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Monthly Archives: July 2016

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Equality Florida Praises Reinstated LGBTQ Protections for Foster Youth, Challenges More People to Become Foster Parents

Press Release – (St. Petersburg) Equality Florida applauds the Department of Children and Families for restoring protections for LGBTQ youth in group home care. Equality Florida and child welfare experts met with DCF Secretary Mike Carroll immediately after language that would have protected LGBTQ youth was removed from proposed changes to the rules governing group homes. Child welfare agencies had advocated for the new language to address the unique challenges LGBTQ foster youth face, and the removal of this language prompted a three hour public hearing in which every single person who testified unanimously expressed strong support for reinstating protections for LGBTQ youth.

Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida, issued the following statement praising DCF Secretary Mike Carroll for putting the best interest of children first.

“We are grateful to Secretary Carroll for his commitment to ensuring LGBTQ youth are properly protected. These rule changes are common sense; they reflect tested, best practices and confront the reality that LGBTQ youth disproportionately face discrimination, bullying and psychological abuse. It is impossible to ignore the painful existence of homophobia and bigotry in our state, and we thank the Department of Children and Families for taking this important step towards protecting all youth in their care. We join other child welfare advocates in praising the specific ban on forcing young people into debunked and harmful “conversion therapy” programs.

We appreciate this significant step towards improving the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system, but group home care is only one part of the system We are pleased that DCF has also announced its plan to develop long-term training for care providers and other professionals in the system to implement nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ youth as well as hiring an ombudsman to specifically address discrimination in the child welfare system.

The new ombudsman position will address any complaint of discrimination via an anonymous hotline that will allow an immediate investigation of claims of mistreatment. Young people, many of whom have experienced trauma, family rejection, and abuse, need to know that they are safe and that their rights will be respected.

We know that policies must come with training to have an impact and DCF has assured us of their commitment to providing comprehensive, evidence-based training to all employees to ensure that these important policies are put into practice. The Department will be updating the materials they provide to all young people in their care to ensure they know the paths available if these basic rights are being denied.

The Secretary has assured us that the Department will never fund or condone conversion therapy, a psychologically harmful practice that has no place in the child welfare system. The Department heard us loud and clear that removing an explicit prohibition of conversion therapy could unfortunately be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of the harmful practice, and that it is crucial to set clear expectations that forcing young people into “conversion” therapy has never and will never be tolerated.

Equality Florida, along with our local and national partners, will be working closely with DCF to pursue additional reforms and follow up these important changes with research to ensure they are having the necessary impact. We look forward to continuing this dialogue and we are encouraged to hear the Secretary’s unequivocal commitment to young people who need a safe and nurturing home.

We also want to issue a specific challenge to more members of our community to become foster parents. Florida needs more people willing to open their homes and their hearts. We need greater diversity among our foster families. A Muslim child or Orthodox Jewish teenager needs a home that acknowledges and respects their faith. A gay or transgender child needs a family that will love and accept them for who they are. Children with special needs deserve a family who can provide for them. Nothing will improve the lives of young people in the child welfare system more than proper placement and that depends on an expanded pool of diverse options. I encourage all LGBTQ adults to seriously consider this challenge, and to be the adult you wish you had in your life when you were young. I am proud to work every day towards creating a Florida where every single child knows they are celebrated and valued for exactly who they are. I hope you will join me.”

World’s First Development Impact Bond on Track to Deliver Social Impact and Financial Returns

  • First-year results show India DIB tracking against 2018 targets to enrolout of school girls and improve learning
  • Indian implementer Educate Girls says DIB has been transformational in delivering impact

Press Release – London – Early results from the first Development Impact Bond (DIB) to go into operation show the model is closing the gender gap in enrolment and improving children’s learning levels in its target area in Rajasthan, India, its backers said today. This means the DIB is on track to meet its ambitious three year targets.

The DIB is funding a three-year program implemented by award-winning Indian NGO Educate Girls to enrol and educate marginalized girls and boys in a remote rural district of Rajasthan. This innovative new way of financing international development is entirely focused on a set of social impact outcomes that are rigorously measured by an independent evaluator, IDinsight. In this case, the outcomes measured were the numbers of girls enrolled into primary education and students’ progress in English, Hindi and maths.

After around a third of the full DIB term has elapsed, results show the program has enrolled 44% of all out-of-school girls identified in year 1, and has achieved 23% of the total target for learning progress. 1 Based on this progress, the Zurich-based UBS Optimus Foundation which provided the upfront investment for the DIB would have already recouped approximately 40% of the initial investment in year 1, a promising performance despite challenges in launching the intervention on time.

The DIB funded program’s ultimate goal is to improve education – directly and indirectly through general improvements in targeted schools – for 15,000 children, 9,000 of them girls, in 166 schools in 140 villages in Bhilwara District. Rajasthan was chosen as it has particularly poor indicators for girls’ education.

Phyllis Costanza, CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation said: “”Harnessing the power of private capital will be crucial to raising the trillions of dollars needed to achieve the world’s new development goals, and while this first Development Impact Bond is not the only game in town, it is leading the way in demonstrating how such innovative financing models can unlock new and much needed sources of funding and deliver even greater impact on the ground.”

Educate Girls’ DIB program has accelerated learning gains by 30% in its short first year of implementation. Safeena Husain, Executive Director of Educate Girls said the DIB’s focus on data collection and analysis has had profound effect on the organisation’s way of working.

“The DIB has actually transformed the way we think about our impact,” she said. “Because of this focus on results, we have increased the feedback of data from the field that is shared among all staff we are continually analysing where things are working well and where we need to make changes. This flexible and responsive approach inherent in the results focus is now being adopted across our other programs. The main driver for us testing the DIB was to demonstrate we can deliver quality at scale, not just scale.”

Ms Husain cited the example of when, halfway through the delivery of the curriculum, data showed that the girls in the program were falling behind with English. Investigations revealed that some teachers were uncomfortable about their own ability in English and struggling with the lesson plans, so measures were immediately taken to give them more support in English and the girls’ learning accelerated.

At the end of the three-year DIB program, the initial investment will be paid back by the outcome payer, in this case the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). CIFF will pay interest of up to 15%, depending on how far the children’s learning targets are achieved. Educate Girls will also receive part of this payment if it achieves its targets.

Kate Hampton, CEO at CIFF, said: “We’re excited by the Development Impact Bond as an innovative way to attract a range of investors to crucial social services. While this is designed to improve the quality of girls’ education in Rajasthan, the concept could be attractive to funders across a range of issues who want to make investments with both financial and social returns. The first year has been successful for both children’s learning outcomes and for us as we’ve been learning how to manage the challenges that are inherent in any new financial instrument”.

While the DIB’s backers said they were encouraged by the experiences and results from the first year, they emphasized that DIBs should not be seen as a panacea and, like any such instrument, they will only be relevant for quite specific scenarios. They reported having learned valuable lessons about the opportunities and challenges of the model, potentially paving the way for the next generation of DIBs.

Avnish Gungadurdoss of the results-based financing consultancy Instiglio that designed the DIB and is providing performance management support to Educate Girls said: “Any service provider contemplating taking a first step into results-based financing needs to be confident that it has a rigorous understanding of the issue to be addressed and of its past results, the leadership bandwidth to lead a culture of performance and the internal performance management systems to manage outcomes. Only then should a judgment be made as to whether a Development Impact Bond is the best way forward.”

The first-year results were featured as part of an event today at London’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and a webinar co-hosted with the Brookings Institution in Washington DC.

Details for the ODI event and live stream: https://www.odi.org/events/4380-development-impact-bonds-paying-success

1 Results methodology

The Educate Girls DIB results have been evaluated by IDinsight, an independent evaluator, using a clustered randomised control trial. The students’ learning progress was measured using the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) assessment, a widely used test of basic numeracy and literacy developed by the ASER Centre. A baseline test was administered at the start of the trial period to 2,036 students in Grades 3-5 randomly sampled from schools receiving the intervention, and 2,104 students sampled from control schools. It measured students’ starting grades on a scale of A to E for each of the three subjects, English, Hindi and maths. The children were then tested after seven weeks of Educate Girls’ intervention. The evaluator calculated the aggregate learning gains in terms of the number of levels gained on the ASER scale by children in schools receiving Educate Girls’ intervention as compared to children in control schools.

To learn more about the Educate Girls DIB, visit: http://instiglio.org/educategirlsdib/

 

The Global Community. Join The Citizens of Skateistan.

Press Release – GLOBAL (July 1, 2016) – The award-winning nonprofit organization Skateistan invites the global community interested in in empowering youth through skateboarding and education to join and become Citizens of Skateistan this month.

Skateistan, which provides programs combining skateboarding and education to more than 1,500 youth in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa, is celebrating the impending openings of its new Skate School in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is slated to open any day. This new school for children joins those already up-and-running in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Phnom Penh, and serves as a haven for kids where they can study at back-to-school programs, as well as get creative both on and off their skateboards at Skate and Create, all while becoming role models for their peers through the school’s Youth Leadership program. Using skateboarding as its universal language, Skateistan’s ultimate goal is uniting people around the world, providing an opportunity for our youth to learn, progress and belong to a healthy community.

“That’s what skateboarding is – it’s a global community, a common language,” said Tony Hawk, pro skater and Citizen of Skateistan.

Throughout the month of July, Skateistan is inviting everyone to join Hawk and its other Citizens of Skateistan – a global community of students, staff, supportesr and skaters – so they can help the organization empower youth through its schools, skateboarding and education. This month, the group will continue to share stories of inspiring students, who are part of their programs, as well as pro skaters like Hawk and other monthly donors, who already support what they do. To become a global Citizen of Skateistan, it only takes $10 per month to change the world.

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For more information, check out this video: https://youtu.be/Br6RgrTBEls and this skate teaser: https://youtu.be/ikP_jzLFDG4. You can visit www.skateistan.org/citizens for more information and to join the cause to change the lives of our youth, and our future.

About Skateistan:

Skateistan is an award-winning international non-profit organization that empowers at-risk youth through skateboarding and education. Over 1500 youth in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa attend Skateistan’s innovative programs, such as Skate and Create, Back-To-School and Youth Leadership, every week. skateistan.org

About Citizens of Skateistan:

Citizens of Skateistan is an international community of supporters, skaters, students and staff. When you donate $10 or more a month, you become a Citizen of Skateistan, and help make it possible for over 1500 children to attend Skateistan’s programs around the world each week. skateistan.org/citizens #citizensofskateistan

Heartland Film Honors “Life, Animated” with Truly Moving Picture Award

Inspirational documentary recognized for its ability to inspire and entertain audiences.

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Press Release – (INDIANAPOLIS) – Feature-length documentary “Life, Animated”, directed by Academy Award® winner Roger Ross Williams, has been honored with the Truly Moving Picture Award from nonprofit arts organization Heartland Film. Select theatrically-released titles — entertaining films that do more than just entertain — receive the designation throughout the year. Submissions are received directly from studios and producers for consideration.

“We are honored to receive the Truly Moving Picture Award,” said Williams. “We hope that ‘Life, Animated’ moves us all to realize that people living with autism have so much to offer the world.”

“Life, Animated” is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. This emotional coming-of-age story follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence.

“An incredibly personal story with unique insights into the minds of people with autism and people without autism, ‘Life, Animated’ won over the hearts of our jury as they unanimously voted to give it our Truly Moving Picture Award,” said Heartland Film Artistic Director Tim Irwin. “This film has the power to inspire audiences through the transformative power of the art form.”

The subject of his father Ron Suskind’s New York Times bestseller, Owen was a thriving three-year-old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent – and for years after remained unable to connect with other people or to convey his thoughts, feelings or desires. Over time, through repeated viewings of Disney classics like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King”, Owen found useful tools to help him to understand complex social cues and to re-connect with the world around him.

“Life, Animated” evocatively interweaves classic Disney sequences with verite scenes from Owen’s life in order to explore how his identification and empathy for characters like Simba, Jafar, and Ariel gave him a means to understand his feelings and allowed him to interpret reality. Beautiful, original animations offer rich insights into Owen’s fruitful dialogue with the Disney oeuvre as he imagines himself heroically facing adversity as a member in a tribe of sidekicks.

Owen’s story is a moving testament to the many ways in which stories can serve as a means of persevering through the dark times, leading us all toward the light.

Truly Moving Picture Award winner “Life, Animated” opens in select theaters on Friday, July 1. For additional theaters and to view the trailer, visit www.lifeanimateddoc.com.

In Solidarity with Istanbul: Turkish Philanthropy Fund (TPF) Launches Istanbul Fund to Help Terrorist Attack’s Victims and Their Loved Ones

Press Release – NEW YORK (June 30, 2016) – In the wake of yesterday’s deadly terrorist attack killing at least 41 people and seriously injuring 230 at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, the Turkish Philanthropy Fund (TPF) has launched the Istanbul Fund to help support the terrorist attack’s victims and their families.

In a series of suicide bombings that has targeted Turkey, the attack on Europe’s third-busiest airport has been the deadliest this year. As Turkish society condemns this shocking attack, millions around the world continue to show their support for Turkey through social media.

The Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF) is a U.S. based 501©(3) organization that has established the Istanbul Fund to support the victims, their loved ones, and the Turkish community at large. As a nonprofit organization who partners with 49 local organizations in Turkey, TPF will transfer the fund donations to its non-profit partners and first responders on the ground aiding the victims and their families, and for other needs as yet to be determined.

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“We want to show the world that today we are all Istanbul and we stand in solidarity with Turkish people in the wake of this tragedy,” says Ilhan Akbil, president & CEO of Turkish Philanthropy Funds, “We are all victims of these horrific acts as this is an attack not just on Istanbul but on all of humanity and the universal values that we share. We extend our deepest condolences to all families who lost their loved ones and our sympathy to all that were injured,”

Tax-deductible contributions to the #IstanbulFund at TPF may be made online, or by mailing a check with “Istanbul Fund” to Turkish Philanthropy Funds, 216 E. 45th St, 7th Fl., New York, NY 10017. For any questions related to #IstanbulFund please call 646.530.8988.

If you are in Istanbul and would like to donate blood, check out the Turkish Red Cross’ Twitter page to find out more.

About Turkish Philanthropy Funds:

Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF) is a U.S. based community foundation dedicated to improving civil society in Turkey by assuring that the generosity of donors has the greatest impact where funds are needed now and in the future. TPF is a community where donors engage with causes and understand the impact their contributions make. Established in 2006 by Turkish businessman, Haldun Tashman and four partners, their goal was to make a difference in their beloved homeland. TPF provides funds for numerous causes including disaster relief, gender equality, education and social and economic development. TFP has four objectives: Thought Leadership, Diversified Giving, Personalized Philanthropy, and Trustworthy Partnerships. More information can be found at www.tpfund.org

Tourette Association of America Announces New Board Member David Koch

Manhattan Native Joins Prestigious Group of Board Members

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Press Release – Bayside, New York – June 29, 2016 – The Tourette Association of America, the premier national non-profit organization serving the Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorder community, today announced the appointment of David Koch as its newest Board Member. Diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age five, Mr. Koch will draw on his personal experiences living with the disorder to support the Association in its mission to improve the lives of those affected by Tourette.

Mr. Koch’s impressive background in the marketing and advertising industry also makes him a uniquely remarkable addition to the Tourette Association of America board. In his current role as Senior Producer at R/GA, an international award winning agency headquartered in New York City, he manages mobile applications for clients, as well as R/GA’s Connected Office and internal platforms.

“On behalf of TAA, we are excited to work with David as a member of our distinguished Board of Directors. He brings energy, experience and a clear perspective to help guide our organization,” said John Miller, President and CEO of the Tourette Association of America.

Prior to joining R/GA, Mr. Koch led the JPMorgan Chase digital production team at McGarry Bowen, overseeing strategists, creatives, producers, and developers. Mr. Koch has delivered award-winning work for Sears, Estee Lauder, CHANEL, John Paul Mitchell, Tiffany & Co., and Sephora, among others, as production lead at the digital marketing company, iNDELIBLE. He has also worked on renowned television and film productions, including “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

Mr. Koch currently resides in Manhattan and is preparing for his second New York City Marathon. You can follow him on Twitter @dk0ch.

About the Tourette Association of America

Founded in 1972, the Tourette Association of America is dedicated to making life better for all individuals affected by Tourette and Tic Disorders. The premier nationwide organization serving this community, the Association works to raise awareness, advance research and provide on-going support. The Tourette Association directs a network of 32 Chapters and support groups across the country. For more information on Tourette and Tic Disorders, call 1-888-4-TOURET and visit us at tourette.org, and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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