Celebrating National Mentoring Month – A Note from our Program Director

i Jan 28th No Comments by

To help spread awareness of mentoring, January has been recognized as “National Mentoring Month” by the United States Senate. On January 23rd, mentoring organizations from across Vermont gathered together at the state capital in Montpelier for the MENTOR Vermont’s Youth Mentoring Celebration.

During this event, we witnessed Governor Phil Scott sign the Mentoring Month Proclamation, which recognizes the important role mentors play in the lives of children in Vermont, and highlights the dedication of all Vermont mentoring organizations. Youth mentees then gathered in the Statehouse Chambers to witness the Mentoring Month Resolution introduced by Representative Kate Webb.

At the end of this month, several representatives from Vermont-based mentoring groups will gather at the National Mentoring Summit in Washington DC, where they will have access to more than 80 workshops that showcase program models, collaborations, and new ideas to strengthening the mentoring field. As the recipient of the 2020 Summit to DC Scholarship from Mentor VT, I am thrilled for the upcoming opportunity to attend this summit in January 2020 (Thank you, Mentor VT!).

Being a part of the mentoring celebration event this month has inspired me as we go forward into the new year and as New Circle Mentoring continues to grow.


“I invited Representative Ben Jickling to join me for lunch at the Celebration of Mentoring. Since Ben has experience with the start up of mentoring programs, I enjoyed sharing the successes of our program with him.”

Safer Society Receives Grant from Vermont Community Foundation to Support New Circle Mentoring

i Jan 28th No Comments by

Safer Society Foundation recently received a $3,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation’s Spark! Connecting Community grant program. This grant will go toward expanding Safer Society’s New Circle Mentoring Program for children impacted by parental incarceration. This year, the goal is to double the number of children presently served by the program.

“With the support and guidance from their mentors, New Circle mentees build trusting relationships, make community connections, achieve academic goals, and explore fun activities.” Erika Linskey – Program Director

The Spark! Connecting Community grant program puts building and nurturing community front and center. The Foundation aims to support the work happening throughout Vermont’s 251 towns that builds social capital. These grants—where a small amount can make a big difference—are intended to light the spark that keeps Vermonters healthy and happy.

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Safer Society Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in Brandon, Vermont, since 1982. The organization’s mission is providing services and resources to prevent sexual and social violence and better the lives of people impacted by antisocial behavior. Earnings from the publications of Safer Society Press help fund the work of the Foundation in Vermont. The Press publishes books and videos that help build a society safe from sexual abuse and personal violence. To learn more about us, please visit us at www.safersociety.org or call us at 802-247-3132.

The Vermont Community Foundation inspires giving and brings people and resources together to make a difference in Vermont. A family of hundreds of funds and foundations, we provide the advice, investment vehicles, and back-office expertise that make it easy for the people who care about Vermont to find and fund the causes they love.

The heart of the Community Foundation’s work is closing the opportunity gap—the divide that leaves too many Vermonters struggling to get ahead, no matter how hard they work. We are aligning our time, energy, and discretionary resources on efforts that provide access to early care and learning, pathways to college and career training, support for youth and families, and community and economic vitality. We envision Vermont at its best—where everyone has the opportunity to build a bright, secure future.

Visit vermontcf.org or call 802-388-3355 for more information.

SSF01: A Conversation with Director Erika Linskey about the New Circle Mentoring Program

i Jan 24th No Comments by
Erika Linskey, Director of New Circle Mentoring

Erika Linskey earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado, taught elementary school in Colorado, and has maintained a life-long career in teaching and child advocacy. Now a Vermonter, Erika serves on her town’s school board and does volunteer work at her daughter’s elementary school. She has worked with the Safer Society team since 2015 developing new programs to help children of incarcerated parents. Erika’s position as the New Circle Mentoring Program Director has evolved from her desire to help children holistically, in all aspects of their lives.

In this episode, Mary Falcon, Safer Society Foundation Executive Director, and Erika Linskey:

  • Discuss the New Circle Mentoring Program and the children and
    families it serves.
  • Explain how Safer Society’s partnership with the Counseling
    Service of Addison County led to New Circle’s unique team of program director
    and clinical director.
  • Share with listeners some of the stories that highlight the
    successes of the program.

Be sure to leave us your comments/questions on this podcast episode! (If you do not see the comment section below, please click here.)

Too Many Cooks in the Glass Onion Restaurant Kitchen?

i Dec 20th No Comments by

Earlier this month, Culinary Instructor Woody Danforth and the Glass Onion Restaurant at the Patricia Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) hosted the New Circle Mentoring group for a special cooking class. Mentees enjoyed partnering up and completing kitchen tasks such as weighing flour for a roux. Along with learning kitchen skills, mentees experienced the importance of teamwork and following directions.

The afternoon started with the rolling of dough for Chef Woody’s signature baked dinner rolls (which were a BIG hit with our group!). Mentees also helped Chef Woody marinate and grill chicken. For side dishes, mentees made their own mac and cheese and veggies. After preparing the meal, the group was rewarded with a lovely sit-down dinner. Everyone ate together, shared stories, and laughed about the accidental boil over in the big pot!

Mentees left the event with a gift bag filled with the ingredients to make their own mac & cheese at home!


Safer Society Foundation thanks Chef Woody and the PHCC for providing an evening where our group could be warm, busy, and nourished.

MENTOR Vermont Grant for New Circle Mentoring

i Nov 16th No Comments by

The Safer Society Foundation is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $4,000 grant from MENTOR Vermont (formerly known as Mobius, Vermont’s Mentoring Partnership), which will help continue to fund the Foundation’s New Circle Mentoring program (formerly Children of Incarcerated Parents [“ChIPs”] Mentoring & Circles of Support).  New Circle Mentoring is part of the Safer Society Foundation’s mission to mitigate the impact of parental incarceration on children and families in Vermont.

According to a 2013 report by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice, children who have a parent in jail or prison fare even worse than other at-risk youth on a range of mental and physical health outcomes and educational achievement.  When combined with other sources of risk and adversity, parental incarceration increases the likelihood that a child will act out antisocially and engage in delinquent behavior, leading to an increased probability of that child’s being incarcerated as an adult.

Central Vermont’s need for a program such as New Circle – which combines a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents with a comprehensive all-around support system – is undeniable.  Underscoring this need is the fact that, every year, about 6,000 Vermont children have at least one parent in jail or prison.

“Our research on the effectiveness of conventional mentoring programs in Vermont shows that they do not provide the long-term commitment and wraparound services these at-risk youngsters need,” says Mary Falcon, Safer Society’s Executive Director.  “We believe that children of incarcerated parents need long-term, dependable support – not just one-on-one but many-on-one – to help build the skills and community connections required for them to reach adulthood as productive citizens of their communities rather than as burdens and liabilities.”

Through the Vermont Mentoring Grants, MENTOR Vermont provides opportunities for Vermont schools and non-profit organizations to help make a difference for youth in their communities.  The Safer Society Foundation thanks MENTOR Vermont for its confidence that the New Circle Mentoring program can make that difference.

America’s Other Family Separation Crisis

i Oct 30th No Comments by

The fact that the U.S. has more incarcerated people per capita than any other nation on Earth has become a key political issue.

About eight years, ago that rate finally began to fall—with one exception: women and girls.

 

The population of women in American state prisons has increased by more than 800% in the past four decades. The number of women in local jails is 14 times higher than it was in the 1970s. Most of these women haven’t been convicted of a crime but are too poor to post bail while awaiting trial. The majority have been charged with low-level, nonviolent offenses, such as drug possession, shoplifting, and parole violations. The result is that more than a quarter of a million children in the U.S. have a mother in jail. How did this national disgrace happen?  And more importantly, what can be done to turn it around?

Nowhere is the problem starker than in Oklahoma, which has the highest rate of women’s incarceration in the nation; 85% of whom are mothers. This New Yorker article is about the efforts of a Tulsa organization called Still She Rises that aids incarcerated mothers in Oklahoma.

Read the full article by Sarah Stillman – The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/05/americas-other-family-separation-crisis

An Innovative Approach to Mentoring High-Risk Children—A Safer Society Foundation Webinar

i Oct 10th No Comments by

On September 26, 2018, Mary Falcon, Safer Society’s Executive Director, and Erika Linskey, Director of Safer Society’s New Circle Mentoring Program, presented a live one-hour webinar sponsored by the Global Institute of Forensic Research (GIFR).

Mary began the presentation by talking about chronic trauma and ten adverse childhood experiences—ranging from abuse and neglect and to parental violence and incarceration—that were the subjects of a years-long study by the Kaiser Foundation and the Federal Centers for Disease Control. She explained how adverse childhood experiences effect a child’s brain architecture and negatively impact upon a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Erika then talked about Safer Society’s trauma-informed New Circle Mentoring Program—which focuses on children of incarcerated parents—and how the innovative structure and approach of this program can be adapted for use with all high-risk children. Erika and Mary then fielded questions posed by the live audience.

 

Click here to view a video of the webinar.

Ben & Jerry’s Foundation Vermont Community Action Team Supports Expansion of New Circle Mentoring

i Oct 10th No Comments by

We are proud to announce that the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation Community Action Team has decided to continue supporting the New Circle Mentoring program by awarding Safer Society a second grant! The $1,500 grant will help further Safer Society Foundation’s mission of mitigating the impact of mass incarceration on American children and their families by enlarging the scope of the New Circle Mentoring program, which is specifically designed to meet the needs of children who have at least one parent in jail or prison.

“The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was one of our first supporters when we established the mentoring program in 2017,” said New Circle Mentoring Program Director Erika Linskey. We are very pleased that the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation chose to continue to support our program as we enter into our second year of operation.”

The mission of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation is to engage Ben & Jerry’s employees in philanthropy and social change work; to give back to our Vermont communities; and to support grassroots activism and community organizing for social and environmental justice around the country.

Community Action Teams (CATs) fund an array of community programs – social services organizations, cultural, recreational, or arts programs and community celebrations located within the state of Vermont. The CATs pay special attention to underserved populations including seniors, at-risk youth and low income communities. The CATs prioritize support for basic human needs and the needs of underserved areas of the state as well as organizations that are primarily volunteer-led.

Visit benandjerrysfoundation.org or call 802-846-1500 for more information.

Safer Society Receives Grant from the Walter Cerf Community Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation

i Oct 5th No Comments by

Safer Society Foundation recently received a $2,500 grant from the Walter Cerf Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation. The grant will help further Safer Society Foundation’s mission of mitigating the impact of mass incarceration on American children and their families by enlarging the scope of the New Circle Mentoring program, which is specifically designed to meet the needs of children who have at least one parent in jail or prison.

 “The goal of the New Circle Mentoring program is to increase the resilience and create the community connections our mentees need to overcome the obstacles they face to becoming emotionally and mentally healthy adults, and to support them continuously as they do so.” Erika Linskey – Program Director

The Walter Cerf Community Fund was established in 2001 as a permanent endowment to continue Mr. Cerf’s legacy of generosity in Addison County and beyond. The Fund makes grants to address charitable needs in Vermont, especially for the arts, education, historic preservation, and social services with a focus on grantmaking in Addison County and Brandon.

The mission of the Safer Society Foundation’s Fay Honey Knopp Institute is to continue our founder’s work of prison reform advocacy, with special emphasis on mitigating the impact of mass incarceration on the millions of American children and families effected by parental incarceration.

The Vermont Community Foundation inspires giving and brings people and resources together to make a difference in Vermont. A family of hundreds of funds and foundations, we provide the advice, investment vehicles, and back-office expertise that make it easy for the people who care about Vermont to find and fund the causes they love.

The heart of the Community Foundation’s work is closing the opportunity gap—the divide that leaves too many Vermonters struggling to get ahead, no matter how hard they work. We are aligning our time, energy, and discretionary resources on efforts that provide access to early care and learning, pathways to college and career training, support for youth and families, and community and economic vitality. We envision Vermont at its best—where everyone has the opportunity to build a bright, secure future.

Visit vermontcf.org or call 802-388-3355 for more information.

A Day at the Fair

i Aug 28th No Comments by

On Tuesday, August 7th, mentors and mentees of New Circle Mentoring gathered at the Addison County Field Days. For a few participants (Safer Society staff included), it was a first-time experience at Vermont’s largest agricultural fair. For the group as a whole, it was a fun and enjoyable summer’s day!

Mentors and mentees spent the day wandering through the fairgrounds. This provided an opportunity to allow these mentoring relationships to grow while enjoying everything the fair had to offer: games, livestock events, rides, fair food, and fresh milk!

The staff of Safer Society Foundation is grateful for the generosity of the Addison County Field Days Board who donated the entrance tickets and to the Counseling Service of Addison County that supported this gathering by contributing funds for game and ride tickets.

“It fills my heart that our mentees will begin the school year with a wonderful memory of summer!” expressed Erika Linksey, the Program Director of New Circle Mentoring.

The Fight to Eliminate Cash Bail

i Aug 10th No Comments by

Our cash bail system is a big reason why the United States incarcerates more people than any other country on earth. If you can pay bail, you walk free. If not, you’re stuck behind bars—sometimes for months, or even years.

Bail reform is one of many reforms needed to make our country’s criminal justice system fair and equitable. Click here to view an ACLU-produced video featuring artist and activist John Legend. Or watch below:

 

Mentees Attend Art Classes – Middlebury Studio School

i Jul 11th No Comments by

ChIPs Mentoring & Circles of Support Program mentees can now attend art classes at the Middlebury Studio School thanks to the support of our partner, the Counseling Service of Addison County! With kids on summer break and the weather being as hot as it has been, it’s a perfect time to get creative indoors.

Middlebury Studio School offers art classes specifically for children such as Colored Pencil Art, Whirligigs & Thingamajigs, Fairies and Friends, and so many more! Middlebury Studio School is a great place for children to open up and express themselves.

“Our mission is to promote the creative process and community through art and craft education for of all ages and abilities.”   – Middlebury Studio School

Mentors have registered their mentees for multiple art classes already this summer. One mentee decided she wanted to take a workshop where she learned the process of making a clay bowl. While this mentee was clearly excited about finishing a bowl of her very own (and painting it her favorite color!), she expressed to her mentor how much she enjoyed meeting the other children attending the workshop.


 

Are you part of a business that can contribute summer or after-school activities for our mentees (or have a great idea that we should know about)? We would love to hear from you! Please e-mail information and suggestions to: info@safersociety.org

It’s not just at the border. The U.S. separates families all the time.

i Jul 2nd No Comments by

“Every day, we lock parents up for decades in our prisons regardless of how it will affect their children, and no one bats an eye. Those who are demanding that children not be treated as collateral damage when it comes to immigration should be just as vocal when it comes to criminal sentencing.”

 

Read the full article here: It’s not just at the border. The U.S. separates families all the time.

ChIPs Mentors and Mentees visit the Middlebury College Museum of Art

i Jun 27th No Comments by

On Wednesday, June 13th, the ChIPs mentors and mentees got together as a group for the very first time since the program began in January! This group mentoring activity was hosted at the Middlebury College Museum of Art. Jason Vrooman, the Curator of Education and Academic Programs, spent a generous amount of time coordinating with his staff to ensure that our group received the proper support for our event (which included art materials relevant to the exhibits).

The group also took advantage of the outdoor space on campus. The mentors and mentees were able to play a few games while burning off some additional energy. Dottie, the ChIPs Mentoring Program Clinical Director, had everyone participate in an activity that helped “break the ice.” Mentors and mentees learned each other’s names by tossing a sock around a circle. This activity sounds silly, but it was a wonderful way for this group to meet one another and form a bond.

The event was especially important to the Safer Society Foundation staff, as it allowed time for us to assess how our matches are doing and determine what additional supports can be provided to maintain a positive experience for all as the program moves forward.