By Crystal Thompson
District IV Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) in Havre has been providing families with a variety of services for several years. Programs at HRDC include the Child Care Link, Domestic Violence, Employment & Training, Family Partners, Family Planning, Fuel Assistance, Weatherization, Head Start and Section 8 Housing programs.
Some programs have eligibility guidelines, however, anyone interested in any one of the programs is encouraged to call and ask for more information. The HRDC is designed to help people who are struggling or who have concerns in the above mentioned areas.
The Child Care Link at District IV HRDC works hard to meet the child care needs of families in Hill, Blaine, and Liberty Counties. They offer options in child care, link parents and child care providers and support families and providers. The Child Care Link offers child care referrals and parent information and manages the State Assisted Child Care Program.
The program also offers services to providers including orientation, recruitment, trainings and workshops. They work together with parents and providers to maintain quality child care options in our area. Director Lori Evans said that adequate training for child care providers is crucial. The Child Care Link supports the many types of child care facilities in the state of Montana, including family day care homes, group day care homes, day care centers, and preschools. The Child Care Link offers the Best Beginnings scholarship program, which helps parents pay for child care while they are working or in school. Parents who use a Best Beginnings scholarship and who wish to have selected friends or family members as providers, must apply and be approved through the Child Care Link before payments can begin.
The Domestic Violence Program, along with the rape crisis and sexual assault programs at HRDC are under the direction of Roxanne Ross. The programs were designed to provide victims of domestic violence and sexual assault with a place to go for help.
Services provided by the Domestic Violence Program include an emergency shelter known as "The Haven", safety planning and crisis counseling, legal and personal advocacy, hospital accompaniment, support groups, emergency needs, information, education and volunteer opportunities.
The Domestic Violence Program works with local law enforcement agencies, the courthouse and the hospital to ensure that the victims of assault are given the best services available. Ross said that because the issue of domestic violence and assault is so complex, it is very important that each section communicate with the others to maintain the quality help that the program provides. The program is for anyone who is a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, there are no other guidelines. Ross said that there is a wide variety of people who benefit from the services. Last year, the Domestic Violence Program served 304 individual victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault in our area.
Employment services are also available through HRDC's Employment and Training Program. The program serves people in our area by providing training to individuals who are looking to become employed.
The program offers resume and interview preparation, application tips, workshops, career exploration and job hunting through the Internet. The Employment and Training Program also works closely with the Havre Job Service to provide needed skills and to seek out jobs for those without work.
The goal of the program is to assist everyone in finding a self-supporting job, said Karen Thomas, program director. Darrel Hannum, employment specialist, also said that there is a tremendous need for individuals ages 19-21 to participate in the Youth Employment Program.
Assistance is available to anyone through the Employment and Training Program. Training funds are also available to those who meet income qualifications. The program offers paid work experience, referrals and supportive services to all those working toward the goal of employment.
Family Partnership was formed at HRDC in 1995. It focuses on prevention services and offers a variety of parenting classes and skills. Services include advocacy and support; violence intervention; communication, homemaking and life skills; crisis assistance; budgeting information; parenting classes; parent-child relationship building; referrals to community services and family counseling.
Director Terry Hanson said that Family Partnership helped with the preservation and unification of over fifty families in Hill and Blaine counties last year. The Family Partnership program was formed because of the number of families in our area with high risk factors. These family risk factors include poverty level income; basic needs being unmet (food, clothing, warmth, medical care); inadequate, unsafe or unstable housing; social isolation; lack of parental education; suspected or known domestic violence; suspected or known child abuse or neglect; lack of parenting skills; drug and alcohol abuse and more.
Family Partnership works through the state to reduce the number of foster homes by working with troubled homes and helping families become stable before the children need to be removed from the situation. The program employs three full time family visitors who work directly with families in their homes.
Also available through HRDC is Hill County Family Planning, which focuses on preventative reproductive health. Nurse Practitioner Karen Sloan provides professional and confidential exams for women in this area. Services provided by Family Planning include reproductive health counseling, educational services, physical examinations and screenings, pregnancy and STD testing, and referrals to private doctors.
Family Planning offers low and no-cost screenings and contraceptives to those who qualify and all services are kept confidential. HRDC's Family Planning program works hard to maintain and improve the reproductive health of local women during their childbearing years.
Family Planning also offers free cervical and breast exams to eligible women over fifty. These services are provided through the Department of Health and Human Services, and focus on preventing and detecting cervical and breast cancers early.
Programs which are in full force during these colder months are the Fuel Assistance and Weatherization programs available through HRDC. These programs are for low income families who need help in meeting their energy needs. The Weatherization Program helps improve the heating efficiency of homes and permanently reduces energy consumption in our area.
Weatherization measures may include: a furnace tune-up, caulking, weatherstripping, insulation, storm windows, vent dampers, window quilts, replacement of broken glass and repair of primary doors. Those who take part in the program are provided with materials needed to weatherize their homes, thereby supporting local lumber, glass, and insulation companies, as well as local workers.
The Weatherization Program also helps families learn how to conserve heat and teaches what is necessary to reduce energy consumption and keep utility bills low. Camie Jorgenson, director of the Weatherization and Fuel Assistance programs, said "I think we're a good part of client education."
The Fuel Assistance Program, also known as LIEAP, pays part of winter energy bills for eligible people. Those who meet requirements may have a percentage of their utility bills paid directly to the company. The cost of cooking, hot water, and general utility costs are the client's ongoing responsibility.
Payment amounts for eligible members of LIEAP are figured according to the size and type of your home, kind and cost of fuel. All approved applications are ranked according to degree of need. Special consideration is given to elderly and handicapped people.
Applications for weatherization are accepted any time during the year. Applications for LIEAP are accepted from October 1 through April 30. After applying for LIEAP or the Weatherization Program, you will be sent a letter of notification. It will tell you whether or not you are eligible for assistance and what benefits you may expect to receive.
Energy Share is a program dedicated to helping families overcome energy emergencies. The program offers funds to any family who are in danger of losing their home heating privileges, regardless of income. Recipients are encouraged to repay these funds if and when they are able to do so. Of last year's private donations, 15 percent to me program came from former recipients.
Under the direction of HRDC, Northern Montana Head Start provides options for child education and development to low-income families in Hill, Blaine, and Liberty counties.
The goal of Head Start is to bring a greater degree of social competence to the young children of low income families in our area. Head Start focuses on relating how cognitive and intellectual development, physical and mental health, nutritional needs and other factors combine to enable a developmental approach to helping children achieve social competence.
Head Start encourages family involvement, and focuses on three types of education options. First, the classroom option, in which children attend class four days a week, with breakfast and lunch provided. Secondly, a home based option, in which the Head Start teacher makes one visit to the home per week, in order to help parents improve their parenting skills and to assist them in using the home as the child's primary learning environment. Finally, a combination option is available, in which the children attend class two days per week, and the teacher makes home visits twice a month.
"Parents are the most important education in a child's life," said Frank Witter, Head Start Director.
Head Start offers, among other services, vision and hearing screenings, medical exams, child development assessment, field trips, family advocacy, nutrition services and parent training. 151 children are enrolled in Head Start programs in Hill, Blaine, and Liberty counties. 90 percent of the children enrolled in Head Start meet low income requirements.
"Head Start gives children a chance to succeed and be competent in everyday activities in school and in life," said Witter.
The Section 8 Housing program enables eligible participants to live in decent and affordable housing, while only being required to pay 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income for housing costs.
Diane Savasten, director of the program, said that there is a long waiting list for those who apply for Section 8, and it usually takes about three years from the application turn-in date before an eligible person can receive assistance.
The Section 8 program is based entirely on income. The main goal of the program, Savasten said, is to maximize the self sufficiency of their clients. However, some elderly and handicapped people who are on a permanently fixed income, will be on Section 8 their entire lives. There is no time limit for recipients of Section 8 assistance. The program focuses on stability in housing. Section 8 also does annual inspections of rentals in Hill, Blaine, and Liberty counties.
Savasten said that the employees of the Section 8 program do not replace landlords, they simply subsidize housing. Tenants and landlords should maintain the same communications and agreements, regardless of their association with Section 8, she said.
The District IV Human Resources Development Council is a private, nonprofit Community Action Program (CAP). It was incorporated in 1965, and for thirty-five years has been dedicated to serving, advising, educating, and aiding low income individuals of all ages to attain the skills, knowledge, and opportunities to become fully self-sufficient.