Ayers started at BCC in 2014 as a Child Care Worker on the Denton Campus covered in beef stew (Not a typo! read on for the full story). In October 2015, she was selected to manage a community-based program BCC received a grant to start. Ayers graduated in 2004 with a B.S. from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in human ecology (child development concentration). A Dover, DE native, Ayres has spent her career to date focused on helping young adolescents.
You’re at a BBQ and somebody asks you what you do. How do you describe your role? The kids and the families you work with?
I start with the basics and just tell them I work at a group home in the community. I admit I do get a few funny looks. I think that comes from the stereotype that some people have of who lives at a group home. Or they think that because I’m a girl that I shouldn’t be working with adolescents with behavior challenges! But I just tell them the kids are awesome and that it’s your relationship with them that matters more. Not how big or strong you are.
Who have been mentors for you as you’ve started your career?
I would definitely say Karen has been a role model (Ed. Note: Karen McGee, Denton’s Program Director). I can ask her anything and I learn something from her every time. My older sister is another – she’s like my second mom. She kind of raised me because my mom worked an overnight job.
Do you get a lot of support from your family for what you do?
At first I don’t think they really understood why I wanted to do this. Even though my sister is older we’ve actually been living very parallel education and work lives. We graduated from our respective colleges a week apart. My sister is working at a group home in Delaware as a parent aid and my cousin actually just started a job in the human services field. So now it’s becoming more of a family thing and I think everyone understands a little better who we’re actually helping and how much of an impact we are making.
So the “stew” story we gather is kind of famous on campus. Could you share what happened on your first day?
My first day at BCC is definitely a story shared often around here. I was sitting with two boys at lunch and they started to argue about something. One of them accidentally spilled his bowl of beef stew all over me. I finished my shift and believe me each day since I have kept a spare set of clothes in my car! I guess some people would have said this job wasn’t for them after something like that, but I knew after that first day I was supposed to be here.
You’ve switched roles from Child Care Worker to working on this Community Program grant. Tell us about that.
About a year ago BCC was awarded a grant from Caroline county to do more therapy with young adults who were exhibiting “at risk” behaviors. The work was really focused on early intervention and trying to keep them out of the foster care or juvenile court system. This year Caroline county shifted the focus of our work to target youth who have at least one parent recently released from incarceration.
I do a lot of work on just basic communication. When a young person hasn’t had this adult figure in their life for some time it can be difficult to reconnect (and vice versa for the adult – they feel awkward and don’t know what to talk about). I’m excited because this work is all about strengthening families and the stronger we can make them, the stronger the community will be overall.
What’s next for you? Going back to school?
My next life adventure is definitely graduate school. I’m going to try to do my degree online because I really like this job and don’t want to leave!
If you could snap your fingers and something could be different, what would it be?
Probably extend the day. There just isn’t enough time to do everything I want to!
BCC residents see Harper’s Ferry and West River, host Baltimore campers
The Board of Child Care (BCC) partnered with the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church (BWC). The two organizations are trading the use of their respective facilities to benefit Baltimore city youth affected by violence as well as foster care youth BCC serves.
BCC hosted BWC campers to the Baltimore campus July 13 and 20 and Aug. 2 and 4. Participants from the West River UMC camps, which include youth from Baltimore city United Methodist Churches, ranged between 15 and 20 campers each day. Campers enjoyed the use of BCC’s recreational facilities like the teambuilding ropes course, indoor basketball gym, outdoor pool, and the on-grounds skateboard park.
In return, BWC hosted 36 BCC program participants to West River – a 45-acre facility on West River just 20 minutes from Annapolis – Aug. 10. Another 20 visited Camp Manidoken, a 300-acre camp featuring an 842-foot zip line – bordering the Potomac River and C&O Canal near Frederick August 17.
These sites are part of Camp LIFE, the camping and retreats ministry of the BWC. Their facilities include opportunities for archery, boating, camping, ropes courses, and swimming.
Additionally, 14 BCC participants in Baltimore joined 12 participants from BCC’s West Virginia campus in Martinsburg at Cunningham Falls outside of Frederick for a fun day of similar recreation.
“The opportunity to give children an experience with nature is one that speaks to our mission with the community and as care givers,” BCC President and CEO Laurie Anne Spagnola said. “Underserved children rarely enjoy these opportunities, and it’s our responsibility to broaden their horizons.”
Since 2006, BWC and BCC have shared the mission of broadening life experiences for traditionally underserved children by presenting safer options for summer recreation.
BWC operates a summer program that provides a free camp experience for Baltimore city youth through city-based United Methodist churches. The Board of Child Care provides therapeutic, residential facilities for children and young adults in the foster care system.Read more from Day camps become ‘the best part’ of a BCC summer
Directors, trainers and staff will help community parents, and first responders mirror informed response techniques
With the goal of teaching the community how to utilize the same techniques Board of Child Care staff employ with program participants, BCC is now teaching Trauma Informed Care (TIC) training techniques.
The idea was hatched at BCC’s Eastern Shore campus in Denton, MD. Realizing the community lacked trauma-informed provider training, Karen McGee, BCC’s Director of Operations in Denton, responded by convening a training event June 30 to provide practical information and strategies for our community partners.
“This training was well received by all who attended and really shed light on how trauma can effect everyday life and behaviors,” McGee said. “The takeaway responses that were shared at the end of the training event were a testament to the need for this type of training.”
BCC’s Baltimore campus followed Denton’s lead, offering the training to campus staff, so they in turn could teach members of the Baltimore-based communities they same techniques. TIC is part of the Child Welfare Trauma Training toolkit, from the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse (CEBC).
“What makes this significant is it increases the chances of reunification by teaching what we know to the parents and caregivers,” said BCC President and CEO Laurie Anne Spagnola. “The ultimate goal of all of this is to enhance safety, promote permanency within the homes of the children we serve and keep families together.”
The topics presented will also include emotional competence and using consequences, and new techniques and skills to help prevent and de-escalate crises will be demonstrated and then practiced.
** Editor’s Note: The original version of this report, published Aug. 25, 2016, identified Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) instead of Trauma Informed Care (TIC). Keywords regrets the error.Read more from BCC now offering trauma-informed training to community
BCC’s Early Learning Program recognizes participants, new accreditation
So when BCC President and CEO Laurie Anne Spagnola heard so many of the children participating in BCC’s Early Learning Program identify as future police and firefighters, she marched along to the beat.
“All of us adults are going to be in good hands when we get older with all these first responders around us,” Spagnola said July during BCC’s Moving Up ceremony July 29 in the District of Columbia.
The presentation included celebration for the Jellyfish, a group of 16 children three years old and under, and the Whales, 16 children three years old and over. Over 100 parents, friends and other family members packed the classroom for the two celebrations.
Mayra Ramirez, lead teacher for the Jellyfish, and Juliet Price, lead teacher for the Whales, were lauded for their efforts through the year.
All participants in the ceremonies received a backpack with stickers, crayons, bubbles and either a book to read or a book to color, courtesy of Bethany UMC in Ellicott City and coordinated by Rev. Dr. Stacey Nickerson.
Krystina Johnson, Asst. Program Director, presented certificates to the children. Because the DC operation has a significant waitlist, there’s no drop-off expected from the program’s current enrollment of 72 participants.
“We’re fortunate to enjoy the luxury of a waitlist, but it speaks to the outstanding job our staff does in creating value in attending Board of Child Care’s ELP for the children and parents we serve,” Johnson said.
The breakdown of DC enrollees include 57 percent from private pay and 43 percent from subsidy vouches from the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
The DC staff also celebrated accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – the nation’s leading organization of early childhood centers – July 28. A celebration dinner was held for staff. The NAEYC certificate, conferred June 6, 2016, is valid through July 1, 2021.
BCC earned outstanding scores within the 10 NAEYC program standards the ELP was judged and evaluated upon. NAEYC awarded BCC 100 percent marks in five categories, 96 percent or better in two other standards, giving BCC a mean score of 95.8.Read more from Moving Up and celebrating NAEYC in DC
Simple idea turns into helping BCC youth experiencing path towards a corporate career
It started as a passing idea to help underserved teenagers and young adults in Baltimore. As a store manager for the wireless provider Sprint, Richard Barlione had the desire to offer knowledge and training to repair broken phones, as a skill to market for future job opportunities.
On July 21, 10 youth from BCC’s Baltimore campus earned certificates for participating in Sprint’s Tech Boot Camp at the company’s downtown Baltimore store in the city’s Inner Harbor.
Barlione was inspired to start this program through Ricky Ventures Enterprise, a local nonprofit serving Baltimore’s youth.
Joined by a similar number of Morgan State University students, BCC participants paired in teams of three and four, tasked with putting a business model together quickly and then prepare to present to their peers. During another session, kids had was to learn some of the functionality of the phone by taking pictures and creating hashtags.
Catonsville Store Manager Devon Brown spoke to the kids regarding the technical aspect of the business, including the costs associated with repairing and swapping devices. Kareem Garrison, Sprint’s Business Solutions Account executive, explained how he began his career as a sales representative before a promotion to a store manager, and now runs his own division for Sprint selling Business Accounts.
BCC resident Michael C. won an iPad mini for his contribution to Sprint Tech Day, and then announced he would give the gift to his younger sister because, “she needs it for school.” Brian Hedlun, president of the Washington, D.C, Baltimore and Virginia region, gave out brand new Bluetooth headphone sets to three other BCC participants.
“It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve done in a long time,” Barlione said. “We’re thrilled about the turnout and excited to see the potential in so many of these young adults.”Read more from Sprint Tech Day dials up career opportunities
BCC participant swims his way to gold at Maryland Special Olympics
Ryan Russell, a BCC childcare worker on the Denton, MD campus, learned the famous pledge while chaperoning Eli B. to this year’s games held at Maryland’s Towson University.
What he did not know was how profound an effect of witnessing the swimming competition would have on him as Eli brought home three medals.
“I have never met a group of people more willing to be themselves,” Russell said. “Underneath the high fives and the awards, there was a feeling that you were unequivocally and unapologetically proud to be your true self. The beautiful thing was this phenomenon was totally unspoken.”
During the swimming competition, the last place swimmer was cheered as if he or she were leading the pack. Sometimes a swimmer dove at the wrong time, into the wrong lane, or forget the last lap of the race. But instead of tears and jeers for mistakes athletes were encouraged, high-fived and praised. Bravery was all that was required.
“This just speaks to the true connections that both Eli and the BCC staff make through experiences like this,” said Karen McGee, Program Director for the Denton campus.
Russell formed strong bonds with his teammates and the families after he began taking Eli to the Easton YMCA in 2015.
“I can’t even fathom the kind of courage it takes to wake up every day with a disability, but these kids do it with grace, kindness and no fear,” said Russell, who just passed his first year anniversary with BCC. “I wish I had half the bravery these athletes have.”Read more from The thrill of a lifetime, for the athlete and staff
Car washes, book sales, picnics and all things summer at BCC!
Work program coordinator, Clifford Guest, invited BCC employees to get their cars washed by the residents. It taught the youth teamwork and other soft skills needed for success in the workplace. Proceeds from the car wash will help offset the cost of the trip to Six Flags scheduled for later this summer. Youth in the work program also partner with the maintenance team. Most begin in housekeeping and some move up to shadowing maintenance technicians.
“Our kids enjoy working hands on while gaining a valuable work experience they can transfer to a full-time job or the ability to care for their own automobile,” Guest said. “Being able to treat someone or someone else’s property like you would treat your own are skills future employers want to see. The kids bond with one another and they learn the value in an honest day’s work.”
Other work program activities included creating a volleyball court on BCC’s Baltimore campus, relocating furniture and books from the now-closed North Carroll High school to Strawbridge School, and preparing the new girls semi-independent house in Reisterstown, MD for its opening this month.
The recreation program challenged the youth with nature hikes, the ropes course, swimming and competitive sports games.Read more from Fun In The Sun!
BCC Board Member receives honor at Jurisdictional Conference July 15
Her appointment became official during a Consecration ceremony July 15, where she received her assignment to the Pittsburg Area (Western PA Conference). She will begin September 1, 2016.
“Just like we would for our staff and our participants, we celebrate the amazing achievement by Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi ,” said Laurie Anne Spagnola, BCC’s President and CEO. “We wish her well as she begins her new assignment. We were very lucky to have her on our Board.”
Before earning status as bishop-elect, Moore-Koikoi was superintendent of the Baltimore-Metropolitan District. She played a pivotal spiritual role within the city following the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015.
The current Bishop of the Baltimore-Washington conference, Bishop Marcus Matthews, retires August 31, 2016, after 42 years in ministry. BCC wishes Bishop Matthews well in his retirement and extends our congratulations to the newly elected Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling, who was appointed Bishop Matthew’s replacement. Bishop Easterling is from the New England Conference and BCC looks forward to welcoming her this fall! Like her predecessors, Bishop Easterling will be invited to join BCC’s board of directors or make a suggestion for a UMC representative to take her place.
BCC is delighted that Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Area will remain assigned to the Peninsula-Delaware and Eastern Pennsylvania Conferences and, therefore, remain on BCC’s Board. Congratulations Bishop Johnson!Read more from Moore-Koikoi confirmed as Bishop by UMC
How ‘Haystacks’ has overcome loss to achieve his goals
This past June, Tim H., a Strawbridge graduate, authored and delivered an amazing graduation speech. You can read about that here and check out the Back to School Appeal at boardofchildcare.org! To our donors and volunteers, thanks for everything you do!
It is our honor to share with you an abbreviated version of his speech. His transformation into adulthood includes overcoming a significant loss in his life.
“On April 9, 2014, I got off the school bus on the Baltimore campus, and it was just like any other day. As I walked in and approached my cottage, there was staff everywhere. One of the staff members took me aside and she said, “Tim, I am so sorry…your mother is at the Penn State Hospital. She’s suffering liver failure.”
A few hours after we arrived at the hospital the nurse let everyone know: my Mom was going off life support.
When I returned to the Baltimore campus, I felt a sense of comfort from not only the staff members, but the residents as well, which made this event easier to bear.
A few months later I moved to BCC’s semi-independent living program in Hagerstown, MD. Throughout my time at BCC, I have grown to know the staff like they are family, and have felt a great deal of support and love.
I have also accomplished many feats, including gaining vital work experience, life skills, financial literacy, social skills, and am now a high school graduate! The truth is that if you stick with the program, and put faith in staff, nothing but success is in your future.”
Your support of the Back to School campaign helps students graduate and set them up for future success.
Tim was awarded several scholarships to continue his education at Hagerstown Community College. He hopes to work as a team member in the National Parks Service.
We hope Tim’s story inspires you the way your kindness and generosity has touched so many of our youth.
P.S. Our class of 2017 seniors are ready to put in the work this year. Will you help us get them across the stage in June? Donate easily and securely online at boardofchildcare.orgRead more from Tim H.: A 2016 graduation success story