Special to The Toledo Journal
On Thursday, September 28th, approximately 60 program participants and community leaders attended Center of Hope’s Annual Family Recognition Celebration and Reception. The program highlighted two of Center of Hope’s successful family centered programs: The Family Navigator Program and the ENGAGE program. The Center of Hope Family Navigator is 1 of 3 in the country where the agency, its families, community leaders and the juvenile court system work together to reduce racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. The program started in September, 2016, and is a partnership between Center of Hope and Lucas County Juvenile Courts. Through this collaboration, Center of Hope helps families navigate the juvenile justice system to prevent low risk youth from becoming repeat offenders.
Dr. Tracee Perryman, Executive Director, states, “We have been able to the concept of helping people navigate the juvenile justice system to expand our fatherhood initiative that has been operating since 2012. Our ENGAGE program, is a workforce development program that also helps parents balance work, parenting, and co-parenting. Since we started, we have listened to our clients, who continue to tell us that employment programs have to do more than address poverty. They have to address flaws within the system to be real and relevant. Our clients come to us being disappointed many times by the “system.” They’ve already been to a lot of programs. They’ve been disappointed by programs that only gave lip service, or sought to profit from their problems. They continue to tell us that the system is more concerned about locking them up then providing enough programs and resources to keep them out of jail in the first place. So we’ve been able to help clients channel frustration in productive ways. In doing so, we’ve been able to help fathers navigate child support, one-stop shop systems, and many others. We also understand that a family cannot transcend poverty if the programs are only geared towards one wage earner. So now, we serve any mothers and fathers who have minor children and live in Lucas County.”
Clients continue to report the value of participating in Center of Hope’s programs, and maintain that their service is unlike any other program they have ever attended. Robert Bass, program facilitator, said that the most powerful statement he has heard from one of Center of Hope’s clients is, “This is more than a parent program, here we learn how to live.” Other parents stated, “It uplifts you as a parent. They don’t judge you, they listen to you.” Brian Campbell, one of the program graduates also stated, “If you really want change, Center of Hope is the place to be.”
According to Dr. Perryman, the support for the program is spreading throughout the community. “We are really starting to see our message grow. We are overwhelmed by all of the churches, neighborhood businesses and organizations, and universities who are impressed with what we do, and want to see the program go forward. We are so pleased that our families are starting to spread the word for us. We see a bright future for the program, and we will do all we can to continue to expand and improve the program. Our families are our customers, and we owe them that much.”
To enroll in Center of Hope’s workforce development, parenting, or family navigator programs, call 419-213-6641. For more information about Center of Hope go to www.cohfs.org.