Why Efforts to Hire and Maintain the Best Staff Can Be Critical for Nonprofits

While a well-seasoned and dedicated staff can be a terrific resource for any business, hiring the right professional to fill a position can be an even more important concern for nonprofits. Lacking the funds and additional resources of their commercial counterparts and competitors can place many nonprofits at a distinct disadvantage. By addressing the issues and specific problems that those employed by a nonprofit are most likely to encounter, employers may be able to minimize turnover and transform their existing staff into their greatest asset. Drive, Dedication and Vision Professionals whose ambition only extends to themselves can a major liability for nonprofits. Without the need to build value for their shareholders, nonprofit organizations must rely on their staff to provide them with the vision and drive they need to be effective. Pairing workers who are dedicated to an idea that is greater than themselves with an organization able to provide them with the agency needed to make a difference can be of paramount importance, especially for nonprofits who have suffered from lackluster performance or that may have begun to stagnate. Generating Momentum and Inertia Internally

Employees, workers and professional associates who are able to generate the momentum needed to enact real and lasting change are often the heart of any successful nonprofit. The conventional business models that are so often utilized by commercial businesses place often place the bulk of their focus on the mid and upper-level managers and supervisors who are tasked with creating and implementing new policies. Nonprofits stand to benefit by shifting their focus to the workers who do the actual heavy lifting and who take on the more mundane day to day tasks. Dedicated workers can provide their employers and organizations with the momentum and inertia they need in order to continue operating effectively.

Going the Extra Mile Finding employees who are willing to go the extra mile can be a difficult proposition for any organization that lacks the funds and financial resources needed to provide a more competitive salary. Individuals who are committed to reaching loftier goals or unlocking their full professional for reasons that extend beyond mere financial reward are not a resource that nonprofits can afford to take lightly. A little extra effort is often the missing component when it comes to finding solutions to a stubborn problem or overcoming an obstacle that might otherwise end up limiting other opportunities and future success. Workers who are determined to keep their organization going and employers who need their employees to give it their all both need to understand the value of going the extra mile. Optimizing Existing Resources Having to make due with shortages of finances and other key resources is often a concern that is all too familiar to many nonprofit organizations. While boosting efficiency and finding ways to curb waste can help commercial organizations to enjoy greater profitability, such efforts are often essential for ensuring the very survival of a nonprofit. Whether it’s finding the best accounting software for nonprofits in order to ensure more accurate bookkeeping or identifying the ways in which financial resources may be best utilized, making the most of their existing resources is a concern that organizations would do well to prioritize. Long-term Success Begins During the Hiring Process A nonprofit is only as good as its employees and being able to identify the right fit or a good match often means a great deal. For employers, educating prospective employees and applicants regarding the nature of nonprofit work is often a smart move. Applicants, candidates and even unpaid volunteers who wish to see their organization succeed need to recognize that their passion, aspiration and drive can often be just as important as any skills or expertise they may bring to the table. Cultivating the right staff and making the most out of their existing employees can allow organizations to more easily overcome the obstacles created due to limited funds and resource scarcity.

Resources to Make Math Fun and Engaging for 5-Year-Olds

For young children, playtime is learning time. Through play, kids discover their world, figure out how things work, expand their vocabularies, acquire physical and mental skills, become sociable, and learn math concepts. A youngster’s natural fascination with numbers, counting, and shapes makes early childhood a perfect time to discover the mathematical world. These five activities are sure to make acquiring math skills so much fun kids won’t realize that they are learning.

Yummy Geometry

Provide food in various shapes: round veggie slices, chickpeas, blueberries, triangular crackers and slices of cheese and bread, diced carrots and cucumbers, and anything else you can think of. Name the different shapes or ask children to do so. Encourage kids to create animal faces, people, or objects from their favorites. You can ask them to use only one shape or a variety. Be sure to photograph each food artist with his or her creation.

Match It

This game has twenty cards: ten number cards, each with a numeral from 1 to 10, and ten quantity cards. You or a child can draw pictures or use stickers on the latter—for example, seven flowers to match the number card for 7. Index cards work well. Shuffle the cards and lay them face down in four rows with five in each row. Each player turns over two cards. If the number on one piece matches the quantity on the other, he or she keeps them. If not, they are turned back over and the next player takes a turn. When all the matches are found, the player with the most cards wins.

DVD Math

Watching DVDs is a favorite pastime. Their catchy music and captivating action combine to make them great learning tools as well as wonderful entertainment. This Math DVD for kids introduces youngsters to the world of numbers and shapes. Addition, subtraction, and telling time are some concepts kids learn. If children associate acquiring skills with positive experiences, they will remember them much longer—and equate learning with fun.

Lego Skills

Lego blocks are great math teaching tools. There are so many ways to use these favorite playtime items for this purpose.

  • Greater than/less than: Write numbers 1-20 and the greater and less than symbols on slips of paper. Provide piles of same-size blocks in two different colors and a base. The child draws two numbers and places one on the left side of the base and one on the right. He or she decides if the left numeral is smaller or larger than the right and puts the symbol between them. The child tests the answer by making two towers with the same number of blocks as each number and determining which one is taller.
  • Count by 2s: Begin with a brick with 2 studs, then increase to 4. As proficiency grows, group blocks into sets of 5, then 10, and have the child count by each number.
  • Geometry: Encourage children to build towers of different heights and various types of structures. Not only are the youngsters demonstrating their creativity, they are improving spatial perception and geometry smarts.

Plants

Let the child choose one or more plants. Plant seeds or seedlings either indoors or outdoors. As the plant grows, ask what shape the leaves are and how many are on a stem or in a group, and look for patterns. Measure the plant at regular intervals and chart its growth. If the plant produces flowers, talk about the shape of the petals and the whole blossom. More than one plant provides opportunities for comparing size and parts of each.

By incorporating math-centered activities into play time, you are ensuring that kids grow up with a greater appreciation for the world of numbers—and will look forward to math class in school. Let the fun begin!

 

Foster Care Youth: Using Technology to Provide Support

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Many social workers, other helping professionals, and foster care alumni have recognized the value in utilizing technology to support foster care youth. However, there is a gap in the scholarly research and development of technology solutions in this area.

In October of 2015, the Pritzer Foster Care Initiative sponsored a conference regarding “Web and Mobile app Solutions for Transition Age Youth.” at the conference, it was suggested that technology innovations for the foster care population should be amassed and made available via a single access point. At a similar event, the “Children’s Rights Summit” in December of 2015, they also discussed the myriad ways technology could be used to overcome legal barriers for foster care youth, families, and professionals.

The push for mobile applications, websites, and video games to engage and empower foster care youth is driven by the poor outcomes associated with “aging out”. Scholars define aging out, which occurs between 18 to 21 years old, as the process by which foster youth surpass the maximum age for foster care. Youth who leave foster care are presumed to join the ranks of: the homeless, undereducated, unemployed, incarcerated, substance abusers, those with unwanted pregnancies, and victims of poor credit and identity theft. 

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analyse and Reporting, the number of youth who aged out of foster care during 2013 was 238,280. The racial/ethnic breakdown of these youth was: white 45% or 106,487; black 24% or 56,053; Hispanic 20% or 48,661; and Bi-racial or multiracial 6% or 13,889.

National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) captures data in the following areas for foster care youth aged 17: financial, education, relationships with adults, homelessness, high-risk behaviors, and health insurance access. The data revealed that 28% of those youth were either: employed full or part-time, received job training, social security, educational assistance, or other social supports.

Additionally, 93% of the youth reported participation in educational programming, 93% denoted having a healthy relationship with at least one adult, 16 % reported being homeless at some point, 27% replied having a referral for substance abuse counseling, 35% indicated being incarcerated at some time, 7% reported an unplanned pregnancy or fatherhood, and 81% reported having Medicare coverage.

These figures do not evoke a brilliant future for those departing foster care. For this reason, social workers have become innovators by melding technology and research into mobile applications, websites, and video games that meet the needs of foster care youth. Some of the promising technology available are as follows:

  • Bay Area Legal Aid partners with the Youth Law Center and the Public Interest Law Project to provide trainings in foster care benefits and advocates for foster care youth.
  • Beyond ‘Aging Out’: An MMOG for Foster Care Youth is a gaming platform and support network for foster care youth.
  • Foster Care to Success (FC2S) has influenced public policy, volunteer initiatives, and programs for older foster youth.
  • Foster Club is an online resource providing peer support and information for current and former foster youth.
  • Focus on Foster Families is a mobile app providing video interviews with foster youth and caregivers sharing experiences, and expert legal, education, and child welfare advice.
  • iFoster is an online community offering resources, technology, tutoring, eyeglasses, job opportunities, and a digital locker for foster youth to secure personal information.
  • Kids Help Phone is a Canadian-based website providing 24/7 counselling and information services for children and youth.
  • KnowB4UGo is a mobile application connecting foster youth with people, places and programs that support the aging out process.
  • National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Mobile App (NFCAD) provides search information, including location and key contacts, for organizations, groups, agencies, and experts across the child welfare profession
  • Ratemyfosterhome.com is a mobile app designed to garner information about foster homes and foster care experiences in real-time.
  • TeenParent.net is a website offering information, resources, and a blog to support foster youth who are expecting or parenting and their caregivers.
  • Think of Us is an online platform to support foster youth, foster/adoptive parents, and social services.
  • Pathos game is a puzzle and fantasy video game created by FixedUpdate. As the main character, Pan, explores new worlds and makes new friends, players experience some of the emotions of children in the foster care system. FixedUpdate hopes that Pan’s adventures will connect with people inside and outside of the foster care system. The game, Pathos, will be available on the iTunes Store and Google Play Store in 2016.
  • Persistence Plus engages and motivates college students through a mobile platform that uses transformative behavioral interventions.
  • Sortli is a mobile application that provides information, step-by-step guides and support. Sortli gives you 7 paths toward independence to include identity, relationships, a place to live, health, finances, education and employment, and living skills.
  • Ventura County Foster Healthlink (FHL) is a new website and mobile application that provides foster parents and caregivers with health information about children in their care. The goal is for information to be shared electronically among the care team to better meet the needs of the children.

These are only a fraction of the technologies available to assist foster youth. Many people in the public and private sector are unaware that social work professionals are leading the way in the research and design of high tech for foster youth.

Social worker Ruby Guillen of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has developed the following apps: (1) an app to report and prevent child sex trafficking, (2) an anti-bullying app, (3) a foster care placement app, and (4) an app for risk assessment of neglect and child abuse. Guillen was inspired by her passion for technology and her experience as a social worker. Guillen and her colleagues developed these apps at two hackathons sponsored by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Although, the apps are not readily available, they foreshadow trends for the future social work practice.

Jay Miller, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, understands the gaps in support that exist in the child welfare system. Dr. Miller has asked for backing to create and assess a mobile app to support foster care youth in transition. This research is being conducted in the Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky area.

He states that, “a foster kid will turn 18 and there’s some kind of expectation that they’ll be able to function in a way that other kids who are never in foster care don’t have the capacity to function or make big decisions at 18. We expect foster kids to do that.” He further adds that, “With child welfare in general and with foster care specifically, the problems that plague these systems they are community problems. It’s not just a someone problem. It’s an everyone problem” Miller suggests an ideological change in people’s perceptions about foster care. “We need to look at it as a service for people in need. It is a solution. Dr. Miller’s work will continue to bring the barriers to success for foster youth to the forefront. 

Innovative technology solutions have been developed to address systemic issues in the foster care system and to sustain foster care youth in general. These mobile apps, websites, and video games meet immediate needs allowing foster care youth to focus on future goals. There are a plethora of resources accessible to equip foster care youth in their transition into young adulthood.

By shifting the focus from data that exposes the many apertures of the current system to programs that produce confident and successful young adults, our outlook becomes much broader. Developing thoughtful products and tangible services for foster care youth can produce more positive outcomes.

Spotlighting the Launch of the DOJ’s Elder Justice Website

Recently, the United States Department of Justice announced the launch of the Elder Justice website which was created to help further combat elder abuse and financial exploitation of seniors. Being the caregiver of a member of the Silent Generation and being a helping professional, I understand how dire it is to protect the older members in our society, and to report any forms of abuse or neglect they may endure.

Elderly Black Woman 1With a plethora of resources out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out what information is appropriate and current to utilize and pass along to those who need it. The U.S. Justice Department has taken steps to provide an online informational “hub” for older Americans, their families, law enforcement, helping professionals, and other stakeholders who have a vested interest in ensuring that older Americans’ rights and humanness are respected.

The Focus Behind Elder Justice:

The need for such a new resource is imperative, especially since one in ten Americans over the age of 60 suffer from abuse and neglect in this country.  Elder Justice’s aim is to be another proactive measure to assist in preventing elder abuse and financial exploitation.

Elder abuse can consist of an older individual experiencing physical, emotional/mental, financial, and/or sexual abuse; and neglect in one’s well-being and care, which can include health care.  The devastating effects of elder abuse is not just felt by the individual targeted, but by those within the community as well.  Elder abuse dwindles the resources set aside for elderly individuals, families, businesses, and public programs (including Medicare and Medicaid) by billions of dollars each year.  This depletion causes tremendous strains on our healthcare, financial, and judicial systems to transpire.

Protecting the elderly has continued to be a priority of the Justice Department, which were evident by the remarks Associate Attorney General Tony West made at the outreach event of the website launch in mid-September:

The launch of the Elder Justice website today marks another milestone in reaching our shared goal of keeping older Americans safe from abuse and neglect  …  The more we embrace our elders with respect and care, the stronger our society will be.  This tool helps move us closer to that goal.

Various forms of abuse and neglect are not the only issues concerning our seniors the Elder Justice website tackles.  Financial exploitation by consumer scams and healthcare fraud are forms of deception this population experiences.  Seniors are estimated to lose almost 3 billion dollars each year from these kinds of exploitation.  The consequences can greatly diminish older adults’ quality of life by creating a loss of independence and self-sufficiency, and increasing the infliction of health and psychological distress.  The Justice Department has taken several steps to focus on these matters, such as prosecuting those who purposefully targeted seniors with scams involving reverse mortgages and lotteries.  In regards to healthcare fraud, the implementation of enforcement, prevention, and consumer protection initiatives has aided to curb financial exploits of our seniors.

What to Expect When You Visit the Elder Justice Website:

Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery made the following statement about what the public and professionals can find on the Elder Justice website:

The website provides resources and a means for improved communication among prosecutors, supports victims and families, and establishes a mechanism for collaboration for researchers and practitioners … While there are many other victim support websites available, we believed that the department could add significant value in this domain by consolidating information nationwide and making it more user-friendly.  The Civil Division will continue to strengthen its efforts to protect the elderly.

The website is easy to navigate, and seems to be very accessible for users of different technological abilities.  There are several tabs on the left column of the homepage that directs visitors to resources and information that may pertain to their unique situation or interests, such as “support for victims and families,” “practitioner resources,” “financial exploitation,” and “researcher resources.”  Each resource link provides several subcategories of information for that particular topic.

The “support for victims and families” resource link has the best information available on the website, in my opinion, because you can search for organizations in your particular state.  When I viewed the resources for South Carolina page, I was amazed at the simplistic layout the information listed was arranged in – the information was housed in an easy to read table format with the title headings “organization’s name,” “address,” and “contact numbers.”  Every organization listed was categorized under its appropriate mission focus, so that users would understand the kind of assistance to expect if they were to contact that organization.

You can also search for organizations by keyword, distance, zip code, or categories.  The various ways of finding organizations in your particular state/area is a great feature because it widens the possibility of connecting with agencies that could be a lifeline for you, your family, or your clients.  I critically viewed the functionality of the website through two lenses:  As a self-proclaimed semi-techie, I judge resource websites like this harshly because it should not be complicated or frustrating to search and locate information that could help and possibly save lives.

The website is accessible and can be effectively used by a layman or a professional equally with very little difficulty, which is how most websites should be.  As a helping professional, the Elder Justice website will make it easier for social workers and other professionals to be more aware of what resources they can direct clients and families to who are in need.  To me, the website is a great page to bookmark for future use, and to share with those who could benefit from the data compiled.

Final Thoughts About Elder Justice:

I was pleasantly surprised at the launch of a valuable resources such as this on the federal level.  As our elderly population grows with the Baby Boomers gracefully entering their golden years, the development of this website is indeed timely.  Though this website focuses on the elderly, it can be used for all populations that are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including those with disabilities.

As one ages, the likelihood of acquiring a disability increases exponentially, so many of the adults who make up our senior population are living with disabilities or will be.  Their quality of life and well-being matters, just as that of a younger person.  Our seniors need us to protect and support them as they adjust to aging, and possibly living with chronic health conditions.  Resources like Elder Justice makes it easier to inform, empower, protect, and advocate for them, and to encourage them to empower and advocate for themselves.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Healthy Black Woman.)

Practical Palliative Care Resources for Patients and Family Caregivers

Caritas House headquarters of Harris HospisCare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does your practice’s website include local or national resources that complement the professional medical services they provide?  One way to add value to the services and increase the efficiency of medical office visits is to provide palliative care resources that your patients and their caregivers can use to inform care decisions.

Many people are starting to hear the term palliative care in the media from care managers and from people they know.  Yet, national research indicates that most people are unfamiliar with the term or confuse it with only one type of palliative care – hospice. Unlike hospice, palliative care is available to anyone, regardless of his/her illness or condition or life expectancy.  Palliative care can be offered in conjunction with curative or life-extending care and is available in all care settings.

The California State University Institute for Palliative Care defines palliative care as care that improves quality of life for patients and families facing serious or chronic illness — whatever the diagnosis or prognosis. It prevents and relieves suffering by addressing pain as well as the physical, emotional, psychosocial and spiritual problems associated with serious and chronic conditions.

Palliative care complements the care that your patients receive from you and acute care providers and can help with care transitions and prevent costly ER visits or (re)hospitalizations, by holistically addressing pain and symptoms while supporting family caregivers. Simply adding some or all of these resources can help to educate your patients about palliative care and communicate your support for this emerging aspect of healthcare.

Palliative Care Resources:

  • CSU Institute for Palliative Care –
  • Get Palliative Care –
  • Center to Advance Palliative Care –
  • Caring Connections – 
  • WebMD –
  • Department of Veterans Affairs –
  • Mayo Clinic –
  • National Cancer Institute –
  • Next Step in Care –

The CSU Institute for Palliative Care at California State University San Marcos

Disability.gov Resource Guides for People with Disabilities

Let’s start the new year by educating and informing ourselves of the invaluable resources that are available to people with disabilities in the United States.  Disability.gov, the federal government’s one-stop access website for disability-related resources, services, and information, has a plethora of guides that breaks down topics that matter those with disabilities, caregivers and families, and helping professionals who interact with this particular population.

Disability.gov Logo 1With a new year comes new goals and dreams on how to improve one’s quality of life and livelihood.  Disability.gov’s guides answer many of the most frequently asked questions surrounding how does one become eligible for disability benefits, where job training services are located in one’s community, as well as being informed about the housing assistance programs that those with disabilities can utilize.

The Disability.gov’s guide to disability benefits answers many burning questions about what is considered a “disability” by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria; the differences between SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Social Supplemental Income); what to do if your disability claim is denied; the programs that exist to assist people with disabilities who desire to return to work; and a host of other imperative subjects that matter to those who are seeking benefits.  From personal experience, it can feel as if you are on a wild goose chase when seeking such answers when it comes to learning about your benefits; Disability.gov has done the work for you by providing detailed information on obtaining and maintaining the benefits that you may qualify for.

The guide to employment broaches such matters regarding the online job searching tools that can be helpful in finding employment opportunities; the new job trend of telecommuting, or working from home; how one’s disability benefits may be affected once employed; the legal rights of a prospective employee with a disability; etc.  As the unemployment rate of people with disabilities rose to 12.3% in November 2013, and the labor force participation fell to 19.6%, the issues of seeking employment, sustaining employment, and figuring out how to keep one’s benefits (if possible) are undeniably on the consciousness of those with disabilities who want to earn a living.

The guide to housing provides details as to how to find an affordable place to live; what resources are available to make your living quarters accessible for your needs; advice on buying or renting a property; programs that can assist in paying rent; your housing rights as a person with a disability; and so forth.  Obtaining an apartment, home, or form of housing is an empowering moment for a person with a disability.  It means that you have a place and space to call your own, and this thrusts the door of independence wide open.

Disability.gov’s getting help in your community guide has information about programs and organizations in your area that provide key services and support when it comes to health care, resources for families in need of temporary financial assistance, and receiving aid to pay home heating bills (which is greatly needed during this time of year).  This guide is especially useful for those who live in rural areas who may be unfamiliar with what is available to them outside of their town or county.  This particular guide can also come in handy for social workers and other helping professionals when trying to locate appropriate resources for the clients they serve.

These guides are just a few options offered by Disability.gov that are available with just a click of the mouse.  Review the “Guide Me” link to search for the information that pertains to your, or someone you know, specific needs.  2014 can be the year people with disabilities arm themselves with vital knowledge that will empower and enhance the well-being of their lives.  Are you familiar with similar resources or guides that people with disabilities can employ in 2014?  Share them with me, and I may feature your suggestion(s) in a future article on Social Work Helper.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Disability Blog.)

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