Day One

She is a beautiful young girl with a bit of mischievousness  in her eyes. She can be sullen, withdrawn, and the anger she bears can be explosive. But in spite of the tough girl façade, Mindy is a child that has been hurt, rejected, and confused. I introduced myself to her, asking her about the great hair extensions she proudly handles with her fingers. She smiles and with that we begin our conversation. The path home for this young girl will be arduous, helping her to manage her impulses will be a challenge, supporting her to stay in school will require patience. But you can’t look into her eyes without wanting only the best for her. For us that means making the extra effort by assigning additional staff to her and tailor services that are individualized to address her needs specifically. These efforts require resources that are often in short supply. So the task at hand is to make the most of the resources we do have to provide the greatest impact possible for this young girl and all those that we serve at Hillsides.

This task was made easier by the passage of Proposition 30 that will allow continued funding for education. That being said, additional resources are only part of the solution. Just as important as an improved funding stream is the need to establish clear priorities, identify efficiencies that allow funds to be best utilized, and employ methods that clearly demonstrate impact. Let us not be deceived by the passage of Proposition 30; resources continue to be constrained and the challenges are many. Smart utilization of limited resources is the only answer. This is an era of doing more with less without sacrificing what is best.

So given this scenario, what advice would an advocate of the children and youth we serve provide President Obama on day one of his second term? I would suggest that the first task would be to establish common ground among all parties and state that education and the needs of the most vulnerable children and families are a national priority. Regardless of our constrained economic situation, we are united in addressing the needs of the children and families that depend on us to be successful. There is no better investment in our future than what we do today for our children

As much as we must not underestimate the assistance we received from public sources, the truth is that for an organization like Hillsides we are very dependent on the generous support we receive from the private sector. Last year 10% of our operating budget came from funding provided through individual donors and grants from private foundations. The impact we are able to have on the lives of the children we serve is dependent on the generosity of our donor community.

Regardless of the outcomes of this year’s election, we continue to be very dependent on private funds to augment what we receive from the public sector. In that sense nothing has changed and the challenges continue to mount. However, the efforts we make are so worthwhile, the impact we have is so significant, and the ability to restore hope to children and their families is priceless. Challenges aside, we must not give in to the cynics who wallow in doubt and worry, but rather look to what has been achieved as an indicator of what can still be accomplished, never losing hope to create lasting change for Mindy and other children and their families.

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