Jan 15, 2016
Unsung Community Champion
Paul looks forward to his forever happy home…
He has been a foster child for four years, three months and 17 days. He is 15 years and 10 months old. He came into care before age 11 due to self-harming. His biological mother refused to access mental health services for him. During an altercation with his mother, Paul had bite marks on his forehead. His mother showed a great lack of concern for his well-being. She, too, exhibited the need for mental health services.
Over the years, Paul’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer has developed an amazing, supportive relationship with him. She has visited him monthly in all 10 placements where he has received the mental health treatment he needs. She has participated in Family Support team meetings on his behalf, constantly monitoring the services ordered by the government. She has monitored the receipt of services by his biological mother, so as to remedy the situation which removed Paul from his home originally. She has submitted succinct reports to the Court regarding Paul’s best interest, chock-full of relevant facts gleaned from her observations and home visits.
She encouraged and visited Paul when it came time for a trial home placement with his biological mother. When that failed, Paul’s CASA was the constant in his life.
A CASA volunteer has the serious responsibility to speak for the child/teen and speak to the best interest of the child. Paul hit a crossroads in his young life when he decided he no longer wanted contact with his biological mother.
Hats off to his tenacious CASA volunteer who listened, researched and spoke on his behalf in court. Hooray for the Court, who also listened to the CASA recommendations. An unusual order was granted, ceasing all visitation by mother with Paul.
In what seemed to be a heartbeat, Paul’s behaviors improved immensely. His progress was so pronounced, he was removed from institutional care and placed in a foster home. This was a dream come true for Paul.
Quite frankly, Paul’s CASA volunteer and all those involved with his situation would never have dreamed what happened in open court for him.
On the day of his regularly scheduled hearing, Paul’s foster mother accompanied him to court, along with his CASA volunteer. His foster mother spoke loud and clear that it would be her distinct pleasure to adopt almost 16-year-old Paul - a rare occurrence for foster children this age!
I wish you could have seen the twinkle in his eye and the smile on Paul’s face. If only you could have been there to see quiet and shy Paul turn to his CASA volunteer, give her an unsolicited hug in open court and say, “I love you, Peggy!”
Rules of confidentiality prohibit me from sharing the million-dollar photo I took of Paul with CASA Peggy that happy day in court. But, I know this moment is etched in our memories forever.
Now the entire team of Children’s Division, Juvenile Officers, Guardian Ad Litem and CASA join Paul in looking forward to his forever happy home.
Lafayette County youth are benefiting from an established yet up-and-coming program – Lafayette County Children’s Services Fund (LCCSF). This is just one of many success stories shared on the LCCSF website, www.lccsf.org. accessHealth sat down with Jackie Roberts, LCCSF’s children’s mental health coordinator, to discuss the program and the resources available for families.
In 2005, a one-eighth cent sales tax was passed in Lafayette County to establish a financial resource center, benefiting specific youth and their families. This program is governed by a nine-member board of directors and seeks to provide financial assistance to Lafayette County public and nonprofit agencies that provide mental health services to youth, or that would like to establish programs that benefit youth mental health.
The LCCSF operates with the mission to “provide quality, comprehensive training and services to protect the mental well-being and safety of our youth 19 years of age or less and to strengthen families in Lafayette County.”
Organizations that provide mental health services or promote mental well-being can apply for funding. LCCSF funds the following services: counseling, crisis intervention, temporary shelter, respite care, outpatient psychiatry, outpatient substance abuse treatment, school-based prevention services, services to teen moms/parents, transitional living services and home and community-based services. While there are qualifications to meet before being approved for funding assistance, some services cannot be funded, such as inpatient therapy, transportation, equipment or administrative expenses.
Currently, the LCCSF has partnered with several organizations including: Brighter Futures Consortium, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), House of Hope, Pathways (Lexington and Odessa) and the Health Care Collaborative (HCC) of Rural Missouri.
Through programs such as Brighter Futures, youth are able to receive mental health services through their specific school by licensed and certified mental professionals.
One program that received funding through LCCSF was House of Hope’s Safe Access Friendly Exchange (SAFE) program. It enables parents to conduct supervised visitation periods in a safe, child-centered environment while providing safety to all participants.
Santa Fe Elementary School, one of the program’s recipients, recently received funding for implementation of a Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST) Consultation Services. The BIST program focuses on training and support for schools and students with the intended outcome of increasing productivity, while decreasing disruptive behaviors and offer techniques for lifelong management. Amy Tieman described this program as a “truly beneficial program for our students and our school,” according to the LCCSF website.
More recently, the organization has voted to approve $10,000 in discretionary funding to provide grief and crisis counseling services in Lafayette County if ever necessary. This money is available county-wide for school districts, local agencies and current funded partners.
As for the needs in Lafayette County, Roberts said that one of the funded partners (with direct services to children) listed anxiety disorders, self-harming and grief and loss support as some of the most needed services. Funded organizations such as Pathways and HCC are equipped to handle such situations on an individual basis, in part due to funding from LCCSF.
Communities can help keep LCCSF afloat by shopping local. Roberts said this is one way to ensure money is coming into the program that in turn offers funding to their partners. Additionally, Roberts describes LCCSF as the “best kept secret in all of Lafayette County. It is an amazing resource for our community and we need to raise more awareness of this resource,” she said.
Interested residents are encouraged to get involved. Currently, the board meets on the second Thursday of each month, through June 2016. Thereafter, meetings will take place the second Monday of each month. The meetings are open to the public and held at 7 p.m. in the Lafayette Hall, 116 S. 10th St., Lexington, Mo.
For more information, visit www.lccsf.org, contact Jackie Roberts at 660.251.1621, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The HCC of Rural Missouri is the host organization for LCCSF, which is a board-governed, Lexington-based nonprofit.