Nearly 70 people gathered Thursday at Lovejoy Baptist Church in South Rome for the annual meeting of the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth.
A panel of agency leaders discussed a variety of both negative and positive matters affecting local children.
Chief Juvenile Court Judge Gregory Price, Division of Family and Children Services Director Barbara Brown, Juvenile Program Manager for Department of Juvenile Justice Kevin Burley, detective Chris Arrington of the Rome Police Department, and Bill Schoepski, former director of special education for Floyd County Schools, served as the panel during the meeting.
Price discussed how in the past, solutions provided by the Juvenile Court weren’t always effective.
“We have had occasions where we have children come through and provided services that didn’t work,” he said. “It’s not for lack of trying, it’s for lack of identifying specific needs.”
Now, Price said, the court is seeking ways to identify the heart of the problems the youth are experiencing and what they can do to allay them.
“From a mental health standing, (we) have obtained a mental health professional who is involved with the family and the child, who will identify specific needs,” he said. “We’re now not going to be focusing on treating the symptoms, we’re going to try to find the cure.”
Brown said a major issue DFCS has identified is the lack of foster homes in the area, and the agency is initiating community recruitment for foster families.
When Brown said that there are 266 children in foster care, only 18 local foster homes and 12 adoptive homes, a collective gasp swept through the room. She said with all the local homes full, the other children have to be transported elsewhere throughout the state.
“It’s adding additional trauma,” she said. “We traumatize the children when we take them out of their homes and then we yet traumatize them again when we’re having to move them out of their own community.”
Burley said an issue he has seen is that children who keep committing crimes are getting younger.
“We’ve got a serious problem with our juveniles,” he said. “They’re getting younger, they’re committing crimes, they don’t care. We have a lack of parental support and dealing with designated felons.”
However, he said he hoped the state legislature would put the children higher on the list of their priorities when it comes to the budget in the coming years.
Schoepski said a recent study determined that Floyd County has an alarming number of students who have either contemplated or attempted suicide.
But through safety team training for Floyd County educators, which was made possible by a grant given by Georgia Power, teachers are being trained how to recognize the signs of depression among students, how to ask the right questions and respond if they think a student may attempt to do themselves harm.
Arrington, who works mainly with child abuse cases, said his agency works closely with the juvenile courts, DFCS and the Harbor House to get children to safety so they can start the healing process.
He noted how the various organizations in the Rome and Floyd County community work well together to provide support for the local kids.
“In Floyd County, the children have a tremendous amount of support services,” he said. “A lot of times, people in Floyd County don’t realize the amount of resources they actually have, and the thing I’m impressed with is all the agencies work very well together.”