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Family Support Services moves to new location

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Banner Graphic/JAMIE BARRAND Healthy Families workers Amber Ryan, foreground, and Cindy Buskirk shelve books at the new office of Putnam County Family Support Service. FSS is moving to a new, smaller office as a cost cutting measure because of statewide budget cuts.
GREENCASTLE -- Come Monday, Putnam County Family Support Services (FSS) will be in a new facility.

And not long after that, the organization's name will change to reflect an expansion of services to people in two additional counties.

The organization is actually only moving one door down -- from 24 W. Washington St. to 22 W. Washington St. Staff will begin working out of the new location on Monday.

"The actual moving has been going on over the last three days," FSS executive director Cari Cox said.

Prior to that, inmates from the Putnam County Jail and students from the county's GRASP program have been doing light construction and painting to help get the new offices ready.

"You just couldn't ask for better people," Cox said. "They've really worked hard."

The move to the new space, which is smaller than the old one, will save FSS about $10,000 a year, Cox said.

"We'll be all on one floor now," she said. "This will really enhance both confidentiality and safety for our clients."

The new space also includes two basements, which will be used for storage.

FSS has been in its current location for seven years. The new space was formerly occupied by Putnam County Community Corrections, which is now located in the Putnam County Courthouse.

The move is a cost-cutting measure, made necessary by state-mandated cuts to the Healthy Families program. Healthy Families is a state program, administered locally to clients in Putnam and Owen counties by FSS.

Healthy Families is a home visitation program for families determined to have a significant number of stressors that could lead to child abuse or neglect or domestic violence.

The program is 100 percent voluntary. Currently, 75 families in Putnam County and 20 families in Owen County are enrolled in the program.

The program serves families beginning when mothers are either pregnant or have babies that are less than 90 days old, and continues to serve them until the child's third birthday.

"In September 2009 we learned that Healthy Families would be taking a 48 percent cut over the next two years," Cox said. "As an organization, we had to decide if we wanted to keep our contract (with Healthy Families) and try to survive."

But the staff knew it wouldn't be easy.

"The program is TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) funded," Cox said. "The TANF money was reallocated, and that was figured using 2006 figures for poverty and live births.

"The end result of that was that rural communities lost 48 percent of their funding, which was the maximum amount they could lose," Cox continued. "The fact that amounts were figured using 2006 numbers also means that it wasn't even realistic for what's happening now."

To cut costs, FSS staff agreed to begin offering Healthy Families services to clients in Montgomery and Boone counties. Taking on those counties means expenses are now shared between four counties instead of two and meant 60 more families from Montgomery County and 35 from Boone County.

"Those counties had previously been overseen by another non-profit," Cox explained. "That organization decided it was not in their best interest to keep administering Healthy Families, and that the best thing to do would be to give up the program."

Cox said FSS started serving Montgomery and Boone counties on Sept. 1.

"The plan is that by Sept. 1, 2011 we will also be providing services in Hendricks County," she said.

Other possible sources of income are also being considered. For instance, the state's Kids First Trust Fund has announced $500,000 in money for Healthy Families programs, and the office in Putnam County could potentially receive $7,000 from that.

"The thing is, it's a 100 percent match program," Cox said. "That means we have to come up with $7,000 to get the additional $7,000 ... and that has to happen by March."

Cox said an additional $14,000 would fund Healthy Families services for four families for a year.

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