How to create an engaged and loyal workforce through corporate volunteerism

By Ashley Juricich – Director of Marketing, Technocom (contributor)

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business,” is a well-known adage by Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group. It’s an easy enough notion to agree with, but how does an organization build value for an employee? Is it a fun office space? Catered Friday lunches? Cool tech gadgets? The answer is much simpler and actually more cost-effective than that.

Connecting to your employees goes beyond providing them with materialistic objects; it’s about building a culture founded upon serving others. It’s the growth and development of not just your company, but your community.

Corporate philanthropy is an initiative many companies are adopting because of the many benefits they bring to the office, their culture, and their brand – it’s one of our main corporate pillars at Technocom. Having your team take part in community projects helps energize and engage your office, promotes team building, builds leadership skills, helps attract and retain employees, and shows shareholders and prospects that you’re in touch with the community you’re a part of.

Engage your office

Highly engaged teams are proven to be more productive, are absent less, and produce more/generate more profit. Camille Preston, PhD, PCC of Forbes Magazine Coaches Council discussed this issue’s impact on organizations and found that engaged employees are often synonymous with happy employees. “Okay, so how does giving back create a happier work culture,” you may ask? Simple. Participation in charitable activities stimulates the same part of the brain that is responsible for the release of endorphins. A company that focuses on serving its community is in turn also serving and positively impacting their employees.

To read the CBJ article in its entirety, go here!

Community partners need to band together to comfort youth in crisis (video)

Childhood trauma is a crisis in our nation and it’s adversely impacting children regardless of the Zip Code in which they live. Thompson Child & Family Focus helps meet the needs of Charlotte’s most vulnerable children with its work with Turning Point Academy (TPA).

After one year in partnership with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), the organization has seen transformative results for students at the school. Will Jones, president of Thompson, provides insight into this issue and how the community can partner with Thompson and become change agents for Charlotte’s children.

To learn how your company or organization can partner with Thompson, an organization with evidence-based, proven outcomes in childhood and school-based mental health, please visit https://www.thompsoncff.org/partners/.

Thompson is a nationally accredited nonprofit agency, proving clinical and prevention services for children and families across Mecklenburg County. Thompson continues its strategic growth, shifting its work, forging new partnerships, to meet the everchanging needs of our community.

Professional Mentoring Crafts New Endings to Children’s Life Stories

Everyone can benefit from a mentor. Some of the world’s most well-known business leaders have attributed their personal success to the guidance, support, and encouragement they received from a mentor. For a large portion of Charlotte’s youth, having a mentor could transform their life—giving them a positive outlook on their future, helping them build confidence, and instill a desire to achieve. In many cases, a relationship with a mentor can be the difference between life and death for an at-risk youth.

In this PSA, Will Jones, President and CEO of Thompson Child & Family Focus, shares insight into this high priority need that is growing right here in Mecklenburg County and he provides information about the work Thompson is doing to address it.

To learn how your company or organization can support a professional mentor through a structured program with evidence-based, proven outcomes please visit www.thompsoncff.org/friendscharlotte.

Mentoring Programs Helps Kids Believe and Achieve

Life can be pretty challenging at times, and as adults we tend to rely on friends, colleagues, or even a therapist to help us navigate the course when waters get rough. We have the resources and maturity to either seek help or work through our problems. Now imagine you’re a six year-old kid…or even a teenager…would you know how to overcome these obstacles by yourself?

What makes us human is that all of us can benefit from the  positive guidance and support from others. For kids, this kind of assistance is especially critical in the years when their self-esteem and character are in the building process.

Mentoring is the key.

In Mecklenburg County alone, almost 1 in 3 children live in a single-parent household (mainly comprised of a female head) where financial stress reigns. Couple that with a myriad of other issues struggling families face and the impact on the children becomes evident in their schoolwork, behavior, etc. Programs that work to provide structured mentoring to kids can change these scenarios and ultimate outcomes.

When a child is connected to a dedicated mentor, studies have indicated that their self-esteem and confidence grows, they learn how to set goals for themselves and establish the work ethic to achieve them. Their attitudes improve, behavior is modified, and relationships get better. Seeking healthy interactions becomes the new normal. Mentoring can do that!

Thompson Child & Family Focus recognized this at the onset and as a solutions-driven organization, Thompson worked to bring a forward thinking mentoring model to North Carolina. The Friends of the Children program is not only highly effective, but unique in that it pairs children at the highest level of risk with a professional mentor for 12 1/2 years–from elementary school through high school.

The outcomes from this program are astounding, and the youth who were once ruled a statistic are re-writing their stories by graduating from school, avoiding the juvenile judicial system, and seeking positive and healthy relationships.

While some mentoring programs are designed for kids who have experienced trauma or more difficult family situations, others are ideal for children who may be experiencing bullying in school or who simply need a role model to look up to. Or maybe a child just needs math or science tutoring after school to encourage them and ignite that spark of academic achievement.

No matter the socio-economic status, ethnicity, or gender, kids can benefit tremendously from adults who genuinely care and have a desire to inspire and shape a mind. Whether it’s Friends of the Children you child or a family member may need–or perhaps it’s the Reading Buddies program–Thompson is passionate about providing help, access, and resources to our most valuable assets…our children.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of mentoring, becoming a volunteer or have questions about our programs, visit www.Thompsoncff.org.

Creating Change That Transforms Lives

It’s probably safe to say that most people want to feel happy and secure in life. Having a purpose and knowing your “why” is the thing that gets us up every day, ready to face the world. And relationships…perhaps THE foremost thing we seek as humans along with unconditional love and support. As life has taught us, the things we want or desire most don’t always come so easily. There are obstacles in life that inevitably come our way, and it often takes mental and emotional strength to push through.

Unfortunately, some people have bigger obstacles than others, such as those who are being challenged by mental health symptoms or who have experienced trauma. Adverse experiences, especially at an early age, can create real barriers in individuals that make navigating life’s ups and downs a seige. At Thompson, it is our job as a professional organization and service-driven community to recognize these unique needs in people (primarily children) and employ effective treatment that address the whole person. As agents of change, understanding how to process trauma begins with thinking differently and doing differently for those we serve.  

Mecklenburg County is becoming more and more aware of community needs by conducting independent resource assessments that can provide a more detailed, objective and comprehensive evaluation of a person who may have had adverse experiences. Navigating the Maze is one such assessment that was published in 2017 and highlighted several areas for improvement we can make as a community.

The issue of suicide was vital piece in the Navigating the Maze assessment because according to the 2017-2018 Community Health Assessment for Mecklenburg County, there were 105 cases in 2016. Data showed that 32% of high school students experienced acute sadness or feelings of hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row. This prevented them from doing normal activities and interacting with others. These types of behaviors, however, are manageable and even preventable; but it takes individuals, the community, and well-equipped organizations to raise awareness, create a dialogue and act.

Thompson Child & Family Focus has been a dedicated partner throughout this process of growth in the community and is making strides in creating innovative mental health treatments and prevention.

Remaining on the leading edge by employing the most advanced mental health practices, Thompson views everything through a trauma-informed lens–from the direct care employees to the Human Resources team. Having CARE (Children and Residential Experiences) infused into our culture, adding trauma-focused and other evidenced-based models, and increasing our focus on early intervention is really starting to bear fruit.

Thompson leadership chose the CARE model to really have all employees ask– “What happened to this child and family, and what can we do to help?”, rather than just seeing behaviors on a surface level. Because of this shift in view, there are families now reporting an increased improvement in mental health gains; including the reduction or elimination of suicidal thoughts in some cases. Some of this is being seen in the direct work clients and their families are doing in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT). The current Thompson cohort being trained in this evidence-based model are seeing impactful reactions to the model, giving us all hope that the treatment of trauma can directly decrease mental health symptoms, including suicidal ideations.

CARE, TFCBT and many other models and interventions are being strategically implemented at Thompson and because we are partnering with equally committed community members and organizations, we will see the real impact of partnerships. We will see suicide rates decrease. We will see people working together to build strong, thriving communities. We will see lives transformed and witness people who have struggled with trauma come through the other side.

Foster Care Awareness…in May and Beyond

Foster care has been growing at an enormous rate. In 2017 there were over 10,000 children in foster care just in the state of North Carolina. Children enter foster care for a variety of reasons, but the highest percent of kids who are placed into “the system” are there due to neglect or parental substance abuse. This is where we get to work. Thompson focuses on building relationships with children and their families in a concerted effort to establish a foundation from where healing can begin. Add worship and play to the mix and the process of transforming lives is thriving. Foster care programs at Thompson offer a structured environment where the child can work together with a team of professionals to get the help that they need to succeed in the home, school, and community. Incorporating the family into the foster care plan enables the child to learn healthy coping skills as well as other enhancing their ability to grow and build relationships with others in a positive way.  

May is Foster Care Awareness Month and we would like to take the time to thank those who have opened their hearts and homes to help a child in need.  Here at Thompson, our focus is on strengthening the relationships that lead children and families into rewarding lives. Each day our foster care staff and foster parents work together to help our youth build healthy relationships with their peers, their teachers and other authority figures. Throughout the 30 years that Thompson has provided foster care services to the youth in Mecklenburg County, our focus has always been to help children lead happy and healthy lives.

To accomplish this mission, our foster parents are trained in evidence-based practices that equip them to provide support to our youth who have experienced trauma. Our foster parents are supported by our highly skilled FC staff who are qualified professionals that work hard to ensure that our youth get the well-rounded help they need. It does, in fact, take a village and Thompson is that 133 year-old foundation.

All children deserve to be happy and thrive in a healthy and safe environment. As foster parents, they are creating a fresh setting that will aid in the healing and growth of a very special child. And while foster parenting can be difficult at times, many of our parents feel that it is the most rewarding thing that they have ever done. Many also feel as though they are a far better person for each experience. Well imagine a hopeful child’s sentiment about fostering. Imagine finally feeling plugged in and part of loving and supportive family. THAT is what we strive for at Thompson—with every single child.

With the ongoing training that our parents receive, the learning never stops and they are able to apply what they have learned to helping those children in need. Our foster parents often rally together to provide support to one another by sharing stories, offering advice to one another and building a support network within their own community. Through the Thompson lens, futures have never looked brighter.

If you have a desire to open your home to a child in need , please contact us at www.Thompsoncff.org or call 704-376-7180. Watch our video here to learn more about Thompson’s foster care programs.

Child Abuse and Neglect: America’s $124 billion problem

Child abuse and neglect is a public health problem of epidemic proportions in North Carolina and throughout this country. Nationally, an estimated 1 in 4 children experience some form of child abuse or neglect in their lifetimes.

According to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina (PCANC) there were, “127,404 children with investigated reports of possible abuse and neglect in North Carolina from July 2016 to June 2017.” The trauma a child is exposed to when they are abused contributes to other public health issues that are currently impacting our communities. Every child that is abused is at higher risk of behavioral problems at school, depression, diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, and suicide. Ultimately, this not only impacts the individual but the overall health and well-being of the greater community at large. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2012 published a report showing child abuse and neglect cost the United States $124 billion.

Federal, state, and local public health agencies as well as policymakers must advance the awareness of the lifetime economic impact of child maltreatment and take immediate action with the same momentum and intensity dedicated to other high profile public health problems –in order to save lives, protect the public′s health, and save money” (Dr. Degutis, 2012).

To ensure the well-being of children and their families we must create a culture where child abuse is identified, treated, and prevented. Through education and training we can significantly reduce child abuse in North Carolina and the entire country. We can begin by breaking the silence about child abuse and neglect. Our children, families, and communities are counting on us to act and put an end to it.

Contact our Family Services Center at 704-376-7180 today for more information on resources that Thompson provides to help prevent child abuse in North Carolina. 

Building Family Leadership

Parents today are faced with many stresses, the fear of housing displacement, financial insecurities, instability of your employment, and many more. Unfortunately, on top of these challenges, parents have the responsibility to care for their children. For many, this is a typical experience. How can an individual think about parenting with those overwhelming challenges? However there is something that can be done, parents can focus on building a support system to help with decision making, handling conflicts, empowerment and leadership.

Not a parent? There’s something you can do, too. Supporting parents in times of need provides the framework for preventing negative or traumatic experiences for children.

Children who regularly experience positive interactions with their parents learn to become independent, content, deal with conflict and form positive relationships. Shaping the parental perspective not only reduces negative and traumatic experiences for children but will also encourage child leadership.

Here are three things to focus on in your support system:

Decision Making: Parents who are provided support to cope with everyday stressors build resilience. Resilience leads to parents being able to address their families specific needs. While some experiences are life-changing and challenging the ability to brainstorm resources and have group discussions is helpful for decision making.

Handling conflict: Parents who learn positive ways to handle conflict are better able to cope with stress.  Parents are better able to regulate their emotions about their stressors, avoid harsh critical statements when speaking to their children and create a positive atmosphere in the home despite everyday challenges. Parents who can handle conflict positively model those behaviors for their children.

Empowerment & Leadership: Empowering parents to be healthy and confident increases autonomy and independence. Parents who can make decisions and handle conflict become empowered and lead positively. The ability to be resourceful and solve problems creates parental leadership.

Daily life challenges are hard but parents who can find and build connections learn ways to handle life’s challenges. Parents who learn strategies and positive approaches are more likely to be successful in their parenting practices. Empowering parents to develop solid decision-making skills, handle conflict and lead others is significant for modeling positive behaviors to children.

What to do When a Crisis Strikes and Grandparents Step-in to Raise Grandchildren

The Rewards and Challenges of Parenting the Second Time Around

When parents are absent or unable to raise their children due to illness, death, or other situation, grandparents are often the ones who step in to take care of small children. Raising a second generation brings many rewards, including the fulfillment of giving your grandkids a sense of security, developing a deeper relationship, and keeping the family together. It also comes with many challenges. No matter how much you love your grandkids, taking them into your home requires major adjustments. But with the right guidelines and support, you can roll back the years and make a real difference in the lives of your grandchildren. The following is a list of tips to help in the enormous responsibility of raising your grandchildren.

Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Feelings

It’s important to acknowledge and accept wat you’re feeling, both good and bad. Don’t beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings. It’s only natural to feel some ambivalence about childrearing at a time when you expected your responsibilities to be dwindling. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love your grandchildren. Remember that while you may not have the energy you did when you were younger, you have the wisdom that only comes with experience-an advantage that make a huge difference in your grandchild’s life. Unlike first-time parents, you’ve done this before and learned from your mistakes. Don’t underestimate what you have to offer.

Tip #2: Take Care of Yourself

  • A healthy you means healthy grandchildren. If you don’t take care of your health, you won’t be able to take care of your grandchildren, either. Make it a priority to eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep.
  • Hobbies and relaxation are not luxuries. Carving out time for rest and relaxation is essential to avoid burnout and depression. Use “me” time to really nurture yourself. Keeping your hair/barber appointment or taking a walk on a sunny day are great ways to take care of yourself.
  • It’s ok to lean on your grandkids for help. Kids are smarter and more capable than we often give them credit for. Even young children can pick up after themselves and help out around the house. Helping out will also make your grandkids feel good about their accomplishment.
  • Find someone you can talk to about what you’re going through. (Wisdom Circle). Support groups like Wisdom Circle can be very helpful in this journey, and it’s a good start for making friends in similar situations. Parents with a social network of supportive friends find it easier to care for their children and themselves. Hearing from people who have been there can both uplift your spirits and give you concrete suggestions for your situation.

Tip # 3: Focus on creating a stable environment

  • Establish a routine. Routines and schedules help make a child’s world feel safe. Set a schedule for mealtimes and bedtimes. Create special rituals that you and your grandchildren can share.
  • Encourage their input in their new home. Let your grandkids help pack and move in their things to the extent that they’re able for their age. Encourage them to decorate their new room and arrange things as they’d like. Having some control will make the adjustment easier.
  • Set up clear, age-appropriate house rules and enforce them consistently. Children feel more secure when they know what to expect. Loving boundaries tell the child he or she is safe and protected.
  • Offer your time and attention. You can be a consistent, reassuring presence for your grandkids. Try to make time to interact with them at the beginning of the day, when they come home from school, and before bed.

These are just a few tips to support grandparents in caring for their grandchildren.

By Denise Williams, MSW Family Education Specialist
The Content of this paper was taken from an article titled: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Library of Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ecac), 907 Barra Row, Suite 102/103 Davidson, NC 28203

Setting the Groundwork for a Strong Family

How long would it take for your home to collapse if it lay atop swaying stilts?

Just like a house, having a solid foundation is paramount to the families we serve. Without proper foundational support, families are subject to stressful conditions and instability. A solid and stable foundation is vital to the health and longevity of a strong and resilient family. So, what makes a family strong and how can we put it into practice?

Research has shown that families with strong “protective factors” have increased health and well-being, resources, support, and coping strategies to parent effectively, cope with adversity, and prevent child abuse and neglect. One tool used to help strengthen families is identifying and implementing the “Five Protective Factors.” The Center for the Study of Social Policy describes the five protective factors as:

characteristics or strengths of individuals, families, communities or societies that act to mitigate risks and promote positive well-being and healthy development. Most often, we see them as attributes that help families to successfully navigate difficult situations.

The Five Protective Factors include:

Concrete Support in Time of Need. Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing, and transportation—and who know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care, and mental health services to address family-specific needs—are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

Parental Resilience. Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well as occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. For more on Resilience see our blog post from last month here.

Social Connections. Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves.

Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development. Children thrive when parents provide not only affection, but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence.

Social and Emotional Competence. Children’s early experiences of being nurtured and developing a positive relationship with caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development.

These five factors could mean the difference between family breakdown or the strengthening of a family during difficult times. Any of us could face significant stress on the family, from a debilitating injury of the sole working parent, to a illness of a grandparent that takes resources or even a parent away from the core family. All families will face adversity at some point or another, these five factors can help protect and strengthen your family to weather the storm.

How will you use the Five Protective factors to strengthen your family?

Contact our Family Services Center today for more information on resources that Thompson provides to strengthen children and families.

Written by Kimberly Keefer