Dear Friends and Allies,
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
— Thomas Edison
Each time the communications team at FFI shares a draft of our newsletter with me so I can put together some framing thoughts (like these), I’m aware of how this is a newsletter as much about our partners as it is about FFI. And, more and more, the balance is shifting; we are bringing you even more news about the extraordinary work of our partners as they carry the banner for wellbeing. This is a tremendous indicator of progress, and is exactly the direction we need to be heading in: collective demonstration of the power that comes from recognizing that all people are hardwired for wellbeing, and systems must work with—not undermine—that fundamental urge we all have to meet our needs for social connectedness, safety, stability, mastery and meaningful access to relevant resources.
Thomas Edison is right. The value of an idea lies in its use. But the impact of that idea lies in people’s using that idea and making it their own in systems, programs and communities across the country. A few partners’ leadership in this is highlighted below; please read on and be in touch—especially if you have an idea for bringing wellbeing into your work.
- Katya and the FFI Team
Spotlight on Partners & Projects
Missouri Children's Division: making wellbeing the foundation of change
A mother, despite parenting education, continues to put her infant to sleep in a bassinet on a pillow, surrounded by blankets. Too many traditional assessment tools wouldn’t look at the why-- just that the baby is at risk of suffocation. Baby is then removed from parental custody, and a cycle of foster care and courts is set in motion. But something else happened. A worker took a few moments more not only to dive deeper into the risk, but to understand the why--the full frame of the situation. The mother is worried her baby is uncomfortable and will not sleep through the night, and the mother is so tired and worried about both of them needing rest. This is not a mother who wants to hurt her baby. Quite the opposite. She needs help getting her baby to sleep (like many of us did with our infants); she needs to know that if she tries no blankets or pillows for a night or two and the baby doesn’t sleep, we’ll help her figure out something else. And then she will try it without the risky items in the bassinet, and the baby sleeps and is safe--living with her birth mother.
This anecdote--based on a true case--illustrates the power of the four strategies at the heart of an agency-wide reform effort at Missouri Children’s Division (the state’s child welfare agency): seeing families accurately; engaging families and communities; making informed decisions; and strengthening frontline practice
. A number of initiatives and techniques and tools support this. But to get results, practices and tools need to be grounded in a culture and a philosophy that permeate and bind them. And Children’s Division has taken a bold step we celebrate: wellbeing, specifically the Five Domains of Wellbeing, is the foundation of the change effort upon which tools and programs sit, in pursuit of the four priorities.
For the past year and a half, FFI has had the privilege of building a deep, energetic, emerging and growing partnership with Children’s Division. In July, we rolled out a training initiative, equipping every region in the state to integrate a full day introduction to the Five Domains of Wellbeing into new worker training; in the months that come, the 2000 employees of Children's Division will all be trained in the Five Domains of Wellbeing and specific applications, such as in working with older youth and in supervising staff, and helping understand why people get “stuck” and helping them move beyond this. Next year, we’ll be supporting Children’s Division’s commitment to also educate and include essential partners, such as foster parents and placement agencies in this reform effort. For more information, please contact Carla Gilzow
, MO Children's Division Quality Assurance Unit Manager, or FFI's project lead Katya Smyth
Domestic and Sexual Violence Cohort members celebrate success and momentum
Isa Woldeguiorguis, Executive Director of The Center for Hope and Healing, was awarded the Visionary Voice Award by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for her contribution toward ending sexual assault. The Visionary Voice Award is given to recognize the creativity and hard work of individuals around the country who have demonstrated outstanding work to end sexual violence. Congratulations to Isa for this well-deserved honor! Coburn Place Safe Haven has been awarded a $50,000 grant from The Glick Fund, a fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). The grant funding will be used to provide transitional services and early childhood development programming to survivors of intimate partner violence and their children. Congratulations to Coburn Place! FFI project lead: Anna Melbin.
Partnership with Missouri Division of Youth Services continues to deepen use of Five Domains of Wellbeing
Guests visiting the facilities at Missouri Division of Youth Services (DYS) will hear the youth refer to their treatment plans as “my plan,” completely unprompted and unrehearsed. This is testament to the excellent work of DYS. The innovative therapeutic approach results in not only youth and family ownership of treatment, but also makes a positive difference in outcomes. This approach includes the Five Domains of Wellbeing framework, which is embedded throughout DYS.
FFI continues to partner with DYS to deepen use of the Five Domains of Wellbeing. We have been working to build the capacity of our partners in the framework, and they have even begun to present on the framework at conferences without us (and we heard rave reviews)! In the upcoming months, we will continue supporting DYS staff in building understanding and knowledge of the Five Domains of Wellbeing and its application at all levels through ongoing, semi-structured coaching and development of a train-the-trainer curriculum for an in-depth Five Domains of Wellbeing training. FFI project lead: Lotus Yu.
Capturing a #FullFrameMoment
Fried Clams, Shampoo and Wellbeing
Full Frame organizations recognize the value of anchors to a person’s stability and wellbeing, and also understand that what one person prioritizes on the way to wellbeing may not be what someone else would prioritize. In one of her last blog posts, FFI’s former Network Engagement Manager Leora Rifkin gives insight into how Greater Boston Full Frame Network member On The Rise supports the wellbeing of the homeless women they work with. Read it here
and learn how On The Rise focuses on wellbeing through flexible staff roles!
Making the Case and Spreading the Word
We are excited to announce an upcoming webinar presented by FFI friend and ally Lehn Benjamin, through the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In the webinar, “Valuing Frontline Work
,” Lehn, Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University, will lead a discussion on how nonprofits can measure and convey the value of their frontline work to funders, policymakers and other key stakeholders. Lehn will be joined by FFI’s Katya Fels Smyth, Maria Peña, Chief Program Officer of LIFT and Jesús Gerena, Senior Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative. Katya will provide insights into the challenges created by a myopic focus on the wrong outcomes. This webinar will be valuable to nonprofit practitioners whose organizations provide direct services to marginalized groups, funders, consultants, evaluators, and other professionals who support organizations that engage in such work. The webinar is September 23rd and you can register now
Trichia Long and Jennifer Booher from Missouri Division of Youth Services presented a workshop at the annual Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative conference in Springfield, MO
at the end of June. They introduced the Five Domains of Wellbeing to an audience of juvenile officers, judges, detention supervisors, private residential managers and Office of State Courts Administrators staff members. Trichia and Jennifer facilitated a rich discussion on putting a focus on people’s wellbeing and understanding tradeoffs. The participants were interested and engaged, recognizing some of the system’s barriers to wellbeing but eager to learn more about the framework. We thank Trichia and Jennifer for their expert facilitation skills and continually strong partnership with FFI!
Katya Smyth, FFI and Carla Gilzow, MO Children’s Division presented jointly at the 6th Annual Fostering Strategies for Change: Children, Families & Their Communities
conference in July. They presented the opening session of the conference, “Strengthening Communities and Transforming Missouri Children’s Division Response to Children and Their Families”. Katya and Carla also led a plenary presentation which included screening the documentary film RICH HILL and facilitating a post-screening discussion in the same vein as the Community Conversations hosted last year by the Children’s Division throughout the state of Missouri. The conference is a collaboration between Cornerstones of Care, Midwest Foster Care & Adoption Association (MFCAA), University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) School of Social Work, and the Missouri Children's Division. This annual conference provide a forum for service providers, judges, lawyers, researchers and policymakers to join with family members to explore evidence-informed, innovative practices.
Thank you to the other phenomenal organizations who have hosted FFI for trainings, convenings and webinars over the summer: Praxis International
, Family Justice Center Alliance
, and Julie’s Family Learning Program
Our Team News
Our team continues to grow as our work expands into exciting new projects and partnerships. We are thrilled to welcome Kristen Golden
as our new Director of Strategic Foundation Partnerships! Kristen is a feminist activist with decades of experience as a leader and fundraiser within nonprofit organizations. She will be responsible for growing FFI’s relationships and partnerships with funders and growing grant revenue to support our impact.
This month FFI bade a fond farewell to Leora Viega Rifkin
, who served as our Network Engagement Manager for over a year, working primarily with the Greater Boston Full Frame Network and the Domestic and Sexual Violence Cohort. Leora is moving on to pursue a Master of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. We wish her the best of luck in this exciting pursuit!
As summer draws to an end, we say a big thank you to our amazing summer intern Sarah Dash
! Sarah was integral to the Communications team this summer and is heading off to her senior year at UMass Amherst.
Change isn’t free. FFI’s funding comes from private philanthropy and earned income. We are deeply grateful to all our new and renewing supporters. Your support
fuels FFI’s growth and impact!