June offers time to reflect on the importance of family, in its many forms. At SAY San Diego, we invest in the whole family, as defined by the family, and in improving neighborhood and social conditions, to empower equity, opportunity, and well-being for children. One hallmark of our work is use of family strengthening practices across many programs. The evidence based family strengthening approach is family centered, valuing and recognizing family input and involvement; family-strengthening, engaging multiple solutions to enable families to be strong, healthy, and safe; embracing of diversity; and supportive of community connections and collaboration.
In keeping with the family-strengthening approach, last month we wrote about Project KEEP, which provides a solid support system for foster and kinship caregivers of children ages 5-18 years. Below, you will learn more about Dads Corps, SAY San Diego’s unique program that provides peer support and educational opportunities for active duty and veteran military fathers.
This month, we are also thrilled to announce that SAY San Diego has been recognized for its leadership with two awards. Our Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program and its entire staff team were recognized by the San Diego County Probation Department for their leadership in Evidence Based Treatment Practice. Then on June 14, SAY will receive national recognition with the Organizational Excellence Award given by the Network for Social Work Management.
May is National Foster Care Month acknowledging foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policy makers, child welfare professionals, advocates, youth in foster care, former foster youth, and all members of the community who advocate for youth in foster care and their families, and who provide permanent, safe homes and caring connections for them.
Here at SAY San Diego, this month and every month, we are committed to ensuring a bright future for more than 2,100 children and youth in foster care in our county (down from nearly 4,900 a decade ago). We celebrate all who work daily, as we do, to prevent child abuse and neglect, prevent out of home placements, heal trauma, cultivate nurturing family bonds, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of children who suffer the trauma of abuse and neglect.
Over the past 9 months teens from Mid City and Southeastern San Diego directed their creativity and passion toward understanding why so few clean and safe outdoor areas exist in the community and finding solutions to those negative influences. Opening the Outdoors is a project spearheaded by SAY San Diego, in partnership with AjA Project and local schools in the Mid-City area, and with Project Aware Inc. and The SOULcial workers in Southeastern San Diego, with generous funding support from the San Diego Foundation. Through the prism of photography, teens identified Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park as an important asset for the community and asked that more events and opportunities for artistic expression be offered to youth and families in City Heights.
Each and every day, volunteers, business partners, community and student service groups, and interns pursing their academic goals give the gifts of their talent and time to SAY San Diego. They form the heart of our community!
Our volunteers contribute in a wide variety of ways, as role models, experts in law, tax, design, real estate, and as tutors, event organizers, counselors, video producers, photographers, interpreters and translators, coaches and leaders of youth development and recreational activities, as well as community leaders and board members. SAY’s fantastic volunteer force outnumbers our workforce, allowing us to reach more people than our financial resources would otherwise allow. Our volunteers and interns give meaningfully of themselves to the tens of thousands of children, youth, and families who make up SAY San Diego’s clients and communities.
Early Literacy Month is inspired by Dr. Seuss’ birthday in early March, as well as broad-based research and understanding of how early language development and literacy are essential for cognitive growth and learning in young children. What we see every day at SAY San Diego is that children who have lots of engaging experiences with stories, books, songs, poetry and language in general absorb the rhythms and patterns of language and, at surprisingly early ages, begin to imitate the language and gestures they see and hear.
By Lucia Acevedo Program Director – Crawford Community Connection
On Saturday, February 24th, over 150 City Heights parents, students, school principals, and district leaders came together at Monroe Clark Middle School for a morning gathering to participate in a unique effort to dialogue on the complex and varied factors affecting our schools and provide direction to the district on how it should budget to address these factors. The 2ND ANNUAL LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) COMMUNITY DIALOGUE ON EDUCATION was hosted by SAY San Diego’s Crawford Community Connection – Parent Student Resident Organization (PSRO), in partnership with SDUSD, The Global Arc, Hoover Wellness Council, United Women of East Africa, Comite Organizador Latino de City Heights, the International Rescue Committee, Karen Organization of San Diego, Sterlington Consulting, and the California Endowment. Attendees collectively reviewed data regarding student chronic absenteeism, school suspension rates, English Learner progress, college and career preparedness and other issues. They were then invited to explore and identify ways to address these pressing issues.
Mr. Tang, the principal from Mann Middle School said “It was great to see so many community members and parents having a voice in the budget process. I valued the dialogue, how we were talking with each other instead of at one another. And I really appreciated the involvement of the students there from Crawford High School.”
One of the participating parents said “Our community as parents, schools and community have to work together for our kid’s well-being. We have a lot of great ideas and leaders in our community, we have to take advantage and do it.”
Another parent from Crawford High School noted “It helped me know that most parents are finding the same hardships and we can work together to solve them together for our children’s good.”
At the end of the day all of the feedback was collected and folks were invited to be a part of the process to compile the information and develop a document to be presented to the SDUSD in the next month.
Thank you for supporting SAY San Diego’s Champions for Youth campaign! This year we raised nearly $92,000 to support children and families in our programs. Because of your generosity, we raised more than ever before, including $30,000 in bonus funds!
By establishing creative partnerships with local, world-class universities, SAY San Diego has tapped into the ingenuity and fresh perspectives of talented graduate students. They are exploring new social innovation programming for us that builds on our organization’s strengths and values, with great promise to meet unmet and urgent needs.
Starting in October 2017, three second year master’s degree students from San Diego State University (pictured left) joined the SAY San Diego Board of Directors as Board Fellows for the course of two semesters. Sponsored by SDSU’s Social Policy Institute, at the School of Social Work and the Fowler College of Business, the purpose of the fellowship is to introduce MSW and MBA students to board roles in nonprofit governance and leadership, while also engaging them in an innovation project with a board member, staff and the local community. Their innovation project, still underway, addresses the serious unmet need for high quality, affordable infant and early childhood care. The Board Fellows Program is guided by Steve Hornberger, MSW, Director of the Social Policy Institute, SDSU.
Over the Winter Intersession, SAY San Diego benefited tremendously from our engagement with students in the Master’s in Social Innovation Program at University of San Diego. Four students (pictured right) served as social enterprise consultants to help us explore new possibilities for valuable programming within our Child and Youth Development impact area, where SAY serves more than 4,500 children and families every day. They explored the needs and interests of parents and children through a series of interviews, analyzed the market, and reported on possibilities for partnerships and financing, under the guidance of Karen Henken, MBA, Professor of Practice, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at USD, Kroc School of Peace Studies.
Happy 2018! Here at SAY San Diego, not only does the important work of 2017 continue into 2018 – our 47th year – we also think about new possibilities and opportunities! As an organization, we pride ourselves on going above and beyond where we have resources and competencies to bring and to share. Therefore, coming into 2018, we are investing in innovation to solve some of our region’s pressing problems.
One such pressing problem is the high need for affordable, top quality early learning, child care and preschool. Beyond limited publicly-subsidized preschools, few preschool options exist for low and low-to-moderate income parents in San Diego. The typical monthly cost of quality child care and preschool is more than monthly tuition at San Diego State, upwards of $800-$1200 each month, per child. Understandably, for working families of any income level the pressures of affordability are greater here than many other areas, since San Diego is among the nation’s most expensive locations to raise a family, and the local self-sufficiency wage is well above the federal poverty level.
Among SAY San Diego’s clients are parents with young children across a wide socio-economic spectrum, continuously searching for, but not finding, child care and preschool options they can afford. Our experience is reinforced by research citing that nearly 70% of all local families with young children cannot find affordable, high quality preschool.
SAY San Diego has undertaken a major planning initiative, which will come to fruition in 2018, to expand affordable, high quality preschool. There’s no question that high-quality preschool is related to higher levels of behavioral/emotional functioning, school readiness, academic achievement, educational attainment, and eventual income. It also enables many parents to work and grow in their jobs.
THANK YOU to all who donated to SAY San Diego’s 2017 Holiday Hopes Campaign! We brightened the holidays for a record number of families this year thanks to your generous support. Whether it was a toy for a child or food for a family, the many gifts from SAY supporters this holiday season were a kind reminder to others that they are not alone.
If you are considering an end-of-year gift to to help children and family year round, please donate to SAY through the Champions for Youth campaign. Every gift qualifies SAY San Diego for bonus funds from the Century Club of San Diego. 100% of your donation goes to SAY, and there are no fees for online giving by credit card. It’s the best way to give to SAY San Diego during the holidays and beyond. Champions for Youth runs through January 28, 2018.
Thank you again for making a difference this holiday season. May all the joy you brought to others also come your way!