Canopy Children’s Solutions’ 2022 Chrysalis Award 

Marshall Ramsey is the Editor-At-Large and Editorial Cartoonist for Mississippi Today, a non-profit news website. He’s a two-time Pulitzer Finalist (2002 and 2006) and an Emmy winner (2022). His cartoons are nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate and have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. He is the author of several successful books including three cartoon collections, two short story collections (Fried Chicken and Wine and Chainsaws and Casseroles) and the delightful children’s book Banjo’s Dream. Ramsey’s cartoons, photos, stories and posts are frequently shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.   He’s also the host of the weekly statewide radio program, Now You’re Talking with Marshall Ramsey and the television program Conversations on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. He has appeared on Fox & Friends, Inside Edition, CBSN and CNN New Day. His alma mater, The University of Tennessee, awarded him their Accomplished Alumni award in 2019. Marshall also a cancer survivor. Diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2001, he has been honored by both the Melanoma Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society for paying his survival forward. Marshall, his wife Amy, their three sons and precocious dog Pip live in Mississippi, the best state for politics, storytellers, sweet tea and raising a family. Most of all, Marshall has been a dear friend, advocate and a force to help Canopy win the war on the stigma of mental health. Pictured: Marshall Ramsey; Dr. John D. Damon (Canopy CEO)

Microsoft is a global technology leader and has a mission to empower others to do more. Since 2018, Microsoft has engaged Canopy in their Hack-A-Thons to innovate new technology solutions for persons on the autism spectrum; held multiple benefit concerts to raise vital funding for Canopy’s Autism Solutions; provided Canopy with a Digital Transformation pathway; and shared best practices and knowledge through numerous leadership meetings such as Microsoft’s Global Neurodiversity Team and Microsoft’s innovation hub: The Garage. Pictured: Dan Delay (Principal Software Engineer); Dan Fain (Cybersecurity Architect); Scott Price (General Manager, National Security Group); Dr. John D. Damon (Canopy CEO)

Photos by Josh Woodward Photography

Be Part of the Solution this Holiday Season

Grant a holiday wish for a child in Canopy’s care! Creating a partnership with Canopy to bring the gift of JOY to over 100 children will brighten the hearts of each child in our care. Each child will have the opportunity to complete a holiday wish list – clothing, toys, games, and more. You can make their holiday MERRY & BRIGHT by granting a wish today! Please e-mail to receive a wish list and more information. Fulfilled wish lists are due back to Canopy on Tuesday, December 6, 2022.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas | Cozy in their pajamas, the children in our care find joy in hearing a story filled with hope during a nightly story time during the 24 Nights of Christmas. This year, you can bring holiday magic by bringing your favorite Christmas story to read. Along with a story, you can bring hot chocolate, crafts, coloring pages, and more. Whether you deliver the items for our staff to read or stay for the merriment, it’s sure to be nights filled with hope and joy. Click to sign up for a date. [Children are ages 6-10 and are staying at Canopy’s CARES Center.] (Jackson only)

Gingerbread Houses and Christmas Carols | Spread holiday cheer to the children at CARES Center as we prepare for the holiday season! Volunteers are invited to provide a holiday activity such as decorating gingerbread houses, singing Christmas carols, arts & crafts, and more. Click to sign up for a dates. [Children are ages 6-17 and are staying at Canopy’s CARES Center.] (Jackson only)


  • Shop Canopy’s Amazon Wish List
  • Make a donation and give a gift in honor of a loved one. You honoree will receive a special holiday card to acknowledge a donation was made in their honor. Your donations helped over 6,400 children plus their families last year!

CARES Center Mural

Chris is originally from Jackson, and has lived in New York, Texas and Georgia. He picked up many art techniques along the way, but has always been inspired by graffiti. He chose to use this medium when creating the CARES Center mural. When using graffiti, Chris says his hand can be the paint brush. “We wanted to do something that’s very colorful and something the kids could relate to,” Chris shared. The mural is full of bright colors and includes a child playing a video game fully transforming the formerly white-walled game room into a burst of color.  

During the summer art class taught by Chris, the kids were able to learn about murals, create tie dye t-shirts, and build and graffiti paper trains. Brooke Holloway, CARES Center Residential Life Manager, shared how meaningful having Chris contribute his talents to the children is, “Art really does help the kids express what’s going on inside because they don’t always have the language to express it verbally.” Brooke saw a positive impact on several children who attended Chris’ art class, and how much it meant to them to see Chris come back to paint the mural just for them.  

This is the first of other murals planned for CARES Center. “The more color and life, the more we can make it feel like home. It can feel like a place where they can be safe, comfortable and relax, so they can heal and then go home and be successful,” shared Brooke. The wheels are already turning for new murals and art projects for CARES Center. Kim Jordan, CARES Center Director, says “We are extremely grateful to have Chris on staff and for him to bless us with his artistic ability. I think his art gives hope to the kids. The mural he did for our game room is so full of color and life and a lot of times our kids are missing that.” 

Our hope is that the children at CARES Center can feel loved and inspired by the environment they are in on any Canopy campus. Chris draws inspiration from his family and environment. “My favorite part of my job is that it allows me to showcase my creativity through projects, and knowing everything I produce is helping the children in our community,” says Chris. We are all made better when we can use our talents to give back to others, just as Chris has done at CARES Center.  

To view more of Chris’s work, visit Learn more about CARES Center at  

Canopy Launched Zero Suicide Task Force

Canopy Children’s Solutions’ (Canopy) has formed the Zero Suicide Task Force, a committee designed to meet at-risk children and young adults where they are and provide the help they need. With comprehensive assessments, proper treatment and meaningful relationships, the members of Canopy’s Zero Suicide Task Force firmly believe they can help children who are struggling. 

Shannon Prince, Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock (MYPAC) Supervisor and Task Force member, is passionate about this topic. After attending a Zero Suicide conference, Shannon and other committee members reframed Canopy’s suicide protocol to ensure each at-risk child they encounter can receive the unique care he or she may need. While some children may need stabilization in an acute care facility, others may need frequent therapy and/or medication. Along with other task force members, Shannon began using these more comprehensive assessments so Canopy could better tailor each child’s treatment plan to his or her individual needs. 

Along with the Zero Suicide Task Force, Canopy hosts a Youth Ambassador program throughout the year. This program is designed to educate students in middle and high school about the connection between physical and mental health as well as the science of hope. By focusing on topics such as mindfulness and hope, the Youth Ambassador program teaches students practical methods for managing emotions. 

Marcus Ginn, Canopy’s Donor Relations Manager, is an advocate dedicated to educating communities on how to prevent suicide after losing his own father to suicide. “If I could prevent just one person from having to go through what I went through, that would be a success,” Marcus says. “It’s okay to have bad feelings, and it’s okay to express those feelings.” 

Shannon and Marcus both agree that the easiest and most effective way to prevent suicide is to talk to someone. “Vulnerability is a strength. It’s not a weakness,” says Marcus. “We have to take the stigma out of sharing our feelings.” 

If a parent or guardian believes their child is struggling with suicidal thoughts, the Zero Suicide Task Force encourages finding someone the child can speak with openly and honestly. Worried about upsetting their parents, many children hold their feelings inside rather than expressing them. A trusted adult who can listen without judgement, such as a teacher, coach or therapist, can be life-saving for a child who may be struggling. The task force encourages parents and guardians to reach out to Canopy or similar organizations so they can assist in connecting the child to services or resources he or she may need.  

To students struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, the Zero Suicide Task Force encourages you to reach out to someone to whom you feel comfortable talking with. “One of our core values is: relationships matter,” Shannon says. “Talk to somebody. Whether it be a teacher, a parent, a school counselor. Talk to somebody.” 

Those struggling with suicidal behavior or ideations can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by texting or calling 988 or 1.800.273.8255 any time day or night to speak with someone for help.

To learn more about Canopy, click here

in-CIRCLE | Keeping Families Safely Together

At Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy), our mission is to help children thrive and families overcome extraordinary challenges. Through Canopy’s in-CIRCLE solution, we provide comprehensive home and community-based family preservation, reunification and support solutions for children and families.  

in-CIRCLE’s unique services are designed to remove the harm from the child, rather than removing the child from their families, or to assist with the reunification of children with their families. By partnering with Child Protection Services (CPS), in-CIRCLE aims to eliminate the risks that caused the case to be opened by helping families complete tasks and achieve goals designed to help them successfully thrive on their own. A community-based solution, all in-CIRCLE services are provided at the family’s residence so those without the means of transportation can still receive the help they need. 

“We help families get the services they need without putting a strain on the family,” says Charlesia Means, in-CIRCLE Supervisor in Hattiesburg. Charlesia has been with the program since it began and uses her own childhood experiences as motivation to continue helping families in need. “Growing up, experiencing the things that I experienced, I just always wanted to be that person that could help or educate someone else that may be going through something that I went through.” 

While the Canopy team members who work with the in-CIRCLE solution see many difficult situations, they see many amazing transformations as well. Charlesia recalled one experience involving a single mother with two children. The mother had the motivation to provide a safe, stable home for her children, but she needed help. When in-CIRCLE became involved, the mother was living in a hotel, having trouble finding employment and her children had been removed from her care. Within a matter of months, she was able to find stable housing, successfully employed and her children were living with her once again. 

“That’s what in-CIRCLE can do,” Charlesia says. “We can take someone from a hotel who does n0t have anything, and help them find a job, help them find housing, help them get transportation and help them reunite with their children.” 

in-CIRCLE is a 12-week program that offers two additional 12-week extensions for those who need more time. With a case manager that coordinates services, a therapist to assist with challenges such as trauma recovery and relapse prevention (if someone in the family suffers from substance abuse), and a peer support specialist to empower parents to reach their goals – in-CIRCLE is building stronger communities by building stronger families. in-CIRCLE also partners with other solutions provided by Canopy, such as the Behavioral Health Clinics and Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock (MYPAC) solution, to ensure each family’s needs are met.  

When you throw a rock in a lake, you see an immediate ripple effect. in-CIRCLE causes a similar ripple effect in the communities it supports. In 2021, this solution safely diverted 1,168 children from entering the foster care system. Families who have received in-CIRCLE services had a 96% success rate. Through Canopy’s continuum of care, these families are encircled by people who truly want to help them, and this impact ripples out to strengthen the entire community. 

“What I’m doing is really making a difference. I am helping someone,” Charlesia says. “It’s challenging, but rewarding. The pros outweigh the cons every time.” 

To learn more about in-CIRCLE, call 601-352-7784 or visit Canopy’s website

WATCH NOW | Mission Moment from Charlesia

How To Combat Summer Brain Drain

However, caregivers don’t want their home-for-summer students to spend over two months in front of a screen, never actively using their brains. They don’t want their kids to stay up half the night and sleep in until noon either. While their children may see unlimited screen access and no sleep schedule as ideal, parents know that when summer eventually ends, their children will find it nearly impossible to go back to a strict daily schedule. The struggle to help their children find a good balance of relaxation and stimulation can be a challenging task for caregivers.

Kara White, The Canopy School’s Head of School, has spent her entire career working in the field of education. She has seen first-hand the negative effects that a schedule-free summer can have on a child transitioning back into the school year. In fact, when a child has spent two months with little to no routine or neurological stimulation, it may take them over a month to adjust back to the demands of the school year. By the time these kids really tune into their daily schedule, rigorous school work is well underway, and they may fall behind. This issue – commonly known as “Brain Drain” – can be easily prevented with some simple but intentional steps.

“What you don’t want is for summer to be a free-for-all,” White says. “Kids need a routine.”

First, White encourages parents to help their children create and stick to a summer schedule by adjusting the schedule to which they are accustomed. Rather than throwing out the school year’s schedule entirely, parents should work with their children to modify it. Perhaps a child would rather go to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 8 am, rather than going to sleep at 8 pm and waking up at 6 am. A child may also want to move lunchtime to 11:30 rather than 1:30. By working with your kids to develop a daily schedule, they will be more inclined to stick to it. They will also be well-prepared to adjust back to a school schedule after summer ends, as they will still be used to following a schedule.

After creating a schedule, White urges parents to take it one step further by helping their children create and establish a daily routine. This routine should contain every task a child is expected to do daily during their summer break. Working together, parents and kids can create a checklist that includes household chores, personal hygiene maintenance, and even activities for neurological stimulation. Rather than spending all day watching tv, streaming or playing video games, a routine with a checklist can include tasks such as “Read for 20 minutes,” “Do something creative for half an hour,” “Play outside for one hour,” and more. Crossing off completed tasks will give students a sense of accomplishment, and it will give caregivers peace of mind to know their children are not spending every minute of every day scrolling mindlessly on their phones. This can even help foster conversation, as parents can ask their children for details about the accomplished tasks that day, such as “What did you read?” or “What creative activity did you do?”

Speaking of reading, White strongly believes that caregivers should require their children to read at least 20 minutes daily, especially during the summer. “Reading is the number one predictor of improving test scores,” she says. Intentional daily reading time is one of the best ways to ensure your child’s mind stays sharp over the summer break. Many kids believe they hate to read based on their experiences reading in school, so parents should allow students to choose their reading material themselves. Some kids may want to read articles from Sports Illustrated, while others may want to read graphic novels or comic books. The important part is making sure children read something physical, not on a screen. “Don’t get into a battle over what they’re reading. We just want them to be reading,” White says.

White also recommends that parents collaborate with children about any big plans for the summer, such as day camps, overnight camps and summer vacations. Many caregivers sign their kids up for camp without first asking their kids if they would like to go. By presenting a child with options for different camps, parents can ensure their children are both excited to attend and engaged while there. Likewise, children who helped plan the family vacation are much less likely to spend the entire trip grumpy.

Finally, White advises parents to find or create opportunities for their children to be social. When the school year ends, children go from seeing multiple people every day to seeing almost no one every day. Socialization is crucial for a child’s cognitive development, so parents should be intentional about planning social activities, especially for children too young to drive.

To summarize, the recipe for a relaxing but stimulating summer is simple. Caregivers should guide their children away from two months with no schedule and nothing to accomplish by ensuring their kids have a daily schedule, a daily routine, opportunities to get out of the house and occasions to socialize. However, caregivers should also give their children as much ownership over their summer as reasonably possible. When the feelings and opinions of the child have been considered, the child is much more willing to go along with the guidance of their caregivers.

“It needs to be collaborative,” White says. “Coming up with a schedule and a routine for the summer together is the biggest way to get your child to buy-in on what they’re going to do in the summer.”

To learn more about The Canopy School, visit or call 769-777-1503.

Mental Health Matters

With a reported one in five children suffering from a treatable behavioral or mental health challenge, a number that most experts believe has increased since the onset of Covid-19, it is more important than ever to prioritize the mental wellness of our youth. Of those, only an estimated 20% of children who struggle will get the treatment and help they need to heal.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for kids, and it is preventable,” says Canopy’s Chief Solutions Officer, Shea Hutchins, LCSW. “Mental health is at the basis of that. The easiest thing to do is talk about it. The most effective thing to do is talk about it. And having these conversations is the starting point to healing.”

Parents and caregivers are devoted to meeting the needs of their children. When a child is hungry, they provide food. When a child has a fever, they take them to the doctor. When a child outgrows their third pair of shoes in less than a month, they (begrudgingly) buy bigger shoes. Addressing the mental health needs of a child should be no different.

From social media addiction to an international pandemic, children today are the first generation to face many significant issues at such a young age. Though caregivers may not be able to wholly empathize with these unique challenges, they must still find ways to help their children navigate the mental stress caused by these things. By being open about their own concerns and struggles, parents can initiate an honest dialogue with their children. Listening to their child’s thoughts and feelings allow caregivers to provide encouragement and offer feedback on how to best manage negative emotions.

“Children want to talk about it. They want to talk about their sadness, their depression and anxiety, but they may be scared and not know how,” says Shea Hutchins, LSCW, Canopy’s Chief Solutions Officer. “If they don’t know how to talk about their feelings and emotions, that’s when you see the behaviors. Kids that are acting out are not ‘bad kids.’ They just don’t know how to communicate and deal with the big feelings they have on the inside.”

Hart Wylie, psychiatric nurse practitioner for Canopy’s Behavioral Health Clinics adds to this, saying, “Mental illness exists on a spectrum. The earlier you get help for your child, the more likely you are to bring resolution to the issue and to prevent further complications.”

When children reveal that they are struggling mentally, parents often don’t know what to do beyond talking about the issue. Many caregivers may choose to ignore the issue out of fear. Canopy wants parents to know that support is available for both them and their children.

“What everybody needs to know about mental health is that we need to talk about it,” Hutchins states. “We need to talk about the fact that it’s okay to not be okay, but we need to make a plan to get better. And if we don’t know how to make that plan, it’s okay to reach out for help. There are people who can help. Canopy can help.”

Canopy offers several behavioral health solutions to support children coping with behavioral and mental health challenges and their families. From ADHD to Autism Spectrum Disorder to Clinical Depression and everything in between, their wide range of programs are designed to effectively treat children at any level of intensity.

The staff of Canopy truly believes that with proper interventions, children can overcome challenges, transform their lives and truly thrive. “It’s amazing to me what some time plus therapeutic attention can do for a child,” Wylie says. Hutchins supports this, saying, “We really work around hope. We believe that our future can be better than today, and we have the power to make it so.”

To learn more about the behavioral health solutions offered by Canopy, speak to a Care Coordinator at 800-388-6247.

Canopy Promotes National Foster Care Month

For many children, however, May can be a difficult month to navigate. Those in the child welfare system may not be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with their families of origin. When school ends, they may find themselves without safe homes in which to spend their summer days. For those graduating and aging out of the system, they may face the prospect of not being connected with caring families and receiving minimal social support. Canopy Children Solutions (Canopy) hopes to raise awareness and garner support for foster children and youth by participating in National Foster Care Month this May.

In the state of Mississippi alone, there are over 5,000 children in the foster care system. Some are waiting for reunification with their families of origin, some are waiting for adoption and others are waiting to see what happens next. Regardless of circumstance, however, they all deserve loving, secure homes. At Canopy, it is our mission to seek out and develop these homes for the children we serve in as individualized and compassionate manner as possible.

“We have a moral obligation,” says Elliott Brown, Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) Program Supervisor for Canopy. “These kids may not have a voice…They often need somebody to advocate for them, and it’s the responsibility of all of us. As a society, we’re ultimately responsible for providing adequate resources to care for our children and youth.”

Children in the welfare system have faced crises, abuse, neglect or even exploitation – traumas that may leave them feeling insecure, confused and scared. They often require reassurance from resource parents who are willing to provide a temporary safe haven where they can heal, grow and ultimately thrive.

Canopy’s TFC solution provides specialized care for foster children who have emotional, medical and/or developmental needs. It is designed to support both children and resource parents utilizing therapy, frequent check-ins, 24/7 support and ongoing training. The ultimate goal of TFC is to minimize institutional care while providing a pathway for reunification with families, adoption or independent living.

Brown states, “It [TFC] involves quite a bit of planning, a lot of hands-on work and a little improv.” He adds, “The advantage we have here at Canopy, is that we can collaborate between various solutions in order to provide the best care for our kids.”

TFC resource parents are offered continuous access to Canopy’s services to assist them in caring for their foster children. With solutions including MYPAC (Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock), Wraparound, Behavioral Health Clinics and CARES Schools, Canopy provides comprehensive support to individuals and families who selflessly choose to open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Although the foster children we serve largely benefit from our support in the short run, we will undoubtedly be the ultimate beneficiaries in the long run. “As a society, if we don’t do the things we need to do to address the problems associated with foster care, this will represent lost potential. These children are our future,” Brown says. “Imagine if children who had endured abuse or neglect had the right support in order to get the education or resources they needed. Who knows what they would be capable of? They could come up with an invention or an idea…or could serve society in a helpful and meaningful way.”

Canopy recognizes the urgent need to provide secure, loving homes to children in need. We also hope to use National Foster Care Month to publicly shine a light on this challenge. Fostering presents opportunities to help those who cannot help themselves through compassion, generosity and selflessness. While the challenges are great, the impacts and rewards of fostering are even greater.

For those interested in transforming the lives of children in need by providing desperately-needed love and stability, Canopy will guide and support you through the necessary steps, paperwork and training. For those unable to open their homes, Canopy encourages you to support other resource parents by volunteering (e.g., cooking a meal). In addition, you can utilize your voice to advocate for foster children. Whether you are casually talking with a friend, speaking to a community group, or touching base with your local representative, simply making others aware of the resource-related challenges that foster children face can be a huge help.

For more information about therapeutic foster care, please contact Elliott Brown at 601-606-0208 or

Canopy Children’s Solutions Plants Unusual Gardens This April

It’s springtime in Mississippi. Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and flower gardens are blooming vibrantly, delighting us with their beauty and disrupting us with their pollen.

This month, Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) is planting its own delightful, disruptive gardens across our state. In front of homes and businesses, flocks of blue pinwheels will dance in the wind, reminding us of the whimsy of childhood. These pinwheels are the official symbol of Child Abuse Awareness Month, placed intentionally to promote the importance of communities working together to raise awareness and ultimately end child abuse.

With community collaboration, forensic interviewers at Canopy’s South Mississippi Child Advocacy Centers (SMCAC) are able to identify, investigate and ultimately prosecute incidents of child abuse. Using their “Child First” protocol, SMCAC determines both the severity of the abuse experienced and the treatment needed for the child in one interview, without the child having to retell and relive the trauma they experienced over and over to the different agencies involved: the police, a doctor, a social worker, a counselor, an investigator and so on. By telling their story one time, the SMCAC ensures children experience as little undue stress as possible.

 “In order for children to have the trauma that they experienced resolved, they need people like Canopy’s South Mississippi Child Advocacy team to help them along the way,” says Sabreniee Wright, Director of Canopy’s SMCAC. “There is hope when children have access to therapeutic resources and can begin healing.”

Canopy can’t do it alone though. Law enforcement, Child Protection Services, mental and/or medical health professionals, and all other relevant parties must work together to ensure every abused child receives the protection they deserve. By collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to streamline the process, Canopy’s SMCAC brings together all the services and resources needed to protect the child under one roof. From there, SMCAC is able to aim its focus toward treatment for the child and prosecution for the offender.

Wright continues, “Our team goes above and beyond every day to make sure children and their families are getting the justice they deserve. Helping children is a passion.”

By planting pinwheel gardens in April, Canopy brings awareness to the fact that child abuse happens in every community, and everyone in the community must work together to end it. Canopy also aims to educate the general population on the warning signs of child abuse by distributing printed resources to the establishments behind the pinwheel gardens.

Canopy’s awareness efforts spread far beyond pinwheel gardens in April though. Throughout the year, Canopy’s SMCAC can be found at community awareness events, educating passersby on identifying children in need, and in front of television crews, highlighting their cases and services for local news stations. Canopy’s SMCAC also collaborates with schools to promote their awareness curriculum, “It’s Okay To Tell.” Designed to address abuse in an effective but sensitive way, this curriculum encourages students to speak to a trusted adult if they or someone they know is in a dangerous situation.

Adults shouldn’t just wait for children to speak out, however. “Many adults don’t want to say anything because they feel it’s not their place,” Wright says. “They’re not 100% positive, so they just leave it be.” The success of child advocacy centers everywhere depends on adults who are willing to advocate for the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children in abusive situations. Mississippi’s 24-hour child abuse hotline (1-800-222-8000) allows anyone who suspects a child is being abused to file an anonymous report. SMCAC also encourages caregivers to take a child to a medical facility for an examination if felonious abuse is suspected. If you see something, say something.

Many adults carry unresolved trauma from childhood, and likely never even knew there was an organization that could help them. That’s where the staff members of SMCAC find their passion. Every time they get a prosecution, every time they remove a child from a dangerous environment, every time they see a child’s anxiety transform into confidence, they know their mission is working. As Wright states, “We take the unresolved trauma that we have within us and use it for good – to help this vulnerable population. For me, it just does not get any better than that. Then having these advocates who have lived this experience help today’s children heal from their trauma.”

To learn more about Canopy’s South Mississippi Child Advocacy Center, click here or call 228.868.8686.