Eyes Wide Open Parenting

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I would like to introduce you to Emi and Neumann.  Neumann is the first mother-raised infant Japanese Macaque at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines Iowa in over 20 years.


My family first encountered these two on family vacation in early July.  You couldn’t help but notice that Emi was extremely protective of Neumann, she basically controlled his every move.


We watched them for a good thirty minutes and we did not see her let go of him once. Hard to tell, but he doesn’t look very happy to me, what do you think?

Then I overheard a high school – aged girl say, “I bet she is exhausted at the end of the day, and I thought “yes, yes I am.”  You see, I have three kiddos myself and have realized that it is extremely easy to fall into the overprotective or even the dreaded overbearing parent just like Emi.

As we watched them in their habitat, we could see other monkeys that wanted to interact with Neumann but couldn’t because of Emi’s protectiveness.  It is so eye-opening when you start to think of this from the human perspective.  How many times am I hesitant to let my kids go to someone else’s house because I don’t know everything about their parents?  How many times do I not let my son do certain things because I don’t think that it is “safe” for him?  Am I holding them by the arm, not letting them experience life?  Where is the line between keeping our children safe and letting them problem solve on their own?

The term “helicopter parent” is thrown around a lot now. This parenting style is basically hovering over your children so that they have a hard time making their own decisions or making it in the world outside of your house.  When I was thinking about this blog, I came across this article from the Huffington Post that talks about what this parenting style does to your children. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-ways-to-tell-you-were-raised-by-helicopter-parents_us_5609de6ee4b0dd850308e260

Sometimes I know I do things for my children because it is easier and faster for me just to do it myself.  My sister-in-law has a saying, “I will not do anything for my child that they can do themselves.”  This means picking out their clothes for church, filling their glass of water at the dinner table, tying their shoes for the hundredth time, even though you are already five minutes late.  These are just small things, right? Plus, I am only going to do this while they are still young.  This is what I tell myself. How about you? What are you telling yourself?  Soon, the little things become BIG things that they really should be deciding for themselves.   As parents we need to have our eyes wide open and notice the longer term impact of our choices and how we parent.

So, this is what I have started to do.  First of all, I am trying to be more aware of the things I do for them that they could be doing on their own.  They can sort, fold, and put away their own laundry. They clean up after supper, and load the dishwasher. I know that in the past I do these things on my own because I don’t want to hear them complain or fight another battle before bed.  But the time to start the battle is now, not when they are 17 and soon getting ready to leave the house.  Second, I let them make their own choice and walk away.  Yes, you read that right, walk away.  When your son wants to take the training wheels off his sister’s bike to teach her how to ride without them, smile, give encouragement and walk away. Lots of life lessons are going to be learned.  Be there for them to patch up the skinned knee, wipe away the tears, and give hugs. You are still their parent after all. Lastly, children can understand reasoning pretty early in life.  When my daughter asks me a question such as “what happens when…”  I will answer her back, “what do you think will happen?”  I am trying to start the problem- solving process now, because I want my children to be successful, productive adults that can play happily with the other Neumann’s in this world.


Mindy Hadley, on behalf of the Quakerdale Team.


The Greatest Present

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One of the great things about working at Quakerdale is the investment that our leadership puts into staff at all levels.  One of the ways that occurs is through reading books and having discussions with co-workers about how we can make improvements in the areas that are outlined in the book.  The Present is a book that we recently went though – it was a very quick read, but had some significant points that were made through the story’s fable. Spoiler Alert – I am going to tell you what the Present is, so keep reading at your own discretion.

The Present has a fable that is the main part of the book, but is bookended by how others introduce the fable to others and use it in their lives.  In the fable, there is an old man who gives out wisdom, much like Yoda, a little bit at a time to a neighbor boy as he is growing up and through adulthood.  He lets the young man know that there is a Present that everyone can have that will make them happy and more successful, however they define success.  The young boy doesn’t understand what the present is and for a long time believes that it is something that someone would give to him.  Once he becomes a young man in the business world, he is passed over for a promotion that he expected, even though he did not put in the necessary work.  He also has a girlfriend who breaks up with them during that same time.

Through introspection alone in nature, he discovers that the Present is actually the present moment.  If he is continually focused on the future – what he will do later after he gets off work, when he get the promotion, after he is in a committed relationship, etc, rather than what he is doing right now, he is distracted and not in the Present.  By focusing on what is happening right then, he is able to enjoy doing what he needs to – including doing tasks he put off because he believed them to take too long or be too difficult.  He was more attentive to those around him and was able to enjoy relationships more.

After a while, focusing on the Present only got him so far and other conflicts arose.  He was working with another person who wasn’t pulling her weight, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get it done by himself on time.  He returned to the old man and learned about the impact that the Past can make.  The old man suggested to him that he learn from the Past, apply it to the Present, and then move on.  The young man went back and addressed his concern with his co-worker, who made improvements to her performance and they were able to work better as a team.

The young man was doing well with learning from the Past and focusing on the Present and he received promotions and increased responsibilities.  With the increased responsibilities, he had difficulty prioritizing and he sought out his mentor.  The old man talked about planning for the Future – by planning for the Future, the young man did not need to be anxious or overly-focused on the Future.  He needed to come up with short term and long term goals to keep him on the right track and engaged in the Present.

Eventually, the old man died, and the young man went to the visitation.  He was surprised to see how many others the old man had impacted – there were people of all ages there.  After some reflection, the young man realized that the old man had lived his life with Purpose – he was trying to “help others become happy and successful” (pg. 74).  The young man then began passing along what he learned to others around him.

Here is a great video that also paints a picture of the book:


The Present has several good ideas on ways to focus on the Present, learn from the Past, and plan for the Future and is worth the time to read.  While the book does not delve into spiritual matters, I believe there are ways to incorporate what God tells us.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

When we are anxious about the Future, we can remember the following passage: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:31-34 NIV

How we define success is an individual decision, although God, through the Bible, gives direction.  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39 NIV.  By focusing and being Present for our lives, we can better do what we’ve been instructed to do in the Bible.  How many times have we missed a chance to focus on God in the Present, being thankful for all He has given us?  When have we missed an opportunity to serve others because we were so wrapped up in the Past or the Future, we missed what was right in front of us?

357bc0742fe714f139cc99eb3df2daabSarah Zollar, on behalf of the Quakerdale Team.

Johnson, S. (2003). The Present. New York, NY: Doubleday.


This could be more important than teaching your kids to drive!

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This could be more important than teaching your kids to drive!


The last six months or so, Quakerdale developed a research team to help families learn about internet safety and cyber safety. As a matter of fact, universities and colleges are now beginning new cyber security programs to chase hackers and digital bandits.  We have been learning about the trends and facts about internet safety and e safety!   We talked to professionals and sifted through the information to find what is real and what is not.

Findlaw.com Survey of Parents

I want to give you a taste of what we have found.
One thing that many parents don’t realize are the dangers of the internet for their kids…. AND they don’t know the dangers that exist for them as parents either!

Sure, there are viruses out there that clog up the operations of your computer and ways people even steal your identity, but there is a lot worse than that!

It seems that many of us have become numb or we just don’t know what dangers exist out there on the internet.   We don’t know what it takes to stay safe online.  Many of us live in a world of complacency.

girl-is-a-victim-of-abductionHere are just a few of the internet dangers we found happening:

  • Children who develop lifelong fears and sexual addictions because they were exposed to violence and perverse sexual material
  • Parents in legal and financial trouble due to choices made by their children on the internet and social media
  • Teens abducted after finding an internet friend (predator in disguise)
  • Children who learn illegal skills like bomb making or computer hacking
  • Children hurting themselves or hurt by others by cyber bullying
  • Just playing games on the Xbox or watching Netflix can be hazardous according  to a Forbes tech article.

Parents and children who are on the internet need to be alert to these dangers and make sure they institute the right safeguards.  There are two types of safeguards:

1)       Software programs that you must install on your computer, phone or tablet. (This is called cyber security.)

2)      Parental and child readiness and awareness.  (This is the real key to cyber security).

You see it isn’t enough to just download a software protection program and consider everything safe.  The easy part is to find a cyber security program to keep viruses and malware away.  Everyone does it already.  Real internet safety requires user awareness where parents and children understand the dangers and have the ability to move through and around these dangers.   It starts at a young age with gradually increasing levels of exposure and freedom.  It requires an intentional plan orchestrated by the parents.

We found nothing substitutes for training and education.  Nobody can do it for you and no one magically becomes ready for the dangers of the internet.  Just like buying a person a car does not prepare them for driving on the roads.

Each of us must prepare for and be ready for the dangers and we need our kids ready too! The responsibilities of learning these things and protecting our families cannot be delegated to a program, school teachers, classmates or anyone else.  In this article we find that even baby monitors can bring people into your home without your permission.  It is a little hard to believe that a stranger could be talking to your baby and taking pictures of them in their crib, but technology and internet safety needs are real and growing.

After reading that article about the baby monitor, you might want to completely disconnect from the internet, but that really isn’t the answer  either.  The internet is how our world works and trying to isolate from it has its own dangers too.  Kids need to learn about it properly because their livelihood will likely utilize the internet.  There are  great things the internet brings!  We now live in an internet culture!

To protect your children, you must learn for your children’s safety, and your own.  Internet safety is not restricted to your computer.  Our phones and tablets are computers too, and don’t forget anything that is hooked up to the internet is an internet security threat – just like the baby monitor, video games or even your wifi thermostat for your heater.  It is your job to protect yourself, and your family.

We use a term called developmental readiness for preparing children for the internet culture.  Your child has to be developmentally ready.  Developmental readiness is individual to the child. Your child might be developmentally ready at 8 years of age to have a half hour of unsupervised internet time, where my child may still not be ready at the age of 13!

Parents have to be aware of the internet dangers and then be able to figure out when their child is ready for more freedom and responsibility on the internet or social media.  You must make sure your child is safe and ready to be on the internet or social media or they can get caught in illegal behavior, Internet dangers, cyber bullying and other internet dangers.

We have more to share on this, but we are curious to hear from you.

What are you doing to protect your home and children from cyber risks?  What can you share with our community about cyber bullying or other internet dangers?  What questions do you have on this topic? How have you learned about internet safety?  Please share.

If you value this information instead of just liking it be sure to share it with your friends.!

The Quakerdale Team

Residential Treatment: An Interview with Rob Talbot

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by Dan Smith on February 19th, 2015


DAN:  I’m on the phone this afternoon with Rob Talbot, Executive Director of Quakerdale. And we’re going to have a little discussion this afternoon about residential treatment and just kind of get to know it, where it’s going. So Rob, welcome, glad that you could join me today.  Tell me a little bit about RT, residential treatment, what is it?

RobTalbotB&W_SMALLERROB:  Well, residential treatment really is a contract that we’ve done with the state of Iowa for decades. Some of the parts of it have changed a little bit, but for the most part it’s about behavioral skills training for adolescents. It’s teaching them coping skills, how to manage their anger, how to communicate better, how to have better social skills and to help their family to work better together.

DAN:  So you mentioned that it’s a contract service that you do, who is that contract with?

ROB:   We work with the State of Iowa, and the Department of Family and Children’s Services. We have kids who come through social services and even kids who come through probation or juvenile courts.

Dan:  And what’s the typical length or stay of one of the residents when they come?

Rob:   At this point in time, it’s somewhere around 7 to 9 months that a youth would come. At the same time, if they are in our program, we would also be working with their family; they would be having regular family visits and helping them learn the skills they needed to learn together.

Dan:  And how long has Quakerdale been involved in RT?

Rob:   Well, a long, long time. You know to a certain degree since the 1970’s. It’s really the way that Quakerdale grew from being kind of a small farm program to being one of the largest ones in the state in the 70’s and into the 80’s. So there’s always been a contract or agreement with the State to help them kids. It turned around to treatment types of things where we’re actually … I guess I didn’t mention earlier we do counseling, family counseling, and individual counseling with the kids, and that happened more in the 90’s when  that was more of a part of the treatment services.

Dan:  So since the 70’s there’s probably been a lot of changes, a lot of trends. Can you kind of give us an idea of where it started, how it’s kind of moved a little bit, and where you’re seeing it’s trendy now in terms of the service and how its provided and where it’s going?

Rob:   Yes. It really has been, just like everything, it changes along the way, but you know it started out in the 70’s where there were really no strings attached what the kids could do. They came from all over the place, and then we could do lots of creative things with them. They helped out on the farm, they had all kinds of jobs and things. And then that changed because that was when child labor laws came into play. In the 80’s and 90’s it moved more into treatment so a lot of group treatment, a lot of groups and therapy and that continues to this day. It stays very, very intense kind of treatment services that we do. And it’s just evolved along the way and become more and more of a therapeutic or a treatment type of setting for kids.

Dan:  What are some of the current trends that you’re looking at now in terms of where it looks like conversations with the State, in terms of what RT might look like in future?

Rob:   Well, the big thing now is that our educational institutions and the State are all saying that this kind of services that we’ve done for a long time isn’t good for kids. And to be honest with you, there’s lots of people who don’t agreement with that. But it’s a trend that’s happening right now. And so it’s because of that, the State isn’t utilizing it as much as they used to. And so that means it drives up the costs when it doesn’t get used as much. And it’s really something that we’ve decided that we need to do some other things. It’s not that we don’t want to do it. It’s just that the State, who has always sent us the kids, says that they don’t need it or want it anymore, and so we are responding to that. We’ve been doing that in several different ways through the years, which has included changing utilization of our cottages and doing different and more creative things with them.

Dan:  So what is the State looking at to either supplement or replace residential treatment, where are they going?

Rob: The biggest thing that they really do want to do is in-home care. That’s what they call counseling in the home of the family who’s in need. And we do a lot of that, we’ve been doing a lot of that for some time. Probably as much of that as we used to do in residential care, we do about with as many families in their homes now than in our buildings. And what’s happened is as we moved into this reality, we’ve closed down some of our group homes, our treatment homes. And, so you know, the money that we’re using to underwrite the state programs – because they never have paid what it really costs to do the services – we taken those dollars that we used to add in to pay for the cost of the residential treatment services, and we’ve been starting new ministries; and so there’s all kinds of new things that have started over the last several years, such as our Promise Academy for kids and our Basketball Prep Academy Program, our Van Orman House for transitional living – women who are homeless and need to find a place for them and their kids, and they need to get skills. New emergency shelter in Waterloo, and community counseling services that really are growing and changing with the State – those are contracts. But also like in Marshalltown, we’ve also started a Ranch, we’ve always had a Ranch, we started an equine assisted learning services and psychotherapy services. So using our facilities in new and creative ways to make a difference and fill in gaps where people aren’t being served.

Dan:  It almost sounds like it’s … an indirect result of this is an opportunity for Quakerdale and others to do things in a completely new and different way that might actually have a more significant or long lasting impact, not just with the state contracts, but also in the private sector as well.

Rob:   Well, it’s true, I mean the reality is that we used to work really hard to get the State to change their mind on their opinions. And instead of really trying to do things, or telling them they need to pay us more and things like that, which certainly, if we’re doing a service for them, the law says  they’re supposed to pay the cost, but they just don’t do that. So instead of worrying about that we’ve really moved into saying, “What are the gaps in our community? How can we help out?” And really our ministry is to encourage hope, faith and growth in the communities and families we serve. So just because we’ve always done one thing doesn’t mean it has to always or will always be that way. And so we’re really seeking and looking for great opportunities to make a difference with other folks, other ways.

Dan:  And so in light of that are you also seeing other trends outside of where the State is going, that are having significant impact on how and the way that Quakerdale does a ministry, not only with the residential treatment program but across the board. Let’s say with staffing issues, or funding issues – what else is out there that’s impacting the service industry?

Rob:   I really find, becoming really very, very aware of lately, is our workforce issues. We have a very small workforce that’s available to us. We’re really having a hard time finding staff who want to do what we do. It’s hard work. It takes a certain kind of person and many of the people who’ve done this kind of work are retiring. And so we’re really struggling to find people who have a real heart for kids and families and want to do whatever it takes to do that. So, you know, there’s really three things that are going on right now that are impacting especially residential treatment. And the first thing is the workforce. It’s changing – and we’ve had some pretty high qualifications that are expected of them as we do these contracts, certain degrees and certain amounts of experience that are required, and those folks are not applying, and sometimes when they’re applying they’re not staying. So it’s a real big challenge. Another big thing is that the services are underfunded by the State, it’s very expensive to do. And they’re just not sending as many kids as they used to. So probably the third most important influence in residential treatment right now is they want the stay to be shorter and shorter. And so, the State is saying our contract is going to say maybe you’ll have 30 days to help a kid, where it used to be 9 months. And so the type of service that we are expected to do is in some ways seeming to be unrealistic and difficult to provide. Those are the three big things that are really hitting residential treatment at this point in time.

Dan:  If you were to take a look at the number of people that Quakerdale has served since the 70’s in the residential treatment program, can you give us a kind of an idea of the numbers that you were serving earlier, maybe at its peak time, where that is now, and then maybe speak a little bit, well, let’s just talk about that for a minute.

Rob:   In the late 70’s and moving into the 80’s, Quakerdale was one of the largest providers of residential services. I’m not sure you would necessarily call it treatment back then. But of residential services in the state, and maybe one of the larger ones in the nation, we had over 160 beds at least for some sort of time. And, you know, as time has passed and the perception of residential services has been changing over the decades, today we really only have 20 beds; and it used to be 30 just earlier this year. But we had to close one of our programs in Manning. And so we’re really down from our 160 plus down to 20 residential treatment beds at Quakerdale. And again, that’s for the three reasons that I explained before, that the high expense and if the State underfunds it, the high expectations, and that’s it just not what the future’s looking really hard for it. And then our workforce issues are some real challenges, and probably one of the biggest reasons we had to close. The last one we had kids to help but we couldn’t find the staff to do the job, we couldn’t find them and keep them. And so it was really a frustrating and tragic situation to be honest with you.

Dan:  Well as we look at the future … Obviously Quakerdale is a ministry, and as a ministry it relies very heavily on the support of volunteers, both in their time and their talent and their treasure. As you take a look at where Quakerdale is going and it’s continued desire to serve those people that need services, how might the public get behind where Quakerdale’s going and support your effort and the initiatives that you’ve got going?

Rob:   We’ve got a great group of people, who’s partnered with us for literally decades, and we’re very, very blessed by that, and we’re very, very thankful for that. We know also that that group of people is growing older and we’re losing many of them. We’ve been blessed to have them as friends, but we’re losing them. And we know we’ve got to get new, younger people involved, to catch our vision, catch our mission, and you know one of the first ways is volunteering . There’s all kinds of ways to volunteer and some would say if you’re going to volunteer at Quakerdale if you have to spend time with kids and that’s true. You will be around kids some, but pretty much any gift or talent that you’ve got. More and more high skilled skills that you may have, to help out in the offices are a real blessing to us. And then also that I mentioned before that we need workers who have the heart for ministry. So if you know of somebody or if you yourself that you have a heart for ministry, it’s not a big paycheck, but it is a big payoff for you to make a difference in people’s lives and we are blessed to have a great opportunity in providing that for people. And then always there are the financial partners that are vital to our future, and I realize that in this day and age that many of the people that have resources, financial resources, don’t really understand the needs in our community they are not really able to even maybe fathom some of the things that these kids and families go through because they’re removed from that. But Quakerdale is right there in the middle of it, we’re a great partner to be able to help you find ways to help others that you didn’t even really knew existed and so those are some of the great ways that people can be involved with Quakerdale.

Dan:  If I was interested in maybe taking a look at what that next step might be for me, either as a volunteer or a potential financial partner, what would my next step be?

Rob:   I think if you’re comfortable on the computer, on the internet, I would encourage you to take a look at our website, get a little bit of a feel when you go to our website, or go to Facebook and you put in some of the names of the things that we do, you’ll be able to see all kinds of interesting things going on, that might help you find ways that are special and interest you a little bit more than others. And also just giving us a call and say,”Hey, what can I do to help or here’s what I’d like to do. Will it work?” and we’ll be glad to talk to you about that, and come visit you even and see how we can join you in the things that you want to do for the Lord, or what’s heavy in your heart, and help you find a great way to do ministry with us.

Dan:  Well Rob, thank you so much for your time and we just really appreciate what Quakerdale does, for 164+ years, serving the youth and families and communities of Iowa. And we certainly wish the Lord’s blessing on what you’re doing and seeing what Quakerdale looks like 10 years from now, sounds like it could be significantly different.

Rob:   It’s going to be an exciting thing to see what God does next. Thank you.

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