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'We will help any kids': Scott County youth-crime prevention program up and running

'We will help any kids': Scott County youth-crime prevention program up and running

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Raising children can be challenging. Finding the right support shouldn't be, said Stephanie Hernandez, director of initiatives with Family Resources.

Scott County families in distress can now call 24/7 to speak with a social worker and get connected to the resources their child needs, be it health care, mental or behavioral health services.

The Youth Assessment Program officially launched earlier this fall, after three years of conversations and study.

The program, aimed at connecting youth and families to preventative behavioral and mental health services to lower juvenile crime, is currently providing assessment, referral and case management services to about a dozen youth, Hernandez said.

"It's a preventative and early-intervention program," she recently told Davenport City Council members. "So many of us in the community often find ourselves hearing about things that happen in our community — kids that have difficult lives, are committing crime; kids that don't have basic needs met. And so the Youth Assessment Program is really here to ensure that children and families are receiving positive and supportive services."

Scott County leaders formalized a five-year funding agreement in August to get the long-talked about youth assessment program off the ground.

YAP is operated by Family Resources and supported by city of Davenport, city of Bettendorf, Scott County, United Way Quad-Cities and the John Deere Foundation.

Local leaders will continue to examine a long-term, sustainable funding model, including public and private sources, according to the agreement.

All parties "have been actively engaged in what happens in the second five years since before we signed" the agreement, Davenport City Administrator Corri Spiegel said. "That is an ongoing and dedicated conversation that continues to happen.'

YAP has already provided assessment screening, service referrals, case management and care coordination services to a dozen families, Hernandez said.

"We believe that families know what's best for them," she said. "But, often time when we're in crisis, we typically resort to, 'I don't know what happened. I can't handle this anymore. I don't know what to do.' And so at Family Resources and the YAP our focus is going to be helping families to identify their strengths" and build resources to address "what they need in their life" and what they need from providers, family and community members.

She said YAP staff can serve about 500 youth at any given time.

"There's probably more youth that could be served," she said. "But, let's start there and then see where we need to grow."

All Scott County families, regardless of race, income and age, can access the services, Hernandez said. There is no eligibility requirement.

"We will help any kids," she said. "No problem is too big. No problem is too small," to help kids stay healthy and on track for success.

How it works

Families or educators, school administrators and law enforcement seeking services for pre-school to high school age youth in distress can call 563-326-6431 24 hours a day, seven days a week to speak with a YAP assessor.

"They'll answer the call. They'll do a screening to really look at the presenting issues" to help figure out next steps for the family, Hernandez said. She added both Family Resources and community providers its partners with employ staff trained in trauma-informed care and services.

Within 48 hours of a referral being made, YAP staff will conduct assessments, using about 20 evidence-based screening tools to assess risk factors and needs, be it a mental health issue or lack of basic needs, to aid in developing intervention strategies.

A few days later, families will meet with a care coordinator to review the outcome of the assessment, develop a plan for the child's success and connect them to the appropriate services and community providers.

"It's not their goal to solve all the problems or fix the family issue," Hernandez said. "But their goal is to work with community partners and the family to wrap services around and ensure the children have other supportive individuals."

Care coordinators will meet with families as often as needed to provide follow-up and ongoing support.

"Are they achieving their goals? Maybe a new crisis has arisen," requiring new services and follow up assessments, Hernandez said. "And how do we re-engage family members, coaches, teachers, neighbors, individuals from their church to wrap themselves around that family?"

Hernandez said the goal is to stabilize families within six months to a year, to where they no longer require direct services from Family Resources, "but ensuring that there is long-term services."

"Long-term, we don't want providers to be in that home on daily basis or a monthly basis," she said. "We want families to be able to have some normalcy without providers constantly in and out. And so how do they rely on those natural supports?"


YAP is overseen by a 15-member advisor council made up of representatives from law enforcement, Davenport schools, juvenile court, juvenile detention, John Deere Foundation, United Way and Family Resources.

The goal of the council is to assess outcomes and performance data, process and practices, and gaps in services, and Family Resources submits a progress report to United Way on a monthly and quarterly basis, Hernandez said.

"Are wee seeing a decrease in (negative) behaviors and progress in the home and in school? Do we see a decrease in in-school and out-of-school suspension?" she said. "And are families staying engaged and intact? We want kids to stay at home and with services, not end up in systems like DHS, juvenile court or placed out of home in other facilities or detention.'

At the same time, Hernandez said YAP will work with kids involved in DHS or juvenile court to avoid falling deeper in the system.

"There is a diversion component. I don't want to see kids go to Eldora" to Iowa's Boys State Training School or group foster care, she said. "Let's figure out how to keep that kid home and in our community" and out of prison and jail.

"We're seeing a lot of our 17- and 18-year-old kids after they're being detained in (juvenile) detention or arrested, we're seeing them go to jail," Hernandez said. "Together, as a family, we can ensure that families are going to be successful when services are voluntary, they feel supported and that we're inclusive and diverse and sensitive to their cultural needs."

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson lauded the program.

"Immediate, confidential, 24/7 response that assesses within 48 hours and gets someone talking to them and getting something going right away ... to work with people so they don't go" to juvenile detention, Matson said. "That's great."


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