LMC encourages Protective Home volunteers

A second Protective Home Informational Meeting was held in Beloit recently, discussing ways people can help when children need a safe haven after law enforcement determines going back home is not a safe option and places youth in Police Protective Custody. 

The program offered by 12th Judicial District, Juvenile Intake and Assessment, and promoted by the Leadership Mitchell County Class 18, will benefit Mitchell, Jewell, Cloud, Lincoln, Washington, and Republic County families. 

"While trying to determine a class project, we had initially looked at domestic abuse, but after talking with law enforcement, it came down to our taking care of our youth in the city," said Leadership class member Jason Rabe. 

For youth that are coming into Police Protective Custody (PPC) "we need to place those children in the least restrictive place as possible," said Twelfth Judicial District Chief Court Services Officer Wanda Backstrom. "Our goal is to be able to keep the children in their community. Protective Homes can provide this service for a child in need of care.”

These homes can provide temporary custody for children   in PPC over a 72 hour time span (excluding weekends and holidays) before the case goes to court to determine placement. If individuals wish to help longer, they would have to apply to become a licensed Foster Home.

Volunteers are needed to become a Protective Homes in the 12th Judicial District. The goal is to have at least 10 Protective Homes in the area. To become a PPC Protective Home, families must complete an application, submit to background checks, and complete a home walk through, then attend a training.   The training will be offered on April 28. Applications can be filled out online at http://careportal.org/ , or requested by contacting Jen Warkentin at 12th Judicial District at 785-243-8193. When completing the application online, all private information will be wiped clean after seven days for security reasons.

Jen Warkentin of the 12th Judicial District Community Corrections/Juvenile Services gave examples of two separate intakes they recently were involved in. One was a five year old child that had to be taken in PPC after sexual abuse was suspected in the home. The child was not able to return home and needed a safe alternative placement.   There were no foster homes available in the area to place the youth. The only option was to place the youth in a shelter, and the closest shelter is just over two hours away. The youth is then taken to shelter in by law enforcement in the back of police car.   The second incident included three children that had been left home alone for a few days.   Again, it was hard to find placement for the youth and they were split up.   One was able to be placed in the area and two were placed in a home that was two hours away. 

"There is a lot of sitting, waiting and calling involved in these cases," said Warkentin. "Protective Homes not only helps the children by making things less traumatic but it also helps lighten the load for law enforcement making them available for other circumstances in the community. When placing the youth, Juvenile Intake and Law Enforcement (LE) take every step possible to ensure the placement is safe for the youth, but many times during intake there   is limited information available to intake workers and the LE. Protective Homes would allow for intake workers and to have safe placement options available.  Juvenile Intake and Law Enforcement would know that the Protective Home family has been through an approval process.   These homes are not licensed and are not able to keep youth in the home past the 72 hours of PPC.

If individuals choose to be in the program, they are also able to choose the age, number of children they can take, and sex of the children they wish to help, allowing more compatibility with their own families. Intake calls are taken through all hours of the day and night, every day of the year. When it comes to placing a youth, as much information as possible about the youth will be provided. This allows for the family to be able to make a decision to accept placement in their home.

A youth’s life is encouraged to be kept as normal as possible, when the situation allows for it, as in allowing them to go to school or daycare if necessary.

"Our hope is to grow and continue to become stronger," as we develop this program, said Warkentin. "There is a bit of a learning curve that goes along with it. We hope people will be patient as this program is new for us and everything is subject to change. Questions help us through this process."

The Protective Home program has been available in Johnson County for two years now and the 12th Judicial District is modeling Protective Homes after Johnson County’s program.   All adults, over the age of 18, in the family home have to fill out an application and clear background checks, that will be renewed annually. Home walk throughs will also be completed and then a one day training session will have to be attended to become an approved Protective Home. Beloit Social Worker, Janelle Budke, has volunteered her services for completing the areas home walk-throughs. 

The need for Protective Homes program is real. Out of 69 children brought in by Law Enforcement as children in need of care, half of those went to placements that were not parents or family members of the youth.  

CarePortal is also working to support the Protective Homes program in the 12th Judicial District. CarePortal is an active ministry that connects local churches to children and family in crisis. Child social workers uncover the needs of children and family they work with. Those social workers then put those needs out on the CarePortal technology that links them to the churches making them aware, giving them a real-time opportunity to respond   to the need. 

Mitchell County is active with CarePortal with enrolled churches including the First Presbyterian Church, First Christian Church, United Methodist Church, St. John’s Catholic Church and Scottsville Community Church. This program has been active in Mitchell County since early 2017. 

The First Presbyterian Church provides a storage room stocked with items like clothing, diapers, hygiene items, etc., to allow them to quickly respond to emergency placements such as PPC.  Often children are removed from the home and placed in PPC with only the clothes on their back.  The Protective Home Closet also could allow the churches to have items on hand to fill some of the regular CarePortal requests in a quick manner. 

In the last year already 36 requests have been made through CarePortal by social workers to help meet physical needs of families in crisis.   Churches have meet needs for beds, appliances, furniture, help with utility bills, etc. Cash donations are always welcome to help fill a need.   Cash donations are not given directly to the families, but used to purchase items in need for the family.

Leadership Mitchell County is also in the process of   starting a drive to provide items for the Protective Home Closet. In addition, the Presbyterian Women will host the Spring Gathering of the Presbyterian Women of Northern Kansas in April, and those members are also encouraged to bring items for the CarePortal room.

If people want to donate, gift cards or cash are encouraged that will be used towards some of the larger, unusual purchases.

 For more information contact Jen Warkentin at warkentinj@12jd.org  or Jason Rabe at jrabe@beloitks.org 

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