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“Families like mine appreciate the funding from services like this,” Devita Powell said Friday at the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville. “Many years ago, when I first started this journey, I did not even have a name for the thing I was trying to seek help for.”
Powell, who has two children on the autism spectrum, spoke to north Alabama social service providers gathered for the annual Children’s Trust Fund presentation of $1.3 million in state grants to their programs. The Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention – also known as The Children’s Trust Fund – funds the grants to help social service support groups across the state.
There are 21 benefitting organizations this year in the Fifth Congressional District that runs along the top of the state and includes Huntsville. Statewide, the fund gave grants to 175 organizations ranging from parental education, home visiting, fatherhood, respite care and mentoring. The 2021 Alabama Kids Count Data Book gave an idea of the size of the challenge reporting 48,077 reports of child abuse and neglect that year.
The goal is to “implement evidence-based programs to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect in Alabama,” said Sallye Longshore, director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect. Longshore said events like the one in Huntsville help get parents the word about resources they can use. “We need to get those resources to parents quicker before they get in a rabbit hole of trouble,” said Serida Edwards of the trust’s parents advisory council.
Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, said agencies like his couldn’t do what it does without the state help. “We could not do the work without it,” Newlin said. “Nobody works for free and to and this work can be pretty challenging. If the funding weren’t there, we could serve far fewer families than we do.”
Newlin said social workers are seeing improvement in the basic working wage that supports many Alabama families. “We (still) have so many parents that are working really hard but are still struggling,” he said. But parent Powell said she meets families who need help “all the time.” They often need money, she said, but almost as much they need the chance to speak to other adults “to help keep us connected to something other than parenthood and caregiving. “And I’m grateful,” she said.
The organizations funded in the Fifth District include Decatur Youth Services, Parents And Children Together, National Children’s Advocacy Center, Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tennessee Valley, Mosaic Mentoring of North Alabama, Inc., Morgan County System of Services, Inc., Athens Limestone Children’s Advocacy Center, and Family Services Center, Inc..
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