CANTON — Funding for a new program targeting at-risk Massena Central School kids is on its way to fruition, thanks to St. Lawrence County Legislators who passed a resolution Monday night approving a contract with the St. Lawrence County Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.
County Social Services Commissioner Christopher R. Rediehs said Check and Connect, a program that will be run by the Youth Advocate Program, is a partnership with Safe Harbour Funding.
“So this is completely paid for, but we have advocates working on referrals from the Massena School District, mostly sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and being involved and working to prevent the need for Family Court involvement in children’s lives,” Mr. Rediehs told the lawmakers during the County Services Committee meeting.
The Office of Children and Family Services has allocated funding to the county through the 2020 Sexually Exploited Youth/Safe Harbour Program to help meet the needs of youth survivors and those at risk of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
The funding, not to exceed $25,000, is from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 and will provide funds to support public awareness, identify youth who are at risk, distribute outreach materials, make referrals for identified victims, and provide training for service providers addressing human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Massena Central School Superintendent Patrick H. Brady credited Kristin Colarusso-Martin, the district’s Community Schools coordinator, as being a driving force for these kinds of programs coming into the district and helping to improve the lives of the families in it.
“The funding would target at-risk students at the sixth, seventh and eighth grade levels, which are important transition years where students are coming up from elementary into junior high school,” Mr. Brady said. “If there are going to be problems starting, whether it’s truancy or disciplinary issues or lack of connection to school, it is generally at this time period.”
He said the hiring of the two new Youth Advocate Program workers would connect with those students and families in order to help the students stay on track by coming to school regularly and also being a resource to their families.
“The time that they would spend with each student and family would depend on the level of care that would be needed, and the idea would be to work with five to seven students to start and see where it goes from there and work with them for a few months and then try to transition them out if they are being successful,” he said. “We are very excited to work on this initiative because it is a good partnership with the Department of Social Services, and we continue to try to deepen our relationship there because we are often dealing with the same families and the same issues.
“We have the same mission to keep families healthy and together and to keep students in school and engaged so they aren’t later part of the Social Services system or probation or incarceration or any of those other things that can be negative in a young person’s life,” Mr. Brady said.
Lawmakers also authorized the County Treasurer to modify the 2020 budget for the Department of Social Services to roll over any remaining funds until fully expended, with an increase in appropriation under the program being $43,350 and an identical increase in revenue.
The resolution will have it’s final passage during the full board meeting later this month.