Youth Development in Elkhart County

Here’s How We’re Helping Improve Lives for the Youth of Elkhart County

There are a lot of groups working hard to improve Elkhart County in many ways, and all could use some help.

When a dozen local agencies that serve youth get together and decide to combine their efforts in a new push to try to keep problems from getting overwhelming for the at-risk youth of our community, that’s worth jumping in and supporting — especially when they plan to use an evidence-based wraparound process.

That’s exactly what happened when the Community Foundation of Elkhart County made a three-year, $750,000 commitment of Youth Development Grants to support The Partnership For Children, a worthy collaboration of groups working to help improve the lives of children across Elkhart County.

When we spent a year listening to people across Elkhart County, one of the key things we heard was that successful youth development requires partnerships among all contexts where youth spend time, including home, school and community.

The Partnership For Children meets most of those criteria, starting with the biggest one, collaboration. The effort shows an unprecedented level of collaboration to establish a local program. It’s one we believe in so much, our initial $250,000 investment will cover about 80 percent of the program’s initial costs.

This joint program will teach at-risk youth social skills and offer them behavioral support in a broad-based effort to improve their lives. It launched in May and brings high-level services to these children and their families.

Instead of waiting until things get bad enough that the children wind up in the courts, The Partnership For Children will work with youth who act out at youth services agencies like The Crossing, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Bashor Children’s Home and Five Star Life. In all, the agencies serve some 5,000 children in Elkhart County every year.

The Partnership for Children will positively affect them in three distinct ways.

First, staff and volunteers at each agency will receive common training to better equip them to handle behavioral and emotional challenges youth may face.

Second, the grant will fund hiring mental health professionals to serve youth at all of the agencies using a wraparound model that surrounds youth and families with formal and informal supports.

Third, all of the partner agencies will have better access to mental-health expertise, which can be provided in a community-based setting where families are most comfortable.

It’s an effort that aligns perfectly with the Community Foundation’s goals and the criteria that matter to us as we decide on where to put our resources.