Treating at-risk families where they are

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The community turned out Oct. 17 to cut the ribbon on the new office of St. Catherine’s Center for Children, located at 130 Main St. in the village.

RAVENA — St. Catherine’s Center for Children opened its doors on Main Street last week to serve at-risk families in need of a supportive, helping hand.

The program aims to help families dealing with a range of issues, from trauma to substance abuse to poverty, with the goal of keeping the family intact where possible.

The facility opened its doors at 130 Main St. in the village Oct. 17, with a ribbon cutting.

“This is primarily through our RACC — the Rural Albany County Connections program — servicing the south Albany County communities of Ravena, Coeymans, Selkirk, Berne and Feura Bush,” said Leah Scott, director of marketing and communications for St. Catherine’s Center for Children. “Because of their rural nature, they don’t always have access to city services, like transportation, to get to our services, so we like to have access for prevention.”

St. Catherine’s offers a range of prevention services.

“We address needs as they occur related to at-risk populations experiencing homelessness, poverty, food insecurities, housing instability,” Scott said. “Some families may be struggling with a family member that may have a substance dependency. We try to work collaboratively with the schools and other resources in the community.”

Serving families in their own communities, and making services as accessible as possible, can help keep families together.

“Servicing that family where they are is the least disruptive to that family unit and can ensure success so they are able to stay together and that is our first goal — to make sure the families that can stay together, do,” she said. “Sometimes they just need extra help and understanding that need as we get into the community, we are able to identify needs and identify people at risk.”

Families can be referred to St. Catherine’s for services through a variety of channels, whether by the individuals themselves, the county, school district, social workers and others.

“Our staff provides home visits on a weekly basis,” said Anne Byron, director of Prevention Services for St. Catherine’s Center for Children. “They go out as teams. There is a case planner, who is a social worker by background, and a youth development specialist whose eye is on the specific needs of the children in the family.”

“We work with higher risk families where children may be at risk of foster care placement,” Byron added. “Some of them may perhaps have been returned home from a foster care placement. In this area, mostly it’s children who are at home with their parents. We try to go through the list and see what is needed for each family — it could be mental health, it could be substance abuse needs or trauma for any member of the family.”

The facility gives at-risk families and individuals the tools and resources they need to sustain a healthy lifestyle and a positive home environment, said Chief Operating Officer Jaclyn Yusko.

“Prevention is an important step in reducing the impact hardships such as physical and mental health challenges, housing instability, food insecurities, substance dependence, and the lasting and intergenerational effects of abuse, trauma and neglect can have on a family,” Yusko said. “Easing these issues leads to the greatest possible outcomes for all family members, strengthens family ties, and reduces the likelihood of a child needing placement outside the home or away from their community.”

If treatment outside the scope of what St. Catherine’s performs is needed, the staff can make those types of referrals as well.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Warner was on hand for the ribbon cutting and said the facility will provide a service that had been lacking in the area.

“Many, many years ago I worked at probation and we didn’t have those services available here for families and they had to find transportation to Albany, which didn’t always happen, so they lost out,” Warner said. “This is a great resource for our community, and we are very happy they are here.”

The facility works with families in Ravena, Coeymans, Coeymans Hollow, Berne, Guilderland, Feura Bush and other communities in southern Albany County.

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