Jeff Mauer (left) and Mary Margaret Mauer

Jeff Mauer and Mary Margaret Mauer told Rome leaders at the Exchange Club lunch Friday the Trust Based Relational Intervention program that is key to the success of communicating with children in the foster care system in Rome, developed at Texas Christian University, is now being looked at as a model for numerous state agencies. / Doug Walker

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 Department 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."