Congress Delays Action, Concern Grows over Arbitrary Federal Budget Cuts

This past week Congress passed a continuing resolution – kicking the can down the road and delaying action to prevent harmful cuts as a result of sequestration.”

Mi Casa, an affiliate organization of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR),  has sent messages to Congress about how the arbitrary cuts will have a devastating impact our community.  Mi Casa is frustrated that Congress is leaving town without replacing the arbitrary across the board cuts that kicked in March 1, 2013.

This is not a sensible approach to reducing the deficit, and we want to see Congress return from break and replace the sequestration with rational budget policy.

Mi Casa believes hardworking families have already paid their fair share toward reducing our national deficit.  Congress has the opportunity to replace these cuts with a more balanced approach. If they do not, our communities will suffer.

Like many throughout the country, we at Mi Casa have already felt the impact of the devastating cuts. We recently received word that our contract with the U.S. Small Business Administration would be reduced in 2013 due to sequestration. That means aspiring entrepreneurs and emerging businesses – enterprises that create jobs and generate revenue in our community – will have reduced access to free and low-cost business training and counseling programs.

As Mi Casa’s CEO Christine Marquez-Hudson emphasizes in her video message to Congress, produced by NCLR, if families are not able to afford childcare assistance or receive job training help then this means they won’t be able to go to work.  And our community wants the opportunity to work, pay their taxes and support their children who are a growing share of our future workforce and taxpayers.

We must elevate our voices not only in Denver but throughout the country.  We need to keep the pressure on our elected officials by taking a stand today and reminding them that Latinos support solutions to our budget deficit that are balanced and that include additional revenue from those who can most afford it such as the wealthiest and corporations.

Let your representatives know that our communities demand sensible solutions and budget gridlock in Washington, D.C. is unacceptable.

To get the name and contact information of your congressman in the House of Representatives click here. And to get the name and contact information of your senator click here.

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Best Practices in Workforce Development Case Management

This article was written by Mi Casa staff member Stephanie Noll (M.S.W.) and was originally posted on the National Council of La Raza’s blog.

Effective workforce development training programs include modules that focus on job readiness, such as helping people write a strong resume, develop effective job search skills, prepare for interviews, and hone soft skills.  However, beyond a lack of workplace skills, many jobseekers experience barriers that interfere with their ability to acquire or retain employment.  These barriers are often many and complex, such as a lack of affordable or accessible child or elder care, transportation, health care, or housing.  Other limitations might include a negative credit report, a criminal background, a history of chronic unemployment, or mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or unresolved trauma.  For this reason, Mi Casa Resource Center believes that intensive case management is a key component of any workforce development program to help participants achieve their full potential and sustained employment.

While it is true that many workforce development programs offer case management, Mi Casa lays a special emphasis on the quality and depth of the case management services it provides. One unique aspect of case management at Mi Casa is that case managers are trained professional social workers whose approach to case management is based on the core values defined by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics:  service, importance of human relationships, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, integrity, and competence.  The social work core values provide a foundation for best practices in workforce development case management, even for case managers who are not trained as social workers.

Here, are some practical suggestions for how to incorporate these core values into your organization’s case management techniques:

1.    Service
The primary goal of social work is to serve people in need and to address their social problems.  This is an important reminder for all case managers who face time constraints, limited budget, and piles of paperwork.  What matters most is to provide high-quality, individualized service to those in need.  In order to ensure quality service, Mi Casa case managers use the following best practices:
•    Conduct comprehensive intake interviews with all participants.  Gather information about their background and any challenges they currently face.
•    Write an Individualized Service Strategy (ISS) for each participant.  Identify action steps that will be taken to resolve the barriers.
•    Meet weekly with each participant to monitor progress toward the ISS.
•    Develop relationships with other service providers to create a network of high-quality resources and referrals.

2.    Importance of Human Relationships
The social work profession emphasizes the importance of human relationships as a primary agent of change.  People create positive change in their lives when they have positive relationships based on trust and respect.  As a case manager, this means that the relationships established with participants may often be more significant than any of the specific resources or referrals provided.  Case managers are most effective when they establish rapport, are authentic, and demonstrate the sincere belief that people can change.  In order to develop and maintain strong relationships, Mi Casa case managers use the following best practices:
•    Meet weekly with participants to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to them.  Offering regularly scheduled case management meetings not only allows for follow-up on the ISS but also shows participants that they matter.
•    Maintain additional regular contact with all participants, even if brief.  Stop in the classroom for daily announcements or quick check-ins with participants.
•    Include relationship and communication skill-building activities in the workforce development curriculum. This provides participants with the opportunity to get to know each other and develop a community of support among themselves.

3.    Dignity and Worth of the Person
Social work emphasizes the importance of treating each person with respect and honoring individual differences and diversity.  This includes the concept of self-determination, which is the belief that people know best what they need and how to meet those needs.  This strengths-based approach to case management demonstrates trust that each participant has the capacity to solve their own problems.  To honor participants’ dignity and worth, Mi Casa case managers use the following best practices:
•    Involve participants in the development of the ISS.  Case management is most effective when it is a collaborative process between participant and case manager.
•    Give participants time to tell their own story.  Everyone has a story to tell and they have the right to tell that story in their own way. Sometimes the most powerful aspect of case management is offering people a chance to feel heard.  Listening nonjudgmentally to someone’s story can be the best way to show someone respect and honor their dignity.

4.    Social Justice
Social workers pursue social change on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice.  Case management rooted in social justice is sensitive to the reality of systemic oppression, including racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and ageism.  While it important for people to be held accountable for their own choices, it is equally important to not blame individuals for circumstances caused by greater social problems.  To offer case management rooted in social justice, Mi Casa case managers use the following best practices:
•    Recognize any differences in identity and life experience that may exist between the case manager and participants.  Be sensitive to differences in levels of power and privilege and how they might impact case management.
•    Provide space for participants to discuss their experiences of discrimination.  Offer empathy for the challenges that participants have faced.  Acknowledge the resilience, determination, and strength they have shown in overcoming challenges throughout their lives.
•    Speak up about social injustice.  Advocate for services, procedures, and laws that are fair and create more equitable access to opportunity for all people.  Attend community events to stay informed about greater social justice efforts.  Inform participants of opportunities to get involved as well.

At the end of Mi Casa’s training program, it is not uncommon for participants to share that they gained much more than they expected from their experience at Mi Casa.  They often report a higher level of confidence and sense of self-worth than when they first entered the training program.  Mi Casa strives to provide not just a training program, but an opportunity for empowerment and personal growth as well.  High-quality, intensive case management is an essential component of that process.

References
National Association of Social Workers (2008).  Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers.  Retrieved from http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp.

Photo credit:NCLR

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Economic Success for Workers and Entrepreneurs

Mi Casa Resource Center has received a $15,000 Good Neighbor Citizenship® grant from State Farm®, funding business and career training programs.

As part of a robust strategy of community involvement and service, State Farm supports Mi Casa Resource Center’s adult self-sufficiency programs, including career training and small business development. State Farm recently awarded Mi Casa a grant for $15,000 to support the costs of these programs that help low-income workers and entrepreneurs achieve lasting economic success through career path employment or business ownership.

“Mi Casa’s partnership with State Farm is multifaceted and provides many benefits to our clients,” says Christine Marquez-Hudson, CEO/Executive Director. “Grant funding is an important part of our sustainability strategy, and the involvement of State Farm employees in our training programs allows individuals in our programs to access information and advice that would otherwise be financially out of reach.”

In addition to providing grant funding, State Farm employees support Mi Casa as volunteers. Agent Jessika Aerni serves as a guest speaker in Mi Casa’s bilingual entrepreneurial training programs to help educate aspiring business owners about insurance requirements and considerations.

“We’re incredibly proud to be working with this amazing organization,” says State Farm Agent Jessika Aerni.  “Mi Casa’s programs are making a difference in our community, a difference that has an effect on all of us.”

State Farm supports Mi Casa’s entrepreneurial training and business counseling programs for underserved entrepreneurs, including women, Spanish-speakers and grassroots startups.

Gloria Duran received business training and counseling at Mi Casa, with the support of State Farm, and is now refurbishing a truck to take her catering business mobile, serving southwest Denver with authentic Mexican fare inspired by Gloria’s home state of Veracruz.

Gloria immigrated to Colorado in 1997 after closing her business in Mexico and falling on hard financial times. She never gave up the dream of business ownership, though, as she worked for others at restaurants and bakeries for over a decade. When Gloria lost her job in 2008, she decided in order to find the financial stability she and her family needed, she would give business ownership another shot.

Gloria completed Mi Casa’s entrepreneurial training course in Spanish and received one-on-one business counseling to write a business plan. Though Gloria had a great plan and strong experience in the food service industry, she needed financing to launch. But with poor credit history and little collateral, she didn’t qualify for a loan from traditional lenders.

Thanks to an aligned network of partners and strong collaborations, Mi Casa was able to connect Gloria with the Kiva Zip microfinance program, which uses crowd sourced funding to provide small loans to low-income entrepreneurs. Gloria’s $5,000 loan was funded and distributed in December 2012. Once her business is off the ground, Gloria will repay the 0% interest loan. She is now refurbishing her new truck (Gloria is pictured above with her old, mobile food trailer) and plans to begin operating by the end of March.

It is because of the support of corporate partners like State Farm that Mi Casa is able to provide entrepreneurs like Brenda with new opportunities for success.

About State Farm®:
State Farm and its affiliates are the largest provider of car insurance in the U.S. and is a leading insurer in Canada. In addition to providing auto insurance quotes, their 17,800 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts – more than 79 million auto, home, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 43 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com or in Canada http://www.statefarm.ca.

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Baking Dreams

Marjorie Silva’s baking business began 16 years ago when she made her son’s first birthday cake. The Dalmatian themed cake was such a hit with guests that many started paying her to bake cakes for special occasions.

Marjorie, a native of Peru, later immigrated to America with cake pans in her suitcase and the goal of starting her own bakery. After working in a bakery for five years, she started Azucar Bakery, specializing in cakes and Peruvian pastries.

Her business soon grew too large to operate out of her home. Looking to expand, she approached a bank for a loan and was asked for a business plan.

“I had no idea what a business plan was, so I was referred to Mi Casa,” said Marjorie. “And Mi Casa worked with me to develop a plan that ended up really impressing the bank.”

After completing Mi Casa’s Business Success class where she learned the basics of successful business ownership, Marjorie received one-on-one business counseling from Mi Casa.

“Mi Casa taught me a lot about marketing,” said Marjorie, “and also connected me to community resources to help my business grow.”

As her business has grown, Azucar Bakery has received widespread media coverage from the Denver Business Journal, Denver Post, 5280 Magazine, Viva Colorado, Fox 31, 9News and more. Azucar Bakery has also been named Best of Weddings by the knot for the past 3 years.

Azucar Bakery relocating to a larger space again last year, and recently expanded to include homemade ice cream as well as coffee and pastries for morning commuters. In the future, Marjorie would like to franchise the coffee and pastry side of Azucar Bakery.

“I’m always dreaming,” said Marjorie.

Marjorie’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to practice patience and follow your passion, rather than get-rich quick dreams. She said her business training at Mi Casa gave her a realistic view of what it takes to start a business and what to expect.

“Mi Casa’s Business Success class is a great program,” said Marjorie, who also wants to attend one of Mi Casa’s social media workshops for business owners. As she said, “There is always more to learn.”

Posted in Business Development, Entrepreneurs, Success Stories | Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Whitney

Whitney first heard of Mi Casa Resource Center from her mother, who completed Mi Casa’s Customer Service class. And she began volunteering at the Career Center as a Career Coach last September, after learning her human resources background could be used to help community job seekers.

Working with a wide variety of people is what Whitney most enjoys about volunteering at the Career Center. “The Career Center is open to everyone, and anyone can come for help so I meet with people from different backgrounds each week,” she said.

Whitney begins each career coaching appointment by learning how she can best support each job seeker. “I’ve had people come in who have never heard of a resume and I have helped other people who bring in resumes that are five pages long,” said Whitney, explaining appointments are tailored to each individual.

“I love helping people figure out which career is right for them,” said Whitney, who helps people translate past jobs into applicable skills for future employment when helping participants build resumes.

As a career coach, Whitney has done everything between assisting with email account creation to teaching navigation strategies for job searching websites and helping draft cover letters.

“Mi Casa is a great resource for people because it provides many ways for the community to receive support,” said Whitney.

Though Whitney gives of her skill and time at the Career Center, she is given back to each time she volunteers at Mi Casa.

Whitney said, “Every person I have helped has been very thankful, and that is very rewarding.”

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Mi Casa Neighborhood Center Students of the Month: Mariposa & Tajon

Mi Casa Neighborhood Center is proud to announce our middle school students of the month Mariposa and Tajon!

 

 

Mariposa, a 6th grader from Lake Middle School, is known for her friendliness and her ability to get along with everyone. She has been consistently attending Mi Casa’s afterschool programs since the beginning of the school year and is always an active participant. An avid reader and trivia queen, Mariposa frequently knows the answer to the “Trivia of the Day” question.

 

 

 

Tajon, a 6th grader from STRIVE pictured at left, recently started attending Mi Casa’s afterschool programs and is quickly becoming one of the star students. He is known for his outgoing personality, natural leadership and positivity. Tajon is very helpful and often leads other students in helping out at the Neighborhood Center. A talented dancer, Tajon won the dancing competition at the last Family Night!

To learn more about Mi Casa’s Neighborhood Centers, click here.

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Be Heard!

The Colorado Nonprofit Association recently hosted 2013 Nonprofit Day at the Capitol to teach local nonprofits how to advocate for their causes and community through lobbying. The lobbying techniques shared with nonprofits by the Colorado Nonprofit Association also apply to individuals.

Though meeting with your House or Senate representative can be daunting, legislatures welcome your input! There are several ways to ensure your voice is heard:

  • Contact your Senate or House Representative: If you have an idea to amend a law or create a new one, communicate with your representative. Their staff can turn your idea into a bill to be presented to a committee.
  • Testify at committee hearing: Before a bill can be voted on by the House or Senate, it must pass through a committee. Committee hearings are open to the public and public testimony is welcome.
  • Schedule a meeting with your legislator: Make an appointment with a legislator and hand-out fact sheets about the legislation you endorse. To learn how to make the most of a meeting with a representative, click here.

Mi Casa makes sure the voices of our community and participants reach the capitol! We are currently endorsing several bills that will directly affect Latinos and low-income working families:

  • SB1 (The Working Family Economic Opportunity Package): Designed to support Colorado’s working families, this bill proposes three tax credits (a statewide Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Dependent Care Tax Credit) to ensure low and moderate wage earners are able to provide for their families.
  • Colorado Asset: Passage of this bill would allow undocumented students who have attended a high school in Colorado for a minimum of three years to qualify for in-state college tuition.
  • Colorado Compact: This legislation is a bipartisan effort to promote a reasonable conversation on immigration in Colorado that could lead to real and lasting federal reform.

To learn more about lobbying effectively, click here.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Ivan

Ivan was searching the Colorado Nonprofit Association database for places to volunteer when he found Mi Casa Resource Center last September.

With a master’s degree in social work and prior experience helping people job search, Mi Casa’s Career Center was the perfect fit for Ivan to combine his skills and passion.

“I volunteer at Mi Casa because I can help people find jobs, and as a bilingual volunteer, I can help the Spanish speaking community,” said Ivan.

As a volunteer career coach, Ivan helps community job seekers with whatever is needed to secure employment. Through multiple appointments with one job seeker, Jose, Ivan walked through the job searching and hiring process from start to finish.

Ivan taught Jose how to set up an email account, navigate job searching websites and create a resume and cover letter. And after Jose was hired, Ivan helped him fill out the necessary paperwork.

Ivan said he enjoys combating negative stereotypes of Latinos through his volunteering at Mi Casa.

“Mi Casa is helping the Spanish community by understanding its needs and breaking the cycle of stereotyping,” said Ivan. “Some people have the perspective that Latinos are lazy and on welfare, but I like to help the Hispanic community show their good side and what they have to offer.”

Ivan said motivation is the most important factor a Career Center volunteer can offer.

“When people are job searching their self-esteem often goes down because they see all the skills that jobs require and think they can never measure up,” said Ivan. “But letting job seekers know the skills they already have, and embracing those skills, empowers people.”

Mi Casa is very grateful for Ivan’s career coaching expertise, and the support and empowerment he gives community job seekers at the Career Center.

To learn about volunteer opportunities at Mi Casa, click here.

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Roberta, A Determined Superstar

Roberta walked into Mi Casa hoping to access career resources to upgrade her skills and start a new career.

“Mi Casa Resource Center is a well-known and positive name in the Denver community,”she said. Roberta had recently decided to switch career paths and signed up for Mi Casa’s Customer Service class where she learned how to write a resume and cover letter, improve her interviewing skills, and go above and beyond to meet customer needs.

“Mi Casa staff are very positive and a wealth of information,” said Roberta.

Roberta says the small class size at Mi Casa allowed her to build relationships with staff and other students, and she recalls feeling inspired by the field trips and guest speakers.

“The class made me realize my talents and strengths and how I can apply them,” she said. Roberta credits Mi Casa’s Customer Service course with helping her define success for herself and set goals for the future.

Connecting participants to outside resources is one way Mi Casa supports people as they advance toward their professional goals.

“The websites I learned about in the class, such as LinkedIn, were very informative and I still use them today,” said Roberta.

Armed with the new skills she gained in the Customer Service class, Roberta is now working with the career coach at Mi Casa to apply for permanent, full-time positions. And she is currently waiting to hear back from a second interview.

Even though job searching can be frustrating, Roberta is determined to persevere and keep a positive attitude. “I never lose hope because as our instructor used to say at Mi Casa, I am a superstar and I am going to find a job.”

To learn more about Mi Casa’s Career Development programs click here.

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Middle School Students of the Month: Miguel & Gabi

Congrats to Miguel and Gabi, the latest students of the month at Mi Casa’s Neighborhood Center at Lake Middle School!

Miguel, a 6th grader at Lake International, has attended Mi Casa Neighborhood Center’s programs every day this school year. He also attends Homework Zone every day after school and often encourages other students to join him.

“Miguel is incredibly polite and respectful,” said Mi Casa Youth & Family Development program staff, “And he also helps out other students with their homework.”

After completing his secondary education, Miguel hopes to attend Duke University. “Miguel has a very bright future here at Lake International and will be highly successful in anything he undertakes,” said Mi Casa Staff.

Gabi, a 6th grader, transferred to STRIVE middle school in the middle of last semester. New to the area, Mi Casa’s Neighborhood Center at Lake middle school has served as a place for Gabi to make new friends.

“She has quickly become one of our all-stars here at the program,” said Mi Casa staff. “She is incredibly friendly and helpful.”

Gabi is known to get along with everyone and has become fast friends with other students. Mi Casa staff is very excited to have her as a new participant in their programs.

Both Gabi’s and Miguel’s parents are participants in Mi Casa’s family and community programs.

Posted in Neighborhood Center, Student of the Month, Youth & Family Development | Leave a comment