When sifting through some of the work that TC did over the past few weeks, I came across images from our time spent with young ladies from G.E.T. (Living Proof Recovery Center). I began to think about how little our youth know about culture not only the culture of their peers, but also their own. We spent about an hour sharing some really interesting information about the holiday, Ramadan, as we were approaching the end and moving into a time where Muslims all over the world would celebrate for up to three days after fasting for 30.
During this talk, I was impressed by the young ladies who participated in the group; the questions, their curiosity and most of all their spirits. These young ladies were a sure reminder (to me) that all is not lost. With all that is going on in this world, in this country, we still have a large number of young people with a spirit of survival, wanting to be successful, wanting to be 'good' and do 'good'. There are still so many of them seeking guidance, looking for someone to point them in the right direction; someone who will help them climb over the mountain of insecurities, and cross the stream of impossibilities. It is because of young people, like those in the images you see, that TC will continue to work hard at fulfilling our mission.....one person, one family, one community at a time. We are confident that our youth will master excellence!
It takes a village! Enjoy today!
Tomaro Pilgrim, MSC, MSHS, HS-BCP
In 2013, TC shared a post about an overmedicated society. In the post, we covered stats on the large number of youth taking medication, many of them possibly misdiagnosed. As mentioned in that post the most common reason why medication is provided to youth is to treat ADHD and other disorders alike.
Since that post almost four years ago, I have come across a ton of other blog posts and articles with very similar if not the exact same concerns. This tells me that we’ve not gotten very far in making changes to ensure that our youth are not subjected to overmedicating.
In reviewing the latest news on the topic, it seems that of all our youth those in foster care are getting the worse end of the stick. In 2016, DelawareOnline posted an article that states foster
kids are mediated at a much higher rate than other children, 40% higher to be exact. The Children Defense Organization also posted a great article back in 2015. In their article, they stated that children in foster care are not only more likely to be prescribed medication, but they are more likely to be prescribed multiple medications at very high doses regardless of side effects. What is very scary about this are the possible long term effects that this 40% of children may face later in their lives.
I read a letter that had been written by a 12-year-old boy who told Congress that he was medicated, almost to the point of unconsciousness. The child stated that giving him, “all of these stupid meds was the stupidest thing I’ve ever experienced in foster care and the worst thing anyone could do to foster kids.” It is clear that those of us who work in the field of mental health need to step up and speak out!
In closing, TC recently connected with Elevate Addictions Services in California. This organization is one that I find to be making a difference as it assists in tackling the issues of drug addiction. It is proven that California has the largest foster care system in the country. It is further proven that 10% of the state's doctors are responsible for prescribing medications to 50% of children in care; one in four of these children are prescribed psychotropic drug to control their behavior without treatment.
Included in a post shared on Elevate Addiction Services' blog, you will find more details regarding the state's stats, a brief description of the medication's side effects, and most importantly information regarding an investigation into this topic that may have opened the eyes of those who can really make change (lawmakers). Excitingly, there are currently three bills on the table. We can only hope that the bills are passed and other states will follow in California’s footsteps! Our youth are in extreme danger…we all need to find our voice and use it! Stand up and speak out against overmedicating our children!
It takes a village.....
Tomaro Pilgrim, MSC, MSHS, HS-BCP
During one of our groups we shared some very important information with other females between ages 12-18. The response of these young ladies made me realize the importance of the topics addressed. Although it is way too much information to add in a blog post, I decided to try and break it down, adding some of the most important points. Please share this information with the teens in your life; in fact, take it a step further and turn these points into a conversation. There’s a lot that our girls already know, but with the struggles of making right and wrong decisions, talking about and encouraging them on what they know may be more beneficial than you can imagine.
There are several things that are very important when we consider all that it takes to grow into a strong, progressive, successful woman. Of those, we discussed self-esteem, assertiveness, inner/outer beauty and self-care. I will list a portion of the discussion below. Please feel free to share; in fact, we encourage you to share!
Self-esteem is one major key to becoming a successful individual, regardless of how one determines success. Whether or not one has high or low self-esteem will pretty much determine how far they will go in life. Those with higher self-esteem will, more than likely be more successful than those with low self-esteem. Recognizing the level of one’s self-esteem is pretty easy. Have the person (or yourself) answer the following questions, a) how do you feel about yourself; b) what type of behavior do you display when you are in public and/or associating with others; and c) how well do you take care of yourself (eating, exercise, hygiene, etc.)?
Some examples of people with high self-esteem include, a) acting independently; b) taking responsibility for their actions; c) taking pride in setting and reaching goals; d) welcoming new tasks; e) willing to help others, especially without wanting anything in return; and f) behaving positive in negative situations.
Assertiveness is a healthy way of communicating as it allows us speak up about things that may or may not be good or helpful to us. This can be important in all aspects of our lives including school, work & at home.
Assertiveness is something that we all have to work on, constantly. What is most important for us to learn is how to use our assertiveness. Sometimes we can be too assertive (mean, demanding, etc.) and other times we can be under-assertive (think I just made up that word…lol) (too quiet, allowing others to do what they want to us, finding ourselves in situations we are not happy about, etc.). Being assertive in a positive way, meeting in the middle of overly assertive and under-assertive. Examples may include a) giving an opinion or saying how you feel; b) asking for what you want; c) being able to respectfully disagree with others; d) speaking up about ideas and suggestions, even if others may not want to hear them or agree; e) saying NO without feeling guilty; and speaking up for others.
Self-care very, very important to our overall well-being. People in your circle may criticize you for self-care; they may think that you are selfish. However, without taking care of “self” then you risk “self”. Self-care takes practice and continued effort; without it we risk our physical and mental health, and the possibility of having healthy relationships with others.
You can start practicing self-care by creating a self-care plan. Some things to focus on include, a) school/work – engage in regular supervision, positive peer interaction, develop and stick to strict boundaries with peers, and develop knowledge in subjects/professional field; b) physical self-care – exercise regime, regular/enough sleep, healthy eating, rest/breaks at school or work, vacation; c) psychological self-care – keep a reflective journal, hobbies, take time for yourself, hang out with friends/family; d) emotional self-care – supportive friendships, reflect on good things you’ve done throughout the day, again…hang out with friends & don’t forget to take time for yourself; spiritual self-care – meditate, pray, exercise, reflect with friends and/or social/spiritual groups, read/journal; and relationship self-care – prioritize relationships with friends & families, form and nurture professional relationships (school/work).
If you take a good look at all of the topics listed, then you will see that they all play a role in one another. You can’t have high self-esteem if you do not practice self-care, or if you do not consider and build your inner beauty. You can’t build on your inner beauty if you don’t practice self-care which helps to increase your self-esteem. You get the picture! So please….if there is not enough information here, then research each topic. As previously mentioned, share this with the young ladies in your life. It can be a great “injection” of knowledge; and just may be what they need to set them on a path of building a solid foundation as they move into womanhood.
A life today, a nation tomorrow….
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, BA, MSC, MSHS, HS-BCP
To conclude, here are a list of just some areas guaranteed to improve with the use of mindfulness:
*****Attention & behavior support
*****Positive social behaviors
So…with the information shared, please consider a life change for your child….for your family. There is plenty of information out there to support the importance and the benefits of mindfulness. Knowing is only half the battle of us raising healthy, happy and productive children.
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, BA, MSC, MSHS, HS-BCP
But what happens when we reach our late 20s, our 30s? How long do we hold onto the past and allow it to “control” our thoughts and actions? When do we say,enough is enough and it is time to take responsibility for our negative actions, our reckless behaviors? This is a good question to ask, particularly when our actions affect those we love…..like our children.
If you are one who has experienced a lifetime (or a short time) of troubles, many of which are not due to any fault of your own (or maybe all your fault), you are over 25 and have (or not have) a family then this message is for you….
It is time to stop the madness! Stop crying and complaining about your circumstances! Stop pointing the finger at others! Take a few minutes and revisit your choices in action/behavior; what did YOU do to get YOU where YOU are in this moment????? Now, ask YOURSELF what YOU must do to get YOU out of YOUR current situation. Ponder for a while…..and be real with YOU!
In case you didn’t know, the ‘woes me’ loses its tune after a while; people begin to go tone death….not wanting to hear you sing the same ole song and do the same ole dance.
So, do everyone a favor….no, do YOURSELF a favor and Stop blaming your present on your past and allowing it to dictate your future!
If you cannot make the necessary changes alone; if you need some advice, guidance or resources there is always someone available to help (Let's Talk). No more excuses, no more blaming….it is time to take care of YOU! If I can make positive changes, anyone can.
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, BA, MSC, MSHS, HS-BCP
I recently read a story about a two year old little girl named Alexandra Hill. I felt it necessary to share a portion of this story with hopes to remind us all that there is so much work to be done within the foster care system, particularly with for-profit foster care.
Question, is it just me or do we all expect a child to be placed in a SAFE environment after being removed from their homes due to NEGLECT or MALTREATMENT???
Alexander Hill was taken away from her family in order to ensure her safety and well-being. She was placed in a foster home recommended by a Texas for-profit corporation. Three months after placement, Little Alex was dead!
Was Alexandra placed in a safe environment? Was this home in the ‘best interest of the child’? Who decided this was the best home for her? Who will be held accountable? And….how often does this happen???
Alexandra’s story is one that mirrors the lives of many other children entering into foster care which is why it is so important that I share. If we don’t know of a problem, then how can we try and fix it???
Parents of Alexandra, Joshua and Mary lost custody for a few reasons. One, they both smoked marijuana, and Mary has an illness that causes her to have seizures often. Also Alexandra lived with Joshua’s parents, along with his father who had served time for having sex with his mother’s 16 year old daughter. Although no one denies that Joshua and Mary loved Alexandra, it is clear that this was not a safe arrangement. The state removed Alexandra from her grandparents’ home placing her in a foster home.
After being removed from the first foster home due to Joshua’s accusations that his daughter was being abused, Alexandra was placed with Mrs. Sherill Small who at the time was fostering an infant as a means of support for her family. She resided with the fostered infant, her two children and her husband, Clemon Small.
According to reports, on the day of Alexandra’s death Mrs. Small had been upset with Alexandra for waking up too early and getting something to eat and drink without permission. At some point Mr. Small left the house leaving Mrs. Small alone with Little Alex; approximately 15 minutes later she called 911. Police arrived to find Alexandra lying on the floor unconscious; although all foster parents are trained in CPR, there appeared to be no attempts to revive her. Reports further explain that Mrs. Small confessed to slamming Little Alex’s body on the floor causing her to hemorrhage, but said she did so “accidentally” while playing a “game” with her. The autopsy showed that Alexandra had suffered bruising throughout her body, thus suggesting ongoing abuse.
More disturbing facts include the agency’s inability or care to properly assess the family to ensure they were ‘fit’ for fostering children. The investigation determined that Mrs. Small had been in foster care from the age of two; had three daughters, who were raised for a short time by her parents; and one of her daughters remained in the care of her parents. Mrs. Small and her husband had criminal records which included multiple drug charges, and Mr. Small was a recovering crack addict which was listed in his description on the foster care application. Let’s not forget to mention that Mrs. Small told the caseworker that she was very stressed out prior to bringing Alexandra into the home. Am I the only one who sees the possible issues here?
Keeping in mind Alex’s story, I would like to provide some more information for you.
Nationally, no one tracks how many children are in private foster homes, or how they perform compared to those services provided by the government. After one author covering this story, Brian Joseph questioned every state about the number of children in its foster system, only eight of them responded. The eight states combined had a number of at least 72,000 in 2011. Mr. Joseph stated that not one of the states had a statistically valid dataset comparing costs and rates of abuse and neglect in privately versus publicly vetted homes. When he asked about this, Mr. Joseph was told that, “Data is a low priority because it’s difficult.” Then the individual stated, “How do you measure child safety?” What in the world does this mean??????????
Private agencies in Texas alone were found to have more than 100 deficiencies or violations of standards in 56 of its foster homes; and this is only what has been reported. Children all over the country are being sent to foster care through private owned companies; they are being sexually assaulted, beaten, neglected and murdered! What’s worse is there is little accountability! These companies are skating away scott free, as well as some of the foster parents causing the harm to the children. Who is fighting for our children???
Bottom line….placing a child in foster care is often times more dangerous than leaving the children in their homes and taking the time (and spending the money) to address the things that can be changed through the implementation of education, resources and/or financial assistance.
Tomaro’s C.H.A.N.G.E. is aware that we cannot ‘save’ everyone; and when we are able to make a difference it may only be one life at a time but just imagine if we all realize the impact that changing one life can make. Education, resources and a little financial assistance can go a long way….it can possibly prevent the need for so many children to be removed from their homes, thus decreasing the need for so many foster homes (particularly private ones). No, we cannot save all the children in the world but who says we can ACT as if we can. A change may not be seen in our lifetime but we must start somewhere or our children will continue to suffer; the number of children being mistreated and who are dying will continue to grow. AND THAT MY FRIENDS IS JUST UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!
A life today, a nation tomorrow…we can do this if we work together!
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, MS
I read a story about an 11 year old girl who was raped twice within a matter of months by some young guys in her neighborhood. What disturbed me the most about this story was not just that the little girl was raped but what happened after she reported the rape. The rape of this 11 year old girl is so heartbreaking! But to add to that heartbreak, after getting up the courage to tell she was subjected to years of additional disappointments, sadness and pain!
Before I explain why I am addressing this issue, let me point out a few important details about the 11 year old girl’s story.
1) She and her twin brother were adopted by her aunt and uncle at the ages of 4 months old (parents were crack addicts)
2) Prior to their adoption, she was hospitalized after being burned in hot water by her mother
3) She struggled in school with learning and behavioral issues; eventually set up with an IP and began getting counseling
4) She was raped by two men between the ages of 18 and early 20s
5) She reported the rape only; she was isolated only going to school and back home
6) Her best friend was shot and killed
7) She was promiscuous, defiant and a run away
8) After several months of not going out (other than to school) she visited a family member across from her home; he sent her to the store at which time she was ‘abducted’ by one of the guys in the neighborhood, bought back to the same place as before and raped again
9) Again, she reported the rape; this time she was told that her story was inconsistent (she changed her story numerous times, including giving the name of the person who abducted her)
10) Although the medical reports proved that she was raped she was served with a warrant of removal from her parent’s care and made a ward of the state for providing false statements
11) Both cases, even with the medical proof, were CLOSED
12) For the next few years the girl was shuffled from a psychiatric hospital to foster care to residential facilities; and she was diagnosed with numerous psychological disorders such as ADHD, Bipolar and attachment disorder
13) At the age of 15, the girl returned home; she was pregnant and had her first child
14) Prior to her parents moving, the girl saw the men who raped her whenever she went outside her home
15) Today, the girl is 17 and suffering from psychological issues and struggling with the ability to have healthy relationships; what’s worse is that before being able to deal with her psychological issues, she has become a mother
I tried to find articles, or any kind of information to support my personal findings regarding the number of children removed from their homes, and/or put in situations where they are not able to trust those who are supposed to protect them. Unfortunately, I am not able to find anything. However, while reading the article about the 11 year old girl a legal official who was familiar with the story stated that, "prosecutors proceeded with the case against the girl (accusing her of providing false statements) to 'get her into the system' to obtain additional therapeutic services (which makes no sense because according to her family and school she already had services set up prior to the rape)"; he went on to say, "there’s not a lot of funding available for youth that are not charged, you have to be neglected or a juvenile delinquent.”
Based on her family history, although struggling with learning and behavioral issues she did come from a decent family. This girl was far from neglected. So in seeing no signs of abuse or neglect they turned an already troubled, struggling youth into a delinquent. Although this is not something that is mentioned via the media, this happens far too often!
After years of working with youth who have been removed from their homes I have learned that many of them do not trust the police, social workers, attorneys, judges or therapists/psychologists. One must ask the question, why? Another important question is what do we do to change that?
The girl who was raped at 11 years old (twice) stated that she knows many young girls who will not share their stories because they do not believe they will get help. We hear about the number of children being abused and neglected, and the number is alarming; can you imagine how many of them do not tell because of fear that they will be removed from their homes, made to be liars, or simply blamed for the actions of those who hurt them???
As with the 11 year old child, children who has behavior problems, runs away from home, struggles in school or has a difficult time communicating and maintaining positive relationships with others are often a product of their environment and/or experiences. This does not make them liars or does not mean that everything negative thing that happens to them is their fault; they are not automatically exempt from being a victim.
There was no one in that 11 year old child’s corner, other than her parents who were unable to do anything to help her. Based on her own admission, she felt alone, betrayed and useless. Her life was carved out for her before she had an opportunity to grown old enough to make any decisions; and when she did try to take control of her life by sharing her rape with those who were supposed to help make her feel safe and secure, she went from being a victim to a delinquent. Again, this happens all too often!
How can we protect our children if they cannot trust us? How do we expect them to come to us if they are not comfortable in knowing they are safe, that we will protect them?
It is time for change! Do I have the answers? No, but my hope is to start the discussion; with the help of others there is a great possibility that WE can come up with some ideas. It takes a village…..
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, MS