I am an author, a CPA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a Foundation President, a website editor and an entrepreneur. I would like to think I am making the world a better place.
November 20, 2016
I haven’t been on Facebook for about six months now and, amazingly, I have discovered that I am not really missing anything of importance. And so, I did not know that my daughter, Angela, had posted a tribute to me on her Page. She has become an activist in her own way, and is a strong supporter of women’s rights – a topic she knows is near and dear to my heart, and the reason she posted this article. I am so proud of the young idealist she has become.
I want to share her kind words with you.
And please enjoy the picture she included of me from the 1970s, in my Gloria Steinem look-alike outfit!
Angela Scaletta Facebook Page – November 8, 2016
In 1969 my mom graduated college first in her class, completing her education in 3 years and becoming one of the youngest CPA’s in the U.S.
She served as president of the National Association of Accountants and the American Society of Women Accountants. She is an honoree of Who’s Who in American Business Women and is recognized as an expert witness by the Federal court system.
After leaving a large, international public accounting firm, she served as the EVP for one of the largest tour operators in the upper Midwest. Since I’ve known her, she’s formed a computer consulting business, a real estate development company, a CPA firm, and a publishing company.
She is a published author, public speaker, and president of a child advocacy foundation. And she is currently battling through her 2nd bout of breast cancer.
Every day, I am proud to be her daughter.
She’s taught me there’s nothing I can’t do if I want it badly enough. She’s taught me to always be myself and to always surround myself with others who support me. I am thankful for women like her who get up every day and power through adversity and negativity because they see a brighter future ahead.
I. Am. With. Her.
April 11, 2016
There’s another angel in heaven right now, as my friend Cheryl Dawson Castillo makes her way to the next stop on her spiritual journey. She lived 59 years on this earth, yet she had a much older soul.
Cheryl lived in my guest house for two years in the mid-1990s, and it was due to her guidance, and sometime her firm hand, that I learned many lessons. She taught me to listen more to my heart, and she helped me to open up to my intuitive capabilities. And mostly she taught me how to play. Cheryl could predict future events (or so she said), a talent I was very skeptical about when I first encountered her. When my daughter was 12, Cheryl told me Angela would be leaving our house to start a new life on her own in a couple of years. I thought she was downright crazy, and I remember getting very upset with her at the time for telling me such a ridiculous story.
In spite of our different approaches to life, we had grand adventures together. One road trip had us visiting various sites in Arizona and New Mexico. As we left the Desert, we stopped to see my friends at Chiriaco Summit, and they gave us each a souvenir 50-gallon hat to wear on our adventure. I wasn’t sure where we would use them, although I knew they would come in handy at some point. They were so big, it was impossible to wear them in the car, so most of the time they were stowed away in the back end of the Jeep, where they took up most of the storage area.
One of our stops was at the quaint little mining town of Jerome, Arizona, where the streets, and some of the floors in the buildings, slant downhill. This town had a real cowboy vibe to it, so we put on our 50-gallon hats and entered one of the local bars to get something to eat. We had to go in the swinging doors sideways to keep our hats on. At that time, I was a smaller white woman and Cheryl was an abundant, sassy black woman. To say that we got stares, as we navigated the downward slanting floor in our obscenely large hats, would be a gross understatement. It was a blast, since both of us actually liked making people a little uncomfortable and getting them out of their comfort zone.
We stayed at The Enchantment Hotel in Sedona, an area of Arizona that Cheryl loved, and where her life would ultimately end. Visiting the Painted Desert in the Petrified Forest, being tourists in Santa Fe and meeting the people at the Taos Pueblo were highlights of that adventure.
On another trip, I rented a suite in Newport Beach, where I was working on a book, and Cheryl came to inspire me. OK, that’s not really true. She came to play. The facility was a lovely refurbished older hotel located directly on the water. Cheryl complained every morning that there were a lot of male ghosts coming and going out of her room at night, and there was very high sexual energy. As usual, I rolled my eyes and thought “Yeah, right.” At the end of our stay, as we were checking out, the clerk asked how we liked our rooms. Cheryl relayed the story about the comings and goings in her room, as I looked on with chagrin. The clerk said, with an absolute straight face, “Well that makes sense. The room you were in was one of the old brothel suites in the hotel.” Cheryl looked over at me with that “I told you so” look. Nothing more needed to be said.
Cheryl moved from my home to Catalina Island to marry the love of her life, George. They held a beautiful ceremony on the bluff overlooking the Avalon Harbor, and Cheryl was radiant, both inside and out. Sadly, we all returned three years later for George’s memorial service, when he passed away from brain cancer. Cheryl wrote about her love affair with George in a story titled “Love Lost and Found,” which is published in one of my books, Courage of the Soul.
Cheryl in Sedona
Cheryl died in Sedona, Arizona. She let me know the last time we spoke that she was happier than she had been in a long time.
She was an avid traveler, and she loved to cook – mostly because she loved to eat! She adored her sister, Robin, and she loved her Mom and Dad. And she felt a special kinship with her nephew Brandon. She saw that inner spark in him (that perhaps others missed) and she had great hopes for the light that he would ultimately bring into the world.
I will miss you, my soul sister and my earthly angel. I know you are in Heaven’s hands.
And by the way, two years after Cheryl moved to Catalina, my daughter approached me, at age 13, with the request that she be allowed to move away and go to a boarding high school in Claremont, California.
Cheryl had obviously wanted to prepare me for that inevitable event, and I know that was a large part of why I was able to let Angela go.
Yeah, Cheryl was right again!
January 3, 2016
For many people, myself included, 2015 was a challenging year. Losses, heartbreaks, health issues, financial difficulties and various trials seem to have occurred with more frequency than they have in the past. In an effort to “find the pony in the pony shit,” I have been thinking about my personal challenges, and what I learned from them.
The Pony Shit – It was a first for me to have a neighbor call the authorities to file a police report against me. I thought I was actually part of an Ashton Kutcher “punk” when I opened the door to a man in dressed in a Ventura Police Department uniform. He was following up on a complaint from the elderly lady down the hall. It had been reported that I had taken her keys, and then broken into her condo at 3:00 in the morning, where I sprinkled itching powder on her and her dog. This was the latest in a series of bizarre behaviors on her part, including two months of her knocking on my door at all hours to get back the keys I took, and standing outside my door trying to peer in the peep hole. I had filed complaints with my landlord, the homeowners association and adult protective services – to no avail.
The Pony: Thank you Maggie, for giving me the final straw I needed to move. I found a safe, secure place to live, where my neighbors are kind and helpful – and not crazy. And by the way – where does one get itching powder, if that even exists???
My Beloved Car:
The Pony Shit – Towanda, my loyal 1999 Toyota Avalon, finally gave up the goods in May. She served me well for 16 years, until finally too many things were breaking down, and it wasn’t worth the cost of repairing them. Much like me. It was hard to say goodbye, for she had become my long-term travelling companion.
The Pony – I purchased a used Toyota Rav4 in a beautiful ocean blue color, with only 28,000 miles on it. It feels like new to me. And my loyal sidekick let me know that she didn’t have any hard feelings when I “put her down,” as she let me take the plates off with her name, and put them on the new car!
The Pony Shit – I completed my first year of service as a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate), where we advocate for children in the foster care system. I had no idea how demanding and sometimes thankless this work could be. On many occasions we get little respect, and we are often discounted and ignored. People ask me how I like it, and I tell them it is the hardest, most demanding job I have every had – and to top it off you don’t get paid.
The Pony – Someone has to do this work, for these are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. What has become very clear to me is what happens to children when they don’t get the love they deserve at an early age. And more importantly, I have learned how giving them that love can change the direction of their life.
The Pony Shit – I had several issues with “friends,” some of the situations being very painful. I have learned that individuals who only come around when it suits them, or who demand that things should always be done their way, leave me feeling marginalized and unloved.
The Pony – It took going through these situations to realize that good relationships demonstrate a solid balance of compromise and mutual respect. I will be looking for more of these in 2016, and leaving the former type behind.
A Drummer’s Death:
The Pony Shit – And on the last day of the year, my friend Michael, a drummer in the band Iron Butterfly, decided to leave the planet. He died.
The Pony – He was a good guy, and a good musician, and I was lucky to be able to see his last performance this summer. I found a copy of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on ITunes, and I blast it out of my computer speakers. That’s the best farewell I could give him, as I also take the time to remember how short life truly is.
And so here’s to a productive, creative 2016, with less drama and trauma than the year before.
And may all your ponies be beautiful – and may the little piles they leave behind be sweet-smelling!
December 30, 2015
I have spent a lot of time this past year working in the foster care system. It has been, to say the least, eye-opening. My blog today relates to what I have learned about the institutionalization of these children in an environment known as group homes.
To set the stage for the information in this article, let me state that the placement of foster children in group home environments has been increasingly deemed a failed model by youth advocacy organizations, the State of California, and various county child welfare departments. In spite of that knowledge, year after year vulnerable children remain housed in them for lack of a better option.
With that background in mind, I have some bad news for you.
And then some more bad news.
And finally some good news.
Bad News #1 – Long-term placement (over six months) of children in group homes can be especially problematic because the foster youth who live in these settings are more likely than those living in family settings to suffer a variety of negative short-term and long-term outcomes. Such placements are associated with an increased likelihood of being involved with the juvenile justice system and the adult correctional system, as well as low educational attainment levels. In 2014, about 3,000 of the 60,000 foster youth in California were placed in group home settings.
Foster youth in group homes are the most likely to be prescribed excessive amounts of psychotropic medications, with more than half receiving court-approved prescriptions. Many of these drugs are commonly used to sedate troubled kids, often for the convenience of group homes, rather than any proven therapeutic benefit. Meanwhile, youth in group homes continue to suffer far worse outcomes than foster children raised with relatives or foster parents. Studies cited in a recent State report show they have higher rates of school dropout and arrest. Roughly 2/3 of the youth failed to attain basic proficiency in either English or math. Perhaps even more problematic are the emotional consequences. If a child is living in a group home, which is not a family setting, it may give the child the message that they may not belong in a normal family, resulting in the youth believing that they will never fit in anywhere but an institution. Sadly, that is the future for many of these children.
Bad News #2 – Most people are unware of the cost to the taxpayer of the group home facility fees these organizations charge the County Department of Child and Youth Services – and ultimately paid for by us as taxpayers. The group home is paid for the costs of food, housing and social activities. Medical services are provided separately by MediCal, educational services are provided by the local school district and counseling services by the county behavioral health department. Below is an example of the minimum current rate paid to a group home facility which houses these youths on a long-term basis. If a psychiatrist is involved to administer drugs, or specialized educational services are required, the monthly fee can increase to $10,130 per month.
$8,935 per month, per child – equates to $107,220 annually, per child
If the facility has 25 beds, the group home’s revenue is $2,680,500
If the facility has 50 beds, the group home’s revenue is $5,361,000
If the facility has 75 beds, the group home’s revenue is $8,041,500
I will spare you the displeasure of knowing how much of these funds go to administration, marketing and fundraising. And although I work in the area of youth advocacy, and have access to certain proprietary information, the above disclosure is not confidential, and you can look up the information about a particular group home for yourself at: http://www.childsworld.ca.gov/res/pdf/GHList.pdf
In my estimation, the fees currently being paid would be better utilized to obtain therapeutic counseling, tutoring and educational assistance, behavioral modification services and personal life skill assistance.
Good News – (I think) – Effective January 1, 2017, California Assembly Bill 403 goes into effect – effectively discontinuing the use of group homes to house foster children on a long-term basis (over six months). Instead, the State is pursuing a multi-year implementation plan to acquire, train and support individuals and families who want to care for these children in a family home setting, with specialized therapeutic services being provided by the various county social service departments.
Is the move to discontinue the long-term warehousing of children in group homes a good one – I think so.
Will there be implementation issues as alternative therapeutic foster care placement opportunities are developed – undoubtedly.
Even with the uncertainty of the effectiveness of this new law, I am thrilled that we are finally starting to focus attention on some of the most vulnerable youth in our society.
For I know we can do better than what we are currently doing.
November 25, 2015
August 21, 2015
The Angel Heart Foundation completed its series of summer programs for youth living in Ventura County.
Children from the Oxnard Rio School District, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Ventura and the Assistance League Girls Club were treated to a live performance of The Little Mermaid, Jr. at the Rubicon Theater. Click Here for Photos.
Goody bags were given to the migrant farmer worker children of Oxnard, in connection with Support for the Kids, as a reward for completing the summer school program at Hathaway Elementary School. Click Here for Photos.
A Mad Hatter Party was held for the children of the Johnson Drive Boys and Girls Club – complete with crafts, face painting, costumes, root beer floats and take-away goody bags. Click Here for Photos.
Young adults from the Boys and Girls Teens Club of Greater Ventura and the Boys and Girls Teen Club of Camarillo were invited to a live production of West Side Story at the Rubicon Theater in Ventura. Click Here for Photos.
Thanks to everyone who made all of these events such a great success!
August 6, 2015
The Rubicon Theatre presented an amazing student performance of West Side Story. This piece was so timely and pertinent, especially to the 60 teens we sponsored from the Boys and Girls Club of Saticoy, West Side Avenue, East Side Johnson Street and Boy and Girls of Camarillo.
See Photos of the Event!
July 29, 2015
We put on an “amazing” Mad Hatter Party at the Ventura Boys and Girls Club on Johnson Drive – complete with crafts, face painting, costumes, root beer floats and take-away goody bags. Not sure who had more fun – the kids or the volunteers.
See Photos of the Party!
July 27, 2015
Hand-crafted goody bags were distributed to the migrant farmer worker children of Oxnard, in conjunction with the Support for the Kids organization, as a reward for completing the summer school program at Hathaway Elementary School in Port Hueneme.
Here are some photos of the day!
July 1, 2015
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Children from the Oxnard School District, the Assistance League Girls Club and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Ventura attended a special performance of Little Mermaid, Jr. at the Rubicon Theater. It was the first time many of the children had ever witnessed a live production.
Some pictures from the day!