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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Wallowa County finalizes youth plan

Wallowa County finalizes youth plan

By Bill Rautenstrauch

For the Observer

ENTERPRISE A broad-based, two-year-long community effort has yielded Wallowa Countys Phase II Comprehensive Plan for Children, Youth and Families.

The Wallowa County Board of Commissioners approved the plan this week.

The 140-page document was drafted by Peg VanderZanden, director of the Wallowa County Commission on Children and Families, and Vicki Wallace, assistant director.

VanderZanden and Wallace drew on the input of dozens of state and local agencies, civic groups and individuals concerned with the well-being of Wallowa Countys children and families.

Our task was to direct the process and put the plan on the page, VanderZanden said. But wed like to emphasize that we worked with many partners. Were tickled there were so many who valued both the plan and the process.

Senate Bill 555, passed by the Oregon Legislature, required all Oregon counties to draft a comprehensive plan for families, youth and children.

When VanderZanden assumed directors duties from John Walther in February 2000, some preliminary work had been done but the lions share of the task remained.

The plan is to be developed in three phases, VanderZanden said. In Phase I we looked at our strengths and our needs and identified our resources. Phase II analyzes that work, brings people in the different fields together, and establishes priorities and strategies. In Phase III, we have to measure our effectiveness.

The Legislature says we have to develop a system for measurement and accountability. Thats what well be working on next.

Four major goals are identified n Continued from Page 1A

in the Phase II document. They include the development of caring communities, strong nurturing families, healthy thriving children, and healthy, thriving youth.

Priority activities have been set forth under each goal. Among other things, the plan calls for increased community engagement and improved system integration; reduction of poverty; prevention of child maltreatment and domestic violence; reduction of adult and youth substance abuse; improved child care and child health

and wellness; and positive youth development.

VanderZanden said many people who worked on the plan think reduction of poverty is the most important step toward success.

The lack of family wage jobs was the number one concern,

she said.

Were looking at engaging people who do economic planning. Were trying to have them become aware of the need to work together.

According to Oregon Benchmark Data cited in the plan, Wallowa County ranks number one in the state in child well-being, and

has the third lowest juvenile crime rate. However, it is 35th in a

field of 36 counties in economic indicators.

There are families under stress, VanderZanden said. She noted that single-parent households have a particularly tough time because of the cost of child care.

The state has a child care subsidy in place now, but its not enough. There should be more, she said.

In many cases where a single mother is working for minimum wage, she ends up quitting her job because she can get more money living off the system.

Another important key to the success of the comprehensive plan, according to its authors, is an increase in awareness of family services in the county.

People need to know whats out there. We want to get them to use the system, and also show them how to move through it toward self-sufficiency, VanderZanden said.

The prevention of domestic violence and the reduction of adult and youth substance abuse also is of concern.

There are some unhealthy norms in the county, VanderZanden noted. The plan calls for improving those norms through heightened community awareness, alcohol and chemical dependence treatment, social support networks, and improved drug intervention efforts.

Reach Bill Rautenstrauch at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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