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!

Samantha’s Moment

Samantha and Matthew have three children (Alex, Tanner, & Asher). They have interacted with Bridges of Hope on a few different occasions over the past 7 years. I recently sat down with Samantha to chat with her about her experiences and the difference that Bridges of Hope has made in her life.

Q: What was life like “before Bridges?”

A: Well, Matthew works full time and is a student full-time, so sometimes I feel like a single mom. He helps when he can, and we are lucky to live somewhere where there are extra hands to help out when he can’t. It all started when I was diagnosed with cancer and lost my job. I was uninsured at the time and we racked up a lot of medical debt. Matthew’s wages began to be garnished and we eventually lost our home. We ended up homeless—we were couch surfing between friends and family. Through this all my kids had a “schedule,” but I knew in my heart the instability was not good for them.

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Alex & Asher

In January we ended up at New Pathways. That was when I hit rock bottom and was reported to Child Protective Services. At first I was upset, but now I realize that there is a stigma about Child Protection. Just because you are reported, does not mean you are a bad parent; it just means someone is concerned for your kids. I was reported but a case was not opened, and that is how I was referred to the Parent Support Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope. Jennifer [Outreach Worker at Bridges of Hope] was great. She was open and honest with me about the referral to Child Protection, but helped me see it as a way to make necessary changes in my life. After that program was finished, I was referred to the Side by Side program and have been participating in that since July of this year.

Q: What steps did Bridges of Hope take with you to address the concerns you had?

A: Jennifer, and now the Mentors and other women in the Side by Side Program were constantly checking in and giving me resources. Stress was a big problem for me; I felt like a single mom most of the time. Jennifer let me know it was okay to feel what I was feeling and gave me skills to deal with my stress. I was connected with Respite care, which gives us a break every month—that has been HUGE!

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Samantha and her kids

Q: What is different now?

A: STABILITY! And I get out of the house! The other women participating in Side by Side have been amazing. They have been there, just like me, and I don’t feel that “shame on me” that I have felt other times in my life. They, along with my Mentors, help me see that the best I can do is good enough, but they also challenge me to be better. Now Matthew and I both have full-time jobs and we are planning on buying a house. (No, not tomorrow–its part of our five-year plan!) Our kids are happier and A LOT less stressed, and so am I. They are growing and back on track developmentally. My daughter had been behind on reading and now is reading 4 grades above where she should be.

Q: What if Bridges of Hope didn’t exist?

A: We’d have failed. Our kids would have been taken. There’s no doubt that I could not have kept it together without the support that Bridges gave me. My life is more balanced—I have learned to focus on myself so I can then focus on my kids and be a good mom.

Q: What are the first words that come to mind when you think of Bridges of Hope?

A: Supportive, Positive, Uplifting, and Genuine. Everyone I have ever talked to at Bridges of Hope has been genuine. No one has ever talked down to me or made me feel ashamed. They have always focused on the positive strengths that I have and used them to help me see the things I needed to work on.

Thank you Samantha, for your willingness to share, for your courage to make amazing changes in your life, and for allowing us to be a part of your story. We are proud of you!

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Will YOU give the Power 2 HOPE to a family this year? A gift of any size makes a difference for families in the Lakes Area every day. Make a donation today!

 

Irene’s Moment

“Crazy.” –Irene said with a little chuckle. That’s how she described her life before Bridges of Hope. Irene is able to see the joy in her life now, but that was not the case before joining the Side by Side Program at Bridges.

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Irene

A few years ago, Irene was recovering from some family circumstances that had thrown her into deep postpartum depression. She had a very difficult pregnancy, and shortly after her daughter (Mackenzie) was delivered, her fiancé was deployed. Irene was weak from the pregnancy and had very little support.

As often happens during challenging situations, people in Irene’s life shared words of advice and encouragement. Unfortunately, no one was actually there to help her when she was up all night with a new baby which often led to her other children being late to school the next day.

Irene struggled to keep up with the day to day. Not only was getting her children to school on time more than she could manage, she also struggled with the daily tasks of keeping their (at that time) very small apartment in order. Irene pointed to the size of the room we were sitting in and said—“It [our apartment] was probably not much bigger than this room.”

Even after her fiance came home, things continued to be tough. Not only was Irene still wrestling with depression, but now they began to have relationship issues. As great as it was to have him back–they had been living separate lives for over a year. These struggles went on for years–eventually Irene’s mental health issues, taking care of her home, and parenting her kids seemed like too much. And it was. The school pointed out some concerns to Irene and that was when she knew something needed to change. Thankfully, Irene was connected with a counselor at Northern Pines Mental Health Center and was referred to Bridges of Hope’s Side by Side Mentoring Program last year.

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Mackenzie (Age 4)

Bridges helped Irene gain focus through goal setting with her case manager and mentors. She addressed her mental health issues (depression, PTSD, and anxiety) and learned the skills necessary to cope with them. This has made a tremendous difference for Irene and has allowed her to work on her relationship, parenting, and other life skills.

Irene has since enrolled in school at Central Lakes College and was recently invited to join the honors program. She is hopeful that she will be accepted.

Everyone I’ve met through Bridges has helped me gain confidence to take the step and get back into school. I am now pursuing a business management degree and have dreams of owning two different businesses.

The mentors and other women in the program made a big difference in my life. They would text me just to check in and we would meet as often as we could. They have given me the confidence I need and have told me my dreams and goals are attainable. I wouldn’t be where I am at now without Bridges. It was the interactions with the mentors and case manager that kept me focused, reminded me of my goals, and built me up when others were tearing me down. I finally feel I’m on the right path—because of the support and encouragement from Bridges things are getting better– it just feels like it’s all clicking.

As Irene made these final statements…I couldn’t help but notice the twinkle of hope in her eye. Hope truly makes all the difference in the world.

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You can make a gift that will multiply hope for Lakes Area families this holiday season. Please help us reach our $80,000 fall campaign goal to make more stories like Irene’s possible:

  • Make a donation today!
  • All donations are 100% tax-deductible and go directly to serving the Lakes Area.
  • Learn more about our programs.

 

 

When can I leave my child home alone?


Summer is in full swing and many parents may be wondering: When can I leave my child home alone?  As a parent, I remember wondering when it is okay to leave my children home by themselves and for how long. I found it was helpful to ask these questions.home

  • Is my child old enough and mature enough to be home alone?
  • Does my child know what to do if there is any emergency?
  • What are the legal guidelines in Crow Wing County?

Here are two resources that will be very helpful as you make this important decision for your child(ren).

  1. The Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines, Minnesota statute 626.556
  2. A Parent’s Guide to Leaving Children Home Alone, Childcare Aware of Minnesota

It is important to remember to think about each child’s maturity and their ability to handle themselves in all situations. Here are a few questions to consider from A Parent’s Guide to Leaving Children Home Alone as you think about whether your child is ready to stay home alone:

  • Does your child know when and how to call 9-1-1?
  • Can your child say and dial your home phone number and does she or he know your home address?
  • Does your child know how to reach you or other responsible adults by phone? Do you have a list of important and emergency phone numbers near the phone and within your child’s reach?
  • Has your child shown an interest in staying home alone? Would your child feel safe if home alone? Test this out by “practicing” with the children while you are still at home. Act out or talk through a few challenging situations that may arise while children are on their own.
  • Have you created a plan for your child’s day or time at home?

(For a full list of questions, check out: A Parent’s Guide to Leaving Children Home Alone) If you are unsure how to answer a question or the answer is ‘no’ be sure to use this as an area for discussion or planning within your family. Always include your child in the decision making process.

Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines are used by child protection agencies in determining if a report regarding lack of supervision needs to be assessed by a social worker. Minnesota statute 626.556 addresses the issue of failure to provide necessary supervision or child care arrangements. Reports alleging inadequate child care arrangements may be screened in for a child protection response according to the following guidelines:

  • Children age 7 and under who are left alone for any period of time.
  • Children ages 8 to 10 who are left alone for more than three hours.
  • Children ages 11 to 13 who are left alone for more than 12 hours.
  • Children ages 14 to 15 who are left alone for more than 24 hours.
  • Children ages 16 to 17 may be left home alone for more than 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to handle an emergency.
  • Children under the age of 11 should not provide child care.
  • Children ages 11 to 13 who are placed in a child care role may not do so for more than 12 hours.
  • Children ages 14 to 15 who are placed in a child care role may not do for more than 24 hours.

School-aged (K-6th gr.) child care programs available in our area:

  • Brainerd: Fun “n” Friends ISD 181 (218-454-6920)
  • Cosby–Ironton: Summer Kidz Kamp, Hallett Center (218-546-2616)
  • Pillager: Fun Stop (218-746-2192)
  • Staples-Motley: Staples Summer Time Adventures (218-894-2497)
  • Pequot Lakes: Kids Konnection (218-562-6109)

 If you or someone you know could benefit from additional support, click here to learn more about our programs, or call us at 218-825-7682.

Chuck and Kristi’s Moment

“To everyone who’s lost someone they loved, long before it was their time…. The days that you had with them were not enough, when you said goodbye….”

The words of this song by Third Day could not better describe the immense pain that Chuck and Kristi were feeling when they reached out to Bridges of Hope.

Maternal-Infant-Care-rfidChuck and Kristi have three children: Marcus (8), Lily (5), and Nora (2). A few months back, the couple was faced with an enormous loss; they lost their newest born son, Caleb. When Caleb was born, doctors told Chuck and Kristi that it would only be a matter of time until he would leave them. They stayed by Caleb’s bedside until, as the doctor’s feared, he passed away just weeks after being born. Chuck and Kristi were overwhelmed with grief and reached out to Bridges of Hope. Kristi called Bridges of Hope originally looking for help with gas, since they had made so many trips down to the Mayo Clinic. When I heard their story, I offered her some additional services and she voluntarily enrolled in the Parent Support Outreach Program, where a staff from Bridges meets in-home with families to work on goals set by the parents.

The first time I met with Kristi in person, she was noticeably depressed, having just lost her child, and she remained in bed for the entire meeting. At this time, the entire family was staying in the living room of a friend’s home–due to the financial stress they experienced after Caleb was born, they had been evicted from their apartment. I offered to set up Respite Services for Chuck and Kristi so they could get a much-needed break to care for their own mental health and process their grief. The look of relief on Kristi’s face gave me hope that they would all be okay.

And that was when things began to turn around. The couple set several goals: they wanted to work towards getting their own place to live again, and Kristi wanted to find employment. I met with Chuck & Kristi the following week and encouraged counseling as another goal. After a little hesitation, they said they were willing to give it a try.

Within a week of the family’s first time using Respite Services, the family’s change was amazing. Kristi had found employment, the family was able to move into their own home, AND the couple had made an appointment for one of the counselors I had recommended! This mom, who was initially thinking she would be unable to parent due to the trauma of losing a child is now planning a family game night and spending all of her free time with her children. Chuck & Kristi are looking forward to making the best of their future and see that there is hope for a happy family life once again.

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary and love for the broken heart….” –Third Day

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If there is anyone in your life who might benefit from supportive services from Bridges of Hope, please encourage them to contact us at 218.825.7682. There is hope!

Brenda’s Moment

Brenda had been in an abusive relationship from the time when she was a teenager, and she was convinced that she could not support her children without her husband.

MuffinsShe had no self-esteem and no job skills: the only gift she felt she had was baking, and that was what enabled her, in her words, to “keep her sanity”–she confided that it gave her something to do to take her mind off of her “unhappy life.” Just in her mid-30s, Brenda certainly had her hands full with five children: Waylon (age 14), Twyla (age 12), Sissey (age 10), and twins Orley & Oscar (age 8). She was referred to work with me through our Intensive In-Home program, which is one of Bridges of Hope’s Family Support Services.

Brenda told me that the way she justified staying in the relationship was by knowing that Tom had never hit the children–only her. She reasoned that she could take it, as long as he did not hurt the children. But then one day Tom came home from work, extremely angry, and everyone knew to stay away from him. When Brenda put the dinner on the table, Tom threw it on the floor and raised his hand to hit her. Waylon grabbed Tom’s arm and said that he would not allow Tom to hurt his mom anymore. That night Waylon got a beating.

The next day the children did not come home on the bus after school, and a social worker came by the house and said that the children would not be returning home (they had been placed in foster care for their safety).

This was the turning point for Brenda. She knew she could not continue living this kind of life, so she left Tom and went to a local women’s shelter, where she stayed for a few months. During that time, the shelter staff helped her understand the nature of abuse and gave her the support she needed not to go back to the abusive situation.

That’s when Brenda was connected with Bridges of Hope. The goal of our work together was to help her with parenting and resources to get her on her feet and enable her kids to return. I was able to connect Brenda to Lutheran Social Service’s HOPE Housing program, and she was able to find income-based housing within about three months. I also connected her with the Workforce Center, and with their help, Brenda found a full-time-seasonal job at a nearby resort as a baker’s assistant–but by the end of the summer she had been promoted and hired year-round! We also got Brenda connected with a counselor for herself and her family at Northern Pines Mental Health Center.

Within about four months, Brenda and her children were able to be reunited, and she began implementing the Love and Logic parenting techniques that she had worked on with me during our in-home work together. The best part was that Brenda had worked so hard, had gained many skills along the way, and now felt confident that she would be able to raise her children on her own.

Today, Brenda feels that her life is finally her own, and she wants to “pay it forward,” aspiring to someday open her own business and help train women who do not have the skills (or who feel like they don’t have the skills) to make it on their own.

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You Can “Pay it Forward,” Too