A Message from Our Board
Indeed, it has been quite a year. We have all been impacted by the pandemic, while captivated – if not ensnared – by the election. Issues of social justice and inequity were front and center for so many of us as we struggled to make sense of the nonsensical. Sometimes it seems 2020 has lasted a decade, and in some regards it feels the year has gone by in the blink of an eye.
For Progressive Life Center (PLC) families, 2020 has been extraordinarily difficult. Racial, social and financial disparities impact the majority of those we serve. Vulnerable before COVID-19, their challenges have been exacerbated by unemployment, school closures, cramped living, illness, loss of health insurance, and disproportionate loss of life. Each of these factors has contributed to increased homelessness, domestic violence, food insecurity and mental health needs. In addition to those we were already serving, the pandemic has brought a wave of new families who had been marginally managing.
But our staff have not stopped advocating, connecting, facilitating and comforting the children, youth and families in our circle. Today, staff are working from home, in the
office and in the field as regulations allow and with safety protocols in place. Like
teachers with their students, virtual connections are incomplete connections as our
social workers, counselors and case managers support children, youth and families through crisis. In-person meetings are often essential for effective staff-client relationships, and they are crucial to family health. Restricted or limited in-person
visits with biological parents is straining the emotional and mental health of our foster care children, while school closures and limited social interaction with peers only magnifies their trauma. This is just one unique example of many additional stressors affecting long-term and even future-generational outcomes for our families.a
But you can help.
Your financial support of PLC will help us fill the unfunded gaps brought about by the pandemic, including those relating to the logistical and safety measures needed to facilitate in-person interactions. Since March, we have secured partial funding to supply staff and families with necessary personal protective equipment. We received a small grant to provide technology to some of our older teens who are on their own, aging out of foster care, and who had previously relied on public Wi-Fi and library computers. Because school closures have limited access to free and reduced meals, PLC is helping families with food and other essentials. This is just a narrow sampling of the challenges our families are facing, and much need remains.
Your donation supports our efforts on behalf of the more than 1,000 individuals we support each year. No matter the amount, your gift helps PLC promote confidence, opportunity, access and a brighter future for a child, a teen, a caregiver, a family.
On behalf of my board colleagues and our entire staff, thank you for all you have done for us in the past. Thank you for the consideration and generosity with which you review this request. We wish you and your families a safe and spirited holiday season and look forward to connecting with you in 2021.
Atlantic Union Bank, Regional President
Progressive Life Center Board of Directors and Development Committee Chair
I’Yonah Cartwright is letting nothing stand in her way. Just wrapping up her first semester as a college freshman, she looks ahead to earning a degree in criminal justice, and as she tells us, “hopefully adding on a history minor.” This, in preparation for a next big step – law school.
“We applaud I’Yonah’s overall transformation, strong academic commitment, and redirection of past negativity into constructive means to improve her future.”
-Carolyn Morgan, LCSW
PLC Delaware Regional Director
I’Yonah is the first recipient of PLC’s Jackson-Brittain Scholarship for foster youth who demonstrate excellence and potential. At just 13-years-old, I’Yonah knew she wanted to grow up to practice law. In her scholarship application, she acknowledged some of the skills she will be honing toward becoming a successful lawyer: critical thinking, logic, reasoning, communication and reading comprehension. She also recognizes that a strong history of community service, work experience and social and professional engagement are crucial to even being accepted into law school. She understands that beyond earning her bachelor’s degree, gathering experience and honing skills, hundreds of hours of study will be required to pass the law school admissions test (LSAT). She has already developed a strategy and schedule to facilitate studying for the LSAT. I’Yonah has even proposed a study schedule for the bar exam!
I’Yonah is well into the long game she began at aged 13. She has created a long-term plan, established long-term goals, and now she is working through the tasks to set herself up for the future. We feel certain that I’Yonah’s wisdom, drive and determination will take her to exactly where she needs to be. Congratulations I’Yonah!
About the Tribute Scholarship
The Jackson-Brittain Scholarship was established in memory of Mr. Willard W. Brittain, Jr. and in honor of Dr. Laurence E. Jackson to support brighter futures for foster youth*. The late Mr. Brittain’s wife, Mrs. Deborah Brittain, seeded the initial scholarship through The Brittain Foundation and will continue her support in subsequent years. Dr. Jackson, the Brittain’s long-time friend and PLC President and CEO since 2008, offers formal guidance and mentorship to all scholarship recipients.
*The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education fact sheet tells us that nationally, about 65% of foster care youth graduate from high school, versus 86% of the general population. Of these graduates, only about a third of foster care students pursue higher education as compared to about two-thirds of the general population; this despite an indication of equal college aspirations at aged 17-18.
The Jackson-Brittain Scholarship is just one ways that PLC is helping foster youth strive for academic excellence.
As the U.S. began to feel the impact of COVID-19, Clarissa, who with her five young children had recently escaped an abusive relationship, found herself facing homelessness while also grieving the recent loss of her mother. But she is a survivor, and with a little help, these setbacks did not stand in the way of a better future for Clarissa and her family. With a referral from Prince George’s County, Maryland Department of Social Services, PLC’s Family Preservation team stepped in to help Clarissa find that future.
Family Preservation is an intensive intervention designed to help strengthen and stabilize families beyond crisis. Family Preservation case managers work with the entire family to identify strengths and needs. Together, they develop a plan of care that will ensure stability and safety for the children, and avert the need for a temporary out-of-home placement in foster care.
While we worked with Clarissa to find a home, PLC secured temporary accommodations. The family of six endured a five-week hotel stay, where despite the cramped quarters, they worked through their care plan. Clarissa stayed on track with her own learning while prioritizing her children’s needs and together they navigated remote classroom instruction. Just about the time PLC was helping Clarissa negotiate a new rental lease, the family was also celebrating Clarissa’s graduation! Now, with her associate’s degree in Medical Specialties, a new job and a place to call home, Clarissa and her beautiful family are embracing the recommendations to stay at home and enjoying cherished traditions of the holiday season.
We are so grateful to the more than 150 professionals, students and community-minded individuals who attended our November 19th fully-virtual conference themed The Power of NTU: An Afrocentric Approach to Health and Healing in These Unprecedented Times.
Conference Attendee Feedback
“My biggest takeaway was that I need to continue to be intentional about combatting racism and oppression.”
“I will pass this information on to my grandchildren.”
Presentations topics included Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS), outcomes of good youth nutrition, societal racism, the fight for social justice and strategies for self-care. Thought-leaders – including PLC staff and alumni – engaged with participants during six 90-minute sessions, and the day culminated in a virtual face-to-face social in which presenters, hosts and attendees connected in open discussion.
Yes, we learned a few lessons about presenting on a virtual platform, and we are grateful for the constructive feedback received. We look forward to building on the momentum of our highly-regarded 2019 in-person, and 2020 virtual conferences, so that no matter what 2021 has in store, we can promise an event that will inspire, move and motivate our community to compassion, action, and understanding.
Consider Becoming a Foster Parent
Because all children, including teens, need stability and love to thrive.
Foster parents provide a temporary safe haven for children and teens whose families are in crisis. Families that become overwhelmed by societal stressors and hardship, abuse, neglect, incarceration, addiction, poor mental health, loss of housing or loss of a loved one.
Did you know that about 50% of foster children are eventually reunified with parents after safety, well-being or housing concerns are resolved. About 25%, mostly under the age of six, are adopted. Some return to relatives, and many teen foster youth simply age out of care, often not having an adult to turn to during their first defining years of independence. The need for foster parents is diverse.
If you decide foster parenting is right for you, we will make sure you are ready. We not only facilitate training and certification, but we work with you to help ensure a compatible child placement, and provide 24-hour support throughout the placement.
Families are experiencing crisis and need your help. Why not learn more to see if fostering is for you?
Visit ProgressiveLifeCenter.org/FC to connect with a member of our foster parent team in Maryland, Delaware or Pennsylvania. Live in another state? We can connect you with another agency to answer your questions.
Like his African forefathers, Progressive Life Center’s founder, Dr. Frederick Phillips, valued ritual. Since its inception, PLC has woven rites of passage and other ritual celebrations into our Afrocentric approach to health and healing. To this day, there is not a time that Dr. Phillips’ appreciation for ritual is remembered more, than during our recitation of the PLC Prayer.
During our collective pause, the prayer provides a moment to reflect on our purpose and PLC’s mission. For 35 years, PLC has commenced each meeting, retreat, conference and special event, with these simple and always-relevant words. Through these words, we declare our cooperation and our accountability. With these words, we are motivated to act.
The PLC Prayer’s non-denominational expression of unity, embraces the holistic, spiritually-oriented clinical approach on which PLC was built. With it, we are invigorated to pursue our mission on behalf of the children, youth and families that we serve.
“The power of ritual is profound and under-appreciated.”
-Harvard Business Review
Learn about PLC’s Afrocentric approach at ProgressiveLifeCenter.org/NTU
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