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Helping Families Get Healthier

Fed Funds Used For COVID-19 Relief, Parenting Help

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

Mercer County’s Family Resource and Youth Services Centers hope to use federal funding not just to help with the COVID-19 pandemic, but to address some of the worst problems in Kentucky.

Sharon Perkins is the coordinator for the Family Resource and Youth Services Center at Burgin Independent Schools. Perkins hopes to use a $100,000 grant Burgin has received to hold COVID-19 relief fairs, reopen nurturing parenting classes with the addition of a parent mentor program and start a cradle school at Burgin.

The two year grant came from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER II Fund), which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was enacted in March 2020. Through GEER II, funds became available to local family resource and youth services centers across the state.

Perkins said she is mindful that big grants generally go to bigger schools. That’s why she reached out to the state to make sure that Burgin, which serves over 532 students, was not overlooked.

“I reminded them that Kentucky is a rural state with rural needs,” Perkins said.

She put some of the funding to work immediately, providing help with employment services, career training, health services and Medicaid at Burgin’s open house.

Perkins said 47 agencies were represented at the open house and the Mercer County Health Department inoculated nine children. She said they are looking at having another COVID-19 relief fair at Mercer County Public Library in September and another at Salvisa Baptist Church later this year. The details are still being worked out, she said. If the county is in the red for the coronavirus, the events will be held outdoors.

Perkins is also looking at setting up a nurturing parenting program, a 12 week series of child abuse prevention classes that will be open to the entire county. The program is for parents of all school aged children. While some have been referred through Child Protective Services, participants do not have to be referred to take part. The classes are free and open to anyone as long as a slot is available.

Kentucky had 20,130 cases of child abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ report, “Child Maltreatment 2019.” The commonwealth’s rate is 20.1 per 1,000 children. It’s the worst in the nation.

Working with other school districts and agencies, Perkins, a certified instructor, has done the program for a number of years. She said many of the families want to get through the program as quickly as possible.

The program and is very intensive. They try to identify the problem areas that often serve as triggers for abuse.

“Those first two weeks are really pretty tough,” Perkins said.

One key to helping people to stick to it is reminding them why they’re there. Perkins said she makes it a point to compliment the parents on their commitment to their children.

“You guys must really love your kids,” Perkins said she tells participants. “You didn’t know what to expect, but you came any way.”

In addition to doing assessments before and after the classes to determine whether parents will abuse, she said they look at matching up families with trained parenting mentors.

Unlike the other programs, which are county wide, Perkins said the cradle school will work with parents in the Burgin area on birth to three parenting and child interaction to promote early literacy and kindergarten readiness.

Perkins said they are looking at recruiting this fall and looks at start matching families through spring and summer. She said she’s really excited.

“If within these two years, I can prove a drop in the recidivism rate, then I can go elsewhere and get funding,” Perkins said. “If we can do this and do this well, we could be a pilot program for the rest of the state.”

Call 859-748-5282 and ask for Sharon Perkins to enroll either as a potential parent mentor or to participate in nurturing parenting classes.

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