TRUMBULL COUNTY Keeping care close to home

Children services needs Niles volunteers for the neighborhood-based program.
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Children Service Agency plans to expand into Niles a program aimed at keeping children in their old neighborhoods despite problems at home.
In Trumbull County, the program of neighborhood-based services was started in southeast Warren in 1997.
At the time, more abuse was reported to children services from that area than any other area in the city, said Cynthia Mason, who coordinates the family-to-family program.
With a $50,000 grant, children services began cultivating a group of church and civic leaders in the area to brainstorm solutions.
Ideas: The group recruited foster parents in the neighborhood so if children were removed from their homes, they could continue attending the same school.
They also planned activities for children at Alliance Community Outreach, including a movie night and Easter egg hunts.
"The major complaint that we were getting was they wanted to find things for kids to do after school," Mason said. "Children need to get out of the house so they don't get under the feet of their parents all the time."
The number of children services referrals from the neighborhood has dropped, although Mason said it could not be directly attributed to the program.
Now, with $20,000 of the initial grant remaining, children services is looking for volunteers to bring the program to Niles, a city with an increasing number of abuse referrals, she said.
Strategy: Expanding the program is one part of the agency's strategic plan, a document started with three community meetings in 2000 which is regularly updated by a committee of agency staff.
"It is a living, dynamic document," said Robert Kubiak, agency director.
Kubiak said CSA has made progress on other goals in the plan, including encouraging relatives to take in children who could otherwise wind up in foster care, clarifying the agency's administrative structure, and expanding the homemaker department, which teaches parents housekeeping and child-rearing skills.

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