The award-winning Communications Committee, which is charged with producing Inspired Leadership
, has decided to start a new series of articles called “How I Give Back.” The idea behind these articles is to learn more about how IPMA members and their firms give back to their communities and the legal industry. This is a great way for IPMA members to share a bit about themselves and their firms, for the rest of us to learn a bit more about other members of the association, to hear different ideas of how we can be involved in our communities and maybe even inspire some members to start giving back. I am honored to be able to write the first article of this series. If you are interested in writing about how you give back or if you know a member who you think should be featured, please reach out to our HQ staff or me. Here we go!
HOW I GIVE BACK
In our younger years, my wife, Renee, and I always thought that we would make a big impact on something, but we never knew for sure what that would be. We served in soup kitchens, sat on boards, were active in our church - and I even taught Sunday school for 10 YEARS! Meanwhile, I also did my best to overcommit myself with committee work and leadership roles within the IPMA and other local legal associations. I enjoy being active within our association and making it the best it can possibly be, particularly by encouraging people to take leadership roles on the committee level and the board. It’s very rewarding work.
During my time on the Executive Committee of the IPMA Board of Directors (circa 2012), my wife and I decided that we had talked about being foster parents long enough and that we should move forward with this plan. By early 2013, we had completed all of the required training and the home study and we, along with our then 12- and 5-year-old children, were ready to help kids in need. Before signing on the dotted line, however, there was death in the family, a job change for me, a move to a different house and a surgery before we officially became certified foster parents and could start accepting children in our home on August 28, 2013 at 10:30 am. We were assured by our certification worker that because we were only going to take one child and not sibling groups, it would likely take weeks or months to receive our first placement, which we received at approximately 4:30 pm that same day. And although we had several other children come and go from our home, that little boy, now known as Andy, officially became a part of our family two years later.
We loved being foster parents and bringing these children into our home and observing our biological children love on them and play with them. We also loved getting the looks when we would be out and about in the neighborhood and at church - those crazy foster parents always have so many children with them! We took a step back from fostering after Andy’s adoption to focus on our family. During this time, we had to also make the decision as to whether we would continue to foster in the future.
After taking about six months to think, we decided we still wanted to be involved in the foster care community but that we would not continue to foster at this time. Instead, we set out to form a non-profit to help support and nurture foster parents with the goal of helping them foster better and foster longer. And so we formed Foster Source. We set out to give foster parents things we think would have softened and improved our foster parenting experience.
In mid-2016 Foster Source hit the ground running - no, SPRINTING - with Renee at the helm as the Executive Director and I as her Trophy Husband (yes, I have the t-shirt)! We started hosting educational sessions for two hours on Saturday mornings and we always provided free childcare so that the foster parents could attend the session together without the need of a babysitter, who would have to be background checked before they could stay with their children. We looked for speakers and therapists who could speak on all the latest and greatest therapies that showed great results with children from traumatic backgrounds. We started having trauma-informed yoga for foster parents and other sessions on working through secondary trauma. We’ve hosted panels of elected officials, human services staff and judges and judicial staff. These panels give the foster parents in Colorado a unique insight into what is happening in the various governmental bodies that work on foster care-related matters. Additionally, we have hosted a foster care alumni panel consisting of various members of our community who spent time in care as a child or youth. The opportunity to speak to adults who grew up in care and the obstacles they overcame to hear what they wish they could have said to their foster parents is priceless. Most importantly, we host support groups for foster parents to come together and to talk and share what is on their hearts and minds, as no one understands and gets what a foster parent is going through quite like another foster parent.
Foster Source is also a resource to foster parents for things like weighted items, bunk beds, mattresses, diapers, and most anything else that would make the fostering journey lighter. We received donated tickets from the Colorado Rockies and we’ve held events with Colorado Rapids. We’ve helped a long-time foster family install an egress window and finish their basement so that they could continue fostering medically fragile children, and we replaced bedroom carpet for a foster family who had a previous placement who acted out by urinating in his room.
The pandemic has been very interesting for Foster Source. Fortunately, we had already done all of the fundraising in 2019 to move to a virtual classroom setting in order to better serve foster parents from around the state and it was well-into the implementation phase by the time we were quarantined. We always capped our in-person sessions at 50 foster parents, because we knew that always meant at least 50 children in the childcare, which is typically all our volunteers and facilities can handle. By our third educational session in quarantine, we broke the 100-attendee mark and to increase our Zoom capacity. Our current record set in mid-June was 250 registered attendees to learn about implicit bias, which is always a timely topic for foster parents. We’ve also received funding to help foster parents out with freezer meals, diapers, grocery gift cards and online mental health services for foster parents who are struggling being quarantined and on the brink of disrupting placements.
Along our journey, we have been so fortunate to find so many generous people who have donated to our cause, many of which are former foster parents who wish they would have had the support we offer when they were fostering. We have grown so much over the last four years. We currently have two paid employees, two contract employees, six interns from local social work undergraduate and graduate programs, and countless volunteers (including myself) who give of their time and talents.
This is how I give back to my community, and I love every minute of it. For us, it’s a calling. We were called to support these people who, for a very small stipend, invite trauma into their homes with the hopes of providing stability to our most vulnerable children. And the look on their faces when they feel loved, appreciated, and supported, is more fulfilling and gratifying to me than I ever could have imagined. My cup runneth over.
If you are interested in learning more about Foster Source, feel free to check out the website (www.fostersource.org
) and/or follow on Facebook.
VP Board Perspective: Through the Eyes of All Three
By: Susan Atkins, VP- Division III, Chapter Development & Support, IPMA
Gary Platton, VP- Division II, Chapter Development & Support, IPMA
Tracy Schumm, VP- Division I, Chapter Development & Support, IPMA
Susan Atkins, Vice President - Division III Chapter Development & Support
I have learned so much from my initial year representing Chapter Development of Division III for the IPMA Board, it is hard to know where to begin. I have had the pleasure of getting to know our membership and their leaders from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia. What a geographically and culturally diverse membership!
Regardless of language, geography and subculture, these chapters exude enthusiasm for all Practice Managers, litigation or corporate, in-house or law firm and all share a dedication to the development of our profession. Thank you all for the comradery you have created and continue to sustain in our professional community of Practice Managers and for teaching me to appreciate the common ground we all share without losing sight of the specific challenges to each chapter.
Gary Platton, Vice President – Division II Chapter Development & Support
This is my third time serving as a Vice President, Chapter Development and Support. I enjoy working with the different Chapters in their respective regions because it allows me to see firsthand how the IPMA is working towards getting individuals motivated and excited about the association. This time around has been particularly satisfying because I am overseeing Chapters that have new Chairs and are in the process of bringing new life to some of those Chapters. It has been wonderful to see these new Chairs take initiative and develop new ways of engaging with their Chapter members during this difficult time. It has been important, now more than ever, that I communicate as much as possible with the Chapters to ensure they are doing everything they can to keep members engaged. By working closely with the IPMA HQ staff, I feel confident that the members of the Chapters will continue to find their involvement within the Chapter and the Association very rewarding.
Tracy Schumm, Vice President – Division I Chapter Development & Support
I am wrapping up my first term serving as VP of Chapter Development & Support and it has been a gratifying experience. I have been an IPMA member for six years and was excited for the opportunity to join a board with great practice managers and leaders in the industry. Over the last two years, there have been a few highlights. It is enjoyable to see the revitalization of some chapters that have grown their membership and have insightful and productive chapter meetings (special shout out, Denver!). It’s also been a pleasure getting to know some of our newly-volunteered chapter chairs and see their new ideas come to life within their chapters. Our goal as board members in chapter development, especially given current events, is to engage and connect with our chapter chairs and members. Whether it’s a virtual chapter meeting, committee call, or Thirsty Thursday, I hope our members feel the love. For me, serving on the board has been especially rewarding by building greater relationships with my fellow board members, our amazing membership, our superhero-like management team, and incredible business partners.
You Are A Gift: See the Impact You Have on People Around You
By: Kim Barrett, Legal Professional and Paralegal Administrator, Latham & Watkins LLP
As is the case with many first-generation professionals, I grew up with only the bare necessities and attended public school. Neither of my parents attended college. In fact, neither of them even graduated high school. It wasn’t until they were well into adulthood that they each earned a GED. They worked, but didn’t make a lot of money. Because they were not exposed to higher education, they did not know how to guide me or my siblings through the process. We were told that we could not attend college because they simply could not afford it. That was true for most of the people in my neighborhood. The question was not where you were going to college, but if you were going to college. But, somehow I always knew that there was more to life than what our limited resources exposed us to. I knew that there had to be more.
I recently attended a women’s empowerment event and the theme of the event was “you are a gift.” This theme got my brain working. Although I was not taught how to behave in a professional environment, or did not have the privilege that others had to access a professional environment, I knew that I still had gifts to offer a professional corporation. As a first-generation professional, you must remember that you, too, are a gift. You are a gift to your employer, your department, those you lead, those who lead you, anyone who looks up to you, and most importantly, other first-generation professionals. Your gifts are what gave you the drive to rise above your circumstances and become the first in your family to become a professional. Your gifts provide your colleagues with your unique perspective.
I did not always believe that I was a gift or I possessed any gifts that would be valuable to a professional environment. I started out as a young professional thinking that everyone could tell that I came from humble beginnings. I did not feel like I belonged in the same room with the other professionals who had traveled the world and attended fancy events. I was a statistic. I was a single mom who had a child out of wedlock. Who was I to think that I belonged in the same room as an executive, the CEO, a lawyer, a doctor? Well, today I know who I am and who I was. I was a determined young person who knew that I had much more to offer than my current circumstances dictated. I knew there was more to life than my limited experiences had shown me. I knew I could be successful - I just had to figure out my path forward. I sought out people who were in positions of influence and mustered up the courage to ask them how they got there. I followed their advice and did my own research as well. I became a research guru. I asked questions of everyone I thought could give me an answer and researched that information. Once I started college, I learned how to get the funding needed to continue to take classes. I befriended professionals who were in the legal industry and discussed my goals with them. Surprisingly, they were happy to share information and advice. I started taking classes one by one. It took me approximately fourteen years to earn my bachelor’s degree. Once that was complete, I went on to earn a master’s degree, then an MBA. Tenacity is key. You have to keep pushing even when you’re tired. You have to want to succeed more than your fears will let you believe you can. You just have to keep moving forward.
My career at my current firm started out in a very different position; I was the part-time night receptionist. After a few months I worked my way up to a secretarial role, then on to a paralegal role. I practiced as a paralegal for over 17 years before I landed my current role as the administrator. Although I’m no longer practicing as a paralegal, I am still using those skills in my current job to manage the program. One of the resources that has helped me along the way is my membership in IPMA. I have been able to collaborate and brainstorm with other professionals who are also managing paralegals and legal professionals. Together we have been able to exchange ideas, attend social events and trainings, and develop professional relationships. The relationships I have built within this organization have definitely encouraged me to keep pushing forward and to do the very best I can because I know there are others who are in the same position as me. We truly do help each other.
When you’re not exposed to certain things in your home environment, you sometimes feel left out in the professional environment. It’s ok if you don’t know which fork is the salad fork and which fork is the dessert fork; just ask. It’s ok if the first time you flew on an airplane you were almost an adult; experience it. It’s ok to feel scared or nervous when you are walking into a new environment that is vastly different than the one you are used to; embrace it. You are not an imposter; you belong exactly where you are. You worked for it, you earned it, grab it, use it, enjoy it, and pay it forward!
36th Annual IPMA Conference & Expo Goes Virtual
By: Laura Porter, Manager, Corporate Secretariat, OMERS
Montréal last hosted the IPMA Conference in 2004, and we have heard from so many members how wonderful it was to experience this extraordinarily beautiful city. The IPMA Board of Directors was so excited to bring the conference back to Montréal in 2020. Due to the obvious circumstances surrounding the ongoing spread of COVID19, The Board of Directors has decided for the safety of our members and the good of the association to move this year’s conference to a virtual event with the hopes of returning to Montréal in 2022.
When conference planning started in late 2019, this was certainly not how we envisioned our 36th
annual conference. Who would have thought we would find ourselves in a worldwide pandemic of this magnitude? That said, we embraced the factors we can control and decided what better reason to move to a virtual platform. Although this year will look and feel different, we still have a great line up of topics and speakers addressing issues like gender bias and discussing race at work. As always, we will have our hot topics in HR sessions, along with digital reporting and work-life balance to name a few.
The Conference Committee along with the Board of Directors and HQ are embracing the good that can come out of this situation. With moving to a virtual conference, we will be able to do something we’ve always dreamed of doing, which is recording our sessions. This year all sessions will be recorded and available to you whether you are able to join the live session or not. We will look forward to meeting the development and educational needs of our membership for years to come with these recordings. We will also plan to offer the Skills and the Master Class in a virtual format this year.
Networking has always been a key component of IPMA Conferences, and this year’s will be no different. Throughout the conference, we have planed virtual events and games such as trivia and bingo. We have carved out ample time and opportunity to connect with our wonderful business partners. We are working on a plan for the expo hall to make sure no one is missing out just because we’re virtual.
Don’t worry we didn’t forget about all of the great SWAG the business partners hand out at conference. This year, anyone who registers early will receive a goody box filled with gadgets, information and tokens from our business partners. It wouldn’t be an IPMA Conference without an amazing closing event, and we’re working to create an incredible experience virtually.
The Board of Directors decided to make this conference as affordable as they could to ensure as many members as possible could take part in this wonderful event. The member rate for this year’s conference will be $495.00 USD and registration will open soon. Please keep an eye out for information to register over the next few weeks. If you have already paid for conference, HQ will reach out once registration is live to discuss your over-payment and options.
We will continue to bring you more news and information about Conference in the coming weeks via IPMA News & Notes. Stay tuned and we will look forward to hosting you for IPMA Goes Virtual.