Darlene Haman, Herkimer County’s Strategic Planning Coordinator for Integrated County Planning, attended the White House Summit on Community Solutions for Disconnected Youth on June 4 as a representative of Herkimer County and its collaborative planning initiative.
At the White House-hosted event, the White House Council for Community Solutions presented its final report and recommendations for how all Americans, across key community challenges, can create real, systematic change for youth and non-profit, philanthropic, business, government and national service organizations gathered to discuss the recommendations and learn about innovative community-developed initiatives that are connecting young people to critical education and employment opportunities. The event also featured the Council for Community Solutions Honorary Chairwoman Michelle Obama via satellite.
Established by President Obama by Executive Order in December 2010, the Council has worked to identify, encourage growth, and maximize the impact of cross - sector community initiatives that engage all citizens to help solve the nation’s most serious problems.
The White House Council for Community Solutions, working with the Bridgespan Group, researched over 100 successful community collaboratives across the country and identified 12 which have achieved needle-moving change and are making further strides in solving critical social issues. Herkimer County was identified as one of the 12 communities, and was acknowledged during the White House Summit, along with Philadelphia, Pa., and Stockton, Calif., for its collaborative planning efforts.
The Herkimer County initiative began in 1998 with a five-year grant from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Since then, leaders of government, human and social service delivery entitles, health, mental health, school officials, law enforcement, Family Court and community representatives have come together to discuss priority issues, improve coordination and collaboration, reduce duplication of efforts and make more efficient use of funds.
One priority issue highlighted in the White House Council report was the effort to address rising levels of at-risk youth place in residential facilities. In response to this issue, Herkimer County blended resources from the Departments of Social Services, Probation, Youth Bureau and Mental Health, and with non-profit community partners such as Kids Herkimer (a program of Kids Oneida), the Center for Family Life and Recovery, and Berkshire Farms, developed by intensive community-based services in their homes.
Herkimer County’s commitment has paid off. The total number of children in foster care fell from a high of 138 in May 2003 to 64 in December 2011, which is the lowest in-care number records in the past 20 years. In Parallel, Herkimer County significantly reduced costly juvenile residential placements through coordinated interventions, resulting in a savings of approximately two million dollars.
“It was an honor to represent Community Solutions for Disconnected Youth on behalf of Herkimer County.” Haman stated, adding, “Herkimer County has such a successful plan and strong leadership and it all exists thanks to Jim Wallace, Vincent Bono, and the legislature.”
Page 2 of 2 - According to Haman, the Herkimer County findings will be used to guide the 2013 policy for disconnected youth. The study can also be found on the White House website listed under Herkimer County as well as Herkimer County’s website, herkimercounty.org.
“This is a tremendous recognition for Darlene and our entire team,” said Chairman of the Herkimer County Legislature Vincent J. Bono. “To be selected as one of the 12 exemplary community collaboratives, and also to have a representative attend the White House Summit, speaks volumes for the collective and collaborative work of Legislature, employees, Family Court judge, law enforcement and community agencies, school districts and HCCC working together for our children, families and the taxpayers.”
Compiled From Times and Telegram Staff Reports