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Kristi House Initiatives Target Infants and Toddlers with Prevention and Therapy Programs

Growing attention over the past decade to infant mental health has begun to shed much needed light on an area previously overlooked as critical for child development and “school readiness.” As we now understand, foundations for empathy, trust, curiosity and competence are created in the first years of life. We know that the attachments to primary caregivers babies make are critical for determining their developmental path. And, we now recognize that although they cannot talk to us, babies and toddlers do feel and have emotions, and have different ways of communicating these feelings to adults.

The early social and emotional development of babies and toddlers is vulnerable to risk factors, which can lead to mental health problems. These factors are very similar to ones experienced by many Kristi House families. They include repeated exposure to violence, persistent fear and stress, abuse and neglect, severe chronic maternal depression, and biological factors such as low birth weight and prematurity. The good news is that infant mental health intervention for the baby and the significant adult(s) in the baby’s life can prevent or ameliorate the effects of negative early experiences.

Kristi House staff members are participating in a three-year, train-the-trainer infant mental health training program coordinated by Children’s Psychiatric Center in an effort to strengthen Kristi House’s expertise and practice in this area. Kristi House Program Director Ruthlyn Webster and Therapist Xiomara Sanchez are learning from leading experts brought to South Florida for the series of 24 intensive workshops. The training also includes managing a caseload of five clients ages 0 to 5 over the course of two years. Additionally, both staff members will be responsible for each training at least 25 professionals in South Florida on Infant Mental Health during the third year of the program.

Another program aimed at improving outcomes for children 0-3 is being launched with the support of Dade Community Foundation. Kristi House TIPS (Toddler & Infant Program for Siblings) was created for current Kristi House parents/caregivers who have younger infants and toddlers in the household. Through a 12-week parenting program conducted in partnership with The Linda Ray Intervention Center / University of Miami, TIPS seeks to better equip these parents/caregivers with knowledge and skills to prevent further incidence of sexual abuse.

The TIPS curriculum emphasizes the strong connection between language development, behavioral regulation and school readiness, and aims to improve parenting skills associated with those child outcomes. TIPS activities focus on supporting the child’s home environment, expanding and enriching parent-child interactions, altering attitudes about child-rearing so that parents are more authoritative than authoritarian, increasing the amount of stimulation that parents provide for their children, and increasing parental support networks. Kristi House staff will by trained by The Linda Ray Center staff to conduct the child-parenting sessions using the model Linda Ray developed for 0- to 3-year-old children in Miami’s most vulnerable families. ™

Material from Dr. Joy D. Osofsky and the Zero to Three Policy Center was used for background for this article.

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Kristi House: 10 Years of Healing the Hurt

In April 2006 Kristi House will mark its 10th anniversary of service for Miami-Dade sexually abused children and their families. A volunteer committee is busy making plans to mark this milestone in an event that will also pave the way for the future. Corporate partners are being sought to help create a community-wide celebration that will build awareness that Kristi House is here to help. If you or your company can participate, please contact Trudy Novicki at (305) 547-6836 or tnovicki@kristihouse.org.

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From the Executive Director

This year we are celebrating our 10th Anniversary at Kristi House. We have had many successes since we first began on our mission of creating a healing environment for child victims of sexual abuse and their families. Thousands of abused children have received services through Kristi House. Our outreach program has provided hundreds of educational classes in community schools on sexual abuse. Kristi House conferences have attracted attendees from across the country.

Through these years and milestones, the support of the Board of Directors, both programmatic and financial, has provided the backbone and stability of the organization.

Over the next few months, the Board of Directors and administrative staff of Kristi House are undertaking an intense period of strategic planning. We realize that if we are to stay on the course of our mission, Kristi House cannot rest on accomplishments, but must look toward the future. We are committed to protecting and healing the child victims of sexual abuse in our community. Programs must continue to grow, prevention efforts must increase, education must expand, and community collaboration must be strengthened.

Please consider becoming involved in this exciting vision to end child sexual abuse. It is a great time to become part of Kristi House as we set our goals for the years ahead. Call me, we need your support.

Warm regards,
Trudy Novicki

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Parents Provide Feedback

E very year Kristi House conducts focus groups with client parents to assess how well the center is serving client needs and fulfilling its mission. Below is a summary of the quantitative results from recent focus group parents, which reflected mostly positive experiences and outcomes from their Kristi House involvement. Feedback in the discussions revealed that the few low ratings related to communication and coordination of agencies involved in cases, which the Mulit-disciplinary Team knows is the greatest challenge in our complex system of care.

Staff was gratified that parents took the time to participate in the focus group sessions, and especially appreciated comments such as this from a parent:

“I am very grateful there is great help when something like this happens to my daughter. I’m happy and thankful to know that there are good people to help when we need it most.”

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A Client Poem

"Thanks"

A child like me who needed your help you did not turn away.
You said come right in and tell me about your problem today.

You sat and you listened and it’s like you knew what I was going through.
I don’t know how a child could ever come to Kristi House and not love a therapist like you.

I could have been dead, I could have taken my problem to my head, and I could have been on the street begging bread.

But you showed me that there is more to life than that, and that
God brought me into this world for a purpose.

Because of those encouraging words, I fought and held on to
dear life and am here today,
Now I can lift up my hands and say,
“Thank you Jesus for another day.”

It’s been hard for me; it’s been
hard for you,
You have to come to work and listen to people’s problems everyday,
And a bad word about those people you did not say.

I would really like to be like you, a soldier that doesn’t just stand up for her rights only, but for others too.

You’re always fighting, fighting for
the rights of others, and I just want you to know keep being the loving, sharing, and caring soldier that
you are.

Love Always,
a 14 year old client at Kristi House

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Kristi House Children Enjoy “Art Day”

Kristi House volunteers and staff hosted a day of fun and artistic expression for children, siblings and friends in October. An early childhood specialist, challenged the children to create pictures of things they like, broadly defined– people, places, toys, pets, etc. The children made their masterpieces on note cards as a token of appreciation for donors whom everyone at Kristi House appreciates so much. In addition to take-home art projects, a goodie bag for each child and a pizza lunch, the children had a memorable day filled with glitter, glue, markers and crayons.

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STAFF SPOTLIGHT
Waleska Aguilar: Many Years, Many Hats

Kristi House’s Building Manager Waleska Aguilar is one of the organization’s longest employees, racking up six years of service this year. She’s also one of Kristi House’s most versatile, with “Building Manager” actually just one part of her title and job responsibilities.

Wally, as she is known to all, is also the Finance Assistant, which means she is the front line person for all accounts receivable and payable and all the tasks associated with funds coming into and going out of the organization. She is the agency’s person responsible for Medicaid and Victims of Crime Act billings, two important sources of reimbursements for services Kristi House delivers for free to clients. Wally also ensures other grantors and funding sources, such as the Department of Children and Families, get the financial paperwork and reports they require to issue payments to Kristi House.

While most of Wally’s financial work has a somewhat regular, predictable pattern of tasks to be accomplished, the building management side of Wally’s job is less so, as mechanical failures and building problems know no schedule. On a daily basis there’s interfacing with the outside contactors that service the facility, such as the janitorial crew and repair workers, as well as a host of building inspections and maintenance schedules to keep up with.

“I learn a lot of things with the variety,” she said. “Problems are just a way of teaching a lesson...for next time.”

The biggest challenge is, as one might expect, accommodating everyone among the 60-some employees of Kristi House, the State Attorney’s Office and Guardian Ad Litem, who work at the facility.

“It takes a lot of patience. Like in trying to set up people to service the building and accommodating all staff and their schedules to cause the least disruption,” she said. “Sometimes — a lot of the time — it’s the air conditioning. Some areas are hot while other areas in the building are cold, and sometimes, it’s just the people whose temperatures are off,” she says, with a wry smile.

But working with everyone, at all levels, is the part Wally likes best about being at Kristi House, where she began as a receptionist before the succession of promotions and added job responsibilities that led to her multiple-hats role. She said she sees Kristi House as an extended family and as a team where all players “are here to serve children, directly and indirectly, in our various jobs.”

Trust is an important ingredient in the success of that team. “It’s important that I can trust my coworkers, and vice versa — it’s nice to know that I am trusted,” she said. “I feel one hundred percent supported by my boss [Rima Shahin], Trudy and the Board.”

Wally, a native of Honduras who has been in the U.S. for about 10 years, keeps busy in her off time with her husband and children, Christopher, 11 and Megan, 8. Between reading, drawing, church groups and school activities, the family is kept very occupied. They also have a new puppy, a schnauzer, at the North Miami Beach home they moved into a little over a year ago.

Life is busy for Wally, on and off the job. But her specialty is keeping it all running smoothly, and seemingly effortlessly.

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Touch A Heart Dinner & Auction
Sold Out Event Benefits Sexually Abused Children

The 6th Annual Kristi House Touch a Heart Dinner & Auction was a sold-out success raising an amazing $280,000 on January 7th at Miami’s Four Seasons. Two hundred forty guests, along with outstanding sponsors and an auction of exquisite wines, unique gifts and exclusive getaways, made this an outstanding fundraising evening in support of Kristi House.

“Through this special event, the children we serve and help at Kristi House have benefited from the generosity of some of Miami’s most philanthropic families,” Event Chair and Board Member Margaret Nee said. “On behalf of these children who have been so tragically victimized by sexual abuse, we are truly grateful for our community’s support and for helping to touch the hearts of children in need.”

Hundreds of white roses donated by Esmeralda Farms and arranged by Layne Tidwell Designs and hundreds of votive candles created an ambiance of sparkling, understated elegance. Guests were greeted with champagne and hors d'oeuvres, after which they feasted on a five-course gourmet meal with accompanying wine pairings. Eli Valdez of National Distributing Company was the evening’s wine purveyor and helped procure two once-in-a-lifetime trips to Ravenswood Winery and Icon Estates in Napa. Mike Bittel of Sunset Corners Fine Wines & Spirits was instrumental in securing the evening’s wine and dinner donations and was also responsible for the extensive descriptions of the various donated wine lots. A special selection of Ravens-wood wines which are not available for sale in Florida were flown in from California just for the event. Morgan Peterson, Ravenswood Winery’s vintner, enchanted all by recounting a few winemaking moments as well as describing these special wines to the guests.

The live auction was anchored by auctioneer Bill Panoff, who has helped raise millions of dollars for charity around the country. Auction items included a week’s stay at a home in the Hamptons; a week’s stay at a home in Ocean Reef, an Italian Feast dinner in one of Miami's most beautiful homes, flight simulator instruction, a vacation to Romora Bay and Casa de Campo, many bottles of rare and exotic wines, and a stunning collection of jewelry from Doral Jewelers and Krieger Watches. A selection of fabulous cruises were donated by The Yachts of Seabourne, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival and two cruises on Galapagos Explorer II. Airfare was provided by American Airlines.

Guest favors included note cards made by the children at Kristi House and sterling ring holders donated by Liz Hogan of EWM Realty. Jazz and vocals were provided by Be Bob Productions, and Harvey Bilt provided photography.

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors & Hosts

Gold Sponsors
Colson Hicks Eidson
Nancy & Rob Hector, Jr.
Judy & George McCleary
National Distributing Company
Northern Trust
Ravenswood Winery
Sunset Corners Fine Wines and Spirits

Silver Sponsors
Diane & Reginald Hardy
Carol & Marc Iacovelli
Kobrand Corporation
Regions Bank
Taittinger Champagne

Bronze Sponsors
Greenberg Traurig LLP
Hogan & Hartson LLP
Mary & Steve Lynch
South Pointe Realty
United Automobile Insurance Group

Table Hosts

Abadin, Jaramillo, Cook & Heffernan
Emma & Sia Afra
Katie & Eddy Arriola
Julia & David Bianchi
Berta & James Blecke
Debbie & Gary Burman
Celebrity Cruises
Mona & Afif Chanouha
Lindy & Dean Colson
Jodi & Bob Dickinson
Swanee & Paul DiMare
Sue & Doug Gallagher
Barbara & Walter Hinterkopf
Holland & Knight
Peggy & Douglas Hudson
Joy & Charles Intriago
Margaret Nee & Fredric Saunier
Carol & Al Novak
Sheri L. Orlowitz
Courtney & Darryl Parmenter
Royal Caribbean Cruises
Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP
Lydia & Rudy Prio Touzet
Sharon & Marc Watson
White & Case LLP
Judy & Jon Zeder

Special Thanks to Our Auction Donors
Anne & Alan Adams
American Airlines
Amerijet
Sheldon & Florence Anderson
ArtExpress
Bacardi USA
Peter Benjamin & Kate Callahan
Britto Central, Inc.
Bulgari
Callaway Golf
Carnival Cruise Line
Canodros
Michael Cleary and Teri Galvez
Bernard Darty
Diane & Allen DeOlazarra
Jodi & Bob Dickinson
Doral Jewelers
Financial Advisor's Network
Florida Crystals Corp.
Four Seasons-Miami
Robin & Gary Fox
Sue & Doug Gallagher
Nancy & Robert Hector
Peggy & Doug Hudson
Icon Estates
Ike Behar
InterContinental Hotels Group
Interval International
Joy & Charles Intriago
Jake’s Bar & Grill
Joe Allen Miami Beach
Joe’s
Thomas Kramer
Krieger Watch Corp.
Kristine Michael
LaGorce
Loews Hotel-Miami Beach
Maggie Silverstein Photography
Miami City Ballet
National Distributing Company
Neiman Marcus-Bal Harbour
Ocean Reef Club
Parmenter Realty Partners
Portofino Wine Bank
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Wine Merchants
St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery
Saks-Dadeland
Saratoga Water
Debra & Dennis Scholl
Smart Home Designer, Inc.
Smith & Wollensky
Bubbles & Steven Smolev
South Beach Ties
Fernando Sucre
Sunset Corners Fine Wines & Spirits
Sylvano
Natalie & Jeffrey Tanen
The Forge
The Links at Fisher Island Club
Touch
Two Chefs Restaurant
Yachts of Seabourn
Sharon & Marc Watson
Teresa V-F and Lee Weintraub
Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe
Lee & Christopher Zoller

6th Annual Touch a Heart Gourmet Dinner & Fine Wine Auction Photo Gallery

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Annual Holiday Party for Kristi House Families
is a Hit

Clients and families got a strong dose of holiday cheer at the annual Kristi House party hosted in their honor by volunteers. Tricia LeClair and Leana Marks orchestrated another special evening this year filled with hands-on activities, music, Santa Claus, food and fun for all. Held at the Betty Boo Party place in central Miami-Dade, the location was perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy holiday fun and games.

In addition to raising supporting funds and tapping into their own pockets for this special night, Leana and Tricia personally selected and wrapped new presents for every child to take home.

Special thanks also goes to the following additional underwriters of the evening: CMH Industries, Inc.; Lauren J. Lecata; Joy Intriago; Carol Novak and Margaret Nee.

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Volunteer Update

Kristi House’s dedicated volunteer team for 2005-2006 is made up of Lin Bentolila, Ruth Balestra, Sherry Cowan, Lidia Earl, Julie Thornton, Regina Menda and Amy Rothstein. We welcome new volunteers Romi Rielo and Cary Gonzalez to our volunteer team.

Congratulations to Ruth Balestra who celebrated her one year anniversary of volunteering with us in November and to Lin Bentolila on her second full year of volunteering for Kristi House which we marked on September 23, 2005.

We greatly appreciate the wonderful work our volunteers do for Kristi House. They have endless energy and compassion. They are an outstanding group of people.

–Lauren Diamond, Volunteer Coordinator

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