Teams help high-risk students and their families address wide range of needs. (Canton Repository. Sunday, October 9, 2016)
Darlene Long is glad someone cared. A 47-year-old wife and mother of five who now works as a part-time special education aide at Osnaburg Local Schools, Long was introduced to the C.A.R.E. team about six years ago.
She received a phone call from Debra Bayer-Bredon, the family support specialist in the school district."She told me my son had been cutting (himself) ... he was upset over my (marital) separation. "At first I was a little shocked. As a parent, you feel like you should know everything about your child, but you don't."
C.A.R.E. teams, currently set up within the bulk of Stark County's 17 public school districts, are collaboratives of teachers, administrators, law enforcement, mental health and other social service agencies. In each school, or district, they operate as a team to help at-risk students and their families.
"It's not just going in and dealing with the student," said Long, who lives in Massillon with her husband, James. "They work with the entire family ... everything including food and other needs. If you get knocked down, there is always someone to pick you back up."
The United Way of Greater Stark County began funding C.A.R.E. teams in 2005 and continues to this day. Other partners include Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery, Stark County Family Court, Stark County Education Service Center, Stark County Job & Family Services and the Stark County Family Council, with funding help from the American Electric Power Foundation, Aultman Health Foundation, Key Bank and JPMorgan Chase Bank.
Since she first crossed paths with the C.A.R.E. team in Osnaburg, Long said, she has attended countless team educational programs and has earned an associate degree in social services that helped land her job. "Families often don't stay together because they feel hopeless," said Long, who has special needs sons of her own. In a reference letter that Bayer-Bredon wrote for Long in 2014, she refers to Long as "determined, self-motivated, tenacious, insightful, self-directed, loyal and bubbly," with wit and a sense of humor.
"Darlene has been tireless as an advocate for children with special needs," Bayer-Bredon wrote. "She has been diligent in searching out the resources required to assist in educating herself and others in knowing the laws and rights that support them. She is easy to engage with and always willing to share her insight and knowledge to assist others in their attempts to help their own children."
According to information on the Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery website, the C.A.R.E. Team model provides:
• An adult member of the school neighborhood who provides advocacy and support for families.
• Teams of teachers taking personal responsibility for the success of each of their students.
• Academic, leadership, relationship and other social skill building opportunities offered during, before, and after school, as well as summer programming for targeted students.
• Academic mentoring and tutoring by caring community partners.
• On-site mental health prevention/intervention.
• Family court and law enforcement involvement as appropriate.
• Health and wellness support by school personnel.
• Alcohol and drug prevention and intervention.