The Partnership for Children, an Elkhart County program that provides mental health services to youth, received sustaining funding of $300,000 over the next two years, thanks to the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. The Partnership is a collaboration between Oaklawn and 11 youth-serving organizations that helps identify youth with emotional or behavioral issues earlier, gets help them faster and improves outcomes for children and families.
The Partnership works in two primary ways: by training all staff at the partner agencies, who together serve about 16,000 youth in Elkhart County, and by providing skills training and case management services directly to the youth the agencies identify as needing additional support.
“Partnership for Children is unique in the sense that it provides these early intervention mental health services for any youth in the community,” said Ben Strickland, Oaklawn Team Leader of Partnership for Children. Some youth in need of services may not qualify because their symptoms aren’t severe enough to be covered by their insurance or other government programs. “Because of the specialized funding that we get from the community, we’re able to open up those services to any child. And this way, we can catch them before they need that higher level of care.” Since it began in 2015, partner agencies have identified more than 250 kids in need of this additional support.
One of those kids is the 9-year-old grandson of Jim and Diana Akin of Elkhart. The Akins enrolled him in Boys and Girls Clubs so he would have more opportunities to play and be around kids his own age. But he struggled with behavioral issues at the Club, and staff there referred him to Partnership for Children.
“He has some depression and, as the servicemen have, he’s seen some pretty traumatic things,” said Diana. “He’s been through a lot for such a young child.”
In addition to working with the youth directly, Partnership for Children places an emphasis on working with all the supports in the child’s life. While their grandson receives skills training and therapy, which helps him learn to control his behavior and take responsibility for his actions, PFC staff also work with the Akins, the school and Club staff to find new and effective ways to help manage everyday, stressful situations.
Partnership for Children launched thanks to a three-year, $750,000 Key Initiatives grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. Their continued support, as well as recent pledges by private sponsors such as Robert Weed Corporation, Everence and Radiology Inc., make it possible for the Partnership to continue helping kids and families, Strickland said.
According to Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, the Partnership for Children is a perfect fit. “It’s a worthwhile investment for the Community Foundation and a perfect example of our grant-making priorities. The community continues to encourage us to support efforts serving children and families, as well as collaborative efforts by like-minded organizations. The Partnership’s mission accomplishes both of these objectives.”