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Ashley McDaniel with her daughter, Shaley Gardner, receives tips on parenting and infant health care from Stacy Shown, a family support worker with Heathy Start Monday at Birnie Park in La Grande. Healthy Start, which helps parents of young children, is one of the local organizations which receives extensive support from the Union County Commission on Children and Families. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Programs for youths will lose important support with CCF closure on June 30
Many programs for children and families in Union and Wallowa counties are facing an uncertain future.
The Commission on Children and Family programs in Union and Wallowa counties will be closed by the state June 30. The closure leaves family and youth organizations, which receive support from the Union and Wallowa county commissions on children and families, without help they have relied on for years.
Vicky Brogoitti, director of the Union County Commission on Children and Families, said many Union County organizations supported by CCF will continue operating but will not be able to provide the same level of service to as many children and families. Others will not be as fortunate.
“Some programs might move forward but others might disappear,” Brogoitti said.
Brogoitti said state funding for the Union County Commission on Children and Families has been declining gradually for about six years.
“It has been a struggle,” she said.
The closure of CCFs reflects Gov. John Kitzhaber’s emphasis on early childhood education, Brogoitti said. Kitzhaber wants more state resources to go toward helping children under the age of 8. He believes doing this will boost the number of students who will be reading at grade level by third grade. This is considered a critical juncture since research shows that children who are not reading at grade level by then likely will never catch up in school.
The money the state will save by shutting down the CCF program will be used to help fund Kitzhaber’s education reforms, Brogoitti said.
The elimination of Commission on Children and Families in counties throughout the state has people like Stacy Shown concerned. Shown works for Healthy Start in La Grande, a program which helps parents of young children raise healthy sons and daughters. Programs for young children like Healthy Start will be hurt by the closure of the Union County CCF and so will those which serve older children, which particularly concerns Shown.
“I’m worried that there will not be funding available to help older youths,” she said.
Shown noted that there is much more state and federal money available to assist children under 8 then there is for those who are older.
The Youth In Transition program at La Grande High School, which assists homeless youths, is among those for older youth the Union County Commission on Children and Families has helped significantly for many years. The CCF has not funded Youth in Transition but has provided important organizational and administrative support, Brogoitti said.
Brogoitti is the only director the Union County Commission on Children and Families has had since it was founded in 1993.
“I’m really going to miss working with folks in the community,” Brogoitti said. “I’ve enjoyed the connection it has given me to the community.”
Wallowa County Director Dave Riley, who has been running the commission solo since taking over for Anne Taylor in March 2012, said it has not been determined how services will be provided to children and families in the absence of the Wallowa County Commission on Children and Families.
“Everyone agrees they want to continue the services to children and families, but we don’t have the mechanism to do so yet,” Riley said. “Its not clear what happens when it goes away.”
The Legislature voted to disband the Oregon Commission on Children and Families in 2011. Since then the Union and Wallowa county commissions have continued to distribute funds to local organizations on a reduced budget and without the state’s administrative
In the wake of loss of the commissions, Kitzhaber, in an attempt to consolidate state departments, has developed Early Learning Councils and Youth Development Councils to succeed the local commissions. Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts said money for the Early Learning Council programs will be administered by Enterprise’s Building Healthy Families, but where funding for the Youth Development Council will come from is not quite formulated.
“For now, any money for the Youth Development Council will go through the county,” Roberts said. “We’ve signed an intergovernmental agreement with the state to pass through money that formerly went to the
As for other funding received, like money for special projects, Roberts said, “We don’t know where it’s going or if any is to be had.”
With everything in flux, Wallowa, Baker and Malheur County are trying to get ahead of the game and create a regional hub, said Roberts. Five people from each county have formed a committee to work out the details and have submitted an application to the state.
“The state is identifying nine hubs this year and six next year with a goal of 17 total,” Roberts said.
Malheur County put up six months funding to support a full-time position and the Malheur Education Services District offered office space, Roberts said. It will be some time before the counties know if their application has been accepted.
Brogoitti noted that the InterMountain Education Service District, which serves Union and Umatilla counties and the Umatilla and Morrow county Head Start program are forming a children’s services hub. This would provide services for children and families in Union County.
Brogoitti does not know what is in store for her career after June 30 and has not spent much time contemplating this.
“This really has been my life outside of my family,’’ Brogoitti said. “It is hard to picture what my life will be like when I don’t have this job to come to every day.’’
The state and county commissions were created by the Legislature in 1993 to promote positive outcomes for Oregon’s children and families while driven by local commissions. The state commission was responsible for statewide planning, setting policies and standards, and providing research-based best practices while the local commissions identified how best to spend the state funds.