Oct 05

Down Syndrome: A New Perspective

Eleven weeks ago I gave birth to my second daughter, Hope.  As we began to adjust to life as a family of four, it became clear to me that each of our girls is unique.  Not only are they unique from each other, they are unique from their father & me as well.  Harper, my eldest daughter, has luscious, curly and at times, tangly hair.  I’m jealous.  She has the hair I’ve always wanted.  You see, my hair is straight.  Because her hair is so different from mine, at first I found it hard to manage.  But after 4 years of trial and error, I have found a groove and her hair care routine is no longer daunting, in fact, it’s fun.


So you may be thinking, what does my daughter’s beauty routine have to do with Down syndrome?  It’s as simple as this, diversity is beautiful.  For me, celebrating the world with it’s vast array of colors, abilities, shapes, and sizes is what makes life fulfilling, whether it’s curly hair or an extra chromosome.


I became an advocate for the Down syndrome community quite by accident.  I was a music teacher at the time and one of my students introduced me to a family who had a son with Down syndrome.  Having little experience working with children with Down syndrome, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of love, joy, and vigor for life that exuded from his tiny body.  While his diagnosis might have handed him a long list of limitations, he was determined to live his life to the fullest.  Meanwhile, as I reflected upon my own life, I quickly realized how much I take for granted and often forget to be grateful for what I have.  From that brief interaction with him I was inspired to appreciate my own gifts. This is when I began to see life through a new lens. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 14

First Day of School Too Common a Phenomena for Youth in Foster Care

Anyone who has ever had to start a new school in the middle of the year probably remembers the barrage of feelings about the situation.  Perhaps anger at having to leave the familiar school and all of your friends behind; the anxiety felt about whether or not you will be accepted by your new peers; the fear of not being on the same level as the new school.  You may have thought about your grades not transferring, your testing scores being obsolete, you may not be able to make the sports team that you have been so dedicated to at your last school.  These are all typical feelings when starting at a new school.  Now, think about the feelings that are being compounded when you are living with strangers, separated from your siblings, and, to top it off, this is the third school you have attended in the past two years.  This is an unfortunate reality for many of the more than 300,000 youth in America’s Foster Care System and the effects can last a lifetime.

        The average length of stay for a child in the American Foster Care system is 12 months.  During this year, it is estimated that 85% of youth remain in a single placement.  This number drops to 64% in the second year, than to 35% for the third year.  The trend tells us that the longer a child stays in the system, the more likely it is for them to get shuffled around.  About 39% of all children in Foster Care are teenagers and the likelihood of them being put in a permanent home is significantly less than that of a younger child.  In a survey of adults who were involved in the foster care system, 1/3 reported that they had changed schools five or more times. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 05

Why Redistribution is a Quality Investment

Income inequality. It’s a dirty term, but someone has to use it. Unless you’ve been actively hiding from any conversation, headline, or news report involving wealth and income inequality, you probably already know that the income gap between the mega-rich and the “regular folk” has grown exponentially since the 1970s.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tell you something you don’t know? Well, how about inequality’s ties to the U.S.’s slow economic growth since its attempt to bounce back from the Great Recession?  According to economists, our country is in a “permaslump”, which basically means the economy is moving about as fast as a sloth.

We know our economy is largely based on capitalism. Spending money is a big part of most of our lives (think Black jump start imageFriday, Back to School season, and even Valentine’s Day), but the biggest spenders are typically not the biggest money makers.  And here is where income inequality comes in to play.

“House of Debt”  bloggers, authors and economists Atif Mian and Amir Sufi have shown that low income households spend money, on average, more than high income households who tend to save their money. This was a big problem during the Great Recession because low income households were spending less due to unemployment, uncertain job security, and housing instability. Meanwhile, the higher income households continued to save. Even in a healthy economy, the savers still save.

With the majority of the country’s capital concentrated amongst so few households, our nation’s money is essentially being held hostage. When so much of it is tucked away, there is little spending money left to go around, and it prevents the needed reinvestment of capital into businesses and banks that is necessary to truly jumpstart the economy.

Luckily, we are not without solutions in addressing this. Unfortunately, many of them are considered to be the words Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 29

What’s in a Twirl?

What’s in a twirl? That which by any other twirl would be so sweet…. Okay so I am taking poetic license with a classic work by William Shakespeare. Yet we should as a society be asking the question “why ask a professional female athlete to twirl and show off her outfit?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzOeJs0Sh-c )

We should also question whether we should just blow it off by calling it “entertainment news” or harmless?  Just for the record, I am a 40 to almost 50 something female who grew up in the US.  I grew up loving sports, playing sports, and not fully understanding why girls had limited options for types of sports to participant in as well as progression into higher levels of sporting competitions. I was by no means an outstanding female athlete; but to participate in sports is not about how good you are, it’s about what you learn about yourself, competition, strategies, and even what you can learn about others.

Title IX policy and advocacy came about when I was in elementary school. At the age of 6, I loved football.  After all, Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 13

Would YOU be able to survive on $15,000/year?

The U.S. federal minimum wage was first established during the Depression, and since 1933 has risen from 25 cents to $7.25 per hour.  As it stands now, three years will have passed since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently just over $15,000 a year for a full time worker.  Can you imagine living on that amount?  TheMinimum_Wage_3 worst part is that the “poverty line” is so low as to be practically meaningless. I’d be interested to hear from any single parents out there who manage to make ends meet at even double the “poverty line”.  The Fair Minimum Wage Act, supported by President Obama, would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to possibly $9.00 an hour or even $10.10 an hour.  That is around $19,000/yr.  This is still not enough money to survive, but it is a start.  Beginning on December 31, 2013, New York increased their minimum wage to $8.00 per hour from $7.25 per hour and will subsequently change it to $9.00 per hour by the end of 2015.  As a proud native New Yorker, I am saddened by this pathetic wage increase because the cost of living in New York is high and so does anyone really believe that anyone can exist on this beggarly wage?

Last year the majority of the House (Including the entire Republican delegation) voted against a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by this year. even though this is a policy that is supported by 80% of Americans.  Way to support your constituents.  Clap.  Clap.

Lamentably, so many of us have been taught, and politicians make us believe, that to have a job is to prosper, which Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 12

Mandatory Autism Awareness and Response Training for Law Enforcement

I am one of millions of people whose life has been touched by somebody with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  I work with individuals who have autism, both children and adults, mostly in their homes and out in the community.  On a regular basis when I am with my clients, we are stared at, and occasionally have been confronted in regards to certain behaviors, such as making loud noises, jumping up and down, pacing back and forth in line and accidentally nudging into others, etc.   Most of the time, however, I receive a warm smile or knowing glances from others in the autism_awareness_puzzlepiece heartcommunity–which is truly a testament to how far the autism awareness movement has come to date.  The outside world can quickly become over-stimulating for a person with ASD, which at times leads to a public meltdown.  Occasionally, these meltdowns involve physical aggression of some sort (from slapping or pinching to hitting, etc.).  When this happens, I become immediately anxious- not anxious out of concern for myself, as I have been trained for safety in incidents like these.  I become concerned as to how this looks to the people around.  I worry that people will begin to crowd around us (fairly common), which inevitably enhances the severity of the meltdown.  I worry, like so many others who care for individuals with autism, that a concerned citizen will think there is a danger being posed, call law enforcement, and that police will arrive and perhaps not recognize the signs of autism and respond in such a way that, unknowingly and unintentionally, escalates the situation further.  I understand that law enforcement follows a specific protocol for responses, but I worry that if these responses are used on a person with ASD, they could fight back, flee, or be seriously injured in the case of a restraint situation.

Of course, all individuals with autism have unique “triggers”, just as every person does.  Consequently,  is important to remember that generalizations of the signs of autism will always have exceptions.  All individuals are at different places on the spectrum and exhibit unique behaviors.  In general, however, people who are on the autism spectrum may not make eye contact with others or respond to verbal communication (many individuals on the spectrum are nonverbal), including demands from law enforcement or other authorities.  They may also have sensitivities to light, touch, sounds, and so on.  People with autism may flee if confronted, for a variety of reasons.  These and other Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 10

How Women Help Move an Economy?

Coco Chanel once said in The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman –“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”

Many women today have taken that advice quite seriously. In today’s times the world is witness to an extremely upgraded version of the feminine brigade that is ready to take it to the next level.  Women have stepped into different professions and have made a mark for themselves. So much has their contribution affected the professions that they land in, that they are even being considered one of the driving forces for the corresponding economic revenue.

Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organization working to advance women in business, found in an analysis of Fortune 500 companies that those with a greater representation of women in management positions delivered a better total return to the shareholders than those with a lower representation. Research also shows that, not only in the professional or industrial background, but also on the household level, women have proved to be the money channelizing force that brings in profits on a family as well as a societal scale. However, what really makes a woman more productive for any kind of economy than men? What are the qualities that make women a better (hiring, management, leadership, etc.) alternative in a money oriented environment than their male peers?

First, the basic quality that sets a woman apart from her male counterpart is the way she approaches a situation before her. Men, on the one hand, often arrive to conclusions by making comparisons with the most obvious and latest similar experience they have had. Women judge situations on the basis of experiences over long women econ pic 1time spans as well as using these experiences on a 3 dimensional level where they can form a web-like data and inter-relate it to arrive to a conclusion.  Women accomplish all of this in the same time frame as men.  Basically, women come to a more realistic and reliable decision based on instincts and prior knowledge.

Brigham Young once said, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”  Knowledge and education play an important role in this and it has held true. Research estimates that in the BRICS and N11 countries’ investments in female education could yield a ‘growth premium’ that could bring about a GDP growth trend of approximately 0.2% per year. Statistics also suggest that most women in managing positions have show a high regard for their mentors whom they idolize and in many Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 08

Housing First Model for Homelessness?

Is it time to start thinking differently about homelessness?  There’s a broad spectrum of approaches and opinions surrounding homelessness in the US and its assumed you are somewhere on that continuum.  The Veteran’s Administration and Barack Obama have declared to end veteran homelessness by 2015, although results and progress remain to be seen.  What if I told you, there is a state in the Union that is on target to eliminate homelessness by 2015?  Is this a worthy goal and what are we really talking about here?

Since 2005, Utah has quietly begun to diminish homelessness and is on track to eliminate it by 2015.  In the 8 years since it’s inception, Utah has dropped homelessness by 78%.  What’s most interesting about it is that there blog.pic.3.24bwas no universe-shattering solution which defies the laws of economics, it was simple arithmetic.  Legislators discovered that the annual cost of ER and jail visits cost almost $17,000/year per person while providing the same with an apartment and a social worker cost merely $11,000.  Consequently, Utah began giving the homeless apartments and a case manager with no strings attached and the results are self-evident.

Typically, homelessness in America has been addressed through street outreach, food pantries, shelters, and religious activities. While this band-aid approach can alleviate some of the symptoms of homelessness, it rarely cuts to the root of the problems or provides a lasting solution.  The Housing-First, also known as Rapid Re-Housing can provide dualistic benefits that improve the wellbeing of the homeless as well as the wellbeing of the neighborhood.  By providing stable housing to the homeless, this program not only assists them by protects and improves the red-light Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 17

Armed with technology, would you help homeless youth?

Our video explores graphic facts of homelessness and the options for concerned citizens to explore.  NPR reports that the number of homeless in the US declined in 2013, however these statistics are often difficult to track from the transient and elusive nature of the populations under study.  Their report indicates that in 2013, around 610,000 people were homeless on the night under study.  Homeless numbers are many times inaccurate as youth and others who are homeless often avoid shelters, couch-surf, commit crimes, or visit ER’s and other “non-shelter” institutions to obtain housing.  It is generally understood that at least half of the homeless population in the US are under the age of 21, which would indicate on this night that at least 305,000 young people were without stable housing in the US: equivalent to roughly half of the state of Vermont.

So, do any solutions exist for the homeless youth populations?  With the prevalence of smartphone use in America today, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs has launched a contest for app developers to assist in aiding homeless veterans.  Project REACH (Real-Time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) requested app developers to put all the vital information for homeless individuals in one easily accessible and rapidly Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 03

So is Voluntourism the Road Better Traveled?

Voluntourism, as discussed in a previous blog, To Go Or Not To Go, provides a unique impact and scope compared to traditional donations.  The second part of the series seeks to uncover the road of donations as compared to voluntourism in terms of reaching the destination, community impact, and the values of overhead.  The analysis of voluntourism was shown to not only expand the value of the dollar by nearly 500% but also allow 93% of value to have direct impact and use to the destinations of interest. Alternately, the financial performance of donations, particularly the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund, presents significantly more hurdles to uncover the behavior and value of donations.  I will attempt to unravel the highly politicized, somewhat confusing, and sometimes misleading information regarding the Red Cross’ spending in Haiti to present a balanced view as much of that contentious speculation is outside the scope of this comparison.

Charity Navigator, as well as the Better Business Bureau, both report the Red Cross’ Administrative and Fundraising Spending to total 8%, while 92% is spent on direct programming.  While these were relatively easy figures to find they do not provide a complete picture of the donations’ financial activity.  Researching reports Read the rest of this entry »

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