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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Step Ahead steps back

Saturday, February 5, 2005

- Funding cut family and community organization

Vicki Switzer said her intial reaction in learning the Step Ahead process funding had been canceled was "Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?"

According to Clay County's LEAAP, Linking Education to Adults, Adolescents and Preschoolers, Center Web site, Step Ahead is a process, not a program, to help families, children and social agencies work together.

"I'm very concerned about how this process will contine," Switzer said.

Step Ahead Council Members and Coordinators received a letter Jan. 26 informing them their contract will expire June 30.

Step Ahead Coordinator Caroline McCullough said she thinks some were surprised by this decision, "but I wasn't really shocked." She said this was because of the financial problems the state is in.

"Anything in the community that had to do with families, Step Ahead has been involved in," McCullough said.

Clay County Cooperative Benevolence Ministries is a social service ministry that works with families in need and the disabled. Director Michelle Arnold said she knows first hand the impact Step Ahead has on the community.

When Benevolence Ministries first opened in August of 2000, Step Ahead helped them get their start-up funds, Arnold said.

When Step Ahead ends, she said, "It's going to tremendously impact all social service agencies."

Step Ahead offers tutoring, life education packets and transportation vouchers, McCullough said.

Switzer is a former educator and past president of Step Ahead who became involved because she wanted to serve children and with this recent decision, she said "It's the working poor again who's going to get hurt."

She said Step Ahead brought nearly 30 different social service agencies together so no work was duplicated.

Funding for the process being cut in June totaled $11,000, McCullough said. Part of this money paid McCullough for her work in coordinating efforts in the Clay County area.

Aside from her salary, the money was used for communicating with such items as postage and letter writing. "If you're going to communicate, you still need money," she said.

Step Ahead Member Mary Yelton said, "I'm very disappointed. This is a great vehicle for collaboration and services among children in Clay County."

Yelton said the process was probably canceled because it wan't working well in some counties. However, she said, it was working well in Clay County. She said the state should look at it by county to county rather than overall.

Although funding has been canceled, McCullough said the process will probably still be around with a different name.

Members aren't sure what the future will hold for service to these families after June.

Arnold said, "We're all just kind of up in the air on how we're going to do that [save Step Ahead]."

McCullough said, "We got until the end of June to figure out what we're going to do."

Switzer said, "I think it's almost impossile to continue without someone coordinating this."

At their next meeting, one week from today, members are going to try to explore how Step Ahead could be run without state funding.

Yelton said she hopes, "they [the state] will find a way to continue funding."

Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Interim Director of Community Planning Elizabeth Darby could not be reached for comment on specifically why funds were canceled.

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