Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sleepless in Oak Cliff??

Things that keep me up at night: Well, actually, NOTHING keeps me up at night, but if I WERE going to be Sleepless in Oak Cliff, here is what would keep me up, in no particular order:
  • Our case managers make home visits--sometimes in pretty rough parts of town.
  • We have new-borns and infants in our care and young mothers who have no idea how to raise them.
  • We have pregnant teens who come to us having had NO prenatal care.
  • We spend a good amount of time transporting kids in five vans--all over the place.
  • Next week, 30 kids and 6 staff are taking a chartered bus to Colorado for a week's stay.
  • Any one of our shelter teens could go OFF at any time--their CPS worker didn't call, their parent didn't come visit, another kid's hair is parted on the wrong side, someone touched them ("He touched me!" "Did not!" "Did too!", "Did not!", etc.)
  • There are over 1,000 teens every night in Dallas who are either on the street or "sofa surfing" (moving from place to place).
  • Like any parent, we wait up for the older transitional living teens to come home from God knows where (they are supposed to be working or in school, but if you have kids, you know how that goes sometimes).
  • We have 15 homeless young mothers and their children living in apartments in the community, pretty much on their own.

And these are just the kid issues! How many liability issues can YOU count??

Luckily, one of the reasons I don't stay up at night, is the incredible competence and dedication of Promise House staff. They see their job as a mission. They do things like: sit beside a young woman in the hospital who is in labor, talk down a really upset shelter teen, rock babies, go buy clothes for a teen who has none, scour the streets looking for homeless teens, go on week-long trips with kids (they deserve a halo!), stay late to get a grant out, work weekends and holidays to make an event perfect, deal with irate parents, spend hours or days helping a teen find a relative to go home to, plan birthday parties for teens who have never had one, come to PH in the middle of the night when lightening has struck, and the list goes on and on.

So, you can understand now why I sleep very well at night. And you can also understand what I mean when I say that whatever a kid needs to grow up well, that is what we do.

And we do it better than anyone else.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trashed Tuesday

Today is Tuesday.

So far, I've had to cancel two meetings, reschedule another one (after I got everything ready for them), witness and try to help in a physical altercation between a mom and her daughter in the lobby (it was a bad one), figure out how to make coffee in this new space-age coffee maker (it took me an hour, and it wasn't even for me!), and attempt to look like I maintained some sanity.

And that was just this morning!

Most of you are probably thinking, what a wimp! But my point is this: today is my second day back from vacation; and the second day back from vacation (for me, anyway) is ALWAYS a total disaster.


Why can't I transition smoothly and calmly back into work? I even came in on Sunday for an hour or two to catch up on email and mail, so I would have an easier transition! Well, that didn't work.

If any of you out there understand what I am saying, I would appreciate a shout-out.

I would feel alot better if I knew I wasn't the only one who feels like they've been hit by a Mac truck on their second day back from vacation.

I am REALLY longing for the pool right about now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Go Figure

So, if you can figure this out, you are smarter than I.

Promise House has a great program called STAR (Services to At-Risk Youth) that provides in-home and community-based case management and counseling services to prevent teens from running away from home.

STAR is a state-wide program funded through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and is in every county in Texas. Like I said, it is a GREAT program.

TDFPS contracts with us to provide the above services in Dallas County and pays us about $825,000 per year. We are to serve 1074 individual teens, along with their family members. That comes out to about $700 per kid. Not too bad.

So, I heard that the agency that had previously served Collin and Rockwall Counties was not renewing their contract. Naturally, I was interested. When I inquired with the STAR folks in Austin, they sent me this info: the contract for Collin and Rockwall counties called for the agency to serve 1174 individual teens, plus family members. The amount of the contract was $323,000.

Do you see what I see???

Collin and Rockwall counties combined have a little over 800,000 people. Dallas county, of course, is much bigger than that. Yet, more teens for almost 1/3 of the $$ we get have to be served in those counties. Somebody do the math!

I think I may know now why they didn't renew!

So, when I again talked with the folks in Austin they said that those #s were negotiated at the beginning of the contract (sounds like someone needed a better negotiater!), and the $ amount was fixed.

Well, needless to say, Promise House is not going to enter into a contract that says we can only spend $104 per kid ($323,000 divided by 1174). I told Austin that at that $ amount we could possibly serve 600 teens, or if they wanted us to serve 1174, we would need at least $650,000.

We'll see what happens.

Ah, state government....don't ya just love 'em?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Empty Nest Syndrome"--New DSM IV Classification for Women?

O.K., so this doesn't have anything to do with Promise House, but I had this thought late last night. As I am helping my youngest get ready to go to UT in the fall, everyone I know is asking me, "What will you DO when she leaves?" "What are you going to do with ALL that time on your hands?" "Won't you be lonely??"

It almost feels like I'm being lumped into this "syndrome" that could be part of the DSM IV (which is still very sexist):
"symptoms include depression, anxiety, and sadness at last child's departure from the home. Patient is unable to cope with ALL that time on her hands and becomes lonely and despondent. Affects women, primarily."

So here is what hit me last night. Do people ask men the same questions?? I have NEVER heard anyone ask those questions to a father. I may just not get around much, but I would bet that mothers are asked those questions at least twice as often as fathers.


The first assumption is that, as a mother, your child is your entire life, even if you have a career. Not so, with a man. No one EVER expects his child to be his whole life. In that same vane, have you ever heard men talk about work / life balance?? Rarely.

The second assumption is that a mother can't find anything besides children to fill up ALL that LONELY time. When fathers are included in the questions, they are framed around the premise that he is going to have time for ALOT more fun! More golf, more hunting, more, more, more. Poor mom, though, is going to be sitting on the couch depressed and anxious without her precious baby.

Give me a break!!

I love my children more than life itself. I have spent the last 29 years raising them; and loving EVERY minute. But they have never been my WHOLE life. I built a career, went to graduate school, participated in two singing groups, joined several book clubs, took voice lessons, etc., etc., all of which made my time and relationships with my children all that much better.

I find it insulting that people assume that women are nothing without their children--that assumption is never made about men.

So, if you want to ask me those questions, you have to find a father whose last child is leaving home and ask him the SAME questions!! are my answers: "I will do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it." "After literally running for the last 29 years, I will totally bask in 'all that time on my hands' '". "No, I won't be lonely. How can I be when both daughters have texting, email, facebook, twitter, etc., etc.? I love solitude and I need it. I have alot of "non-solitude" to make up for. So, no, I won't be lonely."

Yes, it will be different. But I have loved every stage in my girls' lives, and this will be no different.

It will be poignant, it may be a little sad for a bit. But, it will be an incredible journey, just as every step of our lives together has been.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

25 Years, 25 Reasons

25 years. 60,000 lives. One promise--hope for a better future. This is Promise House. For the past 25 years we have opened our doors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to runaway, homeless, and at-risk teens.

Over 6,000 teens run away from home every year in Dallas. And on any given night, over 1,000 teens are on the street, "sofa surfing" (moving from place to place), or involuntarily out of their homes. Kicked out, abandoned, down and out, they come to Promise House for hope and healing. We give many of these teens not a second chance, but their ONLY chance for a better life.

I've been with Promise House 11 of those 25 years. I've met extraordinary young people who, inspite of horrific trauma, have perservered, maintained, healed, succeeded. And most extraordinary of all is the fact they can still smile, can still laugh, play, and be typical teens--if given the chance.

So, in our 25th year, here are 25 reasons to contribute to the continued success of Promise House and the thousands of teens who look to us every year as their safety net, their anchor:
  1. We need your help.
  2. It is a worthy cause.
  3. It could be your teen.
  4. They need your help.
  5. It will make you feel good.
  6. You were once a teen.
  7. We get results.
  8. You'll be contributing to a warm bed.
  9. You'll be contributing to 3 meals a day, every day.
  10. You'll be contributing to medical and dental care.
  11. You'll be contributing to shoes, socks, underwear, jeans, shirts, p.j.s.
  12. You'll be helping homeless young mothers like Sarah become outstanding parents.
  13. You'll be contributing to babies' and toddlers' well-being.
  14. You will help keep at-risk teens at home and off the street.
  15. We need to pay our passionate and dedicated staff.
  16. We need to keep the lights on.
  17. We need to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  18. You will feel happy.
  19. You will feel proud.
  20. You will feel useful.
  21. We will feel happy.
  22. Our teens will be happy.
  23. You will save a life.
  24. You will give hope.
  25. If it was your child, you would want all the help you could get.

Please help. To contribute, go to

Monday, July 6, 2009

$9 million for Super Bowl / $0 million for Homeless Teens

So, big news in the Metro section of the Dallas Morning News today: "$9 million raised for Super Bowl; more on tap". But, poor babies, due to the bad economy, they may end up shy of the $15 million they are looking for. O.K., so here I go again.......

Does anyone have any idea what Promise House could do with just ONE of those millions????? And WHY is it that the rich folks are so eager to support huge stadiums, huge football games, huge entertainment venues, huge hotels, but not huge problems like teens who live in cars, under bridges, on the street, on top of buildings??? Teens who have suffered unspeakable abuses and have chosen the streets as refuge??? Teens who will be the next generation of chronically homeless adults, cause NO ONE who can really ante up and put some serious money toward solving the problem is paying attention to them??

I used to say it made my head hurt. But now, it makes my heart hurt. Promise House struggles every year to meet the gap in funding between government dollars and the actual costs of providing critically needed services to these teens: emergency shelter, long-term housing, street outreach, crisis counseling. Not to mention basic needs of food, clothing, a bed to sleep in, toothpaste, socks, underwear, etc., etc. I often say that whatever it takes to raise a kid is what Promise House does.

But sometimes it seems that Dallas would rather raise a convention hotel, or a stadium, or fancy new condos that are now sitting empty, than raise these teens. But guess what? We will NEVER end homelessness in Dallas until these teens get the attention and help they need.

The last thing I always say is: "If it was your child on the street, you would want all the help you could get."

That is all we are asking--all the help we can get.

So, how about just one of those millions??