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What's New at KidsPeace

News and Notes from KidsPeace

Hospital and Health System of PA shares KidsPeace's stories of Healing, Health Hope

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We recently shared how the KidsPeace Children's Hospital is using innovative programming to help children develop their inner strength.

 

That initiative, as well as two others, are now featured under the Hospital and Health System of Pennsylvania's stories of Healing, Health and Hope.

 

Check out the features on KidsPeace quiet carts and toolboxes as well as our Komfort Room, which is coming soon!

 

 

In the digital age, comunication is key to keeping children safe online

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Submitted by Amy Williams

teen-privacy 

Valaysha Colon uses rap to share what she learned at KidsPeace

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valaysha-colon-leidy-ocasioBy Bevin Theodore 

 

When Valaysha Colon first arrived at the KidsPeace Children’s Hospital, she was an angry teenager who could not understand why her mom was getting in the way of everything she wanted to do, namely smoke, drink and fight.

 

Today, the 15-year-old from Allentown, Pa., is immensely grateful that her mom cared enough to intervene and that the staff at KidsPeace showed her there was a better way. She shared her story through a rap song she wrote and delivered Monday evening at the 30th annual KidsPeace Golf Classic at Brookside Country Club in Macungie.

 

                                         Leidy Ocasio (right) of Allentown, attended the  

                                        dinner following the KidsPeace Golf Classic on June  

                                        15 to hear her daughter, Valaysha Colon, 15,  

                                        share what she has learned at KidsPeace. 

 

“KidsPeace helped me a lot,” Valaysha told the crowd before breaking into rhyme. “Before I came, I was heading down a really wrong path. I was putting my mom through anything and everything.” 

 

Valaysha recalled being restrained daily during her stay in the hospital. But something shifted in her mindset when she stepped down to the residential treatment program. There, she has gotten a second chance. She credits caring counselors for helping her realize that the actions that were causing her mom so much grief were also detrimental to her own future.

 

“I wouldn’t call them mistakes because at the end of the day, they’re lessons learned,” she said.

 

In being open to changing her life for the better, Valaysha has gained perspective. She is grateful her mom refused to give up on her. She learned to trust. She has a plan for her future, and she no longer makes excuses or lets circumstances detract from her goals and dreams.

 

“You may think you have the worst life, and you may think you’ve been through everything, but life is what you make of it,” she said.

 

She is looking forward to going home because she knows now that she controls what comes next.

 

“When I grow up I actually want to work at KidsPeace,” she said. “And I want to be a motivational speaker.” 

 

Judging by the emotional reactions from the crowd and the standing ovation that followed her speech, she already is. Here is Valaysha's story:

 

Ima just put it like this … 

Before I came here, I was heading down the wrong path. 

I guess you could say, I thought I had it bad. 

Until I heard all the stories here, it made me really sad. 

This girl was only eight and got abused by her dad. 

It opened my eyes and made me realize … 

That I have a good mom, and she will never leave my side. 

This place changed me. 

Before I came here, I was really angry. 

I was a little girl living in this big world … 

Tryna find who I am, I hope I can make you understand. 

I had poor self-esteem. 

Just wanted to live Marilyn Monroe’s theme. 

Curvy waist, good shape, with a pretty face … 

Man, she was livin the dream. 

So they put me in “Inner Beauty” 

Hoping that it would get through to me. 

And it did … 

It clicked like magic. 

I finally realized that life wasn’t so tragic. 

And that I may not be perfect, but I am worth it. 

Being here I found a new way to cope instead of using my fist. 

I picked up a pen and started writing like this 

Started thinking about life … 

This is my second chance, I gotta do this right. 

For my happiness and freedom, I will never stop the fight. 

Through all the pain I felt here, sometimes I’d sit back and laugh. 

To come and think about it, it was really all my staff. 

They were always there for me. 

They helped me find the part of me I couldn’t always see. 

I have it now, and I’ll never let it go. 

I’m strong, confident, and beautiful … 

And that will always show. 

Remember that time I had a bad family session. 

I was so angry, I couldn’t relieve the tension. 

Stormed to my room so I could be by myself. 

But staff were always behind me and pulled my feelings off the shelf. 

They always had my back, which built up my trust. 

Even when I got mad, slipped up and would cuss. 

But I learned from my mistakes … 

That’s the name of the game. 

But it’s really not a game ... 

I had to face all my pain. 

Staff always told me I was inspirational. 

And that my words were always gonna be motivational. 

That’s why I use my words … 

For days like today … 

To prove you that if you started where I did … 

In the end everything will be okay. 

 

TeenCentral.Net is a safe, free online place where teens can get answers or vent

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It is not easy being a teen today. There are so many pressures and teens are often left feeling alone and helpless. If only there were a place where teens could go for help without having to reveal their private thoughts and fears to people who might judge them.

 

Well, there is a place just like that! TeenCentral.Net is a FREE, ANONYMOUS online resource. Teens who visit the site register with a fictitious username and password then write their "stories" -- whatever is on their mind at the time for which they are seeking feedback, advice or just a sympathetic ear. Each story gets sent to a secure database where TeenCentral.Net's trained counselors read and respond within 24 hours. While all the original stories and responses are posted on the site, no one ever knows who the writer is or where he or she is from.

 

So if you or someone you know is dealing with a bully, not getting along with your siblings or parents or are just in need of an answer or somewhere to vent, TeenCentral.Net is the place to go. Check out this commercial to learn more about how TeenCentral.Net is helping real teens.

Superflex® helping clients at KidsPeace Children's Hospital uncover superpowers

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superflexBy Bevin Theodore 

 

Kids love pretending they are superheroes, emulating the strength, courage and wile of their favorite characters. But a program being used at KidsPeace Children’s Hospital is actually teaching pre-adolescents to look within themselves to find their own super powers.

 

“Superflex®: A Superhero Social Thinking® Curriculum,” written by speech pathologists Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner, was rolled out at the hospital in January, and is used in Master’s-level clinician groups every weekday. The goal is to eventually train more staff in the program so it can be used on weekends as well. The idea behind Superflex®, said Jess Racine, Director of Social Services for the hospital, is that each child has this superhero inside of himself that allows him to be flexible and overcome the Team of Unthinkables©.

 

The 14 Unthinkables display behaviors that do not take into account other people’s feelings or the best way to handle a situation. For example, Rock Brain makes people get stuck on their own ideas; Glassman causes people to have large, upset reactions; Brain Eater is a master of distraction, WasFunnyOnce attempts to capitalize on humor at inappropriate times and Space Invader does not respect other people’s personal boundaries. With each activity, the clients are challenged to use Superflex® to overcome these less desirable behaviors.

 

“The idea is they all have this Superflex® within themselves, so they’re trying to bring it out and not have those Unthinkables take over,” Racine said.

 

The 27-day curriculum, which KidsPeace has adapted for use in an inpatient setting, involves comic books, worksheets and other activities that help the children learn, in a non-threatening manner, to modify their behaviors to meet social expectations. The key lies in teaching children to defeat the Unthinkables with brains, not brawn. 

Tyrone and Teresa Morris offer loving home to young moms and their babies

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mom-babyBy Bevin Theodore 

 

The first thing Tyrone and Teresa Morris would tell you is that they are blessed.

 

Blessed with two beautiful children who are now grown, blessed with a 3-year-old girl they are raising and consider their own granddaughter, blessed with the health and vigor to help teenage moms through KidsPeace’s Mother/Baby Foster Care program in Columbia, Md. 

 

When the couple became foster parents in 2012, they knew they were meant to help young moms find their way and give their babies the best shot at life.

 

“I was a teenage mother and I didn’t have the assistance of someone helping me or showing me the things I should do, the way to go. As I retired, God laid on my heart to do this,” Teresa said.

 

After talking to a colleague who had fostered through KidsPeace, Teresa made up her mind.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock 

KidsPeace's Mother-Baby Foster Care Program 

allows young moms to get on their feet and

learn crucial life skills.

   

“I knew I could do that. I could help a young lady out. I could show her the right way to go,” she said. “I’ve been filled with joy and delight since that time.” 

 

In 2013, the Morrises invited a teenage mom and her then 1.5-year-old baby into their home. The mom and her siblings had been in foster care previously because of neglect in their biological home. In the Mother/Baby Program, the baby is not technically in foster care, but when the mom turned 21 in April and aged out of the system, she knew she was not prepared to take care of her daughter on her own. So she signed over parental rights to the Morrises for six months.

 

“She’s just like a granddaughter of our own,” Teresa said.

 

The little girl’s mom, meanwhile, is trying to get on her feet. She lives about 10 minutes away, so she is able to visit with her daughter whenever she wants. She is engaged, expecting another baby and working at Pizza Hut while she considers returning to school to be a veterinary assistant. In the meantime, she knows Teresa and Tyrone will always welcome her into their home.

 

“One of the greatest joys I had is when (she) comes back for dinner and tells my wife she misses her cooking or calls on Mother’s Day,” Tyrone said. “My worry was that she would leave and forget about us, but she’s very much a part of our family.” 

 

Still, watching the foster youth leave their home is never easy.

 

“At first, when my wife talked to me about (foster care), I was a little hesitant about opening my home to strangers,” Tyrone said. “But that ended up being the easy part. The hardest part is letting go.” 

 

Tyrone and Teresa accept the uncertainty that comes with the territory. They try to take each day at a time, enjoying the opportunity to shape the life of a 3-year-old, even if she might not stay with them forever.

 

“I understand being raised by someone else, but at the same time, you still yearn to be with your biological parents,” said Tyrone, who was raised by his grandmother after his mom abandoned him as a child. “And despite what we want, we know that’s what’s best for her, if her mother is able to take care of her.” 

 

In addition to the joy of expanding their own family through foster care, Tyrone and Teresa are grateful for the support of their caseworkers and fellow foster parents.

 

“We absolutely love what we do. But we also love KidsPeace as well,” Tyrone said. “We look forward to just being with our KidsPeace family.” 

 

The Morrises are preparing to welcome another mom and baby into their home, and in the meantime, the 20-year-old aunt of their “granddaughter” is also living with them because she found she prefers a family setting to the independent living situation she was in previously.

 

“We do for the kids exactly what we did for our own kids,” Tyrone said. “It brings life into our home. The only drawback is I wish we had more room and would be able to take in more kids.” 

 

Still, foster care presents its challenges, and Tyrone said in the beginning, he found himself praying for God to deal with some of the young women and the difficult issues they presented. But what he discovered was that his prayers led to a change in himself instead, and he now cannot imagine what their life would be like if they were not foster parents.

 

“Foster care has helped to make me into a better person, a more patient person, a more loving person,” Tyrone said. “I can honestly say that this program has brought out the best in me.” 

Jill and Paul Callela help adopted daughter find voice

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callela-familyThrough adoption, Lydia, 7, gained a family and the ability to communicate. 

 

By Bevin Theodore 

 

When Jill Callela met Lydia, the little girl did not talk and rarely even looked at those who tried to engage her.

 

But Callela, a behavioral health professional with KidsPeace in Bangor, Maine, felt an instant connection with the child and knew that beyond the mask of autism was a girl longing to be drawn out and loved. Callela had worked with Lydia in her biological home and while she was in foster care. Months after she stopped seeing her, she ran into Lydia in the community and instantly felt that connection to her again.

 

“It was just a meant to be kind of meeting. And people were noticing it,” Callela said. “I kind of knew at that moment, it was time to step up… I could just see all kinds of potential in her and knew that I had what it would take to unlock it.” 

 

Callela and her husband, Paul, were not licensed to be foster parents, so they had to move quickly to prepare for Lydia, who came to their home on Oct. 1, 2014.

 

callela-lydia-2“She came in and it was just as smooth as if she had always lived here,” Callela said.

 

Since that time, the now 7-year-old has started talking and making eye contact and is doing well in school. Her formerly severe behavioral issues have started to taper off; she has gone three months with no incidents, is spending more time in the mainstream classroom at school and is interacting more with her peers.

 

“I know she’s so smart and she had so much locked inside,” Callela said. “And she’s so happy now. The minute you put the phone up and she knows it’s picture time, she stops and poses.” 

 

The Callelas adopted Lydia on May 5. Callela said one of the most rewarding things has been seeing Lydia enjoy the people around her, especially her older brothers, Dominic, 19, and Anthony, 20, and her grandparents, who live right across the street. It has been a family effort to improve her communication skills, and Callela, who previously worked with children on the Autism Spectrum, had the tools to help Lydia blossom.

 

“I grew up with foster children,” Callela said. “And working in the field, you can’t help but think you want to help certain kids. It’s always been in the back of my mind that I wished I could do more. But it wouldn’t have come to the forefront before Lydia.”  

 

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