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THIS community’s program to address the specific needs of pregnant and parenting teens has undergone a number of changes in its history, many of them for the good.
Unfortunately, the most recent change looming in the not-too-distant future is shrouded in uncertainty and the possibility the program might be ended entirely.
Today the program is known as Route 21 and falls under the umbrella of Childhood Connections. In June, officials of Childhood Connections announced the agency would be closed at the end of the year.
A major factor in the decision was the loss of a contract with the Indiana Association for Childcare Resource and Referral.
Officials explained that the loss was not a reflection on Route 21 but a reorganization of regional programming the year before.
The decision to close Route 21 was not exactly a surprise. The agency, which normally operated with a staff of eight, had been reduced to two workers. Those two workers had a caseload of 57.
Funding is at the heart of the issue over the program’s future. One official noted that providing services requires a minimum of $1,000 for each client and sometimes up to as much as $25,000. The United Way of Bartholomew County, which has delivered the major portion of Route 21’s funding, is simply unable to fill all of the needs.
Officials recognize the need to sustain the services provided but are uncertain how that can be transitioned to other agencies, provided there is another United Way organization willing to take on that responsibility.
Ironically, that was a scenario that played out just over three years ago when the Y-Med program (Young Mothers Educational Development) encountered serious funding problems.
Founded in 1972, Y-Med provided a pathway to promising futures for hundreds of young mothers who otherwise would have had to halt their education.
However, by 2010 funding had become a major problem in part because of the loss of grants from local foundations that had ceased operations.
In 2009 United Way of Bartholomew County decided to cease funding Y-Med as a freestanding organization. Earlier it had been forced to close its nursery and switched to a case-management role.
That situation was resolved in part when the Y-Med mission was adopted by Childhood Connections. A number of changes were made to the mission, including expanding the service to the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp., increasing the age limit on those eligible to 21 and allowing for young fathers to be taken on as clients.
Its impact can be measured by the educational attainments of the clients. In 2000, 100 percent of those participating collected GEDs or high school diplomas. That same year, 75 percent of those in the program had entered college or a vocational program.
The potential benefits of the program clearly have been demonstrated, but the difficulties of sustaining it also are apparent. Discussions have been conducted with two other United Way agencies on taking over the program, but nothing has been settled.
In the meantime, those currently served by Route 21 can only wait ... and hope.
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