Marion Witte

December 30, 2015

Hope For the Future – Maybe??

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 3:31 pm

Foster Kids

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.

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November 25, 2015

The Nutcracker – A New Experience for 25 Foster Children

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 5:57 pm

Nutcracker

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August 21, 2015

Angel Heart Foundation Summer Programs a Success!

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 12:36 am

Foundation ALL Summer ProgramsThe 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!

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August 6, 2015

Teens Enjoy a Youth Production of West Side Story

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 1:04 am

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!

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July 29, 2015

The Mad Hatter Gives a Party at the Boys and Girls Club

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 12:50 am

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!

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July 27, 2015

Migrant Farm Worker Children Rewarded for Program Completion

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 10:38 pm

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!

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July 1, 2015

Children See Live Production of “Little Mermaid” for the First Time

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 12:09 am

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!

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October 20, 2014

Marion Witte Honored by the Ventura County Star for Community Service

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 7:37 pm

Ventura Star Award

The annual 25 over 50 Awards Program salutes Ventura County’s accomplished and exceptional leaders who continue to leave an imprint on our thriving community through their achievements, leadership abilities, philanthropic efforts, and dedication to the betterment of Ventura County.

The following biographical information was published in the Ventura County Star on Sunday, October 19, 2014.

Marion Elizabeth Witte is sometimes also referred to as “the lady who buys out the entire house.” During the holidays, Marion often will purchase tickets for a local community production in order to offer underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy live theater. Not only does this offer some entertainment for needy families in the community, but it also greatly benefits the local theater community. Marion is tirelessly focused on her commitment to making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children and families, founding and managing the Angel Heart Foundation, whose vision is that “All Children Deserve a Safe and Just World.” She serves as the editor-in-chief of the foundation’s two sister websites – Next Generation Parenting and Brave New Leaders, which are devoted to encouraging positive parenting and empowering youth. Marion is training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate and is developing a self-esteem program for the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura. She is also an active, trained volunteer for Junior Achievement and has volunteered for Girls, Inc. and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I enjoy traveling and experiencing world cultures. My recent trips include journeys to Peru, Australia and New Zealand. Where and when were you happiest? When I am able to touch the life of a child and provide them with hope for the future. What book is sitting on your nightstand? “I Hope I Wake Up in the Morning.” Where is your favorite place to take visitors? Downtown Ventura, Serra Cross at Grant Park and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream & Yogurt! What is your all-time favorite movie? “Fried Green Tomatoes” with Kathy Bates as Towanda – it’s on my license plate. What “group” did you hang out with in high school? An eclectic group of folks—the “nice” girls and the nerds. My favorite group was the “bad boys.” What chore do you absolutely hate doing? I don’t like scrubbing floors for some reason. What does Ventura County need? The same things as the world — more innovation and creative thinking. Which word or phrase do you most overuse? Wow! What was your worst Job? Hoeing sugar beets for eight hours a day in North Dakota in 100-degree temperatures at age 16. And earning $1 for each mile-long row completed. What Is your favorite invention? The toilet. What is your greatest fear? Not having a toilet. What are you most proud of accomplishing? I am proud of the wonderful woman my beloved daughter has grown to be. What is your biggest pet peeve? Narcissism. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Speak a foreign language and ballroom dance (I know, it’s never too late). What did you do growing up that got you Into trouble? Pretty much everything — drinking, carousing, missing school, basic delinquency. If you could paint a picture of anything, what would you paint? The south island of New Zealand where “Lord of the Rings” was filmed. What is your most treasured possession? My lovely little rescue Shih Tzu, Jon Stewart Witte (aka Stewie). What do you most value in your friends? Being real. Being honest. Being loyal. What is your motto? It’s not the truth that will hurt you — it’s the lies.

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March 13, 2011

Love is the Only Answer

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 3:55 pm

April is child abuse awareness month. Since a lot of my readers are involved in the healing community and also in raising the consciousness on the planet, many of you will be hearing and reading a great deal about child mistreatment during this month.

As I relayed in my memoir, I experienced extreme childhood trauma as a child, so I deeply and personally understand the effects of those actions on one’s life. I have also reached a place of understanding and compassion regarding why this negative behavior occurs. I do not condone the mistreatment of any child – ever. On the other hand, I do not condemn those who are unconscious of their actions, for there is no one on this planet who has not been unconscious of their behavior at some time on their journey. I also do not suggest that there are not times when individuals need to be incarcerated due to the danger they pose to society in general, and children in specific.

An issue such as childhood mistreatment is emotionally charged, and it can bring up one’s own unresolved anger issues. I know this from my personal experiences. For many, this anger results in the exhibition of indignation, retaliation, judgment and punitive actions. Although I understand the basis of these responses, I am going to suggest that lending this negative energy to the world does nothing to address the core causes of childhood mistreatment. Some of my child advocacy peers will disagree with this position, and I respect their right to their viewpoint.

I believe that education, understanding, compassion, and healing are the tools through which we will prevent child abuse and neglect. We have tried to address this societal problem through legislation, intimidation and incarceration. None of these tactics have proved effective, as the problem continues to grow. We have, to date, been dealing with the symptoms of this epidemic, and not its cause.

And so as we enter the month of April and beyond, I ask that each of us remember to keep putting the energy of love and compassion into the universe, as we work to make this world a better place for all of us.

I have quoted Maya Angelou hundreds of times, so here I go again.

“When we know better, we do better.”

Blessings,
Marion

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November 30, 2010

Angel Heart Foundation To Change Its Focus

Filed under: Foundation — Marion Witte @ 12:39 am

I spent the last year observing and analyzing the approaches being used to tackle the growing problem of childhood mistreatment. As the old saying goes, when you know what you are currently doing is not working, and you continue to do more of it in hopes that it will ultimately work, you are involved in insanity. Not exactly the original wording, but you get the idea. I think the time has come for society to reassess its child advocacy agenda, and for new options to be placed on the table. With that in mind, the Angel Heart Foundation will be refocusing its efforts in this arena. We are rewriting our mission statement and will be redesigning the website.

I will keep you up to date on our progress!

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