Vicki and Larry Palur were both exhausted, isolated and past their breaking points.
Their child, Charlie, spent the last four years in and out of Children’s Hospital psychiatric stabilization unit. Local law enforcement was frequently called to their home due to Charlie continually attempting to run away, self-harm, or hurt others.
They were trying to work and keep their family together — but had no idea how to help their teen.
“We were between a rock and a hard place,” Larry said. “We weren’t sleeping at night. We had to take turns to make sure (Charlie) didn’t elope or (get hurt).”
In terms commonly used in the human services industry, Charlie is considered a “multi-system youth.”
Now 16, Charlie is supported by multiple systems, including the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Job and Family Services, numerous mental health organizations and the juvenile justice system.
The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities estimates that between one-third and one-half of all children supported by Ohio’s county boards also have a mental illness or behavioral health condition.
Diagnosed with autism as well as several mental illnesses that were all exacerbated when puberty hit — Charlie needed intensive, personalized treatment and their whole family needed more support. But they didn’t know where to turn.
Then Vicki’s friend suggested she call the Licking County Children and Families First Council (CFFC).
She had never heard of them, but figured it was worth a try. The outcome was life changing, she said.
“We needed help beyond any ability we had. We weren’t aware of all the resources and with all the stress, we weren’t able to think clearly,” Vicki said. “They were able to walk us through the steps.”
What is the Children and Families First Council?
In some ways, the structure of local councils is similar to Ohio’s county board system.
Every county in Ohio has a local council (although in other counties they are referred to as Family and Children First Councils.) They all fall under the statewide agency, Ohio Families and Children First.
But the services provided by these councils vary by county, said Melanie Fling, multi-systems services supervisor for the Licking County CFFC.
In Licking County, they provide community support teaming to bring community partners together to fill in the service gaps for families, particularly those whose children are at risk of being placed outside the home.
The CFFC does this in several ways:
* Wrap-around services: Also known as “community support teaming” this process brings many different community partners together to support a family. These partners meet regularly with a family, set goals and work together to determine next steps, Melanie said.
“Typically, we are looking at families’ strengths and needs and how are they getting their needs met,” she said. “If we can keep kids in the home and community we feel like that’s a success.”
These services are typically provided for 6 to 9 months, but some families participate longer.
* Funding: Local partners contribute money, known as “pooled funds” to support services such as therapies, respite, or therapeutic placements, when funding isn’t available through other means. Funding for these services also comes from the Ohio Family and Children First Council and the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
* Clinical Committees: The CFFC has a Clinical Committee for youth ages 8-21 and an Early Childhood Clinical Committee for youth ages 0-8. Members of the committees will consult with service providers, such as therapists, about a particular case. Council members then make suggestions or referrals for resources.
Who sits on the Children and Families First Council?
In Licking County, the CFFC has a dedicated staff of four. Several partners from the council contribute funds to support CFFC, including the Licking County juvenile court system, JFS, Mental Health and Recovery for Licking and Knox Counties, the Licking County Board of DD, United Way of Licking County, the County Commissioners and multiple public and private agencies who make voluntary membership contributions. Council partners also provide support and resources during teaming, Melanie said.
“We value ‘family choice and family voice,’” she said. “Families get to decide who is on their team to support them.”
How can LCBDD families use it?
Anyone in Licking County can contact the Children and Families First Council to refer a child who is supported by multiple systems and is at risk for out-of-home placement, Melanie said.
LCBDD service coordinators not only refer families on their caseloads to the CFFC but they also participate in meetings, help link families to resources and provide crisis management. They are a consistent presence and continue to support the family even when the CFFC’s services are no longer needed.
Lindsay Silverman, a, LCBDD transition youth service coordinator, supports several young people — including Charlie — who are involved with the CFFC.
The strong partnerships created by the council are crucial, she said.
“It helps me as an SC when the entire team meets so we can get on the same page,” she said. “Schools, teachers, counselors, doctors, nurses, hospitals, parole officers, countless community agencies and pastors, have all been part of teams and members are added or step-back as the individual’s needs change.”
What it looked like for the Palur family:
When Larry and Vicki contacted the CFFC, Charlie’s support team started out with five people.
As more therapies were added and other options came up, that number continued to grow.
Charlie continued to be in and out of the hospital and struggled with mental health. But this time, Larry and Vicki had a support system, meeting regularly, to brainstorm options.
“At one point we were up to 22 people, who were all working to help us with our kid,” Larry said.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” Vicki added. “There were times that someone would call us to check in and just see if we were ok.”
After living in a residential facility in Dayton that wasn’t a good fit, Charlie has recently moved to a facility in Columbus. The plan is that Charlie will live there for several more months and planning is already underway to look at future options.
Everyone on the team understands that Charlie’s dual diagnoses will be lifelong and that progress might not be linear. There are no quick fixes.
But for Larry and Vicki, knowing they aren’t alone anymore has been huge.
“You know the old saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Larry said. “These folks were our village. They’ve gone above and beyond.”
For more information about the Licking County Children and Families First Council, call (740) 670-8844. To make a referral, call 740-670-8916 or visit https://www.lcfamilies.org/.