Saturday, February 22, 2014

Krewe of Femme Fatale -- Mardi Gras 2014

Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale 2014 Gala. The ladies are arriving. Gentlemen in tow. The sporting set. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tips On Community Engagement

Get Out and Do Something - Helping In Your Community Helps You Too
Community involvement encompasses all manners of donating your time, skills or talents for the betterment of your community.  Volunteerism has a significant impact on the long-term sustainability and vitality of communities.  Since 2012 over 64 million Americans have volunteered in their communities either through social, religious or school groups. Becoming actively involved in your community not only benefits the recipients of your service, but also benefits the volunteer both personally and professionally.  Volunteerism fosters a sense of security and confidence in your surroundings.
All of us have met someone who will confess that their reluctance or hesitancy in getting involved in their community quickly gave way to feelings of personal satisfaction, accomplishment and purpose once they took the steps to become involved.  Many parents will admit that there is no greater example to set for children than one of service and giving back to the community.
It is a misconception to believe that volunteering or community engagement requires a significant time commitment.  If you are able to volunteer once a year, once a month or once a week, there is an opportunity for you to get involved.  Many causes, organizations or groups would greatly appreciate and benefit from any time you are able to donate.  One can be assured that your contribution of time and effort will make a difference.  You will gain a tremendous appreciation from the experience and it is likely that your first experience will not be your last.
Each of us has the power and capacity to change our world for the best.  This can start with our community and its most basic needs.  A volunteer serves as a role model for their families, friends and our community.  Beginning the process of becoming a volunteer is easier than we tend to imagine. 
In considering volunteering, begin with these active steps to begin your impact on the world through volunteerism and community service.
1. Evaluate your motivation
Ask yourself why you want to get involved, how you can get involved and what peaks your interest, concern or desire to assist.
For example, if you like to read, have interest in education and like young children, you may consider volunteering in a school or community center reading to young people or teaching them to read.
2. I like it and I’m good at it
Examine your talents and interest.  Note where your talents and interest intersect.  You may be able to offer your natural abilities to benefit your community.
What do I care about?
Find a subject or issue in which you have a specific or even general interest, such as education, sports or music.  Find a local group or organization that matches your interest.  Become active in a group that shares your interest.
3. Time Management
We all have time to do what we want to do or think is important.   Once you decide to get involved understand that this will require some time commitment.  It is best to realistically asses the amount of time you can regularly and consistently donate.
4. Take Action!
This is the most crucial step in getting involved with your community. After the examination, consideration, procrastination and maybe reluctance the time will come to take some active step in the process.  If you don’t know where to start, speak to family and friends to inquire about volunteering in your church, children’s school, a food bank or animal shelter.  The first step may be the most difficult, but may also be the most beneficial.

Adoption Tax Credit: An Overview

On January 2, 2013 a significant event in the benefit to the adoption process occurred when the United States Congress signed the bill which averted the “fiscal cliff”.  This bill included the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which provided for the permanent extension of the adoption tax credit, as it was issued in 2001.  The bill extends to taxable years after December 2012.  It allows taxpayers who adopt children to receive a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses, making adoption a more viable option for many individuals and couples who might not otherwise have believed adoption to be affordable.  The bill also includes provisions for exclusion from taxable income, adoption expenses paid by an employer.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act assists many adoptive parents and families to offset included expenses of adoption.  It is important to note however, that the tax credit provided in the American Taxpayer Relief Act does not apply to stepparent adoptions. And did not make the adoption credit refundable.  The adoption credit benefits adoptive parents who have federal income tax liability.  Congress however is still able to make changes to the credit in future legislation.
The maximum allowable credit and exclusion is currently set at $12,970 per child.  There is no limit to the number of children families may adopt.  The credit is adjusted and begins to phase out when individuals and couples have a gross income exceeding $194,580.00 and is eliminated for families with a gross income in the range of $234,000.
The adoption tax credit applies to expenses such as adoption fees, including court costs, attorney fees and travel expenses.  Excluded expenses include amounts reimbursed or paid by an employer, adoption assistance organization or any other person.  Also excluded are expensed which violate federal of state law or funds that are received in association with federal, state of local adoption programs.
Despite the limitations and restrictions the American Taxpayer Relief Act represents a considerable benefit to families who adopt children in the United States.  Its existence serves to incentivize the adoption of children in need of stable, loving and supportive families.  By  correctly following the provisions of the Taxpayer Relief Act, families are able to reconsider the affordability of adoption when starting or increasing the size of their family.
In order to claim the credit, taxpayers must file IRS Form 8839.  The IRS regulations state that FORM 8839 may not be filed until the end of the month of February.  Families may claim the credit before the finalization of an adoption, but must wait one year after incurring expenses.  Taxpayers have six years to utilize the tax credit.  This includes the year an expense is first incurred and the subsequent five years.
Advocates of adoption continue to work to seek and advance laws that support and encourage adoption.  The permanency to the adoption tax credit represents a huge step in the right direction.  Adoption is an admirable and fulfilling life decision.   We hope to continue to keep you informed and empowered as more progress is made in the area of creating families through adoption.
The information provided here should not be use as legal advice and does not substitute or replace the advice of legal counsel of tax professionals.  Please consult an attorney and tax advisor before taking any action to discuss your specific and individual circumstance, on how the Adoption Tax Credit may be used when filing your taxes.
Online Resources:

Adoption In Louisiana

Life’s journey to parenthood is not always traditional.  We may find the path to our heart’s desires through unexpected means.   Many adoptive parents come to realize that biological birth is not the only way to build a loving family and make an impact on the world.  Adoption of a child is selfless act that positively impacts the adoptive parents, the child and the family.  
In the United States, nearly every person has been impacted by adoption in some way.   Most of us know someone who has benefited from adoption, either within our own families, our friends or neighbors.  While the benefits are widespread, they are as unique to each of us as the child that is chosen.
As in most circumstances, the most important step is to make the decision to begin the adoption process.  This begins by making your family, friends and colleagues aware of your decision.  The next step is to gather as much information as possible.  As in all of life’s endeavors, preparation and information is crucial.  It is important to gather as much information as possible about the adoption process – the personal, social and legal ramifications of this life changing decision will have a direct impact on the nature and success of the process of adoption.
Adoption, while personal and emotional, is a legal proceeding conducted in a court of competent jurisdiction.  The court is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that available children are placed into safe and suitable homes.  A final decree of adoption creates a new family.  The best interest of the child is a primary consideration.  A judge must be confident that the child will be entrusted to a safe and secure situation.  From the point of the final decree, an adopted child is deemed the legitimate child of the adoptive parents.
Regardless of type, adoption records are confidential and the information contained therein may not be disclosed absent authorization of law or court order.  Louisiana law provides for three types of adoption – Agency, Private, and Intra Family.
Any single person, married or single who has reached the age of eighteen may petition the court to adopt a child that is available for adoption.  Louisianan law is well settled that it is in the best interest of a child for the adoptive process to proceed expeditiously and without unreasonable delay.
Louisiana courts are authorized to issue a final decree of adoption in a single hearing once all legal requirements are met, and the court is satisfied that the child’s physical and emotional needs will be met and a successful parent-child relationship is clear.  
When a qualified individual or couple has embarked upon the adoption process and prepared themselves properly, with the help of competent legal counsel they will find the process both organized and unproblematic.  Once complete families are formed and people are free to begin a journey that brings new meaning to their lives accompanied by feelings of satisfaction.  Adopted children are moved into a safe and secure life that is filled with previously unimagined opportunities.  When families open their homes and lives to newly adopted children, this act should be celebrated.  
For more information please consult an attorney who is experienced in the areas of  juvenile law and adoptions.  You may wish to visit the websites listed below to gain valuable information while you consider embarking upon the process of adoption for your family.
Online Resources
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