Lunch Highlights Critical Need Of Programs

BERLIN – Elected officials and legislators received the opportunity on Monday to meet with the directors and members of several Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services (WYFCS) programs. The luncheon, which was sponsored by the Worcester County Local Management Board (LMB) and held in “The Ray” room in Berlin, gave officials the rare chance to meet face-to-face with the young adults and families that depend on WYFCS.

“It’s like speed dating for legislators,” joked Toni Keiser, describing the format of the luncheon where officials would rotate around the different program stations, spending a few minutes at each. Keiser, vice president of Public Relations at Atlantic General Hospital, helped run the event.

The goal of the luncheon was to raise awareness about the positive impact of WYFCS programs in the county and to express the need for funding to continue the services. Almost every program saw a decrease in funding this year from last, sometimes drastically so.

The LMB budget especially saw a steep decline, dropping from $938,960 in fiscal year 2010 to $668,671 in 2011. While the LMB itself does not directly offer support to families, it does play an instrumental part in keeping all of the programs running.

“We seek out grant funding,” said Resource Coordinator Jen Baumann.

She went on to say that the board, “basically, coordinates services,” for all of the other county family programs.

Baumann explained that the LMB is responsible for locating and assembling funding for youth services and for evaluating and monitoring those same programs.

“We utilize funds in the best way we can,” she stated.
However, Baumann did caution that resources are becoming harder and harder to find.

“It’s so competitive,” she said. “You really have to shine with your proposal to receive attention (from funding providers).”

WYFCS Executive Director Teresa Fields agreed, saying, “The need keeps getting greater and greater, but the funding keeps getting less and less.”

While no program relies entirely on the board, the loss of the LMB would dramatically limit their funding sources.

“Everyone has their own little silo but the LMB opens all of the silos,” said Baumann, explaining that each program only has a specific place from which they receive funding; however, the LMB is able to reach out and find resources in places individual programs cannot access.

Besides being able to discuss youth services with directors and faculty, legislators were received personal accounts of what programs offered from those who have actually used them.

Shanta Holland, who has been involved in the System/Family Navigation (SFN) program, one of the eight represented at the luncheon, had positive things to say about every aspect of the WYFCS.

“They provide support to the community, especially with people going through transitions,” she said. “Any service a family could use is here.”

Lori Carson, the Family Connections Director of SFN, also spoke out about the program.
“We try to help anyone in the county, regardless of their ability to pay,” Carson said.

Carson listed a number of services, including assistance with transportation, rent and electricity, that SFN provides families in Worcester County.

Similar to the SFN, the Community Service Centers (CSC) also had both a director and a member in attendance.

Tina Holland, a resident who has utilized CSC in the past, expressed her support and gratitude, claiming that there was, “nothing they haven’t done for me.”

In addition to those two programs, representatives and members of several others, including county after-school programs, home instruction programs, and youth counseling were also on hand to meet with elected officials.