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Local KidsNet program a model for state

CONYERS - Youth and family support program KidsNet Georgia, which started as an effort in Rockdale County and now has programs throughout several Georgia counties including Newton and Chatham, is being used as a model by the state to help fund other similar start-up programs in Georgia.

On Wednesday, the Governor's Office for Children and Families announced an opportunity for communities to apply for System of Care funding through competitive open requests for proposals, now available on its Web site, www.gactfc.com.

"The system of care model provides a set of core values, principles and characteristics to guide practices and services," according to a press release by the office. "Services should be provided in the least restrictive setting possible, as close to home as possible, with family members as full partners in deciding what services are needed."

GOCF uses KidsNet Georgia as an example in using the system of care model. KidsNet provides counseling and other services to children with mental health issues and guides them to various resources in the community.

"KidsNet Georgia ... defines the model as family involvement, individualized strength-based services, collaboration among all providers and community partners, and documentation of outcomes and cost/benefit analysis," according to the press release.

Suzan Bryceland, director of KidsNet Georgia, said the recognition from the government is exciting to the KidsNet family.

"It's a testimony to the work KidsNet has done," she said. "It's a testimony to the communities who have KidsNet sites, because they've shown what can be done when people come together and are committed."

KidsNet is a family-driven, youth-guided program that brings together various family and children services in each community, as well as family and community members, to identify and provide help to those who need it.

"It's a transformation of a way of thinking and doing business," Bryceland said.

Bryceland said KidsNet and other organizations like it are getting away from the fragmentation of communication and resources, so those who need help don't have to make 10 different phone calls and still not get anywhere.

"It becomes really important when (the community) pulls together," she said. "(GOCF) believes in the system of care - coming together, sharing resources and not doing things in isolation."

GOCF will provide about $325,000 per year for up to three years to those communities that are awarded funding, according to the press release.

It is not yet determined how many communities will be awarded funding and if KidsNet will be involved in the process of choosing those communities who will use KidsNet as a model.

Bryceland also said she isn't sure if the communities that will get funding will be called a KidsNet community, like KidsNet Rockdale, KidsNet Newton, KidsNet Savannah and the other KidsNet locations.

"This infusion of community dollars is still another expansion of the KidsNet philosophy and value system," she said.

She encouraged all interested communities to apply but warned that they must do their homework beforehand if they are to expect state funding. They need to have a group of organizations ready to band together, support from the community and concrete evidence to show how this will work in their community when applying for the money.

"If you don't have a commitment from child service agencies ... then no matter how much money you put in the community, you are not going to have satisfactory results," Bryceland said. "There is such energy in KidsNet communities."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.