More than half a million dollars in grant money will be used to help Butler County families involved in the juvenile court system and care givers of people with mental health issues and developmental disabilities.
The Butler County Family and Children First Council has received $289,974 for fiscal year 2016 and $287,358 for 2017 in Strong Families Safe Communities grants.
A wide range of training and programs to help parents and children cope with the juvenile justice system and with developmental disabilities will be funded by the grant money, according to Heather Wells, the Council’s executive director.
“We know those two agencies have a significant percentage of their populations who have a trauma history,” Wells said. “So we are investing in training and consultations so they will become what are called trauma responsive organizations.”
In March, a Fairfield Twp. woman, caring for her 24-year-old daughter with developmental disabilities, was so mentally depressed that she shot her daughter, then turned the gun on herself, police said.
While no one can know what truly happens inside a family’s home, training can help employees better identify early warning signs that can prevent tragedies, said Lisa Guliano, superintendent of the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which will benefit from the grant money.
“I think our intent as a community is to try to become much more sensitive to the challenges that people are facing with a person with mental illness and or developmental disabilities in their families, and the support and the needs that are surrounding them,” Guliano said.
With the new infusion of grant money, programs for children in the county’s juvenile justice system will be reinstate, according to Rob Clevenger, Juvenile Court Administrator.
A 2012 Miami University study indicated 52 percent of girls and 32 percent of boys in the juvenile justice system had a history of significant trauma in their lives.
“It’s not talking about their current status. What it’s talking about is previously in their lives they have been involved in what one would describe as traumatic events, traumatic environments…,” he said. “A lot of kids that are involved in child welfare and the juvenile justice system are kids that have, especially early in their lives, been exposed to traumatic events … Life has dealt them some pretty bad cards at times.”
The grant money also supports PAUSE for Parents, Play for Kids. The respite program for families of children with disabilities serves three purposes, according to Wells.
First, parents can drop off their children and have a few hours to themselves. It also provides a social activity for the children, and it is a way to learn what other needs a family may have that they haven’t verbalized.
“We have volunteers to provide a fun evening for those kids while the parents get a break,” Wells said. “But then we’re also using that sort of connection to the parents to then provide them with additional information. … So we’re trying to use that as a mechanism to get information to actual families about services that are available, supports, resources, those kind of things.”
The grant money also bolsters The Parent Project and adolescent “Why Try” counseling sessions at juvenile court.
Mandy Newman, a Hamilton mother of two teenagers, said she welcomed any help she could get two years ago after an altercation with her then 16-year-old son .
“It truly awesomely is an amazing class,” she said. “It has brought my family together like I would have never believed and still does. I still use it, we catch ourselves slacking on things and bring the program right back into the picture and it brings us all three right back together.”
The state required the Council to partner with another county, so Butler County teamed up with much smaller Preble County. Wells said Preble County’s cut of the grant is about $40,000.