CLEVELAND - The Department of Children and Family Services for Cuyahoga County has various programs designed to strengthen family life. Its goal is to help children grow in a healthy, safe environment.
One of the ways this is accomplished is through neighborhood collaboratives that gives members of the community a voice in helping families in need.
East End Neighborhood House on Woodhill Road in Cleveland is a part of that effort. The center is 104 years old and is a beacon of light to the community it serves. Zulma Zubala is the CEO of the center and defines the purpose of the neighborhood collaboratives.
"What that means is that I have a contract where I have a number of social workers, who are licensed and social service advocates within my own staff, who are parallel to the workers in the county. We provide ongoing services to that family. Beyond the contract is a network called the collaborative. That means we have members from the community who are other service providers who don't necessarily have a contract with the county, but they have a service," Zubala said.
Those services include housing, employment and even mental health resources for the families. Zubala and her staff identify these areas as stressors that could contribute to the abuse or neglect of a child.
"Unfortunately, the only time we hear about child welfare is maybe when there's a fatality or something really horrible happens. And so we begin to point the finger as to who did what. Not knowing that there's this host of people out there really working hard trying to address that challenge to make sure those things don't happen," Zubala said.
One of those people is Tiffany Scruggs, a supervisor with University Settlement, which is also a part of the neighborhood collaborative. She meets with the families and has first-hand knowledge of how great the need is.
"Over the past two years, we've seen an increase of grandparents caring for their grandchildren. And we know the states have had a lot of cuts as far as financial support that those care givers can obtain. So what we try to do is find out-of-the-box ways to support these families and these grandparents who are in their 60s or 70s caring for infants sometimes and toddlers," said Scruggs.
But the challenge is getting the information to the families so they are aware of the fact that help is available for them.
"We don't have the dollars to do the intense marketing plans, so we have to do the feet in the street, the old school way of getting the word out. We go to local grocery stores and hang fliers because we realize not everybody is on Facebook and Twitter," Scruggs said.
It is hard work, but Zubala, her staff and the volunteers at East End Neighborhood House firmly believe the old African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child."
"If we have more people at the table and we realize how important the community voice is so connected to impacting the life and safety of children, we will be much further," Zubala said.
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