My oldest son starts kindergarten this fall, with a start date about two months away. Last week, I received an email from his school with his school supplies list and the opportunity to purchase those supplies now though a district-wide program. In looking at the list, I was reminded of the school supply lists I compiled last year for our Fellows’ children. It was a very different experience.
Our Fellows live in a variety of districts across Bucks and Montgomery Counties, some highly rated, others poorly so. When I called one of the districts in mid-August, attempting to find a supply list for the upcoming school year, I was told that the list wasn’t ready yet and would only be shared with parents. Many other districts, at this point, had posted their lists online in addition to sending it via email/mail. This was mere weeks before the first day of school, leaving the parents with limited time to find the items, let alone the best prices (more often than not brands are also specified on lists).
Now, does a delayed supply list indicate a lesser school or district? No, but it does demonstrate the difference between what parents from one school district to another not only expect but receive. It illustrates the privilege of time for preparation and suggests a school district that is perhaps better resourced, in that it is able to send out this information early and quickly.
This comparison may seem trivial, but it is an example of the small pieces of disparity throughout our communities that compile into uneven playing fields. It is a look at how families in neighboring districts start off the school year - one with time to spare, the other harried through no fault of their own. It is something that we need to remember.
Not every community has the same step up - whether in regard to their school district, access to groceries, access to gas or public transportation and more. That needs to change.
You may have heard in recent months, if not years, that the United States is in a mental health crisis. And whether or not the word “crisis” is apt (it is), we are certainly experiencing an uptick in mental health issues and concerns. The White House reported in March of this year that 2 in 5 adults report experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, with several subpopulations harder hit than others. The number of adolescent girls, for example, who have been to the ER following attempted suicide has increased 51% since 2009.
The causes of this ongoing increase are wide ranging and not fully flushed out, though many point to the COVID-19 pandemic and social media as two major catalysts. Regardless, one thing is certain, as a country, we are not equipped to handle the rising need for mental health treatment. Access to mental health care in terms of affordability/insurance coverage, location, virtual availability, and practicing practitioners is overwhelmingly limited. Slate published a piece this week about call centers unable to staff the Mental Health Crisis Line, for instance.
Without mental health care actions taken to address mental health will be stymied before they start. We must work to find meaningful ways to make treatment available to all who want and need it.
Pride Month is a month that celebrates the freedom for individuals who are LGBTQIA+ to be themselves. It is a month marked by parades, festivals and more. This year’s Pride Month is no different in how it is commemorated. A full calendar of events can be found throughout Bucks, Montgomery and neighboring counties. However, there is also an underlying anxiety in 2022 - an acknowledgement that throughout the country the gains toward equality and acceptance that have been made are being pulled back or, at least, threatened.
We cannot afford to take steps back when there are still so many steps forward ahead of us. This Pride Month, celebrate, yes, but also learn. Find out what you can do to continue fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights.
Love cannot win when hate legislates.
This past Monday, June 6, was a beautiful day - and not just because of the perfect weather! Thank you for coming out to golf with us, learn more about RJLF and help us raise the money we need to continue serving our Fellows.
We have said time and again (Because it is absolutely true) that RJLF would not be what it is without our amazing community. Monday was yet another example of this.
We can’t wait to see you all on the course next year for RJLF’s 2nd Annual Golf Outing!
RJLF’s 1st annual golf outing is this Monday, June 6th at the Doylestown Country Club, and it’s not too late to join us!
Golfers tee off Monday at noon after a buffet lunch and are greeted with dinner after their final hole. Competitions will be held for the longest drive and more!
Not interested in golfing? Join us for dinner only! We would love to see you and have the opportunity to tell you more about RJLF.
Tickets are available here.
For a long time, schools were seen as safe havens for children - a daily respite for kids whose homes were violent or volatile, a place where families struggling could secure breakfast and lunch for their children, and the source, so often, of trusted adults who believe in and encourage students. In some ways, that’s still true. Those facets of school still exist. But in a larger sense, it’s not. Schools are not and do not seem safe anymore.
Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas ended with 19 children and 2 teachers dead. It was the 27th school shooting in the United States in 2022, and the 212th mass shooting, according to NPR. It came 10 days after a mass shooting in a Buffalo grocery store that killed 10.
School shootings, like all mass shootings, have become a part of American life - tragedies that lead to sorrow and calls for action but almost never real change. That needs to stop. It is long past time for meaningful action.
Contact your representatives in the House and Senate. Pressure them to do . . . anything. And learn more about gun violence from organizations such as the Sandy Hook Promise foundation.
Throughout May, you might notice or already have noticed, companies highlighting Mental Health Awareness month through promotions like discounted mindfulness apps or social media breaks. L.L. Bean, for example, has wiped clean its Instagram feed and will not be posting again until June, encouraging its followers to go offline for mental health wellness. Cynically or maybe truthfully, these campaigns are marketing ploys if not direct sales techniques. But even though they’re being used to promote businesses, the messages have merit, as well.
As a society, if we talk about mental health, we tend to do so in terms of crisis. However, just like with physical health, mental health is best when preventative measures and healthy maintenance are a part of our every day. Regular exercise, mindfulness, decreased screen time and other similar actions have all shown to help with individual mental health. That’s not to say that a 30 minute walk will stave off depression or that an app can substitute for treatment. These things can, however, help us to be more in tune with our mental wellbeing and less likely to ignore internal warning signs.
As May winds down, take the time to think about your own mental health wellness. What do you do to care for yourself? If it’s physical activity, is it more likely to be consistent in the summer? If yes, what’s your winter plan? Are you more likely to take time for your well being when you aren’t stressed? How can you change that? And, is your mental health self care also self care for your physical health? Practices that sacrifice one aspect of health in favor of the other aren’t actually self care.
May might be a month of gestures from businesses in the U.S., but for you, it can be an opportunity for improved, ongoing mental wellbeing.
Sometimes, when people outside of the system picture a young person in foster care, they see a child completely alone - with nothing and no one to offer support. And in some cases, that may be true. Children of all ages enter foster care with no other relatives to turn to and unable to go back to their parents/guardians.
However, there are many youth who, when removed from their homes, are able to move in with a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, etc. They are still in foster care but a form of foster care called kinship care. Kinship care is in fact the preferred placement for children when safe and able. According to Aysha E. Schomburg, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, “As foster care is a support to families, children should stay with family when possible. In many cultures, the "village" approach has been a longstanding value, and extended family is important to the development of children who feel surrounded by love and the continuation of cultural traditions.”
That’s not to say that kinship care negates the trauma experienced by young people in foster care. Nor is it always the right option. But when it is, kinship care can help children and adolescents process and address the experience of foster care and, ideally, offer them ongoing love, support, acceptance, safety and family.
As Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, many of us will plan small celebrations - brunches, dinners or even just flower deliveries. It will seem like a simple day of commemoration, a way to thank the mothers in our lives for all that they have done (and will do) for us. But for so many others, this day is not simple. It is a reminder of complex emotions, challenging pasts, presents, and futures, and a feeling of being other.
This can be particularly true for young people who are or have been in foster care. While no young person has the same story or relationships, it is likely that Mother’s Day is complicated for those who have been in placement.
Over the past several years, acknowledgment of this complexity - for youth in foster care and others - has grown, as schools have celebrations for special grownups rather than a particular parent, and care is taken to remind all of us (on social media and beyond) that our family is not everyone’s family. However, these societal gains don’t automatically make Mother’s Day easier for all.
This year, we encourage you to take the time to connect with your friends and family - those who you know will have complicated feelings on Sunday and even those who might not. Ask them not what they’re doing for Mother’s Day but simply how they are. Remind them that love and connection comes from many directions, and that you are there for them on Mother’s Day and all the days that come next.
In Pennsylvania, adults fall into two categories: Mandated Reporters and Permissive Reporters. Mandated Reporters are the professionals and volunteers, such as teachers, social workers and nurses, who are required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect. All those who are not mandated are considered permissive reporters - encouraged but not required to make a report.
This categorization exists in most states. However, there are an increasing number like New Jersey who have designated all adults, regardless of profession, volunteer role, etc. mandated reporters. In those states, any adult with reasonable cause to believe that a child is being abused or neglected must report it to the state for investigation.
The idea behind mandated reporter states is that we are all responsible for the well-being of young people in our communities. By creating groups of individuals who can ignore suspected abuse, we have given them permission to ignore suspected abuse. Children are safer and more able to find help when the adults in their lives regardless of profession are committed to doing what’s right.
Though we continue to live in a state with both mandated and permissive reporters, perhaps now is the time for all of us to begin thinking of ourselves as mandated reporters.
To report suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania, contact ChildLine.