Free “Be The End” Community Event Creates System of Care for Local Families
Laflore, Latimer, Haskell Counties host family forum to promote joining together to create “Communities of Care” that support all children and families.
Poteau, OK (June 2, 2014) – More than 25 local community service agencies have joined together to host the Communities of Care “Be The End” forum on Tuesday, June 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Reynolds Community Center, 105 Reynolds Ave., Poteau. The free forum is being offered to the community as part of the statewide Communities of Care initiative and is hosted by Communities of Care, Leflore County Child Advocacy Center, Southern Star and the Choctaw Nation.
Communities of Care representative Deanna Chancellor, Executive Director of Leflore County Child Advocacy Center and Women’s Crisis Services of Leflore County explains the purpose of “Be the End” is to raise awareness of the number of community families struggling through traumatic events. These events often weaken the family structure and end with children being taken into the foster care system. Helping these families on the front end is an investment that results in stronger communities.
“Working together, we can build stronger, healthier communities. We want our friends and neighbors to join us Tuesday and gain a better understanding of what community services are available and how even the smallest commitment of time and resources can help strengthen our community,” says Chancellor.
The free event will include free hamburgers and hot dogs, prize drawings for an iPad mini, Kindles, bicycles skateboards, Wal-Mart gift cards and more. There also will be local entertainment, guest speakers and information about local community service agencies that have opportunities where community members can volunteer and make a difference in the life of a child or fragile family.
Community leader District Attorney Jeff Smith has taken an active role in the event because the leaders of Leflore County believe the entire community plays a role in the overall health, safety and wellbeing of all local children and families. Smith says, “I am part of this effort by the Communities of Care initiative because I care about the future of our children, the future of our community. I am encouraging everyone to step up and commit to adding value to the quality of life for all of us.”
Smith invites everyone to attend the forum and gain a better understanding of how even just five minutes of a person’s time can help build a stronger community. “One hour, one month or one year and endless opportunities to contribute make it possible for everyone to find a way to help our friends and neighbors and to build a stronger community,” he says.
Families are the most basic building block of any community and the statistics in eastern Oklahoma indicate there are high numbers of children and families at risk for experiencing some type of stress that often leads to undesirable outcomes such as divorce, incarceration or children entering state custody. These situations add stress to the entire community and are concerning to local businesses, faith-based organizations, tribes and community partners.
Families can become fragile for many reasons. Most often these reasons include divorce, unemployment, school dropout, unintended pregnancies, homelessness, crime, incarceration, injuries and loss of life. When families are impacted, the entire community is impacted. “Communities are one living organism just like our bodies,” explains Lynn Smith, MPH, CHES, Communications and Event Specialist at Oklahoma Systems of Care. “If a child suffers from a broken arm, the whole body and soul is affected. When communities suffer from broken family units, we all are impacted. From a less productive workforce to increased crime and children entering the system, our communities suffer. We all need to work together to invest in our future on the front end. The time is NOW. Together we can create a stronger, healthier future.”
In eastern Oklahoma alone, in 2013, there were 1,498 confirmed reports of child abuse and neglect representing 2,781 children. An overwhelming 60 percent of those children were age 0 to 6. This is an increase of nearly 20 percent over 2012. These traumatic experiences for children are often caused by adults with untreated mental illness or substance abuse habits and lead to children and youth being placed into state custody.
With approximately 70 percent of adults and 40 percent of youth left untreated for mental health issues and 77 percent of adults and 80 percent of youth needing help for substance abuse problems, Oklahoma communities must work together for the sake of the children and the future.
Further statistics show that for eastern Oklahoma, in 2013, more children entered foster care than there were approved beds. With only 1,761 approved beds, 2,217 children were removed from their homes and placed into the system. This startling statistic represents 21 percent of the total number of children in Oklahoma removed from their family and is a 23 percent increase over 2012.
Because children entering state custody, untreated mental illness and substance abuse and other traumatic events affect the entire community, many local resource agencies and businesses have joined together to sponsor the event. The partners represent all sectors of the community and include businesses, faith-based organizations, tribes, community partners and families. Organizations hosting the event include Southern Star, Choctaw Nation Family Services, Choctaw Nation Voices of Survivors,
Choctaw Nation Project Safe, Central National Bank, Leflore County Child Advocacy Network, Women’s Crisis Services of Leflore County, Grace Cottage, D & D Counseling, Sequel Care, Leflore County Systems of Care, Leflore County Department of Human Services Child Welfare and Family Services, Pervasive Parenting Center, Catholic Charities, Leflore County District Attorney’s Office, KI BOIS, Smart Start Oklahoma, Health Authority, Boys and Girls Club of Leflore County, Choice Pregnancy Center, Leflore County Youth Services, Leflore County Medical Reserve Corps, Health Department-Child First, OSU Extension , Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center, Poteau Police Department and Patrick Lynch Public Library Friends Inc.
Information about the event and the Communities of Care initiative can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OKCommunitiesofcare or by calling Deanna Chancellor at (918) 647-3814. Additional information about resources for families and how everyone can help will be available at the event.
For information about Catholic Charities’ Immaculate Conception Helping Center in Poteau, contact Mary Saucier, Coordinator, at 918.647.2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The address of the helping center is 410 N. Bagwell, Poteau, OK 74953.