Efforts fostered by a collaboration between Restoration Rome and a number of local and state agencies are being looked at as a model for dealing with foster care issues across Georgia.
Jeff and Mary Margaret Mauer of Restoration Rome told Rome Exchange Club members Friday about the Trust Based Relational Intervention model, developed in conjunction with Texas Christian University, and that Rome is only the third community to partner with TCU and the TBRI program of trauma-informed training introduced throughout the community.
"TCU loves the relationship with Rome, because Rome is big enough so people are taking notice, but small enough that we can get things done here," said Mary Margaret.
The goal is that every person who may come into contact with a child who has experienced a traumatic situation that could result in them being taken away from their birth parents, knows how to work with the child, and knows how to speak in a common language with the child.
Her husband said interim Georgia Division of Family and Children Services director Tom Rollins was in Rome earlier this week with his entire leadership team to discuss a statewide roll-out of TBRI through DFCS. He said the idea is to bring together all of the state agencies who deal with children's issues to adopt TBRI as a common trauma-informed language.
The Mauers, who were instrumental in creating the Restoration Rome collaborative housed at the former Southeast Elementary School campus on Crane Street, said since the project started, the number of Floyd County children who are in foster care has dropped in two years' time from over 400 to just under 300.
Jeff explained that the primary components of the program includes serving children in need of foster care as well as the prevention and intervention side.
"Our goal is that the prevention and intervention side of what we do is going to become the bigger part of what we do," Jeff said. "We did not set up Restoration Rome to serve 430 kids in perpetuity. That's not our goal at all."
The facility on Crane Street has been dramatically renovated by scores of volunteers to create a functioning Comprehensive Care Center that agencies across the country are visiting in an attempt to replicate. The next phase of the development will include supportive office and counseling space, followed by development of a wellness center and finally, with what is being called Hope Street, a workforce innovation center which will be a collaborative between local employers and those who need basic skills before they even apply for jobs.
It will also include other resources for children in foster care and the families who take in kids.
The Mauer's said while the number of children in foster care in Floyd County has dropped, they believe there is still the need for at least 100 more foster homes in the community.
Many of the systemic issues which lead to children being placed in foster care such as poverty, substance abuse and mental health issues, are not going away quickly.
"Substance abuse accounts for over 50 percent of the kids that come into care" Jeff said. "Most of them are affected by multiple issues."
Coats available today, Sunday
The generosity of Romans is being witnessed this weekend as the Rome-Floyd County YMCA distributes hundreds of winter coats to individuals and families in need.
Coats collected for the One Warm Coat drive have been donated by members of the Y and others over the last several weeks. There is no fee involved, no paperwork to fill out, just one coat per person, according to Cheryl Bishop, director of development at the Y.
"It's humbling that so many folks come out and help," said Amy Patterson, membership director at the Y. "This says a lot about the homelessness and poverty level in our community that people rely on this every year."
Patterson said people start calling the Y about the time colder weather starts to set in each year to find out when coats will be given out.
Patterson said that several groups are collecting coats for distribution and members of the YMCA have been tremendous with respect to making donations. Greater Rome Bank, the St. Mary's Catholic Church youth and Rome Exchange Club were among the organizations helping to collect coats. Patterson said that before the distribution ends Sunday, she expects as many as 500 coats to have been donated to the campaign
Coats were given away Friday at the Y and are available today from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday, if any remain, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The federal government has been in partial shutdown for three weeks now, affecting the flow of federal money across the nation. However, it looks likely that local schools will not be affected for the time being.
While public schools receive a bulk of their funding from the Georgia Department of Education, they receive federal money from the Department of Agriculture to support their meal programs. The USDA falls under the one of the nine Cabinet-level departments this has not received funding due to the shutdown, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The USDA released a press release to the state department of education that stated the department had already released January funds to the states and will provide funds for school meals until March.
Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars doesn't foresee any issues for the school system for the remainder of the year. Byars said any additional federal funds the schools receive are set aside a year ahead of time, meaning this year's funds were gathered last year. Other than "no anticipation of funds being withheld this year," Byars is not sure if next year's funds will be affected.
During the Floyd County Schools Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Jeff Wilson expressed concern that the shutdown would be "financially devastating" to the school system. In a phone interview Thursday Wilson clarified saying due to talks and rumors he was referring to loss of funding to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The IDEA program supplies federal dollars to the school systems which pays special education teachers and programs.
"We hired those folks under the impression the feds would fund those position," Wilson said. "We would take it out of our own funds to pay the teachers."
He added he had not received any official news of special education funds stopping, but received an unofficial tip from someone who worked at the state level which is the basis for his concerns.
The Rome News-Tribune reached out to the Georgia Department of Education and asked if the IDEA funds would cease because of the government shutdown.
A spokesman from the department stated "IDEA is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, which is not affected by the shutdown."
The 2018-2019 partial shutdown tied the record for longest federal shutdown in history Friday tying the 21-day shutdown that happened under former President Bill Clinton.
Associated Press reports contributed to this newspaper article.
Barnsley Resort in Bartow County significantly upgraded its shooting sports environment through a partnership with Beretta and the High Adventure Company. As of Jan. 1, Beretta has attached its name to both the upland bird hunting and sporting clays programs at Barnsley. High Adventure President John Burrell said it's the first time Beretta has ever attached its name to a facility like Barnsley.
"This partnership is an impressive and transformative move for Barnsley Resort," said General Manager Shawn Jervis in a news release. "This not only elevates the shooting experience for our current guests, but it puts Barnsley Resort among the very best hunting destinations globally."
Burrell, who is also a certified wildlife biologist, calls Beretta a lifestyle brand.
" It 's not just guns, and Barnsley is the perfect place to encompass that lifestyle brand that Beretta has become over the years," Burrell said. "Not only do we have some of the best quail hunting in the south but we also have the two sporting clays courses there as well."
The initial deal is for five years, however Burrell anticipates a much longer arrangement. Beretta has supplied 45 guns to the resort for the shooting sports program.
"We're never going to tell a customer that he can't shoot his gun on the property, but if you get a gun (from us) it's going to 100 percent be a Beretta," Burrell said.
High Adventure has completely overhauled the two 14-station sporting clays courses, one known as the Mine course, where shooters take aim at targets that fly over some of the old bauxite mines that dot the property, and a new Rock course. Both feature state-of-the-art Promatic machines.
Burrell's company doubled the size of the kennels for the quail program and has purchased two dozen dogs over the last 60 days, including English pointers and setters, English cocker spaniels and Boykin spaniels.
"We were brought in just to bring the plantation and the clays course, up to the standards of the rest of the resort," Burrell said. His High Adventure team hopes to convert the old shooting sports store into a lounge for hunters.
"Right now we're using one of the cottages because a lot of these groups would like some privacy. Sometimes they don't want to be in the bar with other resort guests and that gives some of these corporate clients or family groups a private setting," Burrell said.
High Adventure operates properties all over the world, from Argentina to South Dakota to Hawaii. Burrell said a lot of the clients are coming to Georgia now as a result of the venture with Barnsley.
Today's artwork is by Zeke Donner, an upper elementary school student at the Montessori School of Rome.