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Kids View Online - October 2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Diana Guthrie

Before retiring, Diana Guthrie had an extensive career working with families in behavioral science, diabetes, stress management and research. She was also a professor at the KU School of Medicine in Wichita and has created materials and manuals in positive parenting. She has co-authored several books on diabetes and written over 90 articles on a variety of health topics in her career.

For a little over three years, Guthrie has used this experience and education to help strengthen KCSL families as a volunteer parent expert and facilitator at KCSL support groups. She enjoys being able to share the knowledge she has gained throughout her life.

“There’s a need for this, and I like helping people,” Guthrie said.

She primarily works with Ana Rodriguez, parent engagement coordinator at KCSL, who leads several parent support groups.

“I appreciate the knowledge she shares with the parents in my groups,” Rodriguez said. “Parents are able to use the information in their everyday lives, and they tell me it really works.”

Since Guthrie retired, she has volunteered her time to several organizations. She spends a few hours each week volunteering in some capacity.

“There’s so many needs out there,” she said. “I wish I could do more.”

This month, Guthrie was featured on Fox Kansas’ Pay-It-Forward segment. With Rodriguez’s recommendation, KCSL nominated Guthrie for this volunteer award. We are grateful for the support she has given our families over the years!

New service helps young children with challenging behaviors

Starting at the end of October, KCSL will offer Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) services for children enrolled in our Head Start and Early Head Start programs. AAT uses animals to provide opportunities for children to learn empathy, self-calming strategies, gentleness, how their actions and behaviors make other people feel and how to care for themselves and others. KCSL uses a Wheaten Terrier named Seamus. He has two years of experience working with children and adults and is handled by Missi Martinez, LPC, assistant director of family services for KCSL’s Head Start program. Martinez feels anyone can benefit from this new service.

“I feel like our relationships with animals provide us a freedom that we don't always have with other humans,” Martinez said. “You don’t have to worry about embarrassing yourself or disappointing a dog because dogs don't recognize self-imposed rules and expectations.”

Children who have experienced anxiety or trauma, need help remaining calm in certain situations or just need to talk about difficult life events may find comfort in being around Seamus.

“When you're with a dog, it's easy to love and be loved,” Martinez said. “It's safe, predictable and comfortable, and those are all the ingredients of a healthy and therapeutic relationship.”

Participants must follow safety guidelines to utilize these services, and as a trained handler, Martinez always accompanies Seamus when working around children. Seamus is specially trained to be gentle and tolerate unpredictable situations.

“Animal-assisted therapy is an extremely neat way to work with kids, and these services can provide major benefits for a number of people with various needs,” Martinez said. “It’s a lot of responsibility and takes a large investment of time and resources to make this kind of program work.”

Success Corner

Araceli, Julio & Yaiden

Featured in Kids View Online April 2018

Although many 15-year-old girls feel like adults, most are enjoying their early teens adjusting to high school, spending time with friends and possibly dating. Araceli, however, had much more on her mind at this age. She was preparing to raise a child with her boyfriend, Julio.

“We felt very scared when we found out I was pregnant,” Araceli said. “We were shocked but once we saw the ultrasound, we got really excited.”

In the beginning, Araceli and Julio had very little support. They immediately started searching for local resources in Emporia to help them on their new journey of parenthood. When the couple learned about KCSL’s Healthy Families, they enrolled.

“Since I got pregnant at a young age, I had no clue what was coming,” Araceli said. “I didn’t know the basics of how to care for my own child.”

Although she admits Healthy Families has helped her family, Araceli still had her struggles. After giving birth to her son, Yaiden, she felt unmotivated and didn’t attend school for a few months. Lisa Harder, KCSL family engagement coordinator for Healthy Families and Araceli’s home visitor at the time, along with Julio and Araceli’s family encouraged her to continue high school. Eventually, Araceli decided to persist in her schooling and even graduated with her class in 2017.

“KCSL has taught me how to succeed and not give up,” Araceli said. “They give you a lot of opportunities and support. If you need help, they’re there for you.”

Now, Araceli and Julio live in their own home and feel confident in their abilities. Yaiden, now 2 years old, is ahead in his development, Julio works full-time as a carpenter and Araceli stays at home to take care of their son.

“They are receptive to Healthy Families information and education and have been very successful with the program,” Harder said. “They are self-sufficient and excellent advocates for themselves and Yaiden.”

Araceli, Julio and Yaiden were featured on local television station WIBW-TV in Topeka last month. The story highlighted two KCSL families who are outstanding examples of Healthy Families participants.

“It was exciting, sharing our story and being recognized as a successful family,” Araceli said.

As for the future, Araceli has applied to attend Emporia State University in the fall to pursue a nursing degree, and Julio has dreams of starting his own business one day. The couple also has plans to marry and is optimistic about Yaiden starting school soon. All three are set to graduate from the Healthy Families program later this year.

“I just want a happy life,” Araceli said.

Click HERE to learn more about Healthy Families.

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