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Important Training for our County Professionals

Hosted by the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children

 

by Amiee Jones - December 11, 2018

The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children presented a training program for Tioga County professionals on Thursday, December 6th. Some of the careers represented in attendance included: therapists, caseworkers, law enforcement, and many more.

The National DEC was formed in 2003. It’s purpose is to establish early identification of drug endangered children, recognize the risks that these children face, develop a collaborative response with all departments involved in these cases, and develop state, tribal and local DEC alliances. In conjunction with the last goal, Tioga County has established its own chapter of a local DEC that meets once a month to ensure that everyone is up to date with information and concerns, and that all disciplines are effectively working together.

Ongoing Manager of Tioga County Family Services (as well as the coordinator for this DEC Training), Michele Rigalbuto, reports that the local chapter is flourishing. The county disciplines with representatives in attendance include Susquehanna Health Soldiers and Sailors Hospital, Tioga County Adult and Juvenile Probation, Tioga-Bradford Head Start, management and front-line staff from Tioga County Family Services and SAM-Inc., State and Local Police Departments and emergency service personnel, The District Attorney’s Office, Tioga County 9-1-1 Dispatch, and administration, counselors and teachers from all public school districts in the county. With this group working together, they can more effectively (and efficiently) establish the appropriate identification and intervention of children who have been exposed to or live in dangerous environments as a result of manufacturing, cultivation, possession, distribution or use of drugs by a parent or caregiver. A specific goal is established for each month’s meeting, with leaders from the different disciplines facilitating the meeting. In this way, everyone hears the other’s perspective, needs, and information, and all disciplines are able to move forward in collaboration.

One example of a change that has been implemented because of the Tioga County DEC team is the new “Handle with Care” policy. The procedure ensures that schools, daycares, and Head Start programs are aware if a child has experienced a traumatic experience due to illegal drugs or alcohol in the home. Another significant change includes caseworkers arriving at a scene at the same time as emergency personnel and law enforcement. This allows the caseworker to accurately and thoroughly witness the situation, and advocate for the child’s safety with more substantiation.

Our county’s Family Services team has found that their efforts in facilitating this local DEC Alliance has garnered statewide attention. “We are finding that services throughout the state are interested in what Tioga County has created through DEC. We were invited to attend PACHSA in State College on June 21st to present to the Human Service Administrators and received a wonderful reception and a lot of interest in our efforts and how we are successful. Blair County has been in contact to develop a Handle with Care procedure and Bradford County has recently sent SCA and Probation officers to our DEC meetings and we will be traveling there on August 8th to speak to many disciplines regarding how they could form a Drug Endangered Children Alliance in their County. The recognition of our efforts from The State regarding what we have developed motivates our group to grow and improve.” (Excerpt from a recent Tioga County DEC Alliance report by Rigalbuto)

Hosting yearly trainings enhances this cooperative effort between departments, and encourages more professionals to join the local team’s mission. The speakers for the training, Eric Nation and Stacee Read, shared a few steps for those outside the field of work. For instance, some importance warning signs to watch out for that may indicate a child is in a dangerous situation: signs of abuse (verbal, physical, or sexual), children alone at night, clothing is not weather appropriate, children who have been left home alone or have not been seen for days. Additionally, the correct protocol when spotting these warning signs is to call the state child welfare hotline or local law enforcement officials.

Additional information on this topic, and about the DEC, can be found at www.nationaldec.org. Also, the Tioga County Family Services department’s information can be found here. Becoming familiar with the information that these teams provide could make a huge difference in a child’s life!

Credits:

Idea/Concept: Amiee Jones

Videography: Ethan Chabala

Video Editing: Ethan Chabala

Writing: Amiee Jones

Anchor: Johanna Vogt

Correspondent: Amiee Jones

 

Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by UPMC Susquehanna, Matthews Motor Company

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