Cass County Youth Council offering new training next month

CASSOPOLIS — Drug use can affect everyone in a community, even its youngest and most vulnerable. Because of this, a local organization will be offering a new course to help combat the problem starting next month.

This year, the Cass County Youth Council will offer a new training program through the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. The program is designed to break cycles of abuse and neglect of children by empowering practitioners who work to change the trajectory of the lives of children and families living in drug environments, according to materials provided by the DEC. The Cass County Youth Council is partnering with the C.A.S.S. Coalition for the program.

“[The program] is about combatting the neglect of children caused by drug and substance abuse,” said Cass County Youth Council President Sarah Mathews.

The training program will take place in three tiers.

The first tier will involve a 90-minute training aimed at assisting communities and professionals in understanding the prevalence of drug activity and substance abuse and how it negatively affects children. The training enhances the ability of professionals to identify drug endangered children and the risks and trauma they face and highlights the opportunities through collaboration for changing the status quo to help drug endangered children, their families and their communities, according to the DEC.

The Cass County Youth Council will begin offering these 90-minute training sessions in February.

“This is the core training,” Mathews said. “This teaches people the basic ways to identify and report abuse of drug endangered children. … We already have people who care, but they might not have all the information they need or how to get that information to the Sheriff’s Office or know what to look for in a home or how to direct children to the right programs.”

From there, interested individuals can take follow-up training that will last approximately four hours. The training, called “DEC Approach” is designed to move practitioners from DEC awareness to taking action and engages all disciplines in developing collaborative DEC partnerships. It also helps participants gain a deeper understanding of each discipline’s roles and responsibilities. The training effectively gets participants to identify and implement changes they can make in their practice to assist drug endangered children, according to the DEC.

“After the 90-minute training, if individuals want to do more, want to get involved more, they can participate in ‘DEC Approach,’” Mathews said. “This moves individuals from just being aware and being able to spot and report issues to take more significant action.”

The final tier of the training involves hands-on training that can form the foundation of a local DEC alliance. The alliance would be a group of individuals that come together to work to find solutions to helping drug endangered children, such as providing and supporting additional training to community members, Mathews said. She added that she hopes to host a round table with individuals who became interested in the training sessions in June or July.

“The alliance will work with training, education, memorandums of understanding and protocols,” Mathews said. “We hope to continue and grow with the group to figure out as a community what we can do to help drug endangered children.”

A recent donation is partially funding the program from 100 Women Who Care. So far, the Cass County Youth Council has received $1,900 from 100 Women Who Care, though the total amount of the donation is not yet known.

“We are very grateful and very excited,” Mathews said of the donation. “This will help get the program up and running in the county.”

Mathews said she has high hopes for the training program, adding that she believes it will be able to help children in Cass County.

“There is a drug epidemic and children are affected by it, even though we are a small community,” she said. “We can’t just put our heads in the sand and ignore it. … This is us all working together to help our children.”

Mathews added that she would encourage community members to take part in the training being offered, saying that it takes just one ordinary person to save the life of a child.

“Even if you think you are not in the place to help, you may just be,” she said. “You might be the Sunday School teacher who notices something is wrong, and you can step in because you know who to contact. You might be a dental hygienist who notices something is wrong, and because you had the training, you know what to do for that child. The more individuals who go through the training, the better chances we have of having enough community members out there ready to help and protect our children who are endangered.”

Groups or individuals interested in 90-minute training sessions can contact the Cass County Youth Council at ccycboard@gmail.com.

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