A Jacksonville organization that serves at-risk youth received good news on Friday. 18th District Congressman Darin LaHood announced on Friday that Midwest Youth Services had been awarded a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Basic Centers Program.
Executive Director Ann Hungerford says Friday was a great day for the organization. Hungerford says that last year that the organization was recommended for funding, but when it came time to receive the grant, due to being small in size, the money had run out: “It is one of the struggles of being smaller and rural. By the time the funder got around to us, the pot of money was no longer there. We had to go a whole year without funding. Our agency has grown substantially in a short amount of time both in programs and employees. We have more than doubled our size just within the last two or three years. There would have been a time where losing that grant would have been a huge detrimental piece to our organization continuing to operate, but because of capacity building and expanding service, we were able to get by last year.”
Midwest Youth Services’ designation as a Basic Center allows them to continue to provide emergency shelter to homeless youth and intervention programs with families in crisis: “We are that first responder that is able to assess the situation, identify what their needs are. If we cannot reunify that family in the moment, then we are a child welfare agency with licensed foster placement. Our licensed placements are typically respite, so they are short-term placement options. It allows us time to be able to gather information, gather all the parties, and begin working the steps to restore and strengthen that family.”
Hungerford says that in a calendar year they serve approximately 250 families in Morgan, Cass, Scott, Brown, and Schuyler Counties. Hungerford says that as a response service, they are seeing more calls grow out of prevention rather than emergencies through recommendations from law enforcement, local school districts, and self-referrals to their services: “Midwest Youth Services has always been viewed and used as a response service to kids and families in crisis. It is something that we do and we are known for doing very well. We continue to be that resource at 3 o’clock or 5 o’clock in the morning, whatever time there is a youth in need – we will be there. We are really taking an initiative to become prevention focused by providing outreach, being visible, doing street outreach activities and initiatives within the communities so that kids and families know not only who we are but what we do before reaching that point of crisis where you’re band-aiding a situation in the middle of the night. Once people are aware of us, we can then start coming to them when that sore starts to fester rather than when there is a situation that is, at times, unmanageable.”
Hungerford says that Midwest Youth Service’s success has been because of the great collaboration between their partners, the staff, and the communities they serve. Midwest Youth Services is located at 2001 West Lafayette Avenue in Jacksonville. If you are in need of their services or have questions, call 217-245-6000.