Check It Out: Hometown Highlights
Fostering Dignity: Respecting Our Children
The Illinois Family Resource Center is honored to share the vision that Valerie Beguin had as she retired as a DCFS investigator. Valerie shared an example of the scene she encountered working as a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). She explains:
“First, a phone call is made to the Illinois Child Abuse Hotline, which initiates an investigation within 24 hours. The anonymous caller reports seeing his neighbor severely beating her 9-year-old son. An investigation with the DCFS begins the process of determining risk. Collateral contacts are completed; the reporting neighbor informs the investigator he has witnessed three similar beatings of this child in the past month. With this knowledge, the DCFS investigator travels to the home with a law enforcement officer. All members of the household are interviewed and concludes that the 9-year-old is at severe risk. He is removed to safety immediately. The boy’s belongings—pajamas, toothbrush, favorite stuffed animal—are swiftly gathered and tossed into a garbage bag. Within 48 hours, the juvenile court system becomes involved, and plans are developed to improve the situation in the home pending the child’s return.”
Valerie shared this situation is reminiscent of the first time she had to remove a child from his home. She watched him fill a black trash bag with the few belongings he could carry; that image would stay with her after she retired following 20-plus years with DCFS and countless similar situations, placing hundreds of children in foster care.
Today Valerie, her son Bob Beguin and her husband Dan Duback lead a grassroots nonprofit organization called Fostering Dignity. Their mission is to bring comfort to a victim of child abuse at the time he or she is most vulnerable. They accomplish this mission by providing DCFS offices throughout Illinois with backpacks available to frontline workers who carry out the investigations. Valerie shares, “The responsibility as a DCFS investigator is to protect a child from ‘imminent danger’ and place them in a licensed foster home or with a safe relative. Imagine the child putting his belongings in a trash bag, leaving everything familiar and a stranger taking them to a foster family of strangers. No child should ever receive the message that his precious belongings are garbage. A life so fragile, so confused and abused … We need your help to serve this invisible child.”
Valerie and Dan take advantage of every opportunity to share their message. Fostering Dignity launched in 2013, connecting with Illinois Prairie Community Foundation (IPCF). IPCF is a public charity that acts as fiscal sponsor for nonprofits, offering guidance, grant opportunities, and support. IPCF accepts and manages donations, and provides credibility to Fostering Dignity. Dan shared that in 2019 they supplied 1,400 backpacks to DCFS offices throughout Illinois. He stated that it is not enough. They are falling short, as over 4,000 Illinois children are placed in foster care each year. With the opportunities offered to get the word out, they will continue their goal to increase the number of backpacks made available to these victims. “We will never be certain if a backpack made a difference for a child, but the $5 investment is certainly worthwhile.”
For more information, contact Fostering Dignity at 309-728-2696
IPCF Fostering Dignity
915 E. Washington St., Suite 2
Bloomington, IL 61701.
Hope for All: Shalynn’s Hope
Nestled in a small central Illinois county is our next Hometown Highlight. The region of Douglas County is impacted by the national Heroin epidemic as are many areas in our state. As a result of the loss of a family member, Stacy Welch, a local mother, has moved forward to stop this heart breaking experience from happening to others. Welch is committed to helping her communities by sharing in her own journey to move forward and make Illinois a safer place to live and raise your children. The following is her story.
Shalynn’s Hope Inc. was formed after Stacy Welch lost her daughter Shalynn Brooke Conner to an accidental heroin overdose on Oct. 14, 2017. Shalynn had struggled with drug addiction over four years in which Welch spent time helping her daughter to find treatment, to attend meetings and supported her daughter through her recovery. Since Shalynn passed away, Welch has worked to educate the public about substance use disorder through public forums, school assemblies, public events and working with area youth.
As a foundation, Shalynn’s Hope has had the opportunity to work in many different areas to address the substance use disorder issues. Welch recently became certified by the Drug Overdose Prevention Program (DOPP) to train and distribute Narcan. Since Welch received this certification, Shalynn’s Hope has purchased over $3,500 worth of Nasal Narcan, hosted local Narcan Trainings and donated Nasal Narcan to the Arcola School District.
Through Shalynn’s Hope, Welch and the Foundation members have accomplished many things. Welch has been open to helping others struggling with addiction by assisting others seeking treatment and support. She has worked with Arcola School District, State's Attorney’s office, Be Brave organization, Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Douglas County Health Department to organize the 2019 Douglas County Drug Awareness Assembly. As part of these efforts, they sponsored Nick Gore, a recovering heroin addict, to speak at the 2019 Douglas County Drug Awareness Assembly. Welch herself has spoken at a variety of area assemblies in central Illinois sharing her journey and her experience of moving forward to change the communities.
As a fundraiser to support the efforts of Shalynn’s Hope, Shalynn’s Shuffle has been established as an annual event. The Shuffle is a 5k run/walk that takes place during the Atwood Apple Dumpling Festival in August. In 2019, the 2nd Annual Shalynn’s Shuffle brought in approximately 200 participants. Nick Gore, the recovering addict who spoke at the Douglas County Drug Awareness Assembly, also attended and spoke words of encouragement to the participants before the race.
One of the exciting events Shalynn’s Hope is committed to is the sponsorship of eight students from ALAH, Arcola and Tuscola high schools that attended the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute at Eastern Illinois University last July. As a result, these students have formed Operation HOPE (Helping Others through Prevention and Education). This is a group of students from the three schools who want to educate and prevent substance use disorders, social media bullying and negative peer pressure among the area youth. In looking at the future there are many more things in the works for Shalynn’s Hope. Welch states that none of this success would have been possible without the generosity of those who have donated to Shalynn’s Hope, purchased merchandise or participated in Shalynn’s Shuffle.
You can find out more about Shalynn’s Hope at www.shalynnshope.org and on Shalynn’s Hope Facebook page.
The Community That Said YES When Ask to “Step Up”
What happens when a diverse group of community leaders gather together to fill in the gaps? A lot! Lives have been saved, connections made, communities impacted, families brought back together, youth empowered. When citizens were ask, “Will you step up to tackle the toughest challenges in our community?” The answer was a resounding “yes.” What follows is a unique story that came from that single question.
Step Up Vermilion County was launched in August of 2017 at a Global Leadership Summit when the summit attendees were invited to Step Up and unite to lead Vermilion County in a positive direction. The first Step Up Vermilion County meeting was held on September 29th, 2017. At that meeting, and all following Step Up Vermilion County meetings, every sector of the community has been represented including government, social service, law enforcement, media, business, churches, healthcare, education, and nonprofit organizations. The bi-monthly Step Up Vermilion County meetings average around 100 people, with 243 individuals involved in 2018.
As the community representatives came together, a mission developed. It reads, “Step Up Vermilion County exists to bring the community together to identify and address current challenges facing the county and empower growth and development, creating positive outcomes in economic, educational, social and spiritual arenas.”
At the September 29th, 2017 the Step Up Vermilion County members did a SWOT analysis. As a result the groups top issues were identified: Parenting and Family, Drug and Substance Abuse, and Mental Health. This became the focus of “Step Up” Vermilion County. A group of over 200 community leaders worked on these key issues in 2018 to create success stories that continue impacting lives in Vermilion County today. Together they have impacted over 60,000 lives and continue to do so.
For more information, contact:
Step Up Vermilion County Leadership Team
PO Box 2507, Danville, IL 61834