Guest Post from the Flawless Foundation: Knowing and Doing!

Last week at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, I attended the Criminalization of Mental Illness Symposium. National experts shared fourteen presentations in an effort to make sense of hundreds of statistics and research studies on such topics as recidivism, gun violence, juvenile justice, homicide, suicide, Aurora, Tucson, Newtown and VA Tech. Do you think this sounds overwhelming? Actually, it wasn’t.

Over and over, members of this Think Tank who are advising our nation’s leaders on public policy, mental health and criminal justice reform repeated, “We know what to do, we just need to do it.

So what do we need to do? We need to take a stand for prevention, compassion and love. Doesn’t it make sense to advocate for education, preventative mental health and programming for youth instead of simply waiting until it is too late? Too often in our current system, we are sending those in need straight into the justice system, especially our children who often fall into the “school to prison pipeline.” We all know that the system is broken but the beauty is we can and are fixing it.
I am very fortunate to spend my days at the Flawless Foundation witnessing miracles over and over again. Our grantees and partners are visionary leaders who have created programs that are not just thinking about these issues but they are actively addressing them through relationship, promoting connections and healing on every level: body, mind and soul. We know what to do and we are doing it.

As I write this blog I am heading to Off the Mat Into the World’s, Empowered Youth Initiative in Oakland, California where we are co-sponsors of this revolutionary work. We will be spending the days visiting programs that are bringing hope, love and healing through mindfulness practices to our most at-risk populations. In addition we will attend lectures with the inspiring leaders who are working on the front lines. These activists know how to build hope and they are building it.

Profiling Two Leaders: Using the Healing Power of Yoga, Mindfulness and Collaboration

1. BK Bose of the Niroga Institute
BK Bose of the Niroga Institute asks “But what about yoga’s role beyond being good for our health or exercise?” What is yoga’s role in transforming education, community crime and violence or global sustainability? Niroga Institute has keyed into the fact that those most in need of yoga are often the last people to set foot into a yoga studio. So they take it to the community.

They are approaching this with full force, reaching out to troubled cities such as Oakland and Richmond, California and preparing to provide Transformative Life Skills (TLS) to every child across the nation. BK Bose and the Niroga Institue aim to transform a generation and they are doing it.

2. Dr. Stuart Ablon of ThinkKids
We will be introducing the work of our colleague Dr. Stuart Ablon of ThinkKids to the group of leaders at the Empowered Youth Initiative. Think Kids is based out of Massachusetts General Hospital and is the home of Dr. Ablon’s work called Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS).

CPS is an evidence-based method that trains adults in a new way of working with children and adolescents. CPS views behavioral challenges as a form of learning disability or developmental delay—these children are lacking crucial cognitive skills especially in the domains of flexibility, frustration tolerance and problem solving. CPS seeks to create fundamental change in interactions between children and adults by having adults engage them in solving problems collaboratively.

The philosophy behind this work is “Kids do well if they can.” It has been show to dramatically reduce and in some cases even eliminate procedures such as restraint and seclusion in correctional and therapeutic facilities. This model has also been shown to reduce recidivism rates by as much as 50%. Dr. Ablon knows what needs to be done and he is doing it.

Looking to the Future
Lately this nation has been overwhelmed with much tragedy. At Flawless we look to the future. How do we, as a society, improve this system for generations to come? We answer this question in a pragmatic, intellectual manner coupled with compassion and love. We need to start seeing the perfection in our children, shining the light and healing from a place of compassion not judgment. Together, we know what to needs to be done and we are doing it. And Amber, one of our Flawless girls who practices yoga in one of our juvenile detention programs articulates the healing power in the perfect way: “I think this programs calms me down when I am angry. Also, it helps me bring out my inner feelings and even though my body is locked away, the program makes my mind free to think and feel any way at any time.”

Janine Francolini is the Founder/Executive Director of the Flawless Foundation and serves on the board of the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the USC Gould School of Law as well as many advisory boards of non - profits and corporations. Janine has a Masters' degree from Columbia University and had a 15-year career in education as a teacher and admissions director in private schools throughout New York City. A sought after speaker and consultant, Janine collaborates with clients on fundraising, mental health advocacy and motivational techniques. In addition, Janine has advanced training in Collaborative Problem Solving, the revolutionary and evidence-based method of working with children as described in the book, “Treating Explosive Kids: The Collaborative Problem Solving Approach” by Ross Greene, PhD and Stuart Ablon, PhD. In between frequent bicoastal trips, Janine practices yoga and lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.

Updated: May 07 2013