All Posts By

Nicholas Evans

From Analogue to Digital

The digital revolution of the 1950s challenged outdated mechanical practices introducing more effective and efficient ways of working. Hopeland has been working to create similar change in services for young people – especially those who are aging out of foster care. Too many former foster youth face unemployment, homelessness, and other issues so this change is long overdue.

The result of our work is TechLink. This first-of-its-kind public-private partnership pulls together the global tech powerhouse Google with other key partners to provide an innovative tech and coding pathway for New York City’s most vulnerable young people. After over a year of planning, design, and preparations, this idea is becoming a reality.

Applications from young people in foster care eager to apply for the TechLink program are beginning to arrive in our inbox. Those selected will access the world’s most exciting state of the art technology. This includes 3D printing, video game development, and laser cutting. We are excited about this dynamic partnership with Google, the Administration of Children’s Services, and New Yorkers For Children.

Sadly, while we worked on this project the response I often heard was “foster care is broken”. We cannot and will not accept this defeatist attitude. At Hopeland we are pushing past this broken narrative to find better ways to help vulnerable children.

Getting to this point was not easy – when designing this program we had people say to us “it won’t work, these kids are too troubled.” Hopeland’s values, though, tell us that no one is without hope. The ‘trouble’ that some people see in these youth can in fact sometimes turn into the grit and determination that pushes boundaries and creates new opportunities. Having walked through great adversity, these youth have the empathy to understand what their peers deal with. This means they know how to change their pathway given the right tools and resources.

At Hopeland we understand that innovation is crucial for the development of the foster care sector. Innovation can make the pathways into opportunities, a loving family, and a supportive community that much easier. While innovation can open the door to new ways of working, we cannot forget the human element of service provision. This is why we are putting in place important training to assist the people working with these children, such as trauma informed training.

Technology can help connect children with families and help the life chances of vulnerable children. So every effort must be made to achieve this. This pilot project, if successful, will expand across the U.S. in a major strategy to improve the lives of America’s most vulnerable young people. Our hope is that this innovative approach and spirit, can also benefit other communities. We know vulnerable young people will find great value in the opportunities TechLink offers.

The digital revolution changed the lives of Americans across the country. Likewise our focus on delivering projects like TechLink for vulnerable young people can have the same life changing effect on them and set them up for great futures. We hope you will follow with us the progress of this revolution for foster youth.

Maintaining the 2020 Vision

As the clocks chimed heralding in 2020 there was a real sense of hope and focus that many enjoyed. However, as the year has continued this hope and focus has certainly dwindled. Recently, I have heard many say that they are looking forward to 2021 as this year has brought so many challenges. With the bushfires in Australia, the political quagmire surrounding the impeachment of the US President, the untimely death of the basketball legend Kobe Bryant, and now the global pandemic caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19) it is not surprising that many are struggling to feel hopeful for 2020. Yet, hope and a determined focus is exactly what we need right now.

Because having 2020 focus means maintaining that visual acuity – a clarity and sharpness of vision. 2020 vision does not mean perfect vision, as we all struggle with distractions and concerns, but, the ability to make the main thing the main thing is crucial right now.

This focus is crucial because coronavirus is adversely affecting children around the world, in horrible ways. The insidious impact on children includes increases in exploitation, gender-based violence, the death of a parent or caregiver, financial hardship, social exclusion and separation from caregivers. An understanding that the plight of vulnerable, abandoned and orphaned children is severely impacted by this global pandemic must spur us on and prompt us to take action.

Indeed, this is not simply conjecture, we know that “School closures during the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, for example, contributed to spikes in child labor, neglect, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies. In Sierra Leone, cases of teenage pregnancy more than doubled to 14,000 from before the outbreak.”

And this is not a problem just overseas, in America there are already reports of the coronavirus negatively impacting children in the foster care system in crucial areas such as family-visits.

What motivates me, is that I think of the children who have bounced around the foster care system who are trying desperately to believe that their new family will love and accept them, this understanding of the pain children endure and need to find better ways to help them drives Hopeland forward. Indeed, we don’t minimize the situation and we are keenly aware of the need for appropriate precautions to keep ourselves and others safe, but we are motivated by a deep conviction that we must and can do more for this vulnerable group.

We keep this focus because the vision is greater than the vehicle, the vehicles we use to achieve the vision can change but the vision holds firm as we press towards the ultimate goal. Indeed, technology offers us an opportunity to keep that connection. For example, we know that our friends at New York’s Administration for Children’s Services need to source desperately needed smartphones and technology to ensure children can maintain education and virtual family visits. If you can help please do so on this website.

We are guided by the belief that just because we need to be distant socially doesn’t mean we need to be socially distant. This is because technology allows us the gift of communicating and finding clever and more agile ways of communicating. This is also because, in moments like this, we are often able to recognize what really matters, which is family. In these uncertain times, it doesn’t mean we ignore the suffering we see around us, quite the opposite; instead, this hardship fuels our conviction that we must fight for others. It is understandable to be afraid of Coronavirus, but what we should be most afraid of is that we lose our humanity and the 2020 vision that guides us forward.

The Power of Family

In difficult times Hopeland wants to highlight those most vulnerable in society and how to support them, but also the importance of family and supporting each other.

Hopeland’s CEO, Nicholas Evans, provides an update on our organization’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing significant disruption into our daily lives with concerns about friends and relatives, changes to our regular habits, and the uncertainty of what is happening around us.

Like many organizations in New York City and across the country Hopeland has closed its offices – but our dedicated team are continuing to work from home to move forward our campaigns and raise awareness of the importance of supporting safe, loving families.

Here in the U.S. and around the world there are many people living in extremely vulnerable situations. At times like these it is important to think about those who need our support – that might mean contacting an elderly neighbor, buying groceries for a friend who is a healthcare worker and has their kids home from school, or heeding the warnings of the authorities and staying at home unless absolutely necessary. We encourage all of our family members to think of those less fortunate than themselves at this time.

However, it is also important to remember the strength of family during a crisis. Wherever you live and whatever family means to you we can all draw strength from the love and support we give each other and the safety that comes from family. We hope that in these worrying times we can all harness the power of family.

Hopeland is continuing to function during the Coronavirus outbreak as our team works from home to promote the importance of family and to ensure that some of the most vulnerable, including children who are orphaned and abandoned or in the foster system are supported through our campaigns. We’ll be in touch with more updates soon.

Nonetheless, the health and safety of every one of our family members is the most important thing right now. If there is anything we can do to help anyone reading this please let us know by using the contact link on this website.

With love and strength from the whole Hopeland team!

– Nicholas Evans, Hopeland CEO

If you or your family have any concerns about the Coronavirus please follow the advice on the Center for Disease Control’s Website:

www.coronavirus.gov

You Can Be Part of the Solution

Have you ever had a situation that challenged everything you thought you knew? I had one of those when I met a young girl called Hannah in Liverpool, England.

I had just started working after completing my Bachelor’s Degree as a 22 year old drug treatment counselor. In this role one of my major, and most difficult, tasks was running police cell sweeps assessing the needs of children who had come into contact with the Police.

Hannah told me she had an older boyfriend. When I asked her a little more, however, it became clear that in fact it was a series of older men she was being passed between. After a comprehensive assessment it became clear that although Hannah was 16, due to some severe trauma she had suffered she had a mental age of 10 – and yet she was being trafficked, exploited, and raped by a series of men on a daily basis through the children’s home that should have been providing her care.

CEO Nick Evans Speaking at Hopeland’s 2018 Gala

I came across many disturbing cases in this job but Hannah’s case particularly upset me. I knew I had to try to do something about it and so I raised it with my superiors. Having done so they immediately told me to drop it. Clearly there was no appetite to help Hannah. This attitude would never sit right with me so I raised it again, and again, and again, and always got the same response. I should drop this now or my young career would be ruined. 

This episode taught me some uncomfortable, but important truths:

When children are out of sight, they are out of mind;

Children raised in less fortunate circumstances are much more likely to be trafficked or abused and need our help;

We must always challenge existing practices when they are wrong;

Powerful and haunting experiences like this one are what has led us to create Hopeland: children need someone to step up and fight for them so that they can have the safe, loving family they deserve.

I’m so pleased with the progress Hopeland has already made and I’m excited to share with you Hopeland’s 2018 achievements:

Hopeland’s first campaign ‘All Children Count’ has now received support from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who has called for $1billion of extra funding to ensure all children are counted. The UN Foundation’s Global Mom’s Challenge also recognized our FAMILY campaign and called on its supporters to get behind our work.

Hopeland has also been at the forefront of several important partnerships this year, including ReThink Orphanages, Destination Family, and work with The Share Trust. I am also proud that my incredible Co-Founder, Deborra-lee Furness, again hosted the Global Citizen Festival with her husband Hugh Jackman in Central Park. Our new video featuring Deborra-lee also debuted at the Festival. I was also proud to see Deborra-lee recognized for her work at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival Disruptor Awards.

Global Citizen Festival 2018

      Our important advocacy work continued as we have connected the Australian and UK Government’s experts on Modern Slavery as we further develop our FAMILY campaign which has the goal of testing the impact of direct cash transfers and support services on female-led households in preventing family separation, increasing education, and reducing violence.

Hopeland also held its first ever Hackathon at the Boston Consulting Group’s NYC offices and partnered with Paramount Pictures on its new movie Instant Family which explores the reality of adopting and foster care in America.

All this progress makes me so proud to be the CEO of Hopeland and I am so excited for 2019. I’m sure, though, that you are wondering what happened to Hannah.

The story ended with me sat in a community center in Liverpool with an investigator interviewing one of the men involved in the ring that they had exposed. In spite of the threats to my career I persevered. Working hard to do what was right taught me this:

Just because you didn’t cause the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the solution.

By being part of Hopeland’s family you are being part of the solution!

Addressing Family Separation

As a father of two young children I’ve found the images of children separated from their parents at our U.S. southern border particularly painful to see, as I know parents all over the world have too.

Hopeland was created expressly to advocate for the innate value a safe, loving family can provide a child and to find better ways to keep children in families. It must be clear to anyone looking at these images that there has to be better ways to care for these children.

When millions of children live without families around the world, it is our responsibility to fight for these children, ensuring that they too can one day have a family to call their own. That’s why our first campaign was aimed to ensure ‘All Children Count’ – because it doesn’t matter what a child’s upbringing is; she will always deserve nothing less than an environment where she can be loved, and nurtured.

The more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents couldn’t be any further from their loving family and seeing the distressing images reminds me why I come in every day to work hard so that all children can have the upbringing that will let them thrive.

Anyone looking at the images of children sleeping on thin mattresses, under foil blankets, in hastily adapted facilities can imagine the distress this causes to the children. Heartbreakingly, the trauma this has caused for these children will be carried with them, likely, for the rest of their lives.

Even for the 500 children that have now been reunited with their parents the damage can be lasting. 60 years of undisputed brain science tells us that even a limited period of separation from a child’s parents can have serious developmental consequences. This 2015 study by Berens & Nelson confirms that as little as three months is needed to cause long term impacts; every three months in an institution causes one month of developmental loss. This can lead to impaired brain, social-emotional, and psychological development.

The same study also tells us that institutionalization can cause decreased weight, height, and head circumference for the children affected.

These developmental problems extend into adulthood too. The research of Sonugo-Barke et al established that an institutionalized child carries with them the scars of this trauma into adulthood. Low educational achievement, higher unemployment, and mental health problems are all seen amongst adults who had spent part of their childhoods separated from their families.

These facts alone show the impact of the parent-child separation policy and why it is imperative even after the policy has been rescinded to ensure the speedy reunification of the children affected with their parents.

I know the impact that this has had on everyone who has seen the images. As a parent, and the CEO of Hopeland, I’ve found it difficult to put into words the way this crisis has made me feel. The simple truth, however, that I want everyone to know is the damage that this separation will have on the children involved and therefore how important reuniting these children with their families is.

– Nicholas Evans

The Power of Focusing on the One

 

As Hopeland grows and our impact increases, I have had a nagging feeling that I want to express to the many faithful people who diligently, and without fanfare, invest in children. I struggled to find the words to do so until I stumbled across this powerful saying of Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary-General of the United Nations: “It is more important to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”

I feel anyone committed to the welfare of children should take away one thing from this: the best and most noble thing you can do is to provide steadfast, faithful love to draw out the best in a child. With a committed, patient focus we truly give the best of ourselves and as a result bring out the best in a child.

Hammarskjold says to me that the people that are the real champions are people like my friends Phil and Helena who have committed themselves to a young boy who had spent too long in the foster system and desperately needed a consistent, loving care giver to tell him how precious he was.

I feel thankful to have those people around me as they point to a ‘true north’, they help ensure our direction of travel is always for the benefit of the one, thereby ensuring that our campaigns positively impact the many.

This work must always connect and benefit the one, the child who lacks a loving family, the refugee who could be separated from their family, the child in foster care who may be able to be returned to their parent when they recover from the drug addiction or may need to be tenderly and patiently supported as a better alternative situation is found for them.

When we lose the focus on the one, we lose what this work is about.

Hammarskjold also reminds us that by focusing on the one, we can then build this work to benefit the many. After 15 years as a practitioner working in the toughest and most deprived districts of England, I have found that by remembering the one we can scale this work to impact the masses. However, if we lose that focus on the individual, our work drifts and drags into an ethereal place that ultimately falls short of the goal, which is a child knowing that they are precious to a loving parent.

As Hopeland’s work continues to gain recognition and appreciation, I hope that we’ll never lose sight of who this is for:

the One.

– Nicholas Evans