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Creating a culture of hope for children and families



Psychologist Chan Hellman talks about instilling hope to nurture families and children who have encountered adversity. (photo courtesy MS Administrative Office of Courts)

The Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice this week asked leaders in child welfare to rethink how the state’s system responds to allegations of child neglect rooted in poverty.

The model is one centered on hope. The idea is to give hope to parents and children who encounter the Department of Child Protection Services and the Youth Courts.

The Commission conducted three days of meetings with a leading proponent of hope-centered programs, Chan Hellman, Ph.D., of Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Oct. 20, 21, and 22 at the Gartin Justice Building and the Department of Child Protection Services in Jackson.

“The hope is that Dr. Hellman’s presentation will change our mindset, and we see a new way,” Taylor Cheeseman, Interim Commissioner of the Department of Child Protection Services, told CPS leaders, judges and court staff Oct. 21.

“Hope is the guiding framework of how we respond” in providing services to those in need, said Hellman, a professor of social work at the University of Oklahoma and Director of The Hope Research Center. Giving hope is an essential part of nurturing families and children toward improving their lives.

“Hope is the belief that the future will be better, and you have the power to make it so,” Hellman said.

His approach includes teaching people to do three things:

  • set desirable goals
  • identify viable pathways to goals, finding solutions to the problems that stand in the way
  • maintain the willpower to pursue those goals.

Hellman said action separates hope from a wish. “We are moving parents and families from wishing to hoping because we are going to make that pathway.”

CPS Deputy Commissioner Tonya Rogillio said it’s important to instill hope in the social work staff as well as the people they serve. The agency has a 30% turnover rate.

“I’m a firm believer that you can’t give what you don’t have,” Hellman said. He believes that creating a culture of hope lowers staff burnout and improves job satisfaction.

“If Mississippi embraces this, it could have tremendous impact,” said Justice Dawn Beam, co-chair of the Commission on Children’s Justice.

One of the biggest challenges of implementing a hope-centered program is getting beyond skepticism. “It feels like it’s kind of a fluffy rainbows and unicorns thing,” Hellman said.

Earlier in his career, he would have laughed at the idea, but as a quantitative psychologist, he has measured and documented results including improved grades for children. He studies the effect of hope on outcomes for children and adults. His research is focused on hope as a psychological strength helping children and adults overcome trauma and adversity. He is the co-author of the book “Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life.”

Hellman has spent 25 years working with victims of domestic violence, child maltreatment, homelessness and poverty. He knows the struggles. He grew up in poverty and was homeless from eighth grade through high school.

As a psychologist, he experienced a eureka moment 12 years ago when he interviewed a 19-year-old homeless man who had recently been diagnosed with HIV. The man was filled with hope and had plans for attending college. “It was a realization that I had spent my entire career focused on the wrong question. ‘What’s wrong with you?’” Hellman said, recalling the incident. His approach then shifted to “What happened to you?” and “What’s right with you?”

“Hope can be taught. It starts with goals, pathways and willpower,” Hellman told members of the Mississippi Programs of HOPE committee of the Commission on Children’s Justice during a discussion Oct. 22. “At the heart of change is our ability to understand the way things are and to imagine the way things could be.”

Chancellor Rhea Sheldon of Hattiesburg, co-chair of the Commission on Children’s Justice, said, “I’m excited to see what we are going to be able to do going forward with collaboration with nonprofits and Child Protection Services.”

“It’s a vision that we all can work together for the children of our state,” Justice Beam said. “We don’t need to dream with boundaries. We need to dream big.”

The Commission on Children’s Justice recently established Programs of HOPE to continue to address child neglect prevention. Five multidisciplinary committees were established to identify and recommend actions that can fill gaps, strengthen opportunities and lift up Mississippi families to a place where they can see a path toward better lives.

Programs of HOPE committees include Housing and Transportation; Opportunities for Treatment; Parent, Child and Family Supports; Economic Security; and Pathways of HOPE.

The Mississippi Supreme Court created the Commission on Children’s Justice in 2006 and tasked it to develop a statewide, comprehensive approach to improving the child welfare system; coordinate the three branches of government; and recommend changes to improve children’s safety, strengthen and support families, and promote public trust and confidence in the child welfare system.


High speed chase ends in fiery crash



(photo by David Day)

A high-speed chase Saturday evening that began near the Waffle House in Vicksburg has ended in a crash in Claiborne County and a vehicle in flames.

First reports indicate the incident began around 5:10 p.m. as an argument at the Waffle House at 4100 Pemberton Square Blvd. A man and woman left the scene and stopped at a Shell gas station on U.S. Highway 61 South where the man pulled the woman, who is pregnant, out of the vehicle by her hair.

The man, Bojara O’Quinn of Claiborne County, then fled, leading Vicksburg police officer Michael Battle on a high-speed chase south on 61 South. The chase exceeded 110 mph at times.

The chase ended just inside the Claiborne County line on Shiloh Road in a crash where the vehicle, reportedly a rental with Illinois plates, burst into flames. The crash occurred right at 5:30 p.m.

O’Quinn is in custody and received minor injuries in the crash. The woman involved received very minor injuries and is apparently safe.

Deputies with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department, and troopers with the Mississippi Highway Patrol assisted in O’Quinn’s capture.

Bojara O’Quinn (photo by David Day)

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Woman in custody for Friday’s shooting over a parking space



UPDATE: Akeyah Daniels, 26, of Vicksburg, appeared before Judge Penny Lawson on Saturday in Vicksburg Municipal Court. Lawson set her bond at $50,000 and bound her over to the Warren County grand jury.

Original story:

The woman is in custody in connection with a shooting that occurred Friday, allegedly over a parking space.

The shooting took place around 3:30 p.m. Friday at an apartment building at 2230 Grove St. in Vicksburg.

Akeyah Daniels, 26, turned herself in to Vicksburg police officers at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28. She was arrested at the police station.

Three men were also briefly detained and released in connection with the shooting, according to the Vicksburg police.

Daniels faces one count of drive-by shooting is being held without bond until her initial appearance, which is taking place Saturday.

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Vicksburg entrepreneurs got the basics of business ownership at boot camp



Kendra Reed and Willie Johnson were among the dozen entrepreneurs attending the Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp. (photos submitted)

Last week participants graduated from the first Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp where 12 individuals received information to start or expand their own businesses.

Myra Harris, who recently started a company making masks, joined the boot camp shortly after her grandchildren informed her of the opportunity.

“They provided all the resources you would need to start your business, and they also made themselves available after class just in case you had any questions,” Harris said.

Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp participants. Top L to R: Marcus Dufour (Vicksburg Warren Partnership), Tim Sanford, Cathy Sanford, Olivia Foshee, Amy Warren, Patricia Anderson, Willie Johnson, Myra Harris, Ginger Donahue (Regions Bank) and Pablo Diaz (Vicksburg Warren Partnership). Bottom L to R: Gwen Green, Kendra Reed, Rob Burnham (Instructor), De’Jonae Curtis and Anthony Curtis. Not pictured William Wooten. (photo courtesy Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce)

Retired businessman Rob Burnham facilitated the class and helped the participants plan out their businesses, assisting with marketing, accounting and distribution. Marcus Dufour and Pablo Diaz from the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce hosted the class, bringing in successful entrepreneurs as speakers including Kevin Roberts who owns Fit Chef Catering in Vicksburg.

“Every speaker gave us the opportunity to ask questions, and it definitely gave me the information I need to open a business, and I would recommend the class 100%,” said participant Willie Johnson.

Johnson was born and raised in Vicksburg. He’s now retired from the military and looking to launch a consulting business, which is what led him to attending the boot camp.

By having capable individuals at the boot camp such as James Harper from the Small Business Development Center at Hinds Community College, the participants were able to learn about available grants and other resources for entrepreneurs.

Starting a business can be stressful for first time entrepreneurs, but the boot camp provided planning advice to the participants, breaking down the information that participants need to launch their businesses.

“In the business process of starting and running a business, owners get very busy running the day-to-day aspects,” said boot camp participant Kendra Reed. “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp gave me the chance to step back and plan through the whole process to prepare my new company to be successful.”

Reed is the owner of Delta Dirt Shirt, and she was proud to be a graduating member of the camp.

Now that the camp has ended, the participants are in competition for a $1,000 seed grant for the best business plan presentation. A winner will be announced Dec. 8.

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