It’s Kindness Week, and there’s probably no greater kindness than what’s being demonstrated in Morgan County, W.V., where great need is being met with great cooperation. County residents have created a web of youth-focused programs supporting kids in and out of school. One reporter writing about it called this web a “network of compassion,” and it’s needed in Morgan County, where 70% of the young people now live in poverty. In 2015, that figure was 60% and a decade ago it was 30%.
In the only state in the U.S. that’s losing population, schools are struggling with a dwindling tax base, increasing unemployment, growing heroin abuse and a youth mental healthcare system in crisis. But in Morgan County, which has seen some of the worst of these conditions, all parts of the youth-serving ecosystem – from schools to social services to law enforcement to juvenile justice – are measurably turning the crisis around in a “countywide experiment in compassionate care [that’s] holistic, affordable, and replicable,” reported Pam Kasey in West Virginia Focus magazine. “And it’s gone on long enough that we can just start to see the difference it’s making.”
“At the hub of it all,” says Gary McDaniel, a clinical social worker for Morgan County’s schools who has been working on growing this web for over a decade, “is relationships.” Relationships between people especially, but also roles, skill sets and programs – all about serving children. When he was asked if this comes from some sort of county-wide vision or game plan, he said no, not really. It comes from “a philosophy that’s prevalent in the world of clinical social work.” It’s called ‘Ecosystems Theory.’ I’m not just helping kids one at a time,” McDaniel said. “I’m looking at a community and what it does well and what it can do better and how all of it comes to bear on supporting a kid I’m working with” – nutrition, family, medical care, school, etc. All the parts are equally deserving of attention.”
For examples of the nodes in this network of care – in and out of school – click to this blog post at NetFamilyNews.org.
iCanHelpline subscribers are welcome to email us their stories of school and school-serving programs that really work via info[at]icanhelpline.org.