Times Record News Editorial: Toxic Stress

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Toxic stress can wreak havoc on children

WRITTEN BY MATT YELL

What does your parents’ divorce have to do with your risk for heart disease?  If one of your parents had a drinking problem when you were growing up, are you more likely to suffer from depression as an adult?

Our community needs to know about ACEs!

“ACEs” stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences; extremely stressful or traumatic events that can happen to a child growing up. Some experiences are so stressful that they can alter brain development, as well as the immune system, increasing the risk of lifelong health and social problems in adulthood.  The term comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

Researchers looked at how the number of adversities a person/child experienced (ACEs) related to a wide array of serious health and social problems.  They saw that the more ACEs someone had, the greater their risk for poor outcomes compared to someone with no ACEs. This landmark research shed new light on the root cause of everything from stroke and liver disease, to substance abuse and mental illness. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study findings represent a paradigm shift in human understanding of the origins of physical, social, mental, and societal health and well-being.  Bottom line, childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity.

North Texas Area United Way will be showing ‘Resilience,’ a new documentary that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences and a new movement to treat and prevent toxic stress.  ‘Resilience’ reveals, toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time, and early death. While the broader impacts of poverty worsen the risk, no segment of society is immune.  ‘Resilience’ is a fascinating documentary that eloquently explains the health-care issues that confront us directly and indirectly on a daily basis. But more than that, ‘Resilience’ gives us the solution to this problem. Rarely do you find a documentary that highlights a problem and gives a solution. It's a film every educator, health-care provider, and lawmaker should see.  The documentary correlates high Adverse Childhood Experiences scores to increased medical problems in adulthood. With in-depth interviews with doctors, educators, and community advocates, ‘Resilience’ succinctly brings us not only the facts and figures about ACE's, but also the solutions to help children and prevent serious medical consequences later in life. The information could have easily been overwhelming in ‘Resilience,’ but with graphic art conveying the science and math that supports the concepts and well-balanced interviews, the film is entertaining too.

‘Resilience,’ however, also chronicles the dawn of a movement that is determined to fight back. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education, and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to protect children from the insidious effects of toxic stress—and the dark legacy of a childhood that no child would choose.  Your local North Texas Area United Way (NTAUW), along with  the Early Childhood Coalition and the Early Development Instrument Taskforce, is doing the same by working to improve the lives of high-risk children through direct-services and education.  But we cannot do this alone.  This must become a community effort.

The research focuses on the positive impact that one positive, supportive adult can make in the life of a child who has suffered adverse experiences.  Having the support and guidance of a caring adult can help a child develop the resilience needed to bounce back from trauma and move forward.  This relationship gives the child a chance at a healthy, successful life.

Sadly, many young parents never had the support of a caring adult as children. They lack the skills to form a bond with a child since they, themselves, never had that bond.

As a community, our response to ACE’s must be three-fold. We must educate the public about the physical and emotional health risks of adverse childhood experiences while working to prevent trauma to young children.  We must also help parents develop healthy, strong bonds with caring responsible adults so that they can, in turn be the stabilizing force that helps their child develop resilience.

The wide-ranging health and social consequences of ACEs underscore the importance of preventing them before they happen.  NTAUW promotes lifelong health and well-being through the Texas Home Visiting and H.O.P.E.S. (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Supports) program. The hallmark of these research-based programs is a professional educator, registered nurse or peer who forms a bond with the parent and offers resources, parenting help and support. The goal is to insure safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. These United Way grant programs can have a positive impact on a broad range of health problems and on the development of skills that will help children reach their full potential.

For information about the “Resilience” documentary viewings or to learn how you can make a positive impact on the life of a young child, please contact Trish Dillmon or Carol Marlar at North Texas Area United Way.

COMMUNITY IMPACT INVESTMENTS

NORTH TEXAS AREA UNITED WAY ANNOUNCES COMMUNITY IMPACT INVESTMENTS

Wichita Falls, Texas: North Texas Area United Way reaffirmed its commitment to graduate more kids, lift families and individuals to financial stability and create a healthier community when its board of directors approved funding to continue implementation of its Community Impact Agenda.  United Way will invest more than $2.6 million in more than 25 education, financial stability and health programs.

Over 50 community volunteers, making up the United Way Community Impact Council and subcommittees, met over the past several months reviewing applications for funding and had very healthy conversations about what the greatest needs were in our community and how to address them.

“We’re committed to creating meaningful change in North Texas,” said United Way President and CEO Matt Yell.  “One way we help drive change is by investing in the best local education, financial stability and health programs to impact our community’s kids and their families.”

In education, United Way is investing $220,000 to support programs to prepare our kids for kindergarten and help them achieve and maintain grade-level reading with the ultimate goal of graduating on schedule.  United Way is investing in programs provided by the following agencies:  Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club of Wichita Falls, Child Care, Inc., Communities in Schools, Helen Farabee MHMR Centers, Iowa Park RAC (Recreational Activities Center), Southside Youth Senter, Teen Court, YMCA, and Zavala.  

Through financial stability programs, United Way is investing $53,269 to help individuals and families achieve and maintain financial stability.  The goal is to help our community earn it, keep it and save it.  The agency programs chosen to invest in are: Catholic Charities, Wichita Adult Literacy Council, and Habitat for Humanity.

And in health, United Way is investing $79,347 to support programs helping our community members to start and remain living healthy lives, with an emphasis this year on combating mental illness and on seniors remaining independent.  Agency programs include: NAMI Wichita Falls (National Alliance on Mental Illness), The Kitchen, Senior Citizens Center of Burkburnett, and the Wichita Adult Literacy Council.

In addition, United Way has received over $2.2 million in state and federal grants to further advance our community impact investments.

United Way will also distribute $76,463 in donor-directed funds to local nonprofit organizations through the SECC and CFC campaigns in 2017.   

Times Record News Editorial: Are there too many nonprofits?

Are there too many nonprofits?

WRITTEN BY MATT YELL

The frequent criticism from the nonprofit community that there are “too many nonprofits” has become so common in recent years that it’s become something of a cliché within our sector. And like many clichés, this one has a deceivingly simplistic appeal, combined with a degree of truth.  But before we accept this as the truth, let’s dig a bit further to look at the standard basis for these claims and see how they hold up to even modest scrutiny.

One standard rationale I’ve read about is that the vast growth of 501(c)(3)s has resulted in inefficiencies.  GuideStar’s database currently has information on more than 2.2 million nonprofits in the U.S.; more than 1.8 million are considered active organizations.  In Texas, we boast of having almost 68,000 tax-exempt charities.  Last year I ran across an article stating Texas has a nonprofit for every 406 people.  Although it’s true that the nonprofit sector has grown by more than 40 percent since the mid-90’s, it is a logical myth to conclude that these larger numbers equates to decreased overall efficiency or effectiveness.  I am not aware of any study that has been conducted to establish or even suggest that nonprofits are less efficient now – individually or collectively – than they were when there were fewer of them.

The next rationale I have heard for claiming there are too many nonprofits is that with so many nonprofits doing the same or similar work, the limited resources available are spread too thin.  I believe there is some validity to this claim.  Marla Felcher, founder of Cambridge-based Philanthropy Connection, has a similar view.  “One thing I see over and over again is duplication of effort — so many small organizations that are doing the same work or very similar work,” Felcher said. “People say, ‘Oh, my nonprofit is different than that one,’ but if you’re on the outside, you don’t see the difference.  “How can I say this so I don’t insult anybody?” she added. “I think some of our smaller organizations would be best served by working more closely with or becoming part of a larger, better-established organization.”

In the polite world of philanthropy, a reluctance to hurt feelings or offend funders often hinders discussion of the issue.  I have heard several leaders throughout our state urge those with the funds, and therefore the power, be more courageous in their decision-making. Bringing more courage – and rigor – to the funding process would mean that only the most relevant, sustainable, well-led organizations would survive and thrive.  On the other hand, some might argue that there is a place for some of these new and small nonprofits, serving extremely narrow or localized niche issues that no one else is dealing with.  Many who argue for proactively shrinking the number of nonprofits fail to appreciate the societal benefits generated by the sector’s diversity. Audrey Alvarado, former executive director of the National Council of Nonprofit Organizations, put it this way: “I’m thinking here of all the things [nonprofits] do to build social capital and strengthen civil society – then I’m not sure that efficiency is the metric we should be focusing on. In fact, I’ve argued that, given the lack of civic engagement in this country, we don’t have enough nonprofits. I don’t doubt that there will be, and probably needs to be, some pruning in the sector, whether through mergers or groups simply shutting their doors. But if we’re willing to sacrifice some nonprofits for the overall good of the sector, we also must be willing to redouble our efforts to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofits that remain.”

The last rationale I want to discuss is with so many applications to evaluate, it’s difficult for funders to make well-informed decisions.  I would dare to guess that most funders would prefer to see fewer nonprofits because it would make their lives easier.  But there are many ways to address what is essentially a technical administrative issue other than advocating for a reduction in the number of nonprofits. Potential strategies include more collaboration and consolidations among funders, longer-term grants and grants to networks of nonprofits, to name just a few.  I have always been an advocate of urging the nonprofit community to be more active in pursuing systematic collaborations.

As you can tell, there is not a clear or easy answer to the question. The reasoning behind the complaints of “too many nonprofits” becomes clear if one asks, “So if there are too many nonprofits, what’s the ‘right’ number and how do you know it’s right?” Could you answer that question? Could anyone?

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Fatherhood Fall Festival Event

Fatherhood Fall Festival

On Thursday October 27th, Dad’s Workshop put together a Fatherhood Fall Festival.  This festival was free to all families that participate in the Dad’s Workshop, PAT, NFP, and HIPPY programs.  Families engaged in group activities that included painting pumpkins, candy walk, pumpkin bean bag toss, bounce house, and storytelling by our very own CEO Matt Yell! The evening ended with a yummy dinner of sub sandwiches and chips.  Families were thanked for coming and each received a book that they can share with an information sheet included that explained the importance of reading.

Principal For A Day

Principle for a Day - Written by Haylee Davis

Yesterday I had the privilege of being Principal For A Day through the Wichita Falls ISD. I was approached a couple weeks ago about the opportunity and immediately wanted to say yes. I love working with kids, specifically young kids. You can imagine my surprise when I received my confirmation email letting me know I would be principal with Ms. Christy Nash at Wichita Falls High School. For some reason, it had never crossed my mind I had the potential of being placed in a high school.

With hesitancy, I showed up yesterday morning to WFHS. Students were rushing to claim their parking spots and hurry in the building before the first bell rang. I followed suite and scurried in through the large entryway. With nerves jittering, I walked in to the principal’s office. Everyone was so welcoming and excited to have me. I sat waiting on Ms. Nash to finish up her morning tasks, wondering what my first duty as principal would be. Ms. Nash came in with another staff member and introduced herself. She was very nice and friendly as well. As soon as we met, two students came in to interview her for a class assignment. She asked them to wait a few minutes and had me follow her into the hall. Our very first task of the day was walking a sweet girl to her classroom.  Ms. Nash informed me that this student cannot walk to class at the same time as the rest of the student body so she gladly takes her after the first bell each morning. As we walked, Ms. Nash asked her how her family was and about her Halloween plans and costume. When we returned to the office I sat in as Ms. Nash answered all the interview questions from the two students, smiling and joking with them throughout the process. As they were leaving she asked one of the boys about basketball, encouraging him to play again this year. After the boys left, we went on a grand tour of the campus. Ms. Nash took me to several classrooms, introducing me to many of her staff and students. Every person we came across was happy to see Ms. Nash and she was happy to see them. She called almost every student by name and knew about their individual lives. We came across one student in the hall who was having a bad morning. Ms. Nash immediately stopped and sat down on the floor next to the student. She had a genuine care for the student wanting to make sure she was okay before we went on. The teachers had the same care for the students as Ms. Nash. All the teachers were also very passionate about their fields of study. In each of the classrooms we visited, teachers were engaging the students, creating environments to make learning fun. None of the classrooms we walked by had teachers sitting behind a desk. As the lunch hour drew near, I was sad I would not be coming back for the afternoon.

When I was assigned a high school, I was honestly a little disappointed because I did not think there would be any type of interaction between the principal and the students. I was so happy to find the exact opposite at WFHS. Ms. Nash sets a great tone for the whole campus by being engaged with both the staff and students. At United Way, much of our work is focused in education. We believe education is one of the most important aspects of a successful life. Yesterday I had the opportunity to see education at its finest. I am so grateful I was placed with Ms. Nash at Wichita Falls High School so I could witness all the amazing things they are doing. They are offering quality education, but more than that, they are creating an environment where students want to learn.