What you can do to help abused and neglected kids in MT

This month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, is almost over. The Missoulian’s been featuring a series on the topic for the past several weeks, and today we published our own entry. Hopefully, it’s at least as helpful as some of the other columns written by the experts on child abuse prevention in western Montana.

The editorial is aimed at encouraging people to at least get started thinking about the hurt children in our community and how to help them. To consider becoming a foster family or a court-appointed special advocate, or perhaps lending some volunteer time, extra household supplies or monetary donations to one of the several organizations that provide support to families at risk.

The long-term aim is to stop the cycle of abuse and give children the best possible start in life. The immediate result is making a real difference in the life of a kid, right here in Montana, who needs to know that he’s not alone.

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Time to get creative for Kids’ Holiday Drawing Contest

The kids and I are big on making our own Christmas presents each year. It’s fun, it’s thrifty and it’s a great way to spend time together – which is what the holidays are all about, right?

We have a rule that we absolutely cannot start any Christmas projects until after Thanksgiving. But we can still collect lots of great ideas. Oh yes we can.

And of course we’ll be making our own Christmas cards.

If your kids make their own cards too, you might encourage them to send one in to the Missoulian for the annual Holiday Drawing Contest. The Missoulian sponsors it, and publishes the top 25 submissions in the newspaper. The grand prize winner will become the 2014 holiday card for Youth Homes, Inc.


That’s a pretty good reason to participate. Another good reason to send that art in is that the first-place winners in each of two age groups will win $25. Which you could use to buy even more card stock, envelopes and glitter.

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Ride-a-Thon this week at A Carousel for Missoula

November, where have you gone?

I’d meant to post something before today’s big Griz for Kids Toy Drive – in which folks are asked to bring a toy to donate at Washington-Grizzly Stadium during the Griz football game against Weber State.

The toys will be given to local nonprofits like Youth Homes to hand out to kids as Christmas presents.

I may be late on that post but I’m not going to let this one get away from me: the upcoming Ride-a-Thon at A Carousel for Missoula. That’s happening on Nov. 20 starting at 5:30 p.m.

It’s the first time the Carousel’s directors have hosted this kind of event. They’re asking 30 riders to saddle up and ride until each has raised at least $200. The money will be used to support the Carousel and the adjacent Dragon Hollow playground.

Folks are invited to come and watch and cheer – or better yet, to make a donation or offer a pledge. To call in a pledge, the number is 549-8382. To fill out a donation form, go to http://carouselformissoula.com/shop/ride-thon-donation/.

“In addition to our everyday operations, for which we are best-known, the Foundation also maintains Dragon Hollow at its expense, provides more than 10,000 free tokens each year to agencies providing direct services to disadvantaged children and youth, and welcomes anyone with a physical or mental disability to ride free at any time,” says Theresa Cox, executive director of the Carousel, in a news release announcing the Ride-a-Thon. “The Carousel provides free or low-cost entertainment by hosting a Fairy Tale and Super Hero Festival in July, which is free to all participants; Haunted Hollow in October and Santa’s Breakfast in December, at very low cost to attendees.

“We support 75% of our annual budget through operations, but to keep ride prices low and accessible to all, we engage in numerous fundraising activities throughout the year. The Ride-a-Thon is a fun way for local celebrities and other Carousel fans to encourage the public to support to these beloved community landmarks.”


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Long time no blog

Regular Missoula Mom readers may have noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lotta activity on this site in recent months. Why the long silence?

The short story: I’ve been busy growing my family!

Long story: Let’s save that for another day. Suffice to say that my family has a lot of gratitude for the folks at Youth Homes‘s Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program right now.

Funny enough, Youth Homes has been busy expanding lately too. The new Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home will feature 10 bedrooms for teens (ages 16 to 18) who are aging out of foster care. The new 5,000-plus square-foot building will replace the old one which, as Youth Homes executive director Geoff Birnbaum has been saying for the past four years or more, was never designed to function as a group home.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need places like this. I’m not happy we need them, but I’m so grateful we have them.


Get fired up about foster care with dinner and a documentary

The new documentary from Missoula producer Matt Anderson and Missoula filmmaker Paige Williams is a must-see. It’s called “From Place to Place.” I watched it last night and was incredibly moved by the stories of these young adults making their way in Missoula after aging out the foster care system.

Then I read Joe Nickell’s story about the documentary in this morning’s Entertainer and was moved again by the story of how this film came to be.

One of the things I really like about the documentary is that it ends with different people in the film directly telling us what we can do to help repair a badly broken situation: We can watch out for the kids in our neighborhood; we can check in on all our extended family members to make sure everyone’s accounted for; and, of course, we can become foster parents.

Whatever you do, you should watch this documentary. It is screening for the first time in Montana this upcoming Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. at the Wilma Theater. The doors will open at 6 p.m., and if you buy a ticket in advance (available through the website, www.fromplacetoplacemovie.com), it’s only $5.

Here’s something else: For the past few years I have had the privilege of getting to know the fine folks at the Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program, a part of Youth Homes Inc. I’ve seen first-hand just how much they care about these kids – and how hard they work to find them safe, loving, long-term families. I highly recommend that anyone interested in foster care or adoption check out their website or give them a call (721-2704 in Missoula).

And if you want to support Youth Homes, one fun way to do so is coming up on June 6. On that day, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., if you buy a burger (or veggie burger) at Scotty’s Table, the proceeds will be donated to Youth Homes.

The burgers at Scotty’s are all locally produced, and for $15 you get a burger, fries and a local beer. The restaurant is located in the bottom unit of the Wilma Theater, at 131 S. Higgins Ave.

For more information about the burger benefit call 541-1642.

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Missoula treating childhood trauma on several fronts

“We are destroying ourselves as a nation by not paying attention to childhood abuse and neglect.”

So says Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who has studied post traumatic stress disorder in children and is widely regarded as an expert on childhood trauma. In fact, he founded the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network. Van der Kolk was speaking to an audience at the University of Montana to help launch a partnership between local schools and the university’s Institute for Educational Research and Service.

“As one of the leaders in the emerging field of childhood trauma, UM is helping these schools use behavior therapy to help children review traumatic experiences and reduce behavioral problems in a safe environment – and in a way that doesn’t create acute anxiety,” today’s story in the Missoulian reads.

And speaking of treatment for childhood trauma, I would be remiss not to mention yesterday’s excellent article noting that Youth Homes is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Over the course of those years, the organization has helped some 9,000 at-risk children through a variety of programs and services.

About Youth Homes’ work and fundraising efforts locally, executive director Geoff Birnbaum had this to say: “I can’t think of a better place to do this than in Missoula. I sometimes wonder if anywhere else can match the generosity of this community.”

Let’s hope the next 40 years more than matches the generosity Youth Homes has experienced thus far.

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New documentary features real Missoula foster families

The folks at Youth Homes’ Dan Fox Family Care program recently put together a stirring yet short documentary aimed at encouraging more people to consider becoming foster or adoptive parents. It’s worth 10 minutes of your time. Check out the video below or go to the Dan Fox Web site for more information.

– MM

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Run for kids with Youth Homes team

Last month, fellow Missoula mom Kim Anderson, a mother of three children and a former development director for Youth Homes, started a personal quest and a blog called The Reluctant Runner.

“I’m going to run a half marathon in July and I’m doing it in honor of a kid at Youth Homes,” Anderson explains on her blog, where she writes eloquently of being inspired by Youth Homes children as well as her own kids.

The Missoula Marathon is approaching quickly – it’s scheduled for July 11, 2010. Until then, Anderson is using her blog to help raise awareness about the Youth Homes Run 4 Kids team, explaining, “We’re trying to get more participants this year to run or walk either the half or whole in honor of a kid at the Youth Homes – each participant gets their registration and training fees paid for in turn for getting pledges for YHI. MT Rail Link sponsors this so they flip the bill for the participants. Its very cool.”

If you can’t run, consider giving a donation instead. Anderson is trying to raise at least $500.

– MM

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Single dad in Helena adopts second child

Over in Helena, a man by the name of John Joyce recently formalized the adoption of his second son. I’m sure this will be a very merry Christmas indeed for this family.

Didn’t know you could be a foster or adoptive parent and not be married? You can. You can also be part of a double-income household, or any number of family arrangements. If that’s what’s standing in the way of you looking into foster care or adoption, let it stand there no longer. Go check out the Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program, which is part of Youth Homes and has offices and staff all over Montana. You may not have a new kiddo in your home for this Christmas, but you could help make next Christmas a very merry one for a child in need of a home.

– MM

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Holiday events benefit young moms and kids

If you’re looking to have a little holiday-inspired fun while helping out some awesome local nonprofits, you could do worse than take the Holiday at Home Tour or check out the 11th annual Festival of Trees.

The Holiday at Home Tour takes you to privately owned homes that have been decked out in various holiday themes. Tickets for a special VIP guided tour on Friday cost $50, and proceeds go to Youth Homes and Watson Children’s Shelter.

This tour starts at La Bella Vita at 5 p.m. with drinks and appetizers, then a bus will leave at 5:45 p.m. and make stops at three homes before dropping everyone off at the Missoula Art Museum for a party and more food and drinks. Call 523-0486 to get these tickets now because there’s a limited number.

If you miss out on the VIP tour, though, you can still take the self-guided tour for $10 each. Buy tickets at the Missoulian or La Bella Vita. The holiday homes will be open on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, all this week you can see beautiful trees on display at Southgate Mall and bid on the one you like best, with proceeds going to Mountain Home Montana.

And isn’t supporting organizations that help struggling young mothers and children who cannot be with their families really living the spirit of the season?

– MM

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