Here are the Individual Nominees for the Anne Roberts People’s Choice Award for Child Advocacy as Described by Those who Nominated Them (in no particular order):
Mary Blankenship Pointer
My mother, Mary Blankenship Pointer, leads by example to serve the community. You will find her serving on a school board, providing food on Christmas Day (yes.. this comes before the family celebration), attending UNGA meetings for Every Woman Every Child, serving as the CFO for the Council of International Neonatal Nurses, helping raise money for countless organizations. My mother is passionate about making the world a better place for everyone. You will hear her say ” Youth is 50% of our population, they are 100% of our future.” She believes that with all her heart.
Rebecca Craig has been a Child Forensic Interviewer for 13 years. She initially began her work at Mary Abbott Children’s House in Norman. In 2013 she moved to The Oklahoma County Child Advocacy Center, The CARE Center. Rebecca has conducted thousands of Forensic Interviews with children in order to gather their statement on allegations of abuse. These interviews assist the Multi-Disciplinary Team of Oklahoma County including law enforcement, child welfare, medical and mental health professionals. Rebecca currently serves as the Director of Victim Services at CARE Center. Through this role she is able to work with Oklahoma County child abuse professionals in training on best practices; enabling children experiencing abuse to have a high-functioning team guiding them through it. Rebecca supervises an incredible team including 3 Forensic Interviewers and 2 Family Advocates. Previously, Rebecca worked with unhoused families in Norman and overall has been a social worker for 21 years. Rebecca feels her work at CARE Center is a calling. Each day is another opportunity to help change the trajectory of a child’s life. www.carecenter-okc.org
Rachel and I grew up on the same street one house apart. For as long as I can remember, Rachel has always had a profound calling to serve youth in the foster care system. A few years ago, she launched a brick-and-mortar coffee shop in Yukon, Oklahoma with the goal of employing youth who’ve recently aged out of the foster care system. With little work experience, these individuals often fall through the cracks and struggle to obtain and maintain gainful employment once they become legal adults. Through the Red Bird Coffee Shop, Rachel has created a welcoming, loving, and transformative space for at-risk youth to gain crucial interpersonal and job skills. It also doesn’t hurt that the waffles and lattes are amazing. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor, and I appreciate your consideration of Rachel’s nomination!
Dr. Tessa Chesher
Dr. Chesher has spent her entire career as a child psychiatrist working toward meeting the needs of children. As a Clinical Professor, she mentors students and medical residents to ensure medical professionals have the tools they need to serve children in their care. As an Infant Mental Health Mentor, Dr. Chesher has pioneered implementation of infant mental health across the state of Oklahoma and has been intimately involved in the creation of policies and practices for Safe Babies Court Teams. Dr. Chesher is the OKCAPMAP Medical Director. OKCAPMAP is a child and adolescent psychiatrists and mental health professionals’ consultation pathway providing consultation on pediatric behavioral health cases. Consultation may include such topics as diagnostic considerations, medication management, or in-office interventions. These are just a few of her professional accomplishments. Dr. Chesher is also committed to volunteering on Boards of nonprofits which meet the needs of children across the state. She is a former Board member for the Oklahoma Association for Infant Mental Health. She currently serves as Board President for Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma. Dr. Chesher is an outstanding professional and friend. Oklahoma is lucky to have her.
Alethea has dedicated her life and career to meeting the needs of Oklahoma children and their families. For 14 years, Alethea served at the Department of Human Services as a Child Welfare worker and later, on the post-adoption team to provide resources to foster families and children who previously experienced significant trauma or neglect. Following her time at DHS, Alethea joined ReMerge of Oklahoma County, where she currently leads the Strengthening Families team and ensures that mothers and their children are reunified and receiving the services they need to thrive as a healthy, happy family. Alethea has not only served Oklahoma children at work, she has also opened her heart and and made a home for foster children in need of a safe, welcoming environment to grow. Alethea is currently fostering her 26th child. She is a fierce advocate for families who uses her trauma-informed expertise to build strong alliances with those she serves and make them feel valued, seen, and heard. Alethea embodies the quote by Nelson Mandela, which reads: “Let us reach out to the children. Let us do whatever we can to support their fight to rise above their pain and suffering.” Alethea Satterwhite is a champion for children and an everyday hero who is making a difference in individual lives and in our community.
Dr. Crystal Hernandez
Dr. Hernandez is worthy of this recognition for the countless hours she puts into advocating for others, especially children. I have seen multiple decades of her pouring into others, to help those in need, to fight for those unable.
Dr. Hernandez assists children with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities, Autism, and Mental Health needs throughout Oklahoma. Training numerous organizations, stakeholders, medical personnel, case managers, and clinicians on how to equitably serve those with complex crisis needs and co-occurring conditions. She serves as a mentor for multiple Tribal Nations building out their pediatric services for this complex population and serves on the first ever Cherokee Nation Autism Taskforce. Dr. Hernandez serves on numerous boards aimed at advocacy for children and others. She is the creator and host of the Black Feathers Podcast, a National Podcast aimed at IDD/Autism services and supports throughout Tribal Nations funded by ACL and State of the States on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. She was an author on the recent Tribal Disabilities Toolkit, which was a 2-year National Project aimed at rights, supports, and services for Tribal Citizens with various disabilities. Dr. Hernandez has worked within the mental health, substance use, and social services field for nearly 2 decades.
Here are the Organizational Nominees for the Anne Roberts People’s Choice Award for Child Advocacy as Described by Those who Nominated Them (in no particular order):
Center for Children and Families The Center for Children and Families exists to heal children, empower youth and strengthen families because every child deserves to grow up safe, nurtured and loved. As a child abuse prevention and treatment organization, CCFI currently provides services to:
Heal Children through counseling services provided to children ages 0-17 and their biological, foster and/or adoptive parents to achieve safe, stable and healthy family relationships in the wake of child abuse, neglect and/or other traumatic experiences.
Empower Youth through the Boys & Girls Club of Norman (BGCN) is a trauma-informed out of school time program of CCFI and provides services for academic success, healthy lifestyles, and character and leadership development, as well as counseling services to students in Norman Public Schools.
Strengthen Families through prevention and education services for caregivers including parenting classes, co-parenting supports, in-home visitation, and the baby pantry that distributes essential care items to families, with no questions asked.
In 2022, CCFI served a total of 1,095 clients. We distributed 73,698 diapers to 2,202 baby pantry visitors, served 18,345 meals and snacks to 177 members in the Boys & Girls Club, and 98% of caregivers reported better relationships with their child after participation in our programs.
Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation
The Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation has instituted a dental sealant program for Oklahoma School Children in the second and sixth grades across Oklahoma. They had a pilot program from 2015 to 2019 and have now brought it back as an official program of their foundation. There is no other program either nonprofit, for profit or government funded in Oklahoma like this for children even though our surrounding states have all accomplished programs like this. It not only treats children with preventative measures, it also brings awareness to the schools and teachers of the importance of oral health. Sealing the molars of permanent teeth helps to prevent decay preserving the tooth structure. The decay rate in school age children is very high in Oklahoma and this is one huge measure to reduce that statistic. A fluoride varnish is also applied at the time of the sealants. (Parental permission is required for participation in the sealant program)
Another thing they have done is make mouth guards for sports available to all sports teams across Oklahoma. Wearing mouth guards protect the developing teeth during contact sports.
Educational programs also involve Captain Supertooth a costumed character that works with pre k through 3rd grade to provide a dental education program that can be scheduled as a in person appearance or a virtual visit to the schools. The goal is to inspire children to be superheroes to their teeth.
They have created a Mouth Science Kit for kids 3rd grade to 6th grade that explores the “power of ph” in the mouth. Teachers may request the kit for their classroom use. It has all the information a teacher needs to teach a lesson on the acids and sugars in common drinks it even includes a PowerPoint for the teachers use. The goal is to teach kids through hands-on experiments to make better choices when choosing drinks. They also provide toothbrushes to every child at every event they hold. It is sad but true that all Oklahoma children do not even have toothbrushes.
WovenLife provides services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical and mental disabilities and other special needs. Since 1925, we have been offering hope and independence to children and adults with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, WovenLife creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work, and play.
We believe in the importance of early childhood development at WovenLife. Our childcare program focuses on the development of each child in an integrated environment for children of all abilities, ages 3 months to 5 years.
With WovenLife, you are not alone caring for your family member or friend. WovenLife’s Adult Day Center makes it possible for caregivers to provide care while meeting the demands of their jobs and families.
Additionally, WovenLife provides direct financial assistance for purchase of medical equipment, adaptive equipment, and therapy services for children 21 and under, and adults and seniors with all types of physical and developmental disabilities. Individuals must be from economically eligible families and demonstrate a need for financial assistance.
Public Health Institute of Oklahoma
Beginning in 2019, PHIO (Public Health Institute of Oklahoma) has been instrumental in growing the statewide Handle With Care Oklahoma network. Started in West Virginia in 2013, the model targets the significant number of emergency 911 calls where children are witnesses to a traumatic event without any follow-up support. Children are often sent to school the following day without support systems in place, undermining the children’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn. Handle With Care Oklahoma” is designed to advance partnerships between law enforcement and schools to help provide a safe and supportive academic environment for children recently exposed to traumatic events known as “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs). ACEs are broad and sweeping events that may include experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect, or witnessing violence in the home.
Without buffering supports, unaddressed ACEs can lead to a negative life trajectory (at risk for further adversities/maltreatment, poor mental health, chronic absenteeism, suspensions, expulsions, and involvement with the justice system). The purpose of Handle With Care (HWC) is to address the ACEs and provide trauma informed services as needed. When a first responder responds to, or encounters, an incident involving a traumatic event where a child is present, the officer will complete a simple Handle With Care Notice (HWC Notice) and provide it to the child’s school, advising educators in general terms that the child has experienced an ACE event. No information about the incident is given. While teachers are not to discuss the traumatic event with the child, they are encouraged to take steps to provide additional support to the child, such as re-teaching lessons, providing extra help, or sending the student to the school nurse or counselor for direct one-to-one supports. This form of notice with no details seeks to meet the immediate needs of child involved in a sensitive and respectful manner.
The desired outcomes of Handle With Care Oklahoma include:
– Increased awareness of the impact of unaddressed trauma
– Increased awareness of the need for collaboration
– Increased awareness of the strategies that increase collaboration
– Increased action of implementing interagency collaborations, like Handle With Care
– Increased youth mental health
– Increased school attendance
– Decreased school suspensions.
– Decreased school expulsions.
HWC provides schools with notice of children experiencing ACEs so the school may handle them with care and mitigate the negative impact of trauma on them. This simple notice recognizes the broader social context and helps ensure a child’s well-being and academic success. Through direct support of the child, HWC is a culturally inclusive and innovative strategy that makes a positive impact on the lives of children in Oklahoma and reduces maltreatment. The Handle With Care model is recognized as a primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention program, since the child may be a witness of a traumatic event, at-risk for maltreatment, and/or a victim. The HWC notice triggers the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) in schools.
Oklahoma is a top 5 state for Handle with Care implementation through grass roots efforts across the state. HWC OK holds monthly statewide planning meeting to maximize reach across the state and facilitating cross-sector collaboration. HWC OK is currently in process of an interim study with legislative partners lead by Senator Carrie Hicks. The network has reached over 87% of schools statewide and was invited to speak at the National Handle With Care Conference in the fall of 2022.
This organization has dedicated staff members with a mission of helping children. As they a member if Oklahoma House of Representatives they are always engaged and seeking solutions for problems and keep me very informed in the what’s happening not only at the local office but also on state level. They are constantly involved in bettering they facility and raising funds to provide the best possible outcome for the children that they have to help. Their level of engagement with local law enforcement, schools and other agencies is second to none. I am proud to know the staff of Sara’s Project and am thankful to have such a trusted resource in Southern Oklahoma.
Sara’s Project provides so many needed services for children within our area. Everything from Crisis Management and on-site school crisis assistance to the Child Advocacy Center and Sexual Assault Response Teams that serves children and adult victims of sexual abuse/assault during investigations by providing a safe and confidential environment for victims to tell their stories and undergo forensic collections.
Child Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma This organization was able to get funding for a full-time ED back in 2019 and hired the current ED, Carrie Little, at the beginning of 2020. This change allowed for the state chapter of child advocacy centers (a membership organization) to expand its network and advocate for victims of child abuse on a much larger scale than it ever has before. This year alone, the ED, lobbyist, and membership centers were able to advocate with legislators to increase Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Account (CAMA) funding by doubling the funding pool. This fund has never seen an increase in the 20+ years of existence. This is huge and will allow for the child advocacy centers and FSMDTs to expand their services, strengthen the current programming, and ensure the vital frontline workers currently employed are fully supported. The victims of child abuse need more wrap-around services (mental health providers and SANE nurses are scarce and this will allow us to be able to fully devote to expanding these programs across the state).
Children’s Health Foundation
Who makes a difference for children and families in all 77 counties of Oklahoma? Who has invested in pediatric medical research for over 40 years in Oklahoma? Who supports projects and programs that provide cutting-edge, specialty care to babies, children, and teens near their homes, families, and communities of support? Children’s Health Foundation of Oklahoma!
Since 1982, Children’s Health Foundation has raised over $161m supporting pediatric medical research, the education of future pediatricians studying at OU College of Medicine, and projects/programs offered through the Jimmy Everest Center, Harold Hamm Diabetes Center, Child Study Center, and many other programs at OUHSC. One hundred percent of funds raised by the Foundation stay in Oklahoma taking care of our children now and preparing for their futures.
Thanks to the outstanding leadership of its Executive Director, Kathy McCracken, and its dedicated board of directors and board of advocates, Children’s Health Foundation continues its rich history of funding pediatric research in cancer, diabetes, neonatal care, cardiac surgery, genetics, and behavioral/developmental pediatrics while collaborating with funder foundations, corporations, and private donors to fund critical programs and projects at OUHSC. To learn more about Children’s Health Foundation and its impact, visit www.chfKids.com.