Deb Waggoner, director at the Family Opportunity Center, is excited with the direction the center is headed. Since becoming director last October, Waggoner has worked to not only offer services to kids in the court system, but also kids who have mental health struggles or are on the border line.
Waggoner started meeting with Tim Gearhart, of Four County Counseling Center, and found out they were on the same page, wanting to develop and become a resource for Cass County, she said.
“We realized we want to meet the needs and offer a variety of services to kids,” Waggoner said. “We continue to grow and develop. It’s ongoing and is a work in progress.”
Juvenile probation and staff members from Four County Counseling Center are located at the family opportunity center and longtime foundations of the center, Waggoner said.
“We continue to adjust those needs and see how we can work together,” Waggoner said. “One of the goals of the family opportunity center is to be able to alter services to provide a wide variety of needs.”
The family opportunity center continues to be a resource for children of Cass County. A full-time, in-house therapist is now available and this summer, a new set of middle school groups, staffed by Four County, were created.
Counseling staff and therapist and are offered this fall as well. There is a self-esteem group for boys and one for girls which meets after school and a stress management through physical activity class for boys and girls.
“The classes seem to be going well,” Waggoner said. “The parents appreciate it and it gives them skills and techniques to use out in the world.”
Another class that will be offered is a parenting class, which will allow parents to find support and gain techniques and skills. Waggoner said the plan is to continue in the direction the family opportunity center is headed.
“We’re looking to provide evidence-based programs, which are truly designed to meet the needs of children,” Waggoner said. “We want to grow.”
Probation department has been a valuable resource at the family opportunity center and Four County, Waggoner said.
“They have been working with children for years and know first-hand what can best serve the children,” Waggoner said. I’ve utilized their knowledge and experience.”
Bill Hiatt, chief juvenile probation officer, has been in juvenile probation for 25 years and has been with the family opportunity center for 13 years. Hiatt said they serve the circuit court, supervise children on probation and link the children up to programs, mostly done through Four County.
In the 13 years, Hiatt has seen the addition of several programs.
“We have a lot more quality programming with our partnership with Four County,” Hiatt said.
There has been an increase in home/school based programs and the alternatives program, an intensive program that targets youth whose behavior has put them at risk for placement at a residential treatment facility or at the Department of Corrections.
The alternatives program has prevented children being placed away from home, Hiatt said.
“We’re serving a lot more kids now,” Hiatt said. “I’m hoping it continues to be flexible and individualized and meet every child’s needs. It’s not like we have one program to try to fix everyone. There has been a lot of individualizing to meet all needs.”
Waggoner has been excited to see programs benefit more than one individual.
“I’m very excited and I see first-hand the positive benefits of the children and family as a whole,” Waggoner said. “I’ve hit my one year mark but we have a long way to go because we will always strive for growth.”
Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her: @PharosAES.