Friday, March 27, 2009

A summary of Truancy Diversion prepared for a congressional report

Truancy Diversion Social Work Program (TDSW), delivered by the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia through collaboration with the Alliance for Children, Inc, places a social service worker into a school to assist with truancy problems and other social and family issues disrupting student success. Launched in Mineral County, West Virginia in 1999, this successful program has proven its effectiveness with outcomes including attendance improvement, grade promotion, and increase of positive behaviors at school and home. TDSW has produced a significant reduction of petitions filed for truancy in the county and has diverted hundreds of children from the child welfare and delinquency systems. The program received strong support from parents and school personnel as it provided assistance for students to stay in school. In fact, TDSW was so successful that the State of West Virginia and local districts scaled it up, operating in 49 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. With the loss of federal juvenile justice and delinquency prevention funds and other funding streams, however, this major statewide initiative that provided services to thousands of students and families was substantially reduced to operate in only one county. Despite the lack of resources, Truancy Diversion continues to prove its effectiveness, as evidenced by the current program at VanDevender Junior High School in Parkersburg. Out of 48 students who received intensive services, 97.9% increased or maintained their daily attendance with the intervention, and 95.8% increased or maintained their GPA.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

strategic planning over lunch

A small group of staff met over lunch today to take another look at the local strategic planning vision of the site. We categorized some of the lengthy, ambitious list created at a similar meeting in December, to then present to a wider group of site staff in a few weeks. Its an exciting list, and we are eager to share it more widely. We are gearing up our planning for me (Steve) to share with the agency's board at its April 25th strategic planning retreat. This important work of strategic planning is a challenge when so many things are going on every single day in the work of the site! During the meeting, a constant flurry of disruptions (good things, but disruptions nonetheless!!!) cause one to have to really work to focus!!! We had fingerprinting, application packets being brought in, fund raising event planning, food bank distributing, phone calls, all going on at once!!!!!


The Gustke Shelter had a shocking experience in the middle of the night last night, of a bullet hitting a front window! Shattering the outer plate glass, but leaving the inner plate glass unharmed- it was an unsettling experience for the shelter! A police report has been filed, and glass replacement ordered, and otherwise we try to go about business as usual. Dave, a youth care worker, has seen a lot in his long dedicated career at the shelter, but this was a first on his night watch!!!

Father support group gets off to a good start

We met tonight with a group of about 8-10 "dads" around a scrumptious meal that Lisa prepared, and a relaxed introduction session to see what dads wanted to talk about. Tony Foreman has graciously offered to led 4 weeks of sessions for dads starting next week, and this was a successful "kick off" just with some casual getting acquainted. A very intriguing mix of situations some dads find themselves in!!! This is something we are doing as part of our Partners in Prevention work to strengthen families and reduce stressors for families, in our wider agency mission of protecting and nurturing children, while strengthening families. Some good resources were shared, and we'll eagerly await the next sessions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Department of Education monitoring visit

Some state Department of Education monitoring folks are in town this week, to work with Wood County schools on some monitoring. Today was the day they were reviewing McKinney-Vento, the federal act responding to homeless students, so Deb was there for the monitoring of that contract position we have with Wood County schools; then the two monitors came to visit the shelter and meet our tutor/ contract teacher. One of the Monitors has met Dennis Sutton, and serves on a committee with him, so made the connection to the agency. I think she and the other monitor came away impressed with our educational programming at the shelter.

Baby Shower

The Shelter staff held a fantastic baby shower for a young woman resident who is soon to have a baby. It was a very fun and festive occasion- with games, food, prizes and gifts. Both her mother and soon-to-be foster mother were present as well as a good turnout of staff members of the shelter to wish her well. There were some very thoughtful gifts, and some heartfelt good luck wishes. The cake that Denise decorated was very impressive, and the little contests and games were fun and "bonding" for all the attendees. The three guys having a contest to drink from a baby bottle was a hoot! We're hoping for a great birth and a good kickoff to parenting for the young woman!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

ReCap of 2008 Americana Music Tribute Series benefits for the site

Parkersburg Site’s Americana Music Tribute Series

2008 saw the Americana Music Tribute Series in full swing. This series of live music events are held as benefits for the Parkersburg site of Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. These events have been going for several years, and fulfill a basic premise: provide live local music around a theme of a great Americana Music legend, for people’s musical enjoyment, while creating a greater awareness of the work of the agency in the Parkersburg area, and raising money to support the work of the agency and its programs in the community. 2008 kicked off with the Johnny Cash Tribute at the Wheel House in downtown Parkersburg. This event is proving to be the most well attended and popular, raising over $1000 for the work of the agency. There is beginning to develop quite a build up of excitement over this event every year, affectionately known as the “Cash Bash” to many. Next up was the “Whole Lotta Hank” tribute, also at the Wheel House. This tribute has Hank Williams as its honoree. A fantastic band led by Jerry and Lisa Queen highlighted this show, with a pedal steel guitar and the works. Some musicians, like Jonny Nutter of Parkersburg, prepare for each show, learning songs from the featured Americana legend. Door prizes and fun contests are also something folks are beginning to come to expect at the Americana music shows. Unfortunately, this was the last show at the Wheel House, as it closed soon after our last benefit. Next up was a Bob Dylan Birthday tribute, which was held in May at the Front Row in Parkersburg. This was a new event for the series in 2008. There even was some “You Tube” footage of some of the performances from this show! Todd Burge and Jeremy Mayle did some very classy versions of some Bob Dylan songs late into the night. In the heat of the summer, we had a Woody Guthrie children’s music show, at our community Family Center. We had over 40 children and parents jumping around, and having a good ol’ time, to the music of Don Howerton and Nick Barry. Later that evening, a Morgantown duo, the Weedhawks, joined with Nick Barry, and Todd Burge for an extension of the children’s music show, as a benefit for the agency, too. October brought a new venue for the Americana Tribute series, but the longest running event, the John Prine birthday tribute show. This was held at the 5th Street Pub in downtown Parkersburg. 9 different acts performed that night- all lovers of John Prine’s great songs and storytelling skills. The last show of the year was a Neil Young Tribute in November which also was held at the 5th Street Pub.
These benefits, along with on-going vinyl record sales held throughout the year, and a few small scale coffee houses in our Mid Town Family Resource Center, all combine to keep Children’s Home Society front and center in the local community with the fun combination of live local music, and supporting our work with area children and families. The combined fund raising totals over $5000, and well over 500 people are connected to the agency by their attendance. A solid 12 months of publicity and getting the agency’s name out in the community goes on because of the Americana Music Tribute series.
2009 Series is already underway; stay tuned for announcements about upcoming events, or visit Steve’s music blog: for updates.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Children's Day at the Legislature

Tomorrow is Children's Day at the Legislature. Deb and Mary are going to advocate for the Right From the Start program; talking to a few key legislators, and distributing some material on the program. CHS will have a exhibit about foster care and adoption, and our agency. I am going to talk to a local delegate on a key committee about foster care and a recommended rate increase. I have a whole slew of children's issues I COULD talk about if I get the chance! Kids First (and the tiered quality child care system); foster care, after school care, Title I funds and truancy diversion (economic stimulus money), a legislature budget allocation for our capital project of renovation the Latrobe St. property for an independent living setting for youth transitioning to adulthood; all kinds of key children and family issues!

Foster Care Referral's come at all hours

I am sitting in my office at 8 pm, following through on a foster care referral that happened at 4:40 pm; there followed a sequence of phone calls leading to an acceptance of a foster care placement for two siblings, but the transportation has not been completed as of this hour. Kim has come back in, and got the intakes ready, looked for some temporary clothes, and gone back home to wait the call. One of our foster homes was called and accepted the kids and now awaits the placement. Its any hour of the day that we might get a call, and the sketchy background information leaves you with lots of anxiety and "what if's" as you anticipate settling some kids into a foster home late into the evening.

providing a place for a student to volunteer

We do so many intangible things to try to help the community when we can. A juvenile probation officer calls us, says a student was suspended for fighting for 5 days, and the parent is concerned about just having the student stay home (while he is at work) for the 5 days, and the message that gives to a student (you get in trouble at school, and you get a vacation!!!) So the probation officer asked if she could come here to volunteer for those days. Now, this is a total unknown how it can work! (The youth may be lazy, distracting, etc.) But we give these things a shot! We go into it open minded that giving a youth an opportunity is worth a try. So, over these days, she vacuums, does dishes, etc. Helps with a few little office jobs, straightening arts and crafts and games, etc. She gets a little homework done, meets some interesting adults, sees how bustling of a place this is. The parent is VERY appreciative, and perhaps it plants a little seed of community awareness and on-going support!

Vet's traumatic brain injury and PTSD support group

About 10 people attending the first organizing meeting of this group, that is utilizing our community room to get started. They were very upbeat and encouraged, and very appreciative of the nice, welcoming space we provide to such groups in the community. Their next meeting will be Tuesday, April 28th at 6 pm at our 5th door conference room. They said the next speaker is the doctor who treated the miner who survived the Sego mine disaster.

Family Night another big success

We had a good turnout, good fellowship, a good presenter, the kids seemed to have fun, last night at our monthly Family Night here at the Mid Town Family Resource Center. There must have been 10 families, (parents and probably an average of 3 children!!) plus a goodly number of staff, and volunteers and hangers-on. Dick Wittberg, from the MOV Health Department did a great job of giving an overview of what the health department does, and its mission in the community. Our families are getting very good at asking good questions, and putting the topic into a good context for their families, their neighbors and the community. These sessions are serving several good purposes; they provide good community resource information to families, they are building the sense of community among the parents in our program, and they offer individuals the opportunity to express themselves, and explore the stressors and needs they experience, and seek solutions with support.
The kids also benefit from these family nights, they incorporate the enjoyment they get from participating in the after school program, and their friends, with seeing their parents interacting with other parents, in a relaxed, congenial atmosphere, and see other caring adults supporting each other.
There is definitely a solid core group built up now, and this can only continue to provide critical support to families as they tackle the day to day stressors they face.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day GREEN

We are getting ready for the monthly Family Night here at the Mid Town Family Resource Center. Shauna is a big one for the "major" (fun) holidays, such as Halloween and St. Patrick's Day (and probably April Fool's Day coming up.....) We are having a "breakfast" dinner tonight with pancakes and sausage and fruit. For the parents, we are having someone from the Health Department come to talk about all they offer through the Health Department. I think the kids are playing a special March version of Jeopardy with categories related to March's celebrations. The colorful table cloths and decorations give a festive air to the bustling Center.
Lisa toiled tirelessly to complete a grant that would help our summer programming here at the Mid Town Family Resource Center and got it submitted today.
We were having many frustrations with our internet these last few days; and it makes you realize how dependent everyone is on steady reliable service! Many of the billing tasks, and the documentation tasks are critical to do every day and timely!!! Plus, e-mail communication has become the most relied on form for intra-agency communication. AH, we persevere through the challenges!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday evening

"TJ" and "Brandon" tap on the door to my side of the office. They are peering in the window, sure that I am here, since my car is out front. They see me approaching the door, and TJ gives a countdown, 3-2-1, and I open the door magically (as far as Brandon is concerned). They ask if they can come in and get on the computers for awhile. TJ is barefoot; I tease him about walking on these neighborhood streets and sidewalks barefoot- lots of glass and stuff to cut your feet on.
They come in, glance around for anything appetizing snack food wise. They head to the computers and each get on one, to get on some on-line game.
This is 6:30 pm on Sunday afternoon. I have been working on a grant for the Mid Town Family Resource Center; a mid-size grant that could help fund summer programming for Middle School and High school students (young people like TJ and Brandon). I got sidetracked looking at the material for the upcoming Drop Out Prevention Summit we are having in our area on April 2nd. This is part of a national effort by America's Promise (and thus WV's Promise) to conduct summits all over the country, to have people get together and discuss what can be done to improve our graduation rates, engage more discouraged students into staying in school and similar topics. Our two VISTA's are actively involved in the organizing of the local event, and then a statewide summit in July. They are also going to be attending a number of the other summits around the state over the next month. Kirsten Olson is the speaking at ours. I just looked up her website, and was very impressed with her approach to the issues of discussion.
I also get sidetracked planning details of the week ahead; yet another busy one. Tomorrow I am going to Charleston to attend a meeting of the community and technical colleges and some stakeholders to young people in the foster care and juvenile systems as they prepare for adulthood. This group has been meeting a couple of times to try to figure out what the community and technical colleges could do to help these youth.
Later in the week, I hope to attend Children's Day at the Legislature to advocate for a few of the most pressing issues for our agency, and the families and children we serve. We also have a family night for our Mid Town Family Resource Center coming up this week, someone from the Health Department will talk to the neighborhood parents about services they have. I will be presenting at a Transitional LIfe Fair for special education students in the Wood County schools on Wednesday- some sessions with those students to talk about opportunities to serve the community as they transition, and some of the kinds of jobs available in the human service fields.
Jim, from the Runaway and Homeless Youth program, is intrigued with a session he will be attending Saturday in Ritchie County, of a group called "Relatives as Parents." Carna will be at a statewide Permanency / Adoption conference Tuesday through Thursday in Morgantown. Discussions will include how to move toward Permanency more effectively for children in our state. Shelley will be attending a training session at WVU's Social Work program in Charleston on being a field instructor for the program on Wednesday. We are having a lunch time session on Wednesday, where RFTS clients (young mothers, grandmother caretakers, etc.) and some of the staff, over lunch, go over some of the current stressors they face, and share some resources in the community, and offer mutual support. Tuesday evening we are hosting a support group start-up for veterans and their families who face post traumatic stress and / or traumatic brain injury.
We're hoping to host Pam Jeffers, from Youth Service Systems, Inc. on Tuesday; now that we have a young man placed in a host home, we have some details to discuss about the financial and logistical arrangements. Some of the staff from our site will attend the monthly Youth and Adolescent Council of the Wood County Family Resource Network on Thursday. That group is in a transition, with the former Wood County FRN director leaving a few months ago, and the position currently not filled. They are looking for someone to volunteer to chair the Youth and Adolescent Council!!!! I'm not going to volunteer for that one!!!!!
I SHOULD also be sorting through some records in preparation for the First Vinyl Record Sale of the year, April 18th. They are looking pretty chaotic, if not intriguing, over there in the corner of this office. I played a few records today while working, since no one else was around to bother with my rather eclectic tastes in music.
Oops- the boys in the other room just made a big loud noise and I better go see what that was.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eagerly awaiting final details about the revival of Truancy Diversion here in Wood County!

We hope to have final word Monday or Tuesday of the go-ahead to get a truancy diversion worker at Van Devender Middle School starting April 1.
Truancy Diversion services, which has a basic premise that putting a social service worker into a school to assist with attendance problems, and other wider social and family issues disrupting student success, has been a successful program of the Parkersburg site from 1999- 2007. Originally funded using "TANF" (temporary assistance to needy families) funds, it later was funded by Wood County schools Title I funds. It was a program with very measurable accountability for its effectiveness- with students improving attendance, grade passing, and even behavior in school. It had a noticeable impact on petitions filed for truancy in the county, and had many appreciative parents and school personnel for the added assistance provided to help students stay in school and know that someone was advocating and caring and looking out for their interest educationally and socially.
The history of the program would make for a great study in terms of its evolution as a program, and its longitudinal outcomes.
In our area, I first wrote the grant for a several county area, independently of the wider effort that became a nearly statewide program through the Alliance for Children. That was an era when the state was putting out "RFP"'s (requests for proposals) to respond to certain identified needs. We got a grant for what I think was 6 counties at the time, just our immediate area, and we began the program modeling it after the program that had started a few years earlier in the eastern part of the state. Deb Murphy was one of the first workers hired out of this office. She persevered and evolved with the program, to spearhead our local efforts. Steve Lewis in Ritchie County and Rick was the Calhoun County worker. The next year, we merged our proposal and grant with the wider Alliance effort, and had 24 truancy diversion workers in 8 counties for the next several years! This was a thriving and bustling part of our services and expansion of our office- we learned an incredible amount about gearing up a program, working with educational systems, structuring a program, forms, documention, management information systems, accountability with government officials, adjusting to varying counties, and much more!! When the TANF funds ended very specifically at the end of a fiscal year; we suddenly were without a major program and service to hundreds of students, and 8 school systems! Wood County, to its credit, revived the local program using Title I funds, with the advocacy and vision of Dr. Frank Bono, Wood County title I director. So for several more years, we maintained the program, as the only remnant in the state. But even here it dwindled down to one worker left toward the end. Many people still have hopes it can be revived at a wider level; the model is still excellent and relevant, and the potential impact is still strong.
Stay tuned for more information; and perhaps, more reflections on some of the early work of the project!!!!!

Craft and Activity corner in the Mid Town Family Resource Center gets an organizing!

A youth volunteer, and our BSW field placement student, helped Lisa re-arrange and organize the craft and supply corner of the Mid Town Family Resource Center yesterday. It has a nice tidy appearance now! This is a bustling and creative "corner" that provides many great activities for many children and families throughout a month!!!

The Echoheads rock the high school auditorium

The staff of the Runaway and Homeless Youth program organized an event for teens here in Parkersburg that was held last evening. They are holding (at least) monthly positive youth activities (mostly here at our facility), but last night they branched out and had an event at the Parkersburg High School auditorium. A local band (which happens to be made up of 3 out of 4 of its members being Gustke Shelter employees!) performed their original songs in the "heavy metal/ rock" genre. It was a smallish crowd, but enthusiastic none the less. They have some great musical talent. We keep encouraging Jim and Lisa that they are on the right track, building up this concept of positive youth alternatives.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

First placement in one of our host homes in the TLP program

After some months of getting established, we have our first placement of a young man in our host home (Barry's, in Wirt County) as of last night. Ken took care of the placement last night, and Barry is off to a confident start in establishing support for this young man. More details later! But we are very happy to get this new exciting component of our program off the ground!

Bustling Day at Mid Week at CHS-Parkersburg

Its a bustling busy day. We have an audit in the Right from the Start program going on, in "door number 5"- Three of our Runaway and Homeless Youth staff are visiting Daymark today (in Charleston, a major provider of RHY services in West Virginia, and a long time partner agency). Wayne Bailey is graciously hosting our three staff, to see the basic center program, the transitional living program, and the street outreach programs. Our two VISTA's are off to Wirt and Roane County all day. The morning will be working with the FRN's and DHHR's on the service array for the three counties Wirt, Calhoun and Gilmer. In the afternoon, they will be talking to some folks in Roane County who have a drop out prevention interagency group, in preparation for the upcoming Drop Out Regional Summit. A foster care worker from another site is visiting with Carna to go over some documentation stuff. Will is doing a site visit for record reviews. Lisa Weaver is diligently working on a grant for summer programming for the Mid Town Family Resource Center. Mr. Apgar has two students from over at the shelter doing school work here. Barry just brought in his new dog to show him off.

Monday, March 9, 2009

We hope we slogged through the week of a LOT of people being sick!

Last week seemed like a particularly challenging week for the staff here at CHS-Parkersburg; with many people suffering various maladies, and lots of preoccupation with "who might be next!" A tribute to all the hard working folks that work for the agency here in Parkersburg, "the work went on"- and people don't let too many details slip! With daylight savings time here, and a few days of spring-like weather, we hope that bears hope for some recovery and getting well!

Offering our community meeting room for a very important support group

I am very proud to announce that we are opening up our community meeting room for a support group being organized in our community to provide support to veterans, family members and friends, who want to know about Traumatic Brain Injury, and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a significant social issue for our nation, and obviously, with our agency's commitment to strengthening families and supporting families, this important offering in a community was something we were more than eager to provide the space for. The first meeting of this is: Tuesday, March 17th at 6 Pm in "door number 5" of our complex at 1739 St. Mary's Ave. in Parkersburg. Bill Dearien could be contacted for information: 304-295-4653. It is sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of WV in collaboration with the Care-Net project of the WV Council of Churches. Stay tuned for an update on how the first meeting goes, and future developments!

Truancy Diversion may be in for a revival

For a good run of several years, our Parkersburg site of CHS operated a highly regarded and successful truancy diversion program in Wood County schools. (And for several years, in 8 counties surrounding our office) Wood County schools always appreciated the working relationship we had, and the value of a designated worker in the schools to deal with positive attendance accountability, and the special needs of children with attendance problems and school motivation issues. Well, an exciting possibility has opened up where Wood County schools may be interested in our contracting for one truancy diversion worker to work in Van Devender Middle school to finish the last quarter of this school year, and then contract for the 2009-2010 school year! We hope to have some final details on this possibility very soon, and will keep everyone informed!

Friday the 13th Positive Youth activity night

The Runaway and Homeless Youth project staff have organized a very exciting evening of fun for community youth. Lisa and Jim have been working on developing some positive activities for youth since the project began at our site. Most of these have consisted of movie or game nights here at our "youth drop in center" (aka the Mid Town Family Resource Center) every several weeks. The numbers have grown to around 20 at such events. Well, this Friday night, they have ambitiously expanded their scope, by having an event at the auditorium at Parkersburg High School! Lisa persevered through some negotiations with the high school to get approval, and a Free event! From 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm the event will consist of: first a SOBER presentation and then, at 7:30 pm a live musical performance by the ECHOHEADS! SOBER is the community group that focuses on prevention and addressing underage drinking in the community. The ECHOHEADS are a local group that includes some of the staff from the shelter! This event is an exciting way that the staff of the RHY program is trying to engage youth of the community in positive activities and getting involved in their community.

Friday, March 6, 2009

30th anniversary celebration more reflections

I have had such a busy week, coming right out of the two events last weekend, that I haven't really taken the time to reflect more on the great 30th anniversary celebration last Friday. It was such a good mix of people important to the agency over our history, and for this gathering I am truly grateful. I so enjoyed having Chris Pauken Lewis there, and spending additional time with her Saturday morning over brunch at Kim's house. Not only has she had an interesting life since she was at the shelter, but she reflects on those years very interestingly, and has good insights into the origins of the shelter and a non profit organization in a community. She has been a foster parent with Pressley Ridge, and is a librarian now at Marshall. Upon looking at the photo albums of the early years, she had an amazing recall of kids, kids names and situations, and an obvious caring for all the young people, and the mission of the shelter. She has a great sense of humor, too! It was nice to create the opportunity for her to reconnect with several staff members from that era at the event.
Having several of our foster parents there was also very powerful for me. This newer part of our site's work (that last 2 years) is looking to be an important part of our future, and it was good, not only for everyone to know about this, but for them to see the great outpouring of support for the agency from the community.
We had a good contingent of our advisory committee members there; which was also very affirming: so they could see first hand the community's support, and so other community members could see that this group will ably represent the community's interest in our work in the area and across the agency. I am eager to get this group back together and do some more planning!!!
As we wrap up the details of the event, and eagerly look to the local site's strategic vision and plans for the future, we can do so with the satisfaction of registering some good memories of a fine event, and the community support that embodies.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Steve making a few brief remarks.......

In the past, Steve may have been known to talk on a little long, when he was talking about something he was enthusiastic about, but he managed to keep his remarks brief tonight.

Harry Deitzler brainstorms development ideas for the agency with Mary White (off camera!)

We so much appreciated Harry Deitzler's presence at the event; he is such an admirer of Judge Gustke, and has been such a stauch supporter of the agency in recent years.

A proud foster parent at the celebration!

Judge Gustke recognized at the event

Judge Gustke was honored with a proclamation from the Governor, for his efforts to assist the community in the late 70's in establishing the shelter. In 1992, the Shelter was renamed in his honor. He was very moved and appreciative of the recognition, in his humble and dignified way.

Mary and Deb getting things ready for the CHS-Parkersburg 30th anniversary celebration

Deb and Mary worked hard to get things set up at the Parkersburg Country Club on Friday for the site's 30th anniversary celebration. This was a first class event- from start to finish!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Johnny Cash Tribute rollicking success

The Mid Town Family Resource Center will benefit to the tune of over $1400, from the fun Johnny Cash Tribute benefit Saturday night, held at 6 Pence Pub in Parkersburg. It was a packed house, with standing room only for the fun, good music, and cheer of a celebration of the music of Johnny Cash. Four musical acts performed their hearts out; great quality music throughout the evening!! The Mid Town Family Resource Center staff did a fantastic job of promoting it, and this obviously paid off, as this was the most successful fund raiser in the Americana Music Tribute series in its existence. This was a big crowd, and lots of good will for the agency in the local community.