Sara Jo’s Moment

Sara Jo is a single parent of two school-age girls. She had recently been divorced and was living with her mother, something she never thought she would do again, since moving out after high school. Although she appreciated her mother’s willingness to take her and the girls in, Sara Jo knew that she and her girls needed more space than what they had–and so did her mom. Tensions were starting to run high some evenings, as the girls and her mother struggled to adjust to the very different energies of each other. Sara Jo was working, though she did not have a car, so she was relying on rides from co-workers to get to work, which was also quickly wearing thin.

After searching for housing online and making some phone calls, Sara Jo had found a modest apartment that was on the bus line, but she was struggling to come up with both the first month’s rent and the damage deposit required for her to be able to move in. The landlord suggested that Sara Jo call Bridges of Hope to find out about area resources to assist her with these costs.

Sara Jo called Bridges of Hope and spoke with one of our staff, who assessed her situation to see what community resources she would qualify for. We connected her to Lutheran Social Service for assistance, since we could see from Sara Jo’s budget that she would be able to afford the rent and the rest of her ongoing monthly expenses once she was over this hurdle. Sara Jo saved up to pay for the damage deposit for the new place, and Lutheran Social Service was able to cover the cost of the first month’s rent. Bridges then was able to connect Sara Jo with Salem WEST for some much-needed furniture and other household items.

Sara Jo was able to move in to her new place with her girls, and a few weeks later, one of our staff called her to follow-up and make sure things were going okay. Sara Jo said how grateful she was for the assistance and support from Bridges of Hope, and she let us know that she was so happy with the furniture she had received from Salem WEST as well.


If you or someone you know is facing a difficult situation and not sure what to do next, call our office 218.825.7682 and speak with a Resource Specialist. Our staff can assist you in connecting with the area resources and programs that can help you resolve your situation. 

 

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Supporting Family and Caregivers: Respite Services

As a single mother of three children under the age of three and with another on the way, Kristine needed help. Her time for self-care and just taking care of the basics like cleaning the house or shopping for groceries was non-existent. Something had to give.
Respite Picture

It was just a few months ago when Kristine was referred to Bridges of Hope. Funded by Crow Wing County Community Services, Bridges of Hope has an established Respite care program to help parents like Kristine who need someone to step in and help care for their children on a temporary basis.

At Bridges, Respite is a scheduled, monthly break for families based upon a child’s or parent’s need, serving families in Crow Wing County. On occasion, Respite can be scheduled more often, on a case-by-case basis. Respite care providers are licensed by Crow Wing County and step in to care for a child or children for up to 24 hours. That child is then returned home after the Respite “placement,” unlike a foster care situation. The goal of the program, at its core, is to provide caregivers a break to rejuvenate, refresh and get self-care.

As many as 95% of children receiving Respite care through Bridges have mental health concerns or diagnoses. Right now, ~40 households are utilizing Respite for their children and have anywhere between one and six children in the house. Of those cases, approximately 15%-20% of these households are also simultaneously working with Child Protection in some capacity.

Bridges of Hope currently works with 13 licensed providers living in Brainerd, Crosby and Nisswa – ranging from day care settings to individuals – to provide Respite care. Families can also self-identify an outside person to serve as their Respite provider, as long as they complete and pass the necessary background check.

One respite care provider has a farm and offers fun and new opportunities for children. Another provider brings children in his temporary care to church on Sundays. And another participates in building workshops at Home Depot.

“Our providers are very much involved with these families and they treat them like they would their own family,” a Bridges of Hope staffer noted. “They can also provide the children with experiences they might not have in their home setting, due to their parents’ work schedules or their siblings’ needs.”

After Kristine’s children started receiving Respite care, she finally found time she could carve out for cleaning and organizing her home. During that time, she was also able to spend one-on-one time with her new baby after its birth. The Respite program has allowed her to take better care of herself; and in turn, has helped her to become a better mom.

For more information on Respite, contact Bridges of Hope at (218) 825-7682 or visit our website.

 

Gordon and Rhonda’s Moment

Crisis Nursery Services Logo

This year marks the 10th year that Bridges of Hope has been offering Crisis Nursery Services to the Brainerd Lakes Area. Yes, you read right–TEN YEARS! That’s a decade of giving parents a safe childcare option during a family crisis, which translates into thousands of children placed into the loving care of our selfless providers since the start of the program.

So what exactly is Crisis Nursery? It is a safe, positive childcare option for parents that have nowhere else to turn. There are Crisis Nurseries all around the state of Minnesota, and while they all operate a little bit differently, they also all have one thing in common: the goal to keep kids safe while providing stability to parents during a stressful time.

What defines a crisis? A crisis can be a single mom needing a break and not having friends or family who can provide her with that break. It can be a medical issue preventing a parent from caring for their children as they normally do. Or it can be work & medical related, like Gordon & Rhonda’s situation:

Gordon called one afternoon sounding extremely stressed; his voice full of concern. He explained to me that his wife Rhonda recently had had surgery, and during her recovery she had very limiting lifting restrictions. Gordon said that not only was Rhonda unable to do normal, routine tasks; she also wasn’t able to lift their ten-month-old son. Gordon said their family members had been helping out as much as possible, but there was a day coming up when he had to work and no other family members were available to help with childcare. Gordon said it was one of those family members that told him about the Crisis Nursery Services provided by Bridges of Hope.

Ames_3410 Gordon had already taken some time off work and if he missed another shift, he was afraid he would be suspended from his job, so he was wondering if the family could use Crisis Nursery for his ten-month-old son and three-year-old twin daughters while he was at work. Gordon explained that he only needed help for one day, as his mother was coming to stay with them for about a week until Rhonda had recovered enough for her doctor to lift her restrictions. I assured Gordon that this was an appropriate situation for Crisis Nursery Services; and after a few phone calls to various childcare providers, an available provider was located. Gordon let out a HUGE sigh of relief when I told him a provider was available to care for his children.

We always attempt to follow up with parents and providers after they’ve used the Crisis Nursery, to make sure everything went smoothly, see how they are doing, and to make sure the situation has been fully resolved. Almost 90% of parents surveyed report feeling less stressed, thanks to Crisis Nursery Services.This was certainly true for Gordon:

When I followed up with Gordon the day after using Crisis Nursery, he said he was so relieved that he didn’t have to miss another day of work, and he was able to focus at work knowing that his children were in good hands. Gordon said his daughters loved the childcare provider because she was kind, caring, and she had a dog! Gordon expressed his thanks one more time and said he knows where to turn if he is ever in an emergency situation like this again.

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If you or someone you know could benefit from more information about our Crisis Nursery Services, please call 218.825.7682 to speak with one of our Resource Specialists, or visit our website.

Want to help ensure these services remain available for those who need them? Make a donation today!

It Shouldn’t Hurt to be a Child

radiothon logoEach December, BL Broadcasting collaborates with local Child Protection Teams in our area to bring awareness to and raise funds for Child Abuse Prevention. The public service announcements during the on-air event state, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.” How true.

Child abuse is difficult to think about, but we need to think about it and we need to create a community where parents are supported and children are nurtured.

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, another time of year to bring awareness to the struggles parents and children in our community are facing. It’s a time to shine a light on the good work being done to strengthen families.

Here at Bridges of Hope, we are proud to partner with Crow Wing County in a state-wide program called Parent Support Outreach Program (PSOP). This is a voluntary program for families to engage in when the want to stabilize their struggles with basic needs and strengthen their parenting skills. Click here to read about how the PSOP program helped Cindy and her family.

biracial childrenAnother service in our community that aims to support parents and reduce child abuse & neglect is Crisis Nursery Services, which is free, short-term crisis childcare for children 0-12 in Crow Wing County and the surrounding areas. The goal of the Crisis Nursery is to provide a safe place for children during a family crisis like Kendra & her children experienced.

Crisis Nursery is made possible through the Crow Wing County Child Protection Team with funds that YOU donate during the Radiothon to End Child Abuse. THANK YOU!

As community members, there are many things we can do to support families around us. Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota makes the following suggestions about what to do if you see a parent who is “on edge” in public:

  • Divert the adult’s attention.
  • Start a conversation with the adult. Offer sympathy. For example, you could say, “Shopping with children can really try your patience, can’t it?” Talk to the child.
  • If the child is acting out or misbehaving, start a friendly conversation to distract him or her.
  • Praise the parent or child.
  • Find something positive to say about the child or the parent. For example, “That’s a pretty dress your daughter is wearing. Where did you get it?”
  • Offer to help.
  • For example, if a child has been left unattended in a grocery cart, stay near him or her until a caretaker returns.
  • Avoid negative looks or comments.This may only increase the adult’s anger, making things worse for the child.

There are many preventative efforts happening in our community, however it is important to state that if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected in our area, you should contact Crow Wing County Social Services at 218-824-1140. 

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, please take a moment to enrich the life of a child in your life and support the parents around you. It really does take a village to raise a child!

Pinwheel for Prevention

Inspiring Hope

I have the awesome privilege to work for an agency that I love and in a role that is a perfect fit for me. I am an Outreach Worker at Bridges of Hope and I provide in-home support to families that are in complex and challenging situations.

inspire hopeRecently, I worked with a family that struggled with chemical dependency issues, domestic violence, mental health struggles, and financial barriers. Prior to Bridges of Hope’s involvement, Anna and Jacob (names changed for anonymity) were not actively working with any area providers. When I first met Anna, Jacob, and their children, it was apparent that they were all skeptical of me…and who wouldn’t be!? I am a stranger to them and they have demonstrated resilience and fortitude already for decades of their lives. I get it. It’s scary and overwhelming to put your trust into someone that you don’t know, and who am I to receive that trust? Yet, incredibly, that is just what they did. This family allowed me to walk alongside of them for several weeks as we worked together to build bridges of support; and not only were they part of building those bridges, but they courageously walked across them as well. 

One of Anna and Jacob’s biggest strengths was their desire for the betterment of their family and the well-being of their children. Though we all want what’s best, it takes a very strong couple to recognize that “wanting” something is not always enough. Loving someone is not always enough, either: often we don’t have the tools, resources, and skills to improve our situation. Anna and Jacob worked on their relationship, their communication with their children, setting appropriate boundaries, and collaborating with the school and other providers. I was honored to be a support for them as they did this. It was not always an easy process, as learned behaviors and unhealthy habits have a way of creeping back into our daily routines, but they stuck with it. My role was to teach the family new skills, hold them accountable, and be a cheerleader for their incredible successes…and what an awesome success they are! Anna & Jacob are now receiving therapy, chemical dependency support, school support for their children, and are successfully paying for their household expenses after obtaining employment. The families I work with are the true inspirations.

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If you or someone you know could benefit from support from Bridges of Hope, call 218.825.7682 or visit our website for more information.

 

Charlotte’s Moment

I had the blessing of visiting with Charlotte about her experiences with Bridges of Hope over the last couple of years. Charlotte is a wonderfully warm, compassionate, confident, and strong woman. She didn’t always feel that way, though.SONY DSC

A few years ago, low self-esteem and a general feeling of being “lost” had taken their toll on Charlotte. She found herself feeling depressed and alone and spent the next few months trying to get her life back on track.

Charlotte told me that at first, “it felt like nobody was interested in helping.” Then she received a letter inviting her to participate in the Parent Support Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope, and she was excited. Charlotte recalled, “before that, I thought everything was done for. I didn’t know where to turn.”

Charlotte connected with us and soon started working with one of our staff, Jennifer, who helped her identify goals and break them down into manageable steps. One of those goals was to find affordable housing. The Lutheran Social Service HOPE Housing program was able to assist Charlotte with the funds needed to rent a new place; however, there was one small barrier: Renter’s Insurance. Charlotte was able to put some money toward it, and Bridges helped with the rest. In talking with me, Charlotte reflected that it was a little thing that made a huge difference.”

Charlotte at her college graduation with her mentor, Sheila!

Charlotte at her college graduation with her mentor, Sheila!

Now that stable housing was in place, Charlotte could focus on being a good parent to Hunter and on being a great student, since she was also enrolled in classes at Central Lakes College (CLC). A few months later, Bridges of Hope invited Charlotte to participate in our Side by Side Mentoring Program. She needed a little extra boost of support, and our volunteer Mentors provided just that.

Charlotte shared, “I looked forward to the monthly meetings, the text messages from Sheila, and coffee dates with Jan [both Charlotte’s Mentors]. They even brought meals over a few times when I was studying!”

Charlotte graduated from CLC this year and now and works at Lutheran Social Service helping others through difficult situations.“If it weren’t for Bridges, I really don’t think I would have graduated.”

When I asked her what is different now, Charlotte said, “I’ve finally figured out who I am; I feel more confident and connected. For the first time, I feel like I have people in my life who are proud of me.”

We are so proud of Charlotte for her hard work!

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Help make more stories like Charlotte’s possible:

  • Make a gift today to help us reach our $80,000 Fall Campaign goal. We just reached the halfway point and have two weeks left to raise another $40,000 to help serve the households (like Charlotte’s) that will still reach out to us this year.
  • Shop at Common Goods; proceeds stay local and help us help families in the Lakes Area.

Are You a Frantic Family?

Are you a frantic family?  Do you sometimes wonder if have you have over-scheduled your kids?

Now that we are a couple of months into school, there continues to be a multitude of extra-curricular opportunities for our kids to get involved in. Even your preschoolers have more opportunities than ever before! In his book called Putting Families First, Dr. William Doherty states:

In the past twenty years, children’s free time has declined by twelve hours a week, time spent on structured                       sports activities has doubled, family dinners are down by a third, and the number of families taking vacations                       together has decreased by 28 percent.”

(This book was published in 2002, so you can imagine the statistics for family connections these days!)

To help you decide if your family is over-scheduled, agree or disagree with the statements below and give yourself one point for each statement you agree with.

  1. We struggle to find time for unhurried family meals.overwhelmed
  2. I think we spend too much time getting to and from our children’s activities.
  3. Homework can be difficult to squeeze into the children’s schedules.
  4. My kids don’t have enough time to hang out and entertain themselves.
  5. I wish we spent more time home as a family.
  6. It is hard to visit relatives and family friends because we are so busy.
  7. We don’t go on family trips and outings as much as we would like.
  8. Even on weekends, it can be hard to get the whole family together because of everyone’s schedules.

Then, add up your points:
If your total is 6-8, you are probably a seriously frantic family.
If your total is 3-5, you are probably a somewhat frantic family.
If your total is 0-2, CONGRATULATIONS, and please teach the rest of us how to do it!

If you are a “seriously” or a “even somewhat” frantic family, don’t worry! Now you are aware (or you might have already known), and you have the chance to make positive lasting changes in your family’s life. Simply begin by slowing down and connecting with your family again. You will be guaranteed a happier, healthier family!

Here are a few ideas on how to start:

  • Family meals – if dinner is too hard, make it breakfast!
  • Family Game nights – play board games, charades…anything that your family finds fun!
  • Intentional bedtime routines – read a book together, sing, pray…again, it doesn’t really matter what you do; just be consistent!
  • Family walks, bike rides – go to neighborhood park or a local trail.

At Bridges of Hope, we work every day to help families achieve balance in their lives among work, family, and activities. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is to not “do” anything.

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How you can help families in the Lakes area:

  • Learn more about what we do to help families: check out our website.
  • Make a gift to support the work we do, click here to make a gift online today!