Hillsides Community Blog

Congratulations to Our High School Graduates

Today is a wonderful day at Hillsides, in particular for all the staff at Hillsides Education Center, who dedicate year after year to working with our students in providing them a quality education. Today is a day to acknowledge our students for the great work that they’ve done and one of the greatest accomplishments they have achieved—graduating from high school.

We had the opportunity to listen to six graduates share their stories and give thanks to those individuals that brought comfort, attention, and education. While some students might have been with us for one year or fifteen years, each graduate has become a young man or woman. They have matured to become heartfelt individuals with diverse talents and abilities. Though they have encountered many challenges, they have also achieved great things they can be proud of: the ability to express themselves, be a role model to younger students, bring laughter to someone’s life, and simply find their voice.

We couldn’t be prouder of them and are excited about their future. Hillsides will continue to care and be a supportive community for them and we are confident of their future success. A hearty congratulations goes out to the students and another one to the staff, parents, and community for dedicating their time, attention, and resources in meeting academic needs and providing enrichment opportunities for our students throughout the year.

AB 12: Allows California to Receive Matching funds for Children Placed with Relatives

Foster care children who establish long-term attachments to relatives or individuals fare much better than those who do not have permanent connections with someone in their lives. In 2008, the federal government enacted the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Public Law 110-351), a new law that gives states the ability to establish relative guardianship programs with federal financial participation in the costs. PL 110-351 also makes federal funds available for foster care, kinship-guardianship, and adoption assistance benefits to youth who meet certain conditions (e.g., employment and education related requirements) until age 21. PL 110-351 provides California with an unprecedented opportunity to access federal funding to improve the lives of our state’s most vulnerable youth.

I am hopeful in reporting that AB 12 (Beall and Bass), a bill co-sponsored by the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, our state association, has passed out of its first Senate policy committee, Senate Human Services, on a 3-0 vote and now moves on to the Judiciary Committee. Senators Liu (D-Glendale), Yee (D-San Francisco) and Runner (R-Antelope Valley) voted for the bill; two committee members were absent.

This Assembly Bill would allow California to receive matching funds for children placed with relatives in KinGAP and would permit California to take advantage of recently enacted federal support for youth who wish to remain in foster care to age 21. Through the federal Fostering Connections to Success Act, which provides matching federal funds to states that place children in guardianship and extends federal support for foster care to age 21, AB 12 provides the vehicle to take advantage of both changes in federal law. The legislation would ensure that California opts into these essential federal funding opportunities. AB 12 would: 1) re-enact our existing Kin-GAP program to align it with new federal requirements and 2) provide transitional support to qualifying foster youth until age 21. This would benefit many of the children and youth we serve and may provide new opportunities to Hillsides to support parents and relative caregivers to address the challenges that their children confront.

These measures would assist California to utilize federal funds to meet costs currently borne by the state and counties, and would realize proven savings from declines in unemployment, homelessness, teen pregnancy, public assistance, and the other costly outcomes for young adults who “age out” of foster care. The benefit to transitional age youth means a successful transition into adulthood.

For those interested in following these efforts and receive more information contact the John Burton Foundation at www.johnburtonfoundation.org.

According to the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, after being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 22nd, AB 12 moves to the Appropriations Committee, then on to the Senate floor for final approval. Once out of the Senate, the bill moves back to the Assembly for concurrence on amendments taken in the Senate. It must be sent to the Governor for signature by August 31st and signed by September 30th. If signed, the law would take effect on January 1, 2012.

Oscar Award Winning Actress Marlee Matlin Visit Our Children in Pasadena

After attending our Second Annual Hillsides Foster Soles Kickoff Party, Oscar Award winning actress Marlee Matlin was interested in learning more about Hillsides from Steve Gleason, one of our board members. After meeting her, I invited her for a tour and fortunately for us, we have a wonderful librarian, Sherri Ginsberg, who follows up with local authors and encourages them persuasively to visit our children during their library time. Combining our efforts, I want to thank Marlee for accepting Sherri’s invitation and reading from the first chapter of her book, Deaf Child Crossing, which is about her childhood in Chicago.
After Marlee’s reading with the help of her interpreter, the children were inquisitive, asking about her deafness.  In particular, one Hillsides child, who is deaf, signed with Marlee . Marlee asked him if he thought everyone should learn how to sign and, with a smile, he said that would be a great idea. Marlee taught the children a few signs, like “love”, “play”, “sorry” and the children practiced along with her.
Interactions by individuals like Marlee make such a difference to our children. Authors read to them, explain the importance of literacy, and have a conversation about their careers and writing process. But more importantly, individuals with diverse backgrounds explain to our children that no matter what obstacles you have, you can overcome challenges and barriers that you face.  On behalf of our children at risk, we thank individuals and volunteers who take time to recognize the importance of spending an hour or two with our children. Not only do we create safe places for them, but with the help of individuals and volunteers, we create lasting memories for our children. You can too. Learn how you can volunteer or how your business, church or organization can make a lasting impact too, visit www.Hillsides.org.

Celebrities Take Big Steps to Support Hillsides Foster Soles

During Foster Care Awareness Month in May, we held our Second Annual Hillsides Foster Soles Kickoff Party to launch our online auction of celebrity autographed shoes. More than 150 celebrities participated by donating their shoes, which drew a crowd of 200 at our sold-out event at Bar Celona in Pasadena. The auction, powered by www.clothesoffourback.org, was held from May 4 through 20 and raised more than $27,000 to help us provide the extras for the vulnerable children that we serve in our residential treatment program.

Celebrities like Dr. Drew Pinksy, Marlee Matlin, Jane Kaczmarek, “Bold and the Beautiful“ soap stars and others lent their support by stepping out and attending our event. I had the chance to address the media and speak to the celebrities about Hillsides and foster care issues that impact our children. “Extra” and “On the Red Carpet” among other media outlets came out to our benefit and brought additional attention to our cause that creates safe places for children at risk and their families living in Los Angeles County.View our photos.
Our vulnerable children and families that live in Los Angeles need so much support during these difficult and challenging times in their lives. May is a time when we can draw some attention from the media, but every day is a time when they need us. You can help support our work and mission to create safe places for them so they can achieve a successful family environment. Learn how and visit our wish list at www.Hillsides.org.

A New Era for Hillsides

Coming to Los Angeles from another multi-service children’s charity in Northern California, Sunny Hills Services, I am excited about my position as Hillsides’ chief executive officer. The Board worked for over two years to identify a successor to John Hitchcock, who retired in March after nearly forty years of service to Hillsides.

Hillsides has a long tradition at the forefront of services for vulnerable children, youth and families. As a leader in this field, I’m excited about the opportunity to be supportive of strengthening Hillsides’ mission in creating safe places and continuing to advocate for the needs of these children and their families.

While at Sunny Hills Services I outlined a multiple year transition plan that increased community-based programs, addressing the weakening demands for residential services, as well as positioning the charity for further development, increased service capacity and strengthened its financial viability. Other previous leadership roles have included an appointment as executive vice president and chief operating officer at Para Los Niños in Los Angeles, director of planning and director for community services at Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River, as well as executive director and administrator of St. Vincent’s Home in Fall River, Massachusetts.

I plan to continue an active role in advocating at the county, state and national level for the development of additional funding for Kinship Care, mental health services, supportive housing for transitional aged youth and medical insurance for vulnerable children and youth.
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