbor or Sunday School teacher. They certainly don’t want parents to know the real facts about how predators select and groom their victims and their victims’ parents, often over a long period of time.

Although it has been a few years since the media was saturated with the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, the case is still a stunning example of the way sexual predators gain access to their victims and cover up their crimes. Sandusky spent years using his position within the Penn State University football program to build a reputation as a coach and to create programs that gave him nearly unfettered access to young boys.

Through these programs, he gained the trust of many young men and their families, and was able to manipulate situations so that he could be alone with individual children and abuse them. Even though several people observed and reported him in compromising situations one-on-one with young boys, it took years before a real investigation was initiated. The abuse went unchecked for many years, in part because of the public persona Sandusky had built as a person who cared about children.

An adult who seems too eager to spend time unsupervised with a particular child is one of the warning signs parents can learn about through an upcoming Family Builders training event, “More Than Stranger Danger.” This event is on March 8, at 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM at Cole Community Center, 4400 Northwest Expy, Oklahoma City, OK 73116.

The presentation will teach parents about the red flags that can indicate a potential threat from a sexual predator, and will also cover ways to talk to children at different ages about this issue. The event is free, but please register online to reserve your spot.

Keeping kids safe with puppets

Kids on the BlockThe headlines just don’t stop coming. Child abuse cases in Oklahoma make the news with alarming frequency. We also know that not all cases of abuse make the news.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, 41 children are confirmed as victims of abuse every day in our state. According to the Darkness to Light Foundation, a national organization dedicated to ending child sexual abuse, statistics show that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old, and 60% of them never tell anyone.

That is, of course, the bad news. The good news is that at Family Builders, we have the power, and a well-researched program that can help make children safer using puppets.

Puppets? Really?

People often respond to this statement by saying, “Puppets? Really?” and the answer is a resounding YES! Puppets are helping teach Oklahoma children about all forms of abuse and providing them needed tools to keep them safe.

Two years ago, Family Builders became an approved provider of the research-based KIDS ON THE BLOCK program. KIDS ON THE BLOCK provides short (15 minute) interactive puppet presentations designed to help elementary students learn about sensitive topics like physical and sexual abuse and even bullying.

The scripts and characters

The presentation scripts are written by child-serving professionals with the aim of not only educating children about the issues, but also providing them with the language they need if they ever face a situation where they have to talk about it.

With a variety of puppet characters, each with their own personality, and backstory, staff and volunteer puppeteers from Family Builders take their puppet shows on the road to schools, churches, day care centers and camps. Through the engaging presentations and follow up materials, children learn things like how to help a friend who is experiencing abuse or bullying, the difference between “tattling” and “reporting” and how to tell an adult when they are facing a problem too big for them to handle.

How it helps

At the conclusion of every puppet presentation, each student is provided a template for writing a thank you letter back to the KIDS ON THE BLOCK puppets. These letters provide Family Builders staff the ability to track the effectiveness of their presentations, and-most importantly–give children the opportunity to disclose anything that they may be witnessing or experiencing. Most of these letters come back with sweet and funny responses, but recently, a child who had seen a Family Builders presentation on bullying at his school wrote to “Steven”, the KIDS ON THE BLOCK puppet:

Dear Steven,
Thank you for coming to my school. Today I learned about bullying. But I have a question. What if the bully is a grown up?

Through a 15-minute presentation, Family Builders gave this child a voice and a place to ask questions. By red-flagging the child’s letter and communicating with the school counselor, Family Builders was able to provide a safety net for that child from a potentially abusive situation in his life.

To find out more about KIDS ON THE BLOCK or Family Builders’ other child abuse prevention programs, contact Kirsten Richardson.

New Oklahoma law requires new training for teachers

Sad boyYou’re a teacher, and you’re just getting your class started for the day. Some kids are tired. Some are bright-eyed and ready to tackle the day. Some are even getting right to work. While others are looking to you for direction to start their day.

Can you tell which one is hurting? Which one is hiding secrets to scary to share? Which one is sad?

Larger classes

Class sizes are getting larger each year, which means it’s easier that ever for teachers to miss subtle signs. Everyone knows that teachers – and all caregivers – work to not only teach our children, but are also very often the strongest advocate and protector for so many children. Being the first line of defense carries many responsibilities; and recognizing the signs of abuse is at the top of the list!

Bruises and behavior changes are just some of the signs. But often bruises can’t be seen and let’s face it – kids’ behavior changes all the time. So, what else should you be looking for?

A new law and training

A new state law has been passed which will help train teachers and care-givers to recognize these signs. The training, while required for teachers, is highly recommended for all care-givers. Daycares, before and after-school programs and even Sunday School teachers can all benefit from this training.

Family Builders has stepped up to make sure teachers can easily comply with the new law, as well as making it easy for all care-givers to receive the training with a 90 minute class. In the class, you will learn:

  • How to recognize sexual, physical, emotional and verbal abuse
  • What to do if a child reports abuse
  • Why it is so important to report even suspected abuse
  • How to properly report abuse

Scheduling the training for your group is easy: Simply call Family Builders at 405.232.8226 and request the training. Our staff will work with you to schedule the training, and to make it even easier, we bring the training to your location.

At Family Builders, we are dedicated to breaking the cycle of abuse. We know what works, and we invite you to join us in strengthening families.

Family traditions

Christmas family traditionFamily traditions are an important part of bringing everyone closer together. What better time to continue these traditions than during the holidays? And if your family doesn't currently have any traditions, now is the perfect time to start.

Here are some suggestions for building your family's traditions.

Keep it simple

Remember to keep it simple. Don't have sky-high expectations for yourself or your family. Be realistic about what this tradition will look like for everyone involved.

The most important thing is to focus on your family and to bring everyone together. That way if it doesn't go exactly as planned, you won't feel disappointed. Nothing is perfect so don't feel like you failed if it doesn't turn out just like you expected.

Not expensive

Traditions don't have to be over the top or expensive. You can turn any ritual your family currently does into a tradition. It can be as easy as cooking dinner as a family, or even the type of food you choose to eat as your Christmas meal. You can start a tradition by the way you open presents or decorate for the holidays.

Set yourself up for success in implementing simple new traditions rather than making them a huge, extravagant thing. Family traditions shouldn't be based on external factors like money. They should be about creating memories with the ones you love.

Create your own

Create separate traditions than those you grew up with as a kid, or even from those relatives not in your immediate family. Start your family's own traditions. It will help you to bond with one another and create lasting memories.

A family tradition can be anything that your family enjoys doing together. Even though they sometimes seem simple, it can make a big difference and have a positive impact on your children.

Ideas

Here a few easy ideas you can start with:

  • Decorate the tree or house together for the holidays
  • Make dinner together as a family
  • Bake and decorate holiday cookies
  • Have a holiday themed movie night
  • Read the kids a Christmas book before bedtime

The most important thing to remember during the holidays is to focus on the things that truly matter. Savor the moments you have together this month. Whether you are creating new traditions or continuing old ones, try and enjoy every second you have with your family this holiday season.

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