Cox delivers for Rotary

Friday, June 1, 2007
Cari Cox

Cari Cox is very passionate about families, especially since she's both a mother of a 10-year-old and is expecting in September. In fact, most of her life has been dedicated to protecting and aiding families, and that's exactly what she explained to Greencastle's Rotary Club Wednesday.

Cox is the executive director of Putnam County Family Support Services, a newly-credentialed organization that provides an array of programs targeted towards child abuse, domestic violence, and healthy families.

According to Cox, Family Support Services was started in 1977 by a small group of volunteers here in Greencastle.

"They were just concerned citizens started to see a lot of child abuse and neglect. So, they decided to begin an aid organization," Cox said.

This aid included free child care, home visitations, and informational sessions to parents.

What started with a few volunteers 30 years ago is now a funded organization serving both Putnam and Owen counties.

It now has a staff of 14 full-time employees, two part-time employees, and gains approximately 50 volunteers a year.

"In 1994, we received our first funding from Indiana," Cox said. "We have 14 different funding strands now."

Cox went on to explain to the Rotary Club about the many different programs the organization provides.

"The largest program, and our pilot program, is called Healthy Families," she said.

This program prevents child abuse and neglect by offering visitations to new parents or families with a young child to explain risks, offer information, and be available for questions.

According to Cox, the program has been a success. "Last year, we did 234 family referrals in the area," she said. Out of those families, all showed significant reductions in "risk factors" for child abuse and neglect. "The earlier you reach these families, the better," Cox said.

The second program Cox spoke about was Family Ties Store Room. With this program, a family earns "Baby Bucks" to spend in the organization's store room.

They can be obtained by meeting guidelines during visitations, increasing parent-child interaction, or by just reducing risk factors in general.

"This program is a good way to feel like the families are working towards something," Cox said.

Family Support Services also offers a book service entitled Bound by a Book program.

Families that are eligible can receive one free age-appropriate book a month.

Cox then changed the pace of her speech by bringing out her visual aid -- a baby doll used in Shaken Baby Demonstrations. "This doll was developed by Dr. Michael Turner to explain to courts how Shaken Baby Syndrome works," she said.

She went on to explain that trained facilitators now use the dolls to demonstrate the risks associated with shaking an infant, including damage to eyesight, hearing, memory, as well as possibly leading to death.

Finally, Cox went on to speak about what she calls "our most well-know program" -- the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program.

Along with a team known as the Sexual Assault Response Team, or SART, the program has set up a well-coordinated response to crisis calls.

The team consists of two Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, law enforcement, and court advocates.

"We can actually use hospital space when needed," Cox explained. "We couldn't have put this program together without the help of the law enforcement and doctors."

In 2006, the program provided direct assistance to 225 women and 260 children, Cox said.

The program also reaches out community-wise to the four local high schools, in addition to Area 30, by supplying information sessions about domestic and date violence.

The program also offers what is called the Moving Beyond Abuse Compassion Workshop for men who have been involved with or shown signs of being in an abusive relationship.

This workshop is run by a master's therapist and has helped 750 men in the Putnam County area to date, Cox said.

Cox wrapped up by saying Family Support Services can, if anything, just refer families to other resources in the area.

Cox, who has been the executive director for six years, said she is very proud to be a part of an organization that is involved in direct aid to families.

Family Support Services is located at 24 W. Washington St. in Greencastle.

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