Butler County JFS executive director talks new foster care money.

Butler County expanding work program for troubled teens in $1.3M contract

Butler County Job and Family Services Executive Director Bill Morrison told the commissioners before they approved the new contract with service provider Pressley Ridge on Monday that they are expanding the Summer Youth Program to make it year-round.

The program, renamed the Work Experience Program, targets underprivileged and in some cases troubled kids.

He said the program would begin today with up to 20 kids aged 16 to 18.

“It’s our youth that are either on probation to Juvenile Court or have experienced long-term foster care,” he said. “So they are some of our neediest youth in the community.”

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The contract will cost $348,788 this year, $427,055 in 2020 and $561,832 the following year. He said they could be serving as many as 100 kids by the third year.

The program is loosely tied to an effort that began in 2014 called the the Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP) that targeted youth ages 16-24. Former Gov. John Kasich inserted it into his budget bill and mandated JFS agencies target workforce, education and training services for teens and young adults, to help them break down barriers to success.

Morrison said he can use federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to pay for it. Morrison reinstated the summer program last year, and Easter Seals TriState ran it then.

“You want to try to target the assistance to kids who don’t necessarily have examples in their lives of parents and relatives who go to work every day,” he said. “They haven’t been growing up in an environment where they are exposed to a good ethic. So I wanted us to do this.”

He said last year they had one teen whose sister overdosed and died, so it was a challenge getting him to go to his job. Pressley Ridge’s expertise in social work and therapeutic assistance can help in such situations, officials said.

Children Services also contracts with Pressley Ridge for its Family Preservation Program, an intensive family intervention program with the goal of avoiding removing children from their homes.

The Work Experience Program offers the kids orientation to what it is like to have a job, what employers expect, life skills like budgeting the money they’ll earn, and provides the job at one of a number of local businesses. The program also provides things like work boots and uniforms.

“The summer is just an intensive employment period, they’ll be working 20 hours a week during the summer plus they’ll have one day that’ll be education and training,” he said. “We have a contract with OSU that will be doing life skills training with them. They’ll also be talking about nutrition issues and how to create a budget, financial literacy issues.”

He said the biggest companies that have signed up to provide the teens jobs are Miami University at both the Hamilton and Middletown campuses, West Chester Hospital the Educational Service Center and MidPointe Library.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said especially the kids in foster care need a program like this.

“We’ve been talking about expanding the program and making it a better fit to have better outcomes for the young people who’ve had challenges,” she said. “I think this is a very good step to make that happen.”

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