Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Mercer County Juvenile Advisory Council
Advocating Change....Affecting Generations
Advocating Change....Affecting Generations
About
Posts

Post has attachment

Post has attachment
Another front page story on what MCJAC plans to do
Add a comment...

Post has attachment

New youth advisory group wants to fill in the gaps of services
By MOLLY MOSER
mmoser@recordargusnews.com
EAST LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP — Summer Knapp (right), executive director of the county’s Juvenile Advisory Council, speaks to a group of youth specialists Friday at the first meeting of the Youth Social Service Advisory Committee. Molly Moser/R-A EAST LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP —
Mercer County is home to an array of programs geared toward helping children and young adults lead successful lives, whether it be Children & Youth Services, the Behavioral Health Commission (BHC) or the Children’s Aid Society.
But because each program has a unique focus and arsenal of services, Summer Knapp said gaps can be created between where one service ends and another begins.
“What we want to do is eliminate all of those gaps,” said Knapp, executive director of the county’s Juvenile Advisory Council.
Friday, Knapp gathered 10 representatives from eight youth-centered county organizations for the first meeting of the Youth Social Service Advisory Committee.
The purpose of the committee, she said, is to create a collaborative environment in which the leaders of these organizations can work together to identify what their needs are, and to create solutions.
After state Auditor General Eugene De- Pasquale released a statement early this year labeling Pennsylvania’s child protection structure as “broken,” Knapp said she didn’t want to wait for the state to solve the problem.
“The best thing we can do is come together as a community, and start this at the grass-roots level,” she said.
One of the largest aspects of the committee will involve finding volunteers to help lighten the load currently placed on individual case workers, as well as provide services that may not be currently available.
Because of the increased liability that can come with it, most of the organizations in the room Friday reported that they do not currently use volunteers.
This, Knapp said, has resulted in the paid employees becoming “underpaid and overworked.”
“The average case worker at CYS has 20 cases at a time,” she said. “There isn’t enough time, and there isn’t enough money, and we can’t let these kids suffer because of it.
“You have plenty of good community members in Mercer County,” Knapp said to those in attendance. “We need to find the people who are willing and want to donate the time.”
Participating agencies filled out a survey early in the month, identifying what they feel are the needs that are not being met in the youth community.
The two areas that received the most votes were mentoring and transition-age services, referring to young adults who have aged out of the programs currently offering them assistance.
“There is a lot of homelessness — there’s nowhere for these kids to go; it’s huge with our transition-aged kids,” Knapp said.
Transportation was named as another major area of concern in the county.
According to Knapp, a young person may want to get a job, but has no way of driving themselves to and from work; or a young mother may need groceries, but can’t afford to spend money to take a bus.
That is where, she said, a volunteer could step in, offering transportation services to those who need it to get back on their feet.
Individuals who have volunteered for various events associated with the BHC will be contacted about offering their time once again, and Knapp said she also has plans to reach out to colleges in the area that require their students to complete volunteer hours.
In addition to the volunteer recruitment program, the committee will include the Social Service and Community Education Program.
This program will include training sessions for officials at the various organizations, as well as the community at large, to educate individuals about services offered within each county organization.
It will also allow the leaders of county organizations to come together to “advocate, champion and support youth-centered policies at local, state and national levels.”
The committee will meet quarterly at the BHC, with the next meeting scheduled for February.
Add a comment...
Wait while more posts are being loaded