Sometimes the best help a person can get is a little nudge in the right direction. For St. Francois County, that friendly little nudge come from St. Francois County Community Partnership.
With a goal of improving the use of local resources and the well-being of children and families in the county, the St. Francois County Community Partnership uses many different resources to bring that well-being to those who need it.
“We are a collaborative effort dealing with social, and sometimes legal issues, facing children and families,” said Al Sullivan, executive director of St. Francois County Community Partnership. “I call it ‘helping hands.’ If there is a touchy situation we will come in and convene a meeting. If there is any political or social fallout, we will take the heat, but we will step up….say we have an issue, let’s discuss it and find out what the resolve will be.”
Although the partnership has been working with the community since the late 1990s, Sullivan said many people are not aware of what the SFCCP is and what the organization does for the community.
According to Sullivan, the partnership is an extension of a state organization made up of the deputy directors of nine state of Missouri departments setting policies for children and families in the state and have an interest for their well-being.
Sullivan continued to say there are 20 partnerships across the state, working to assure the policies made at Jefferson City and on the local levels work and that no one falls through the cracks.
“The nine deputy directors of each of the nine departments meet quarterly to discuss what isn’t working on the local level,” Sullivan said. “They then look at what can be done on the state level in each of their departments to make things better on the local level.”
Sullivan said the partnership is made up of a 23-member board, representing members from the nine state agencies, such as department of safety, secondary and elementary education, higher education, mental health, social services, senior services, probation and parole and various other state agencies.
In addition, Sullivan stated that another 10 members are picked from the public at large representing various entities.
“We try to work with people who have a strong interest or commitment to children and family,” Sullivan said.
In order to provide the assistance the partnership would like to see, they concentrate on six basic goals, ranging from the parents working to the health and safety of children and families, to helping children be successful at school and in the workforce.
When discussing the partnership’s goals, Sullivan stressed that they do not give any direct services and do not have any clients.
“We do not council you for mental health nor do we council you for domestic issues, such as divorce,” Sullivan said. “We present those resources and convene the community players to talk about the problem.”
Sullivan gave an example when talking about the county mental health board and its beginning as a result of the partnership and the community.
“About three or four years ago we did not have a county mental health board…a serious vacuum for a county this size,” Sullivan said. “The partnership, working with some other people, got some money together, convened a meeting – six or seven maybe – and brought a citizen recommendation to the county commission to form a mental health board with six board members.”
Sullivan added that after the commission created the board and the members were in place the partnership stepped away.
“We are kind of the nest with the baby bird,” Sullivan said. “We get the baby ready to fly and then we say ‘fly’.”
Part of what the SFCCP does is deal with any social problem the area may have that affects a child and the family, such as, transportation for the child and the elderly.
One of the programs they are promoting is the Foster Care Backpack Program. On an average, 200 children a year are pulled out of their home in the middle of night because of a drug bust or domestic violence incident and are placed in foster care.
These children come to the foster home with only the clothes on their backs. The backpack program was started in the county to provide these children with the essential items they will need to start the next day.
“The public doesn’t realize the underlying social issues we have going on here,” Sullivan said. “Whether it is abuse, neglect or any other issue facing the children and their family, we have to help out.”
Most people associate the SFCCP with Season of Hope where people either donate to buy Christmas gifts or donate money for gifts to be purchased for around 1,400 children. At $75 a child, that is $105,000.
“That is just one activity the public associates us with,” Sullivan said. “But it’s just one activity, but people know us by that. It’s the quiet behind things we do that people don’t know about.”
For more information on the St. Francois County Community Partnership, contact the office at 573-431-3173 or 573-760-0212. They can also be reached at www.sfccp.org.
Craig Vaughn is a reporter with the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3629 or email@example.com