A Franklin County pilot program will work across local government agencies to help boys and young men of color better access family services.
Franklin County Commissioners voted to create a Family Stabilization Unit that will provide assistance and a tailored approach to meet each family's needs, all through a racial equity lens. The unit will serve youth who have lower-level offenses such as truancy. But instead of focusing only on preventing future interactions with the justice system, the program will assess the needs of the entire household. Christopher Hunnicutt will serve as one of two Family Stabilization Unit specialists.
"This unit will provide real, tangible wraparound services for families while addressing the social determinants of health and achieving racial equity through realistic and attainable case plans, while maintaining intense correspondence with families to help render families into self-stabilization," Hunnicutt said. "As a representative of this county, we are no longer accepting the things we cannot change. Instead we are changing the things we cannot accept."
The unit stems from the work that informed the development of the commission's Rise Together Blueprint to Reduce Poverty. Franklin County’s declaration of racism as a public health crisis back on May 12 also came from that document, which addressed jobs, housing, health, and youth. Specialist Walter Dillard sees the Family Stabilization program as more of a social justice unit.
"I say that because African Americans, we make up 22.5 percent of Franklin County, however we make up 74 percent of the poverty population,” Dillard said. “Even though we graduate at the same rate from high school as our white constituents, our household median income is only $25,000 compared to their $48,000. So by establishing this unit, we can look through that racial equity lens, tackle those social determinants or barriers, and work with community partners to help families achieve that self-sufficiency. The ramifications of this unit will have overarching impacts in families and communities with the singular purpose of healing both the visible and invisible harsh realities that dominate those social determinants of health. We are committed to facing those systemic barriers and confront them with competency, integrity and decency. Together we will work decisively to defeat generations of struggle and work with others to create a new policy that is so integrated, the whole community will proceed triumphantly."
Commissioners are still working on the unit's location, but say it will be close to the courts to better access people coming into the system. Commissioner Kevin Boyce thinks the unit's work will create positive change and healing for families.
"Each family is like everybody on this call, an individual," Boyce said. "The family has its own challenges, its own dynamics, its own culture and all of that. But when you zero in on what their challenges may be that keep them in this place of vulnerability, you might be able to change that up to an extent. You might be able to provide them with a pathway and direction, or resources. I think that we have taken the steps to where you see the grind, the work, and now the people begin to really nip at this stuff. It makes for the type of progress that I think really matters."
Boyce also plans to go through some of the training and meet directly with families to help them improve their lives. The two-year pilot will initially focus on boys and young men of color, but commissioners hope to expand it to serve the broader youth population. The program will be evaluated as it progresses, with a comprehensive assessment expected by July 2022.