Inspire and Guide

WCCC design students create fliers aimed at motivating mentorship

Times Observer photo by Lorri Drumm Scarlett Archer, a sophomore at the Warren County Career Center, is pictured with fliers she created for Warren County Children and Youth Services. The intent of the fliers is to motivate more people, especially men, to fill a need for foster care and mentors throughout the county.

The powers that be in Warren County are hopeful that a partnership connecting resources with fresh ideas will bring life-changing results.

Leaders from Warren County Children and Youth Services recently updated county commissioners as to efforts to attract more families and individuals to serve as foster parents and mentors for area youth in need. One key component of their efforts includes marketing strategies from area youth at the Warren County Career Center.

Students in the WCCC Multimedia Marketing and Design class were asked to come up with ideas and create fliers that would appeal to anyone looking to mentor and care for area youth, with a target audience of single men.

“Patty approached us about the project,” said Cathie Cummings, marketing instructor. “It was a perfect fit. We’re always looking for real-world projects.” Patty Wassink is a supervisor at Children and Youth Services.

“When the idea was first presented to us, it was dad-themed,” said Scarlett Archer, a sophomore who created fliers for the project. “My friend, Devin, had some ideas. We just thought of normal things dads do with kids like baseball and fishing.”

They settled on photos of a man and child fishing to portray the image they wanted on the fliers. “It is Warren,” Archer said as she pointed out the obvious opportunity for fun around area waterways.

While fishing may be among the obvious activities available locally, the need for adult fishing companions isn’t so obvious. “Nobody really thinks about the need for male role models,” Archer said. Archer tried to communicate that need with photos and simple words like “Share, Motivate, Inspire and Guide.”

Wassink and Meredith Ketcham, WCCYS director, recently spoke with county commissioners about the need for people to get involved in foster care and youth mentoring in the county.

Wassink mentioned that May is National Foster Care Month so an update seemed timely. “We have a display set up at the library to raise awareness,” she said. “We’re always recruiting but we’re looking to develop a monthly recruiting plan.”

The monthly plan is where the career center comes in, according to Wassink. “We reached out to them for creative ways to get the word out,” she said.

The word, according to Wassink, is that the agency currently has 17 licensed foster homes in four counties, including Warren. “We usually average 20 to 23 homes,” she said. She attributed the drop in the number of foster homes to adoption. “We’re pleased when permanency is achieved but then the home closes,” she said.

Wassink added that the majority of foster homes are two-parent homes. “We have some single-female homes but not many single men,” she said.

While the goal is always to provide youth with positive role models, the environment the youth are in is shifting from facility-based homes to foster and kinship homes, according to Ketcham.

Ketcham told commissioners that a government initiative called Family First promotes the use of the least restrictive environment.

The Family First Prevention Services Act seeks to curtail the use of congregate or group care for children and instead places a new emphasis on family foster homes. With limited exceptions, the federal government will not reimburse states for children placed in group care settings for more than two weeks.

Ketcham said the agency works with the probation department to promote the least restrictive environment for all youth. “We ask them to think about if the youth needs to be in a group home setting before they call a facility,” she said. “We hope they’ll call us first to see if we have a home available.”

County Commissioner Ben Kafferlin called the use of the least restrictive environment “more effective.” “One of the goals of county government is to build strong families,” he said. “Putting kids into strong relationships seems more effective.” Kafferlin added that foster care would probably be less costly than group homes.

Kafferlin suggested the agency send a letter to local churches. He offered his assistance to send letters to “every church in the county.”

County Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said that a home environment, as opposed to a group home, provides the opportunity for more individual time and attention.

Eggleston’s remarks reminded Ketcham of a story she said showed the “importance of engagement.” She told commissioners of a long-time foster family who invited the biological family of a youth in their home to the youth’s graduation party. “They had both family names on the invitation,” she said. “They actually had the party together.”

“There’s an enormous amount of reward that comes from this for both the foster families and the children and youth,” Eggleston said.

For more information call Warren County Children and Youth Services at 726-2100 ext. 8129.

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