February 7, 2018

Adrian and Ethan are joined in the studio by Actor/Director/Producer Jude Prest, known for his work on Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin, Payday, The Ghost Speaks, The Deadliest Warrior and many more.   In today's show we hear from two wonderful charities - El Plato Caliente Foundation and Loving Hands Children's Home.

On any given day, there are approximately 600,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States.   On average, children in the American child welfare systems spend about two years — 23.9 months — in foster care. Ten percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.

While most children in foster care live in family settings, about 15 percent of these children live in institutions and group homes.

Many child welfare systems are underfunded, understaffed, beset by serious system-wide problems, and lacking the leadership necessary to fix them. They compound the trauma that abused and neglected children have already experienced by.

38% of all children in foster care in California reside in Los Angeles County.  Nearly half of foster youth have learning disabilities or delays. Only 58% of young people in foster care graduate from high school.

A 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics report states that 35-45% of all children in foster care have a chronic health condition, such as asthma, cognitive disorders, visual and auditory problems, dental decay and malnutrition, as well as birth defects and developmental delays. 

Because of possible poor prenatal care, maternal substance use, and erratic past medical care, these children also may have significant unrecognized or under-treated illnesses.  In addition, 20% have significant dental health issues.

Adrian Paul and Janiese Finney
Adrian Paul and Janiese Finney

One charity working to change the lives of these children is Loving Hands Children’s Home

As a Registered Nurse, Janiese Finney grew weary of observing the continuous cycle that resulted from the lack of consistent care that is faced by foster children in Los Angeles. Children often remained in the hospital for extended periods after receiving care -waiting to be placed in homes that were unable to attend to their sensitive physical, social, and mental health needs. Those that were placed often returned to the hospital in need of repeat care.

Loving Hands Children’s Home offers living accommodations and care services for displaced and medically fragile children within a secure setting. The facility provides a fully certified staff within and a wide variety of care services and activities. 

The children and youth attend public schools, play sports, participate in after school activities, have chores, and hang out with friends - just like other children their age. They encourage accountability and responsibility through community service and other projects to build confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.

Adrian met up with Janiese Finney at the North Hollywood Police Station to talk about the issues in foster care and the work her organization is doing for some of these kids.

Adrian with Rafy Rodriguez
Adrian with Rafy Rodriguez

The recovery effort in Puerto Rico has largely fallen from the daily headlines, but not from the minds of volunteers, who are still on a mission to bring much-needed supplies.  Hospitals are struggling with a shortage of supplies.

The latest estimates suggest that 35% of electricity customers in Puerto Rico still don’t have power.

Data on the extent of the outage has been hard to come by. Puerto Rico’s electrical utility says it is operating at 69% of normal capacity—but that figure doesn’t indicate how many of the island’s residents are actually receiving power. The system that monitors the extent of distribution is not working. 

Adrian had the opportunity to talk with Rafy Rodriguez, founder of The El Plato Caliente Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization, at the recent All in for Puerto Rico Celebrity Poker Charity Event on January 14.

Rafi Rodriguez began to cook with his neighbors in the marquee of his home and to carry plates of food to victims of the hurricane. His immediate passion for helping others, and his experience of over 25 years in restaurant management, allowed him to recognize the need in Puerto Rico and urgently identify the way forward.

By three weeks the organization had already grown to four kitchens and 2,000 hot food dishes served every day, and had added a rolling kitchen, the fifth kitchen. Volunteers shop, cook and deliver hot food throughout the island, reaching areas of need impacted by the hurricane. The Foundation seeks to get where the government or other charities may not reach easily.

The businessman, with more than 29 years of experience in the restaurant industry on the island, has also brought together relatives, neighbors and volunteers to cook and distribute food to the victims.

Adi Sidapara
Adi Sidapara

On today's Kid Hero segment we look back at one of our earlier heroes...Adi Sidapara.

Moving to the United States from India as a child, Adi Sidapara experienced the struggles of adjusting to a new society. Having moved by choice, he felt compassion for refugees who had been forced to relocate, disadvantaged by cultural and educational differences. Recognizing technology as an equalizing force in today’s world, he and his peer Omron formed Refugee Code Academy. Through computer science and entrepreneurship training, events, job placement and mentorships, they equip refugees with the tools and education to succeed in their new homes. 

They connect refugee students with programming education in order to lift them out of dire economic/political circumstances and allow them to express themselves on the modern canvas: technology.  In addition to equipping their students with the necessary tools to innovate, they also train them vocationally to obtain high-paying software engineering and design jobs at startups across the world. 

Hundreds of refugees in Arizona have participated in their events, and by involving their communities in this process, Refugee Code Academy is replacing cultural clashes with collaboration. 

The Academy has recently garnered support from over a dozen entrepreneurship hubs across sub-Saharan Africa to educate refugees and connect them to western tech companies. Moving forward, Adi is further developing the Academy’s mentorship program and spreading outreach to engage even more refugees.