Meghan Kajihara serves as the Community Outreach VISTA for NewDay Services in Denton TX. In July, Meghan established new relationships with 9 local businesses with the hope to establish the Fatherhood EFFECT program with business owners as a resources for employees as well as a place where they can seek service referrals. By working with employees and enacting a meaningful change in their lives, the agency can help employers see the value of our work not only to their community but to their business and begin the process of turning these community contacts into donors. Meghan also spearheaded the effort to get Fatherhood EFFECT a spot at the Denton Mobile Food Pantry’s quarterly resource fair which will gain visibility for the organization not only with the other organizations present but also with the 150+ clients in attendance. The contacts Meghan has made will lead to new opportunities to increase volunteers and resources. The work Meghan does with NewDay Services uplifts and educates parents so they can provide stable home environments for children, curtailing child abuse before it can ever begin and putting a stop to destructive, comorbid factors that hurt a child’s probability of escaping poverty. She has seen the change begin in an HIV-positive father who came to the Fatherhood EFFECT program for resource referrals. Though he was previously long-term unemployed, he has found work and his son will be coming to stay with him. This will be the first time he has seen his son in many months and he is both nervous and excited to reunite with him. In fact, the kids’ activities database Meghan created was very helpful to him in planning activities for him and his son. As in the case with this father, Meghan and her NewDay Services colleagues continue to strive to connect people to resources, their community, and their children, no longer isolated by their challenges or anxieties.
Meghan Kajihara is a Community Outreach VISTA serving with NewDay Services for Children and Families in Denton, TX primarily through the Fatherhood EFFECT program. Fatherhood- Educating Fathers for Empowering Children Tomorrow (Fatherhood EFFECT) seeks to reduce child abuse and neglect by engaging fathers and father figures in preventative services. Meghan has built solid relationships with school district representatives from the Denton ISD, Lewisville ISD and Northwest ISD who combined serve 100,537 students. These individuals will help NewDay Services collaborate more closely with the school districts and provide outreach more effectively to community parents. The work Meghan does with NewDay Services uplifts and educates parents so they can provide stable home environments for children, curtailing child abuse before it can ever begin and putting a stop to destructive, comorbid factors that hurt a child’s probability of escaping poverty. The way NewDay Services helps strengthen families is by leading classes and support groups for parents, teaching them how to be present in the lives of the children and to learn how to understand and meet emotional needs for themselves and their families. They also provide individualized life coaching and mentorship, so these growing and learning parents always have someone to turn to on their journey. The key change seen in the 183 clients served is the transformation they undergo from anxious and alone into the parent they dreamed of being and that their children deserve. Clients have come to them with substance abuse issues and found sobriety. They have come to them homeless and unemployed, and found housing, work, and purpose. Above all, they leave connected to resources, their community, and their children, no longer isolated by their challenges or anxieties.
In May, NewDay Services’ VISTA Meghan Kajihara saw in full force the value of sustainability in her activities with the Fatherhood EFFECT program. The archival system she devised for NewDay Services’ Fort Worth office has already proved useful and is being used to help collect information for fleshing out a full history of the organization. In the Denton office, she has been particularly excited by her project of assembling a “go bag” for more spontaneous outreach opportunities. Modular in design and easily packed, the assembled “go bag” has already served her well at a major resource fair, making set up and clean up quick and simple. This bag of materials can be used by anyone in their office and is mobile enough to be taken to smaller meetings with individuals or potential community partners. It has been very satisfying for Meghan to see how sustainability does not always exist as a grand undertaking or organizational restructuring, but as small, cumulative changes that make everyday operations run a little more smoothly.
NewDay Services for Children and Families’ Community Outreach VISTA, Meghan Kajihara, continues her work on the agency’s organizational archive and has made meaningful progress. She is nearly done transcribing the testimonies of fathers who have participated in the FOCUS and EFFECT programs. Having these materials transcribed and organized will help NewDay perform qualitative analyses of their programs and see how they have developed over time, as well as acting as a resource for creating outreach materials. She has also started assembling templates for class materials that may be stored in the OneDrive and easily adapted after she is gone. The word for the month of April in the Fatherhood EFFECT program was “data”. Meghan found herself inundated with it this month, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. From survey results to survey writing to newsletter analytics, she had many different streams of data to learn from. The whole North Texas Fatherhood EFFECT team has been carefully considering their survey methodology as well as the information they survey for, and Meghan feels proud and excited to be able to be a part of this discussion. During the last EFFECT class cycle, she kept track of the people sending them referrals and wrote a special newsletter just for them, announcing the summer session of the Fatherhood EFFECT class. 84% of the recipients opened the email and they have since received a flurry of referrals. At the very end of the month, she pitched her idea for an analysis of class attendance data to get a better understanding of when and why participants may start to drop off, and what they can change to improve retention. Her supervisor was very receptive to the idea and she can’t wait to get started on it.
This month, Meghan spent quite a bit of time cleaning up her organization’s contact lists, adding new contacts, and training to use her organization’s Customer Relations Management (CRM) software. The effort is already paying off. Keeping track of outreaches has been simplified through access to the software and Meghan has found that it is much easier to keep NewDay’s work in the minds of community partners. As a result of the streamlined outreach with the CRM software, old contacts have reconnected and even sent referrals to the agency. NewDay has reawakened its engagement with Denton ISD and Child Protective Services and Denton County case workers are more engaged than ever. Late in the month, Meghan was gratified to see that some of her older work, the “Dadjectives” project, continues to pay dividends. The design, constructed from the compiled responses of EFFECT program participants, made for an eye-catching display at the Texas Fatherhood Summit in Austin. Program officers from Prevention and Early Intervention were reportedly impressed by the emotional growth demonstrated by EFFECT participants and Meghan is proud that her work was a part of that effort.
For Meghan, this month has been a month of progress manifesting in small but no less meaningful ways. Her word cloud diagrams, built from feedback provided by program participants, have proved to be compelling ways of visually demonstrating the emotional growth experienced by fathers in the Fatherhood EFFECT program. One of these word clouds is now featured prominently on NewDay Services’ recently-revamped website under the Fatherhood tab. The adjectives (or “dadjectives”, as Meghan has taken to calling them) were gathered from responses to the question, “How do you feel about being a father now that you have taken this class?” The most prominent answer among the cloud of “dadjectives” was “confident”, followed closely by “strengthened” and “loving”. It was deeply affirming for her to see that even small efforts during difficult times can help build strong, confident, loving families.
The efforts that VISTA Meghan Kajihara began in late 2016 for New Day Service’s Fatherhood EFFECT Program have begun to bear fruit. The Fatherhood EFFECT Program’s goal is to intervene with at risk families and provide education and concrete services to fathers, redirecting their lives to avoid any potential intervention agency contact and guide them away from the Child Welfare and Criminal Justice Systems and reduce child abuse. A class activity Meghan developed has gone over particularly well. The activity asked fathers to reflect on their goals as parents for the New Year and to set resolutions that they could work towards with their children. One father from the program took these goals to heart and recorded a video of himself repeating them. He watched the video every day to remind himself of what he was working towards. A few weeks later, he contacted Fatherhood EFFECT’s mentor-navigators to let them know that he had patched things up with out-of-state family members. His estranged adult children are now back in his life and he is proud and excited to be rebuilding a relationship with them. It was heartening and encouraging for Meghan to see how indirect service can still yield direct benefits to people experiencing a time of need.
School district and office closures during the holiday season made this month a great time for Meghan to continue her outreach work with NewDay Services by turning inward. She continued making overtures to potential community partners, but spent more time this month focusing on the dads her program already serves. It was important for her to contemplate how they can serve these fathers better, in terms of both their ability to provide service referrals and their support of their emotional journey. This month, she did research on the emotional benefits of journaling for men and she is working with her supervisor to see if this is could be a meaningful activity to the fathers NewDay is serving. Meghan also had the idea to incorporate the fathers’ aspirations for the upcoming new year in a group discussion or journal activity. The idea was so popular that it was incorporated into the class and shared with the Fatherhood EFFECT program’s Tarrant County counterpart.
Because the Fatherhood EFFECT program is very new to Denton County, it is always actively seeking referrals of fathers to its parenting classes. To further the program’s reach into the surrounding areas, VISTA Meghan Kajihara has focused on contacting groups in the communities of Lewisville and Sanger. The initial outreach Meghan made to churches and Parent-Teacher associations in these towns has been warm and productive, resulting in Fatherhood EFFECT’s mentor-navigators being put on the agenda to speak at 3 PTA meetings in different school districts. In addition to referrals already received from CPS, Meghan’s efforts to engage Fatherhood EFFECT directly with parent communities will improve their capacity to receive self-referrals from parents who may be in need of such services but do not know where to turn for help.
As a Community Outreach VISTA at New Day Services, you will help end poverty by rebuilding the lives of Denton County children and helping parents gain the tools they need to redirect their lives. Major functions will include accelerating the number of information contacts we are able to make in the community; providing support to the Mentor-Navigators; accompanying them on presentations; and making outreach calls to community services and providers to see how the Fatherhood EFFECT Program benefits the fathers in their programs. Applicants should possess good public speaking and communications skills, proficient computer skills, the ability to multi-task and have a positive attitude.