LUK, Inc. Blog
Providing Stability to the Youngest Survivors
by Michele Morrissey
A baby girl, just four days old and exposed to heroin, is shuddering through withdrawal in intensive care, her fate now being determined in a courthouse that hosts a parade of human misery.
A mother nods off as the judge explains the legal process, and tests arrive back showing she continues to struggle with recovery. The judge rules, grandparents sob, and by the time the hearing is over, yet another child is left in the arms of loving foster parents because of the disease of addiction on parenting.
There is little surprise in any of this, for these themes are persistent in referrals for Comprehensive Foster Care in Massachusetts. A Monday brings a referral for an opioid-dependent newborn which spills into a Tuesday where four siblings are found in an apartment left alone without adequate food or resources. Wednesday brings a need for a foster home for two young siblings found in a car beside a mother passed out which fades into Thursday with another addicted infant brought into this world. Across Massachusetts soaring use of opioids has forced thousands of children from their homes, creating a generation of children and youth longing for their parents in recovery or worse orphaned because of fatal overdoses.
Stories of barren fridges, unwelcome visitors and parents who could not be woken are realities for many communities over the past several years. Many times we do not hear about the numerous stories where grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and coaches come forward and provide safety in familiar homes in their communities. However, when these best options are not available our foster parents come forward and provide security.
It only takes one caring individual to positively effect change in the life of one of these children. Foster parents make a significant impact on the trajectory of a child’s life.
One of the biggest problems in foster care right now is that there are not enough homes for the children who require this help. Becoming a foster parent is an important process that LUK can help a person navigate. The potential foster family is provided with a background check and participates in a thorough home study. Once completed and approved, a family can begin to accept children into their home. If you have the space, compassion, a clear criminal record, and the ability to care for children, rather than ask “Why should I become a foster parent?” Instead ask “Why shouldn’t I become a foster parent?”.
To begin the process of becoming a foster parent, please call LUK at 800-879-0000 and we will assign a professional foster care specialist to support and guide you through the process.
Involving Youth in Prevention Work
Why involving youth in prevention work can be a game changer.
Youth leadership in prevention programming is a game changer, and here’s why: Youth are creative, candid, and influential. Youth who are passionate about preventing underage drinking in their schools and communities can have a great impact on the environment in which they and their peers live. Youth are also more likely to listen to their peers, especially when it is something their peers are invested in. By creating a place for youth leadership in our prevention programs we enhance our credibility.
LUK does most of their prevention work with youth in two ways – through LUK’s Peers 4 Prevention program, which hires high school students to be Peer Leaders and educate other students about Operating Under the Influence (OUI) prevention, and through the Substance Use Prevention Collaboratives (SAPC) in the East and West parts of North Worcester County.
Peers 4 Prevention
Since September, LUK Peer Leaders have presented to over 300 students in Fitchburg regarding Operating Under the Influence (OUI) prevention, and focused on the dangers of using substances and the dangers and consequences of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In 2016, the Peer Leaders created a video PSA called Think Before You Drink that can be viewed on our YouTube channel here.
LUK Peers also attend community events to share this information with students and their parents.
SAPC Social Marketing Campaign
LUK’s SAPC programs were busy throughout the winter and early spring planning a social marketing campaign, which was launched in April. This year, SAPC East and West have teamed up to tackle underage drinking! Like in years past, the campaign will focus on “Life is Full of Shots Worth Taking,” which aims to remind youth that there are better things to pursue than drinking alcohol.
This year, youth leaders from Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC) have been very influential as part of the planning committee. MOC peer leaders not only attended every meeting, but provided fresh ideas and new perspectives on social marketing and social platforms. This has empowered SAPC staff to look at “the way things have always been done” and think about new and exciting ways to reach young people.
To view the PSAs that the youth helped to produce, visit www.YouTube.com/LUKVideo4u and watch the videos titled Life is Full of Shots Worth Taking 1 & 2.
January is National Mentoring Month
by Hilary Amedy, Mentoring Program Coordinator
January is National Mentoring Month and is the largest-scale mentoring campaign nationwide. National Mentoring Month offers us a chance to celebrate the mentoring relationships essential to creating sustainable futures for our youth.
Research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and reduce or avoid risky behavior like drug use. In turn, these young people are:
- 55% more likely to be enrolled in college
- 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities
- 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities
- More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team
Yet, the same research shows that one in three young people in our country will grow up without a mentor. Today, in our community there are 190 kids who could benefit from having a mentor.
National Mentoring Month is the time of year where engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor is highest. This year, with the support of the mentoring community, we are encouraging the public to go beyond just digital engagement – and become involved in real life. Mentoring relationships are at their best when connections are made between a caring adult and a young person who knows that someone is there to help guide them through those real life decisions.
National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation. Each year since its launch in 2002, National Mentoring Month has enjoyed the strong support of the President and the United States Congress.
Mentors spend at least one hour a week with their mentee and do a variety of activities together from educational to recreational. We have a need for community mentors and site based mentors. Community based mentors pick up their mentee at the mentee’s home and choose what they are going to do out in the community. Site based mentors meet at the Sizer Charter School twice a week as a “lunch buddy” and Plumley Village mentors meet on Thursdays from 3:00 – 4:00 in Worcester.
LUK Mentors are the backbone of this program and are so generous with their time and energy. We want to thank all the LUK Mentors who have shared their life experiences, knowledge and wisdom with our mentees. You are the best!!
April is Volunteer Appreciation Month
Volunteers are Awesome!
April is Volunteer Appreciation Month! National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Since then, every U.S. President has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week, which has grown each year with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week. You have the opportunity during National Volunteer Week, which took place this year, April 15th – 21st, to reach out and express your gratitude to those awesome people who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community.
According to the Corporation for National & Community service, overall, in Massachusetts in 2015:
- 24.8% of residents volunteer
- 1,336,559 volunteers
- 28.2 volunteer hours per capita
- 150.02 million hours of service
- $3.6 billion of service contributed
- 50.8% of residents donate $25 or more to charity
LUK Inc. volunteers include those who serve on the LUK Board, LUK Mentoring Advisory Board, who are interns and LUK Mentors, volunteer for special events like the Rodman Ride for Kids, Day in the Park and Corduroy King 5K, the LUK Mentoring Kids at Heart Gala, and the Common Ground Basketball Tournament . Volunteers are one of our countries most important assets. Without volunteers, there are many programs that would not exist and many events that support those programs, would not take place. The LUK Mentoring Program is one of those programs, volunteer driven.
Here are some tips on becoming a volunteer*:
- Research the causes or issues that are important to you. Look for a group that deals with issues about which you feel strongly.
- Consider what you have to offer. If you enjoy outdoor work, or have a knack for teaching, you may want to look for a volunteer opportunity in which your special skills can be utilized. Similarly, you may want to think about your specific personality and how your organization skills or communication style might fit with different organizations or activities.
- Think outside the box! Many community groups that are looking for volunteers, like neighborhood watch programs, prisons, disaster relief organizations, youth organizations, intergenerational programs, and park services may not have occurred to you but could just be the perfect fit.
- There’s no need to wait to be asked. There are many ways to find organizations that are looking for volunteers. Ask your friends or colleagues about their own volunteering activities. The Internet has great online volunteer referral services that can help you find the right volunteer opportunity for you.
- When you find an organization that is in line with your interests, request an interview and plan for it in much the same way that you would plan for a job interview. Be ready to describe your interests, qualifications, and background, and also be prepared to ask your interviewers about their organization and the benefits they offer to their volunteers. An interview will allow you and the organization to find the right match for your skills and interests.
- Would you like to learn something new? Consider whether the organization offers training or professional development opportunities for their volunteers. Volunteering can provide you with the chance to learn about something you’re interested in and develop skills in a new area.
- Find the volunteer activity that fits your schedule. Organizations need different levels of commitment for different types of volunteer activities.
- Volunteer with friends or as a family. Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity that would be suitable for parents and children to do together, or for husband and wife or a group of friends to take on as a team. Volunteering with others can be a great way to get to know people better and can help keep you excited about volunteering.
- Virtual Volunteering- yes, there is such a thing. If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organizations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This can be a great way to get started in volunteering, and can also provide a way to volunteer at home on a flexible schedule.
- Don’t give up! If you find that your volunteering experience is not all that you expected, talk to your volunteer supervisor or coordinator about it. Think of what could make it better and check with them to see if your ideas are possibilities.
Of course we would like you to volunteer for LUK! If you would like to learn more about the LUK Mentoring Program, serve on the Mentoring Advisory Board or help with our fundraising efforts go to www.LUK.org/Mentoring or call 800-579-0000. You can also volunteer for the 8th Annual “Corduroy King” 5K on Sunday, May 6th. Click here to see the volunteer opportunities available.
Please take a moment to recognize the volunteers who make our community a better place and go to www.facebook.com/LUKMentoring where we are highlighting our generous mentors and volunteers. We would like to thank all the LUK Inc. volunteers and encourage those who are thinking about volunteering to find the right opportunity!
*adapted from materials compiled by the nonprofit coalition Independent Sector
October is Prevention Month!
By Brandy Litt, Director of Community Engagement and Support (CES)
There is an interesting analogy that prevention people often use to describe their efforts. In a town there is a river, and there are suddenly many people falling into the river and almost drowning. The townspeople band together to start rescuing people who have fallen in, but every day there are more and more people that need to be rescued. Suddenly, someone realizes that the reason people are falling in is the bridge upstream – if we put in a fence along the sides, fewer people will fall in! Prevention efforts try and keep people from falling into the river, while treatment efforts are the townspeople working to save those who have already fallen in. With both working together, the town is healthier and safer.
There are different levels of prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary prevention works to promote healthy behaviors before there is a problem. This includes education and environmental approaches, where we try to put rules and laws in place that offer protections for everyone. Secondary interventions are used when someone is starting to get sick, or has a higher chance of developing unhealthy behaviors. This could be due to risk factors, such as a family history of a condition, or environmental risk factors like a neighborhood exposed to pollutants (perhaps from a factory). Tertiary prevention works to help people who are already sick or experiencing unhealthy behaviors. An example of tertiary prevention is implementing harm-reduction techniques (such as Narcan trainings) so that someone who has an opioid addiction is less likely to die due to an overdose.
The great thing about prevention is that many of the protective factors works for a wide range of behaviors. A protective factor can be biological, psychological, familial, or at a community level and lowers the likelihood of a negative outcome or behavior. Risk factors can be at any of those same levels and increase the likelihood of a negative outcome or behavior. Therefore, increasing a child’s coping skills ensures he or she is less likely to engage in risky social behaviors, have problems in school, or suffer from mental health problems.