About 50 Delta County children and their families may not know it, but they are leaders on the cutting edge of a growing national trend aimed at building successful families and stronger communities.
Those 50 children and their families, located across the county and in every one of its communities, are participating in the Families Plus program.
Also known as All American Families Plus, the program is a unique, private enterprise initiative which from its beginnings 13 years ago now builds individually tailored, community-based "systems of care" that encourage and provide guidance for behaviorally challenged youth and their families.
"Delta County is truly ahead of its time," explains Brenda Holland, a local psychologist who serves as executive director of Families Plus. "We are doing something that the rest of the nation, and the state, are just coming around to."
Holland is referring to the program's child-centered, community-based system of care model that works to address a child's behavioral issues in the wider context of family and community settings.
Working with their primary focus on children from pre-school age to early adolescent, professional counselors who work with the program build a network
of family and neighbor volunteers who become, literally, an extended family for the child and his family. The community-based network thus created expands to include teachers and other "mentors" in the child's life.
While at all times maintaining the primary role of the child's natural parents and family in his life, the volunteer members of this social network make themselves available to assist, encourage, and support the child and his family in every area of personal and social development and health. The presence and role of the natural family is primary, and the parents' role and contribution to the family is always honored.
"Many of the families and children we work with come from low resource environments," Holland explains. "So often times they lack the kinds of social support that
other children may have for overcoming even the normal challenges that everyone faces when growing up."
Repeated failure for any reason in overcoming the challenges of life can lead very quickly to problems of social adjustment and behavioral issues for a child that even parents aren't equipped to deal with.
That is where the Families Plus social network model proves its worth. The Families Plus program can provide reliable, positive, ongoing interaction and support in a child's social environment, particularly through the involvement of the volunteer mentoring family. In addition to that, there is regular oversight with professional involvement including evaluation, testing, and monitoring of grades. That level of involvement creates an objective data set which shows that the program is working in local lives. "Ninety-five percent of our children attained a C average or better last school year," Holland says.
The Families Plus community systems of care model reaches far deeper into the social interactions forming a child's self image and behavior than
occasional individual sessions with a counselor ever could. In doing so, regular interactions with volunteer mentors make positive contributions to an intact family that may be struggling with persistent challenges. The family structure is strengthened. By strengthening the family structure, Families Plus helps build stronger communities. The model is a network of mutually supporting elements that is based on community while helping build community, And at the center of it all is the goal of success and health for an individual child.
The volunteers who provide mentoring for these children who face persistent challenges are the program's essential link between the child and the community that cares about him. Those volunteers come from the community itself. Holland says, the Delta County community is simply "amazing" in the ability and willingness of its people to bring resourceful caring into the lives of children and families.
"This isn't just a three-year program, and then it ends. Most people want to stay involved with the child once they have the relationship established," Holland said. "These family mentoring relationships usually become lifetime involvements and friendships."
The Families Plus mentors are recruited from community service organizations and churches across the county. They are everyday people just like anyone's neighbors, but they are people with very special, remarkably caring attitudes. "We just can't say enough to thank our volunteers for what they do," Holland says.
In addition to being a home-grown program whose focus is local youth, Families Plus is governed by a local board of directors with members from around the county providing guidance and oversight.
Financial support for the non-profit Families Plus program comes from a number of sources that include private foundations, along with most important contributions from local organizations, businesses, churches, and individuals. Holland says that some remarkable generous mentors have even taken the extraordinary step of establishing a college fund for their young Families Plus friend.blog comments powered by Disqus