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News and Notes from KidsPeace

Watch the Super Bowl, cheer for KidsPeace

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When you gather for the big game Sunday and root for the Ravens or the 49ers, be sure to cheer for KidsPeace too.


Thanks to the generosity of our Maryland Board of Associates co-chairs and their respective companies, KidsPeace has been entered into the PressBox Super Bowl Charity Pool for the chance to win $3,500 per quarter.


Check out the chart to find our numbers. We have five blocks and can win multiple quarters!


Thank you to Elizabeth Liechty and Charter Financial and Jacqueline Edwards and Marriott Waterfront in Baltimore. We're so grateful for your ongoing support of our organization.

Join the KidsPeace team for annual autism walk in Lehigh Valley

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Autism Walk TeamKidsPeace associates, clients, families and friends will once again join forces this spring to raise awareness and funds for autism.


The autism walk is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. April 20 at Dorney Park. KidsPeace has had a team every year since Autism Speaks began its Lehigh Valley Chapter six years ago.


Anyone can sign up to join our team. Stay tuned for fundraisers throughout the spring to meet our team goal of $1,000. All money raised is used to support programs and research for Autism Speaks.


Register online today.

Lifebooks provide healing for foster children

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Dr. John DeGarmo


By Dr. John DeGarmo


The departure of a foster child from your home is often a difficult time. Because this can be a time of great difficulty and one of emotional upheaval, it is important to prepare beforehand when it comes to the transition of your foster child from your home into another. From the very first day you bring a foster child into your home, it is critical to remember that he will very likely not be with you forever. There will come a time when he will move to another home; whether it is reunification with his parents, his family members, another foster home or adoption. Therefore, planning for his departure begins when he first arrives.


One of the ways you can prepare is by organizing a lifebook for your foster child. This book can be a wonderful healing tool for your foster child as he moves to a new home. For some children, a lifebook is the only reminder they may have of previous houses and families they once called home. Essentially, a lifebook is a scrapbook of your foster child’s life, and is something he can take with him to his new home, and throughout his life. Sadly, when many foster children are placed into a foster home, much of their early life story is lost, and can never be retraced. A lifebook can not only help the child remember important aspects of his past, it can also bring to light memories that fade away when a child grows older.


When designing a lifebook for your foster child, make sure you include him in creating the book. Do your best to trace his early life; ask your caseworker for information, try to retrieve early pictures and information from birth parents and family members, if possible. Add pictures of the birth family, when possible, as well as any other foster parents he might have had. Include pictures of his friends and other important people in his life. Be sure to identify each person in the pictures. If you have any certificates of any kind that he might have earned or received, include these also. Letters from important people in his life would also be a great addition to his lifebook. Also, be sure to include any medical history you can locate. You may need help from his caseworker, along with his birth family, if possible. Also, any family history you can add would be very beneficial to him, both now and later on in life. This might include military service, education and accomplishments. Don’t forget to add information about his own interests and hobbies, with plenty of pictures of him engaged in activities. Finally, leave several blank pages in the back of his lifebook, so he can add pictures, information and even his personal thoughts later on as he grows, or perhaps even in his next foster home.


A lifebook helps a foster child recognize his or her individual worth, something that is so very important for each child in foster care. For many foster children, placement into foster care is a traumatic experience. Lifebooks can be a testament to their strength and their ability to overcome whatever challenges they may face while in care.


Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years now, and he and his wife have had over 30 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story, and the upcoming book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable HomeHe also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the United States, and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted at, through his Facebook page, or at his website.


Inez Donley's philanthropy helped countless KidsPeace children, families

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Inez Donley

Some people make such an impact on their communities that their work will live on long after they are gone. Such is the case with Inez Donley, who died Sunday at the age of 97, after dedicating nearly 70 years to volunteer work in the Lehigh Valley.


Inez and her husband, Edward Donley, were major supporters of KidsPeace, donating more than $1.47 million to our organization to help children and teenagers with behavioral and mental health challenges. Their names grace buildings on our campuses, a testament to their continued support of our work. Their historic gift of $1 million was used to create the Donley Therapeutic Education Center on our Orchard Hills Campus in Orefield, Pa., a place where children learn, play and heal.


For years, the Donleys supported the KidsPeace Children’s Fund and KidsPeace Auxiliary. Inez Donley’s family has encouraged people to donate to KidsPeace in her name. 


Inez, who served on the KidsPeace Board of Directors for 15 years, and also suggested other people who would be positive additions to the board, remained an honorary member until her death. Mary Jane Willis, chair of the Board of Directors, says the KidsPeace community has lost a special champion.


“Inez Donley dedicated her life to supporting programs to benefit children and education,” Willis says. “Her steadfast commitment to KidsPeace has given countless children and their families the help they needed to begin down a path to healing.”


Edward Donley, former CEO of Air Products, met his wife in 1943 when she began working as his secretary when the company was still located in Tennessee. They later followed the business to the Lehigh Valley, where they raised three children, and Inez became well known for her volunteer efforts in the Allentown area. Many of the major institutions in the Lehigh Valley were recipients of the Donleys’ goodwill – Lehigh Carbon Community College, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Cedar Crest College, the Allentown Library.


After Edward Donley retired from Air Products in 1986, he and Inez established the Donley Foundation, which issued scholarships and grants to educational programs and libraries. In 2009, KidsPeace created the Donley Society to honor our strongest annual financial supporters.


William R. Isemann, president and CEO of KidsPeace, expresses gratitude for the years of service and support from Inez Donley.


“The KidsPeace community offers our sincere condolences to the Donley family as they mourn the loss of this phenomenal woman,” Isemann says. “Her philanthropy and dedication to the children and families we serve has made an indelible impact. Her heartfelt commitment is an inspiration to the entire Lehigh Valley community.”    

Will mental health insurance fall through the cracks?

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U.S. Capitol

By Kristen Fritz


On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to discuss how to improve access to mental health care insurance benefits. The meeting was in response to the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, focusing on how the United States could improve the handling of psychological problems that may lead to violence.


Pamela Hyde, the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), noted at the hearing that “most people who are violent do not have a mental disorder, and most people with a mental disorder are not violent.” She also stated that “demographic variables such as age, gender and socioeconomic status are more reliable predictors of violence than mental illness,” according the committee website. “These facts are important, because misconceptions about mental illness can cause discrimination,” she said.


According to Hyde, patients and their families now get 69 percent of the cash used to pay for mental health care from state and federal government programs, 12 percent from their own personal resources, and 27 percent from private insurance plans. One of the major laws governing private health insurance benefits for mental health care, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), affects insured and self-insured group health benefits. It does not require an employer to offer coverage for mental health or substance abuse disorders. The rules state that if an employer with 50 or more employees does offer mental health or substance abuse benefits, then the financial requirements and treatment limits for the behavioral health benefits can be no more restrictive than the typical requirements for benefits for other types of disorders.


Another law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), is set to require all non-grandfathered individual and small group plans to offer an “essential health benefits” (EHB) package that includes coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorder services starting Oct. 1. Michael Hogan, a former New York state mental health office commissioner and the chairman of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, said improving the mental health system “must begin with a realization that we have begun to take big steps away from an approach that was both separate and unequal.” The country also needs better programs to help people who are showing signs of having psychotic disorders find and stay on effective medications, and get and keep jobs, Hogan said. 


Binge Drinking Becoming a Self-Medication Method for Teen Girls

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports on recent studies showing binge drinking is a growing problem among that nation's women and teen girls.

The alcoholic beverage industry counters the claims, saying that teenage drinking is at an all time low.

Whether at a high or low, one in five high school girls binge drink, according to the CDC and the result of such engagement with alcohol is dangerous.

How often and when a person drinks alcohol is as important as how much alcohol she drinks. For example, one drink every day seven drinks each week is considered drinking in moderation for an adult. However, drinking seven drinks in one night (binging) is considered alcohol abuse.

The organization warns that the high rates of binge drinking, most likely a method of self-medication, places females at a higher risk for breast cancer, heart disease, STDs and unintended pregnancy.

Safe drinking limits vary from person to person. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services state this general rule: moderate drinking no more than one drink a day for most women.

It may be hard to admit that you, or someone you know, is struggling with an alcohol problem. Balancing school, family, friends, and maybe even a boyfriend or girlfriend is hard work. It can be really easy to fall into the wrong things if you are stressed out and it can also be really easy to make a bad choice when you aren't feeling yourself.

is a unique prevention, intervention and aftercare Web site developed by KidsPeace to help teens safely and anonymously tell their stories and receive sound advice within 24 hours from specially trained volunteers and counselors.

Log on and work out a binge drinking issue here:

U.S. faces critical adoption shortage

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By Kristen Fritz


In December 2012, Russia closed their doors to all U.S. adoptions. That leaves the U.S at an all-time low for adoption rates, plummeting to a 20-year low after peaking at nearly 23,000 in 2004 and falling to 9,319 in 2011, according to the state department.


Russia was among the top three foreign countries to serve as the source of children to be adopted by Americans. Declines in adoptions from China, Ethiopia and South Korea are prompting some parents to look homeward. The number of U.S. infant adoptions (about 90,000 in 1971) fell from 22,291 in 2002 to 18,078 in 2007, according to the most recent five-year tally from the private National Council for Adoption. But the group's president, Chuck Johnson, says the number has remained fairly stable since 2007, citing efforts to promote adoption.


Today there are fewer children in foster care because more are reunited with birth parents or adopted by relatives and foster parents. The number waiting to be adopted fell from 130,637 in 2003 to 104,236 in 2011, according to the Children's Bureau. In an effort to help, KidsPeace continues to support their communities and families by helping to provide foster care to kids that need loving, deserving and caring homes.


With ongoing help from our community and society, we can continue to have a positive impact on our children and continue to make a difference in their lives. With a little bit of love comes an even bigger smile.


Home Depot in Whitehall Twp. donates hand sanitizer

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Home Depot sanitizer


The Home Depot store in Whitehall Township, Pa., surprised KidsPeace with a $1,000 donation of hand sanitizer on Monday. Employee Cathy Rabenold delivered the product to KidsPeace Director of Development Patrick Slattery. The sanitizer will be used throughout our residential and hospital programs. Thank you to store Manager Rickey George and the entire Home Depot team for thinking of our children and staff this flu season


Fostering Hearts: Welcoming your foster child

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Dr. John DeGarmo


By Dr. John DeGarmo  


The first impression you create with your foster child is often vitally important to how the next few days and weeks will transpire.  This will probably not be the sweet little child who rushes into your waiting arms, laughing delightfully, as you might imagine. It is highly likely that your foster child will be scared and frightened, full of anxiety. He may have left his family moments ago, and is now told that you are his family, for the time being. Without a doubt, he is full of questions, as emotions swirl within him. Although it is impossible to predict how he will react when he first meets you, it is important that you approach this time with caution and care.


When the caseworker pulls into your driveway, go out to the car and welcome the caseworker and child, introducing yourself immediately, with a warm smile and soft voice. Inform your foster child who you are and the role you will now play in his life. He may very well not understand the foster care system, or what foster parents do. Do not insist that your new child call you mom or dad.  Allow your foster child to call you by your first names, if you feel comfortable with this, or by whatever name he feels comfortable in calling you. As the child may be scared, do not insist that he react to you right away. This is a time of extreme difficulty, and your foster child may be in a state of shock. As you help him inside with his possessions, take him by the hand, if he is a little one, or place a soft hand upon his shoulder, if he is a teenager. Actions like these can be reassuring that all will be okay, that he is in a safe and caring home. Do not insist upon hugging, as he may be too embarrassed or hurt to do so.


Show him where he will sleep, and where his clothes will be kept. Have a nightlight already on in the room, if the room is dark. Ask if he is hungry, and offer him some food. If he doesn’t want any food, do not insist upon it. He will eat when he is ready and hungry.


You will have to sign some paperwork with your caseworker, as well as go over any last minute news, details and information. If possible, do this away from the child, as this can be especially embarrassing and damaging to your new child. This is a good time for your foster child to eat, or be alone in his new room. If you have children of your own, it may also be a good time for them to engage in some sort of play with their new foster brother. Your foster child will likely be overwhelmed with the situation, so it is important that you make sure your home is as peaceful and quiet as possible. Allow your foster child to have some personal space and alone time. If it is late at night, do not insist that he go to bed immediately. After all, he is probably not only needing some time to reflect on the day’s events, sleep may be difficult to come by, as he is in a strange bed, in a strange home. Sadly, it is not uncommon for newly placed foster children to cry themselves to sleep during the first few nights. Do not be surprised if this happens. He may be scared and lonely.  Let him know that you understand how difficult it is for him, and that his tears are normal and all right. Read to him a bedtime story each night; place a nightlight not only in his room, but in the nearby bathroom, as well. Let him know that he can get up in the night and use the bathroom whenever he needs to.


Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years now, and he and his wife have had more than 30 children come through their home. Dr. DeGarmo wrote his dissertation on fostering, "Responding to the Needs of Foster Children in Rural Schools." He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story. He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the United States, and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted at, through his Facebook page or at his website.



Adopted KidsPeace youth honored for good deeds

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We serve many children at KidsPeace, and sometimes we're fortunate enough to learn what they are up to once they leave our care.


In the case of Christopher Pelletieri, who was adopted by Christine and Peter Pelletieri from the Kingston FCCP office in 2009, it is heartwarming news. Pelletieri was recognized by The Saugerties Community Youth Awards Committee for good deeds and actions.


Ms. Fraske, one of his former teachers at Mount Marion Elementary School, nominated him, saying his “courage and bravery has touch my heart.” She adds that “after having a rough, challenging start in life, he has incredibly managed to grow strong emotionally, socially and academically over the past three years.”


The award is recognized and supported by the town and village of Saugerties, N.Y., the Saugerties Central School District, the Saugerties Boys and Girls Club and Family of Woodstock, a local social services agency.


Congratulations to Pelletieri! If you have a positive story you would like to share about any other former KidsPeace clients, please email


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