Tag Archives: news

New Home For Blog

Over the last quarter, we at Operation Kids have worked very hard to refine our mission and provide additional emphasis on our donor-led philanthropic services. As a result, many of you have seen several changes – both to our website and our blog – including additional regular blog authors and new perspectives.

And now we introduce one more change: after more than 2 years publishing on WordPress, A Voice for Children is moving over to our own, self-hosted page at http://blog.operationkids.org. This move is being done to provide you easy access to any Operation Kids resources, information and updates that are on our website, as well as allow us expanded custom options and the ability to provide additional functionality.

We sincerely appreciate the readership and resources a WordPress platform has brought us, and look forward to embarking on a new journey. We invite you to join us there, beginning today, Thursday, December 17, 2009.

If you have kudos, concerns or questions, we invite you to leave a comment or contact us.

Regards,

The Operation Kids Blogging Team

Rick B. Larsen
Don Stirling
Christopher Lindsay
Sara Brueck Nichols

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Filed under Initiative: Nonprofit Operations

Understanding Dissing

Note: Today’s post is written by guest author John A. (Jack) Calhoun, who directs the Network for the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families.

 It had been a long day, beginning with a crack of dawn speech to the Salinas/Monterey Community Alliance for Safety and Peace followed by day-long meetings with the mayor and chief, local academics and a two-hour training I led for Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteers.

I was in Salinas for a site visit.  Salinas participates in the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, a 13 city initiative designed and run by the National League of Cities and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.  In addition to Salinas, Network cities include Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Oxnard, Richmond, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Stockton.

Toward the end of the day, two teenagers were shot in East Salinas.  One of them, 16-year old, Manuel Perez, a “B” student at Salinas High School, was gunned down while waiting for a ride to football practice. The other, 19-year old Santiago Ortiz, a known gang member, was shot and wounded.

The shootings affected me profoundly.  They shouldn’t have.   I’m a vet.  I was deeply moved, perhaps because I was tired after a cross-country trip coupled with a day packed with back-to-back meetings; perhaps because I know so many good, competent and caring people in this city, people from all key sectors of the Salinas community—police, schools, the faith community, the mayor’s office, social services and more—all  pledged  to stop violence and to build a Salinas that does not produce violence.  Perhaps because I witnessed first-hand the manifest hope and commitment early that morning, soon followed by the shootings and then by a collective sense of worry, of how daunting the task.

I needed a break before my evening dinner meeting. The cross-country flight, a day beginning at 7:00 a.m. and ending with training, had drained me. 

I took a brief bar break. Jacqui, who was cutting limes and plucking fresh mint leaves for my mojito, was, she told me, working at the bar to help support her fledgling music career.  Lydia from Western Siberia who served me appetizers, attended the local university in Monterey, where she was enrolled in the graduate linguists program.

The day before, a member of the hotel staff, Betsy, had given me a walk-though for our upcoming thirteen city conference, showing me the meeting rooms and other facilities.  A dietitian from Rochester New York, she, deciding to start over, packed up and moved to California.  She landed a job with the hotel, soon becoming its events planner.

It is future, a sense that you can take a street that leads out: Jacqui cutting limes to sing.  Lydia moving from table to table, gathering tips to pay for her university courses, her road having covered thousands of miles.  Betsy, freed from Rochester’s snows, coming across the country to settle in her sun-strewn home.

Each confident.  Each traveling well beyond the street where they began. Each striding confidently  into a new future.

Bryan Contreras who directs Salinas’ “2nd Chance Family and Youth Services,” a program for street kids told me later that night that most of the East Salinas kids rarely get out of their neighborhoods.  “Jack,” he said to me after the shootings, “Most of them have never been to the beach in Monterey.  And it’s only a few miles down the road.  Their ‘corner’ is where their world ends.  End it does—often too soon, tragically.”I thought this:  if Brian and I are walking in separate directions and we happen to bump into each other, we say a quick “Excuse me,” and move on.  Brian and I each have somewhere to go.

If I live in East Salinas and bump into someone on the way to my corner, it could be death for one of us, because, all-too-often, that is all there is, just the corner.  It is not an accidental bump.  It is “dissing”.  If all I have is the corner, I’ll defend it with my life.  Dissing is not the presence of something.  It is the absence of future. My corner.  My turf, which I will protect with my life.  Nothing beyond.

How desperately I want kids to know of long streets, streets that don’t kill, people that don’t u-turn at the end of the block, returning to spray bullets.

I want them to know stories of long streets, stories of people who have walked long streets, people who will walk with them down those streets, with them beyond the corner.

I want them to know they can be Jacqui, Lydia, Betsy, Brian.

-John A. (Jack) Calhoun

John Calhoun, who directs the Network for the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families, was former CEO, the National Crime Prevention Council, and under President Carter, Commissioner, Administration for Children, Youth and Families.

Jack also serves on the Operation Kids Whole Child Committee. You can read more about Jack here.

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Filed under Initiative: Children's Issues

Perfection Not Required

I’m well aware of the pressures parents put on themselves to be perfect – though fortunately my children are too young to roll their eyes at me or tell me that I humiliate them every time I put the trash out in my bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. Yet, as I potty train my toddler or get up to feed the baby at oh-dark-thirty, I am constantly critical of how well I’m playing the role as the adult who shoulders the incredible burden of bringing up the next generation.

I have a laundry list of parenting faults – I’m a little high-strung, I hate to mop the kitchen floor (negating any 30-second-rule for fear my kids will die of whatever has taken up residence there), I don’t find the emptying of an entire roll of toilet paper or tube of toothpaste particularly humorous and sometimes I put the pillow over my head and mutter, “if I ignore you can I sleep just 20 more minutes?”

And yet, my kids are lucky – they have parents who love them and are fiercely devoted to giving them the best life we possibly can. And that is enough perfection for them.

It is also the reasoning behind this month’s National Adoption Month theme: “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent: There are thousands of teens in foster care who would love to put up with you.”

Last month, President Obama declared November as “National Adoption Month”, to “honor those families who have strengthened America through adoption, and we recommit to reducing the number of children awaiting adoption into loving families,” and to “renew our commitments to children in the foster care system.”

The observance of National Adoption Month is more than just a celebration of adoption, it is a cry for more than 120,000 children who are in foster care awaiting a permanent family and an end to a life of turmoil. These are children who are not in the “system” by their own choosing, but have become without permanent home, family or support through tragic circumstances and the unfortunate choices of others. National Adoption Month aims to focus on the needs of these children, nearly 25,000 of whom age out of the foster care system each year and to remind each of us of our responsibility to the rising generation.

Every year, we are losing alarming numbers of these young adults who have “aged out” to cycles of poverty, crime, incarceration and death at far above the rate of their peers. Without a support system to prepare them for life on their own, many face an uphill battle that is rarely won.

It is this alarming fact that has lead AdoptUsKids, a  cooperative agreement between The Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children & Families and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, to highlight the message of “anti-perfection” – that even the quirkiest of us have something to offer a teen in foster care. Their PSA campaign reminds us all that each of us – foibles included – can make a difference in the life of a child in foster care by being a mentor, a foster family or by giving a foster child into a permanent, loving home.

We work with many individuals and organizations who champion this same message. This past year we helped Christmas Box International with their Lifestart initiative to help arm teens aging out of foster care with basic necessities. We champion the ideas set forth by Judy Cockerton of The Treehouse Foundation for their ability to make an impact. And we embrace the idea of reminding us all about the “forgotten children” who live among us.

At the very least, we ask that you hug a child in your life today. You’re a far greater parent, example or mentor than you realize. After all, you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.

-Sara

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Filed under Initiative: Children's Issues

America’s Best Leaders

The Nov 2009 issue of U.S. News and World Report listed its pick for America’s Best Leaders in 2009. We are pleased to recognize that three of the people named are also recipients of the Operation Kids Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. William Magee, his wife Kathy and U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch are individuals who indeed exemplify leadership. We applaud their inclusion in this list and congratulate them along with the other deserving leaders named, and encourage you to read more about their accomplishments.

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Filed under Initiative: Thought Leadership

Keeping Children Safe

Now that kids are back in school, authorities are asking parents to be extra-vigilant about their children’s activities online and via text. Our local Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce reminded residents that “Back to School” also means a spike in Internet crime targeting children and teens.

“Every year when school starts back up and goes back in session, we always see a spike in crimes where children are targeted or children are contacted by individuals,” said ICAC Capt. Rhett McQuiston. “Sometimes they are other kids who are contacting them; a lot of times they are adults who are pretending to be kids.”

I mention this, because Sunday, September 27, is Internet Safety Day – a day set aside for parents to discuss Internet and texting safety with their children. This year, the organizers have a goal of getting 100,000 parents to pledge to talk with their child or teen about staying safe online.

One of the components of the “Whole Child” is safety – as an organization who has been close to several organizations and individuals involved in cases of missing and exploited children or Internet crimes against children, we are all-too-aware of how little information it takes for a predator to strike.

If you are a parent, or know a parent, Sunday is a good time to sit down and talk about safe boundaries online and via text. Talk about what information should not be shared, talk about photos and the impact that sharing a photo with someone – known or unknown – can have. Talk about blogging and “sexting” and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Talk about where to turn if something seems “off” about an online friend or contact. Most importantly, just talk. Be aware of what is happening and what your children and teens are involved in.

Need more resources? You can download a free Internet Safety Parent’s Guide to get you started.

-Sara

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Filed under Initiative: Children's Issues, Uncategorized

Do You Know What Your Kids are Doing Online?

Do you know what your kids are searching for when they are online?

In today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there is an articleon a recent survey by Symantec’s OnlineFamily.Norton service on the top 100 web searches by children.

The surprising results? “Sex” and “Porn” were two of the top search terms, coming in at #4 and #6, respectively. The entire Top 10 include:

1. YouTube

2. Google

3. Facebook

4. Sex

5. MySpace

6. Porn

7. Yahoo

8. Michael Jackson

9. Fred (A popular fictional characterwhose YouTube channel has become a hit among kids.)

10. eBay

With back to school season right around the corner (or  already here, for a handful of school districts across the country), now is the time to re-evaluate children’s computer usage – where the computer is located, what the ground  are for its use and what kind of monitoring will be used to ensure safety – not only from content, but from online predators.

Last fall, we focused heavily on Internet Safety among children as we honored John Walsh for his work protecting children from predators both on- and offline. As Internet Safety Day 2009 approaches (on September 27), we encourage all parents to take the time to get to know what their children are doing online and talk to them about safe behavior online.

Not sure where or how to start? Last year, we listed several resources from the FBI and others that give excellent advice on keeping children safe, how to have the tough conversations and suggested ground rules for Internet usage among children. You can also download the 2009 Internet Safety Day Parent’s Guide here for additional information.

Even if you feel like you are aware of what is going on with your children and the computer, we urge you to continue to have the conversation, to emphasize safety and to keep a vigilant eye on your most precious resource – your children.

-Sara

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Filed under Initiative: Children's Issues

Mourning the Passing of a Legend: Eunice Kennedy Shriver

This morning, when I logged into my e-mail, I had a message from Anthony Shriver, announcing the passing of his mother, 88-year-old Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The world has lost a great humanitarian.

As you know, Anthony Shriver is the founder of one of our family of “OK-approved” charities – Best Buddies. We have a great admiration for him and for his mother, who founded the Special Olympics. Both are avowed champions of children who are intellectually disabled, and we salute them for their legacy, their work and the amazing organizations that have resulted.

I would like to share a portion of Mr. Shriver’s e-mail with you. He wrote:

“…My Mother’s efforts on behalf of individuals with intellectual disabilities – particularly her work with Special Olympics – inspired me to similarly devote my life to this shared mission. Through her unwavering faith in their abilities, she helped me – and countless others – to appreciate the fact that everyone is capable of something exceptional; especially with the support and encouragement of friends and family. Through her exemplary endeavors, I learned that this support network is one of the most valuable assets anyone can and should have, regardless of one’s abilities or disabilities.”

We couldn’t agree more. Today, we give brief pause to recognize a great woman who celebrated the wonderful things that those with intellectual disabilities bring to this world. May her legacy continue to inspire us, and may the organizations which she founded and inspired continue to do great work for those whose voices were silenced for far too long.

In accordance with their mother’s legacy, the Shriver family members have asked that:

“In lieu of flowers, and your sentiments indeed are forever appreciated, please consider making a donation in my Mother’s name to an organization dedicated to the individuals she so lovingly devoted her life to, such as either Best Buddies (www.bestbuddies.org) or Special Olympics (www.specialolympics.org), in order to help ensure that her inspiring legacy will live on in our mission of friendship.”

On that same note, for those who are Best Buddies supporters, we are helping raise funds to create a Best Buddies Citizen Utah Chapter at a breakfast on August 19. We will match any donation (up to $50) given through August 19. Simply click here and select “Best Buddies Citizen Utah Breakfast.” You also will have the option to make the donation in memory of someone, if you wish to make a donation in Eunice Kennedy’s memory.  We will ensure the message gets to Mr.  Shriver.

May God bless a woman who touched so many lives for the better.

-Sara

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Filed under Initiative: Thought Leadership