In the 133 years since the Children’s Aid Home was started in Somerset, only one fundraising campaign was conducted. That was to build the new 37,000-square-foot facility to house all the services offered to children in need under one roof.
The organization moved into the new facility at 1476 N. Center Ave., Somerset, on Nov. 15, 2001. It provides space for sleeping, educating, feeding, recreating and counseling children.
Now an endowment campaign has been launched by the Children’s Aid Society Foundation of Somerset County to help The Children’s Aid Home Programs of Somerset County Inc. provide additional care for children and families in need. The $5 million endowment campaign has collected more than $2 million so far. The funds will be used to support existing programs as well as for new initiatives such as Trauma Informed Care that serve children.
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“The endowment campaign started pre-COVID. Then COVID struck, so it was tough to do public appearances. A lot was done quietly by phone,” said Bob Miller, president of the Children’s Aid Society Foundation. “We decided to kick it off again. We’ve raised a little over $2 million of the $5 million goal. That is through board members, staff, people close and generous to us. We want to get it out there to the community so we can reach that goal.”
The goal of this multi-year major raising is to build an endowment and other funds to provide for the needs that are becoming an end fund campaign and troublesome for the children, he said.
The foundation’s endowment gifts help to provide funding for specialized therapy and other services not covered by insurance; for breakfast for community students before school and “backpack” food on weekends; for tutoring and other educational resources; to support budgets of nonprofits serving children when public funding does not meet the actual cost of care; for summer camp, recreational activities and education field trips; post-secondary scholarship help for children, and to provide a safe, attractive and well-maintained children’s home.
At the successful conclusion of this campaign, the foundation will be able to fund long-term the budget shortfall that has existed for some time between public funding and the actual cost of the services that are so desperately needed by so many children and families in need , Miller said. The need for the services the foundation supports is growing.
The reimbursement for such services is and has been diminishing for an extended period of time, he said. This leaves a shortfall in the long-term sustainability of supporting and helping children and their families in need.
“The majority of the funds go to the Children’s Aid Home programs to support good work,” Miller said. “Even though we get funding from the state, the money doesn’t keep up with the cost of care. The quality stays at a high level here. We can provide things for the kids that public funding doesn’t cover. for specialized care services and activities they won’t get.”
“Without the support of the community, we wouldn’t have the programs that we have. We really do have good programs for the kids,” Lynne Sablotski, executive director of The Children’s Aid Home Programs of Somerset County Inc. said. “The supplemental funds the foundation gives affords them the things other kids have, such as dental services, shoes, clothes. A lot have self-image issues and this is a normalcy component for the kids. We are very fortunate to be able to offer that to the kids.”
Artists in residency, baseball games, summer camps, special therapeutic services, reading programs and college scholarships are just a few examples of the experiences donations have helped provide.
“We can send food home on the evenings and weekends relying on the support from the foundation,” Sablotski said. “It means a lot to our kids.”
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Children’s Aid Home programs
The services were started to help promote the emotional, behavioral, educational and physical development of children, adolescents and their families.
The programs include residential care; foster family care; SWAN/Adoption Services and Search & Reunion Services; hospitalization programming at two partial sites, two classrooms; options for alternative education at two classrooms, and supervised family visitation.
The home serves 200 children per year for a total of more than 10,000 days of care per year. The children served are from several different counties and multiple school districts. The aid home employs 37 full-time staff, three part-time staff and three contracted professional staff.
Funding through the Foundation helps programs including:
- Foster Family Care Program: Provides foster family care services for children ranging in age from infancy to 21 years old, with a focus on the critical role of foster parents.
- Adoption Program: Provides domestic and special needs adoption services, matching children with families who want to adopt a special needs child.
- Partial Hospitalization Program: A day treatment program for up to 25 youth, ages 12 to 18, offering tailored psychiatric and education programs.
- Alternative Education Program: A public-private partnership with the Somerset Area School District that provides services, academic instruction and behavioral counseling to students who are placed in this program. They work collaboratively with the district to assist students in a successful transition back to school.
- Day Treatment Program: Helps children (kindergarten to fifth grade) who are experiencing behavioral challenges that hinder success in a traditional classroom. The children receive emotional, behavioral and educational support through a team that works collaboratively with the school to support them in returning to a public school setting.
- Search and Reunion program: Helps children to maintain or reinstate connections to their biological family members.
The Children’s Aid Home Programs in the last eight years:
- Had in residential care 325 total children for 31,034 total days of service; that’s an annual average of 41 children for 3,879 days of service.
- Had in foster family care 197 total children for 28,785 total days of service; that’s an annual average of 25 children for 3,598 days of service.
- Had in partial hospitalization program 271 total children for 19,388 total days of service; that’s an annual average of 34 children for 2,424 days of service.
- Had options in alternative education: 145 total children for 12,317 total days of service; that’s an annual of 18 children for 1,540 days of service.
- Had day treatment for elementary education which has only been offered five years 28 total children for 2,630 days of service; that an annual average of 5.6 children for 526 days of service.
- Adoptive services had: 93 adopted family approvals; 288 child profiles; 80 child specific recruitment; 338 child preparation for permanency; and 22 adoptions.
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The latest program the staff is receiving training for is trauma informed care. This program offers therapy in the home for functional family care in order to prevent the children from having to enter into the care of the Children’s Aid Home. The Children’s Aid Home gets referrals from school districts, Children and Youth and other children’s programs. The child has to have significant behavioral issues to get the referral, Sablotski said.
“We have to empower the parents to make the change for the kids,” she said. “All of the kids have encountered some form of trauma. The staff has to learn how to care for them, using this agency-produced model. Parents have to say they’re willing to participate. Some want to do better and don’t know how.”
“We’ll see five years from now how it’s working. It’s an evidenced-based service,” Miller said. “It’s neat to have kids come back to tell you how they’re doing. You don’t know if you’ve reached them until then.”
The endowment campaign effort has been spearheaded by Miller, board members and community leaders like Scott Bender, former Seven Springs Mountain Resort CEO and Board of Trustee member of the foundation.
“There is no better organization out there is more dedicated to the children and families it serves than the Children’s Aid Society Foundation,” Bender said in a news release. “I’m proud to be a contributing donor to the endowment campaign and look forward to seeing how these dollars can further improve the lives of families in Southwestern Pa.”
Jessica Schmidt is a foster/adoptive parent who has worked with the staff of the Children’s Aid Home for nine years.
“My experience has been a wonderful one. We have four kiddos now of all ages. The aid home has been so supportive,” she said. “I’m one of the many who have had infertility issues and I looked at the Children’s Aid Home because it has ‘children’ in the name. The first day I met Kristin (Walters, permanency director of the foster care program) and she He tells it how it is. She doesn’t sugar coat anything. She was very supportive.
“They do everything they can connect kiddos with families and families with kiddos. They are the bridge that connects us. We went to a family night where they had a meal and games. One thing I wanted my kids to know is they are not alone. There are other kids who were adopted. They could meet other adopted or children in foster care. I know they have a need for foster and adoptive parents. way. They’re matching up the children with families. Family focus is getting the kids with families they need.
The Children’s Aid Society Foundation
The Children’s Aid Society Foundation was founded in 1889 by women who discovered children suffering in Somerset County and modeled the organization after the Children’s Aid Society of London. The Children’s Aid Society Foundation fuels the work, and the Children’s Aid Home Programs provides the services at the Children’s Home.
Miller’s office is at 222 W. Main St., Suite 200, Somerset.
“We’re very fortunate that a Somerset engineering company gave us that office to meet with people privately and confidentially,” Miller said.
Call Miller at 814-701-2275, to donate or to see how the home and services operate and what is offered. He said he can talk about different ways of giving.
For more information, go to www.casocietyfoundation.org.
Sablotski said those who would like to tour the facility are welcome to do so.
“We welcome the opportunity to give tours to see how and what we do,” she said.
“To see the child and family make improvements. That’s your motivation. You do what you can do. Nothing compares to that,” Sablotski said.