• Three brothers, three different paths out of foster care

    BakhitBros_03

    Joseph Bakhit keeps a 2010 photo of his brother, Terrick, left, and himself in his Berkeley, California apartment, September 29, 2014. Bakhit is a former foster child and UC Berkeley student, double majoring in Peace and Conflict and Art. California’s AB12 legislation provides him with a stipend of $838 per month until age 21, in an effort to ease the transition from the foster care system into adulthood.

    _______________________________

    By Brian Rinker

    The brothers escaped on a Sunday.

    Matt, 14, Terrick, 12, and Joseph, 11 pretended to go to church that day in 2006, but in secret they had planned to run away and never come back. No more living with an angry grandmother who drank. No more beatings with the belt.

    They stashed a black plastic garbage bag full of clothes next to a dumpster outside their grandmother’s apartment in Whittier, CA, and wore extra socks, shirts and pants underneath their church outfits. Their older sister, 23, was to pick them up at a nearby Burger King. From there, the brothers recalled, she was to whisk them away and raise them as her own.

    So instead of stepping onto that church bus as they had done every week past, the Bakhit brothers walked to Burger King praying that whatever lay ahead was better than what they left behind.

    Matt, the eldest, was the mastermind. At 14, a wrestler and high school freshman, Matt said living in the strict, abusive home stifled his maturity. How could he grow into a man?

    “My grandma, over any little thing, would pull my pants down and whoop me with a belt,” Matt, now 22, said.

    But freedom from his abusive grandmother didn’t mean an end to his and his brothers’ hardships.

    Child protection intervened less than a month later at their sister’s San Diego home. The brothers remember a social worker telling them they would not be separated. They packed their belongings once again into plastic bags and piled into the social worker’s car. The brothers cried.

    Despite the promise, 20 minutes later the social worker dropped Matt off at a foster home. Terrick and Joseph were taken to the Polinsky Children’s Center, a 24-hour emergency shelter in San Diego for kids without a home, or as Joseph calls it, “purgatory.”

    Continue reading

  • State data fuels the ACEs conversation in Iowa

    Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.12.37 PM

    Most Iowans didn’t learn about the Centers for Disease Control’s ACE Study until early 2011. But in the three years since then, the state has completed two ACE surveys, one of them published, with a third survey underway and a fourth scheduled for 2015. Iowa has hosted three ACEs summits; two statewide summits in 2014 focus on ACEs in early childhood, and education and juvenile justice. And nearly every sector—including health care, education, social services and corrections—is busy answering the question: How do we integrate this knowledge into what we do?

    “To this day, I can’t find out who knew to bring him here,” says Suzanne Mineck, president of the Mid Iowa Health Foundation, referring to physician Robert Anda, co-principal investigator of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Anda was invited to give the keynote at the state’s annual Early Childhood Iowa Congress in 2011.

    “The ballroom was packed—maybe 300 people,” Mineck recalls. “After his presentation, a group of us walked out and looked at each other. We decided that what we’d heard was really important, and we needed to do something with it.”

    Over the next few months, the ACE Study kept coming up in “water-cooler” conversations among people in Iowa’s health and child welfare communities. So the health foundation decided to bring two questions to a small group of state and community leaders: “Is this relevant to the work in our state? If the answer is ‘yes,’ what are we going to do about it?”

    Fielding those questions were Sonni Vierling, state coordinator for the 1st Five Healthy Mental Development, a project of the Iowa Department of Public Health, and representatives from the Polk County Health Department, Orchard Place Child Guidance Center, United Way of Central Iowa, and Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.

    “Data is what led the conversation from the beginning,” says Mineck. The CDC’s data plugged real science into what many on the front lines of health and social services already knew, but the numbers also begged the question: Does Iowa have the same incidence of childhood adversity?

    Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.13.06 PM

    Iowa’s Department of Public Health was willing to include the ACE survey in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) that all states use to measure rates of obesity, smoking, cancer, teen pregnancy and other health issues. But it would cost $24,000 to do the survey.

    Continue reading