Communitywide survey sets stage for new services Needs for families and children are focus

October 07, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The county Department of Citizen Services has commissioned a survey to identify the most pressing needs of children and families in Carroll.

The survey's results will be used to develop a five-year plan outlining goals and appropriate community services, to be financed with state and federal funds.

"We're hoping to get a sense from the community exactly what their needs are," said Jolene Sullivan, citizen services director. "It will give us a base for at least planning for the needs of our kids and families for the next five years."

Carroll receives about $800,000 in state and federal money annually, which goes to the county's Department of Social Services, the Youth Services Bureau, the county school system and the state Department of Juvenile Justice to develop services for families and children, Sullivan said.

The needs assessment will be completed by the Center for Community Health Care Strategies, a West Virginia consulting firm that will be paid for with a $27,000 state grant from the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families.

The project marks a new approach to the delivery of services for children and families, because the needs will be determined at the local level, said Madeline Morey, coordinator of services for youth and families at the Department of Citizen Services.

"The information is going to come from the bottom up, rather than from the top down," Morey said. "Planning is going to take place at the community level, rather than at a national or state office where they have no idea what's going on in your community."

For example, three homicides in Hampstead this year involved domestic violence, indicating a possible need for programs addressing the issue in that area.

"Of course, the feds aren't going to know there's a pocket of problems, but we're aware of it," Morey said. "If there's another community where poverty is an issue, we'll say we want to focus on that."

The needs assessment will include information collected from 50 interviews with the mayors and police chiefs of the county's municipalities, the superintendent of schools, the county director of social services and area families.

There will be 25 focus groups and random telephone and face-to-face interviews with about 500 individuals, Morey said. The interviews will be completed by the end of the year.

The interviews will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of services for children and families, gaps in the system and goals.

"Maybe they'd like to see all children immunized by age 5, or for all children to have a relationship with a caring adult," Morey said.

The needs assessment will be modeled on a similar project completed two years ago for Taneytown by the Center for Community Health Care Strategies.

Based on the results of the Taneytown assessment, the county was able to use state and federal grant money to hire a coordinator to develop programs for children and families in the area.

Since January, Michelle Schaffer, the coordinator, has met with city and business officials, church leaders and school employees to plan community events. Among her projects: an Easter egg hunt organized by Girl Scout troops for younger children, Mother's Day and Father's Day banquets, and smoking-cessation programs. An after-school program is scheduled to start next month.

Morey said the countywide needs assessment will not duplicate the work of another project designed to identify gaps in health care services in the county. Carroll County General Hospital and the county health department organized the study, which began a year ago and is nearing conclusion.

"This is more human-service oriented," Morey said. "It encompasses social services, juvenile justice, things that wouldn't be incorporated in a health study."

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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