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

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Unplugging

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Have you ever just “unplugged” for a day, or even for a few hours? You know…put your phone away, turned off the TV, walked away from the computer…and just…lived in the present moment for awhile? Are you curious to know what might happen?

I was.

I like being connected to others…remotely…from my couch…via my phone.

I like always having something do turn to in case the slightest hint of boredom sets in.

I like looking like I have something REALLY important to read while I’m waiting for someone or something.

But I also know I’m not fooling anyone…myself included. I know that there is no substitute for being fully present–for removing all of the distractions and focusing on–and investing in–the people who are right in front of me.

So…I recently challenged myself and my coworkers from Bridges of Hope to spend some unplugged time with their families and friends over the course of an evening. Here’s what happened:

1. We did things we don’t usually do.
Some of us spent time doing needlecraft and sewing; some of us played board games; and some of us read or spent time in face-to-face conversations. We missed phone calls and text messages…but none so urgent they couldn’t be answered later.

2. We experienced time differently.
Some of us were really excited for the challenge…and others not so much. The evening seemed to fly by for some of us, and others of us marveled at how much more time they felt like they had. And a few of us honestly thought the time dragged a little. Some of our kids (or parents…or spouses…) complained at first…but most of them were eventually won over.

Vacation13. We played more.
Almost all of us played board games or card games. We colored–both with our kids and with other adults. We had spontaneous family jam sessions in the living room with improvised instruments.

4. We connected…IRL!
“I talked with my sister for an hour about her work and some of the challenges she’s been having. It was so nice to have a conversation without texts interrupting us!”
It was also our anniversary that evening, so we shared some of our memories with our kids.”
“If you do not make time to intentionally discuss the events and experiences in the daily lives of your family, you can miss out on so much.”

5. We thought about our priorities.
“It was eye opening to me to realize how many times I thought about using my phone.”
“I would like to do this more often–it’s a nice change.”
“I would like to have a monthly or weekly media-free time with our family that is longer and pre-planned, with family activities and outings.”
“We decided to have TV nights and non-TV nights in our family.”
“It made me think about what kind of example I’m setting for my kids, if I can’t put my phone down for a couple hours to play with them and really give them my full attention.”

And do you want to know what else? We discovered that it was really, really simple. There was no added expense, no hidden fees, no contract to sign…but it was likely the start of an important investment with the potential for big returns.keep-calm-and-go-offline-3

So what about you? Want to take the challenge too? Here are a few resources that might help (and yes, the irony is that all of these are online/media resources):

If you spend an evening (or more!) unplugged, let us know about your experience in the comments section!

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For more information about how our programming strengthens families, please visit our website.

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!

Dustin & Ashley’s Moment

Ashley and Dustin are a married couple with two children. The family has been struggling to make ends meet for quite a while. So often, when families live in poverty, it is extremely difficult to get ahead. For this family, and for many families living in poverty, the saying “when it rains it pours” was completely accurate.

Ashley contacted BridgHere_comes_rain_againes of Hope in April looking for help with rent. Neither Ashley nor Dustin had employment which means it is hard for agencies to assist because it is difficult to show that the rent is sustainable. I encouraged the couple to obtain employment and, once their situation changed and income increased, to call back.

Ashley called back, less than a month later: she and Dustin had both found jobs! They needed help with gas for their first week of work and also with childcare for their youngest child. Bridges of Hope was able to help with gas through our Spirit of Kindness Fund and with childcare through our Crisis Nursery Services. Ashley & Dustin were now able to complete their first week of work successfully!

Next, I had Ashley fill out a full intake so I could take a look at their whole situation. I discovered that the couple did not have car insurance; Ashley stated that the reason they didn’t pay the insurance was because, if they did, they wouldn’t have enough money to afford food for their family. I started to look outside the box to see what could be done to best help the family. It was decided that Bridges would get them caught up on car insurance to prevent any further crisis & expense that could come from driving without insurance.

Due to the hard work from this family, and the fact that they were willing to do each thing I had asked, Bridges of Hope helped them catch up on their past due rent. Now they were able to start fresh without any past due bills. The family was very thankful for all of the help they received and continue to work hard to provide for their family.

Thanks to the support we receive from local churches for our Spirit of Kindness Fund and our Resource Connection Services, we are able to help families like Dustin & Ashley’s with a fresh start.

You can support these services too by:

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

James & Molly’s Moment

cancerribbonsMolly called Bridges of Hope earlier this year, in tears. She has just given birth the week before to her third precious child and explained that her husband, James, had been diagnosed with cancer early in her pregnancy. James was about to start his second round of chemo and they knew from experience this would leave him unable to work for a number of weeks, at least.

Molly would be going back to her job after her maternity leave but she and James were worried about how they would pay the mortgage and still provide for their three beautiful children in the meantime. James’ time off from work during the first round of chemo had depleted the family’s savings.

Erica, a Resource Specialist at Bridges of Hope, got to work right away suggesting two helpful resources. She helped Molly fill out applications for two programs: Cradle of Hope and Pay It Forward. Cradle of Hope is a Twin Cities-based agency that assists pregnant mothers or parents of children up to 3 months old when the pregnancy or birth is causing a crisis. Pay It Forward is a fund through the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation that can financially assist those who are currently going through chemotherapy.

Molly & James didn’t have to wait long to find out that each organization approved one month of mortgage assistance for their family which would help stretch their budget until Molly was back to work.

Molly called Erica when she received the news and said, “Thank you Erica! We are so relieved to know that we can provide for Sammy, John, and Lexi while James is getting healthy.”

We feel so blessed when we hear back from families and things are getting better! We talk to families like Molly & James’ every day. As a single-point-of-entry in the community, Bridges is able to connect families with the help they need quickly & efficiently. We work closely with area churches, other nonprofit organizations & the community as a whole to increase effectiveness and decrease duplication.

If you or anyone you know can benefit from Bridges of Hope’s services, please call us at 218-825-7682. Thank you for helping us build Bridges.

Stay connected with us on Facebook & the web.

Run for Hope – Moved to Paul Bunyan Trail

Hello friends! I want to give you a quick update about the Run for Hope – we are moving it to the PaPB trailTrailul Bunyan Trail.  This first ever Run for Hope is taking place on June 15th. Please register to join us!

This 5k is for people of all ability levels. A few of our staff are brand new to the “running scene” and are using Couch to 5k type apps to get ready for June 15th. If we can do it, YOU can too!

We plan to run a little, walk a little and even crawl if we have to. Join us!

For only $20 (for those 10 & up), you get a great looking t-shirt, the book Every Body Matters, and a water bottle. Children under 10 are welcome to walk or run with a registered adult and there is no registration fee.

Click here to register. We hope to see you on June 15th at the Paul Bunyan Trail!