100 Families discusses student issues with counselors from Crawford County schools

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
100 families member handing out baby wipes and diapers to a client at their Valentine's day event in Van Buren

Mental health, poverty, and the current COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact children in Crawford County schools.

School counselors have a new partner in the hunt for resources and solutions to help these students in need.

100 Families, an Van Buren organization that provides families in crisis with resources like employment, food security, and education, met Thursday with Crawford County school counselors to discuss issues students are currently facing and explore ways of helping serve the need.

Amber Hurst, a counselor at Park View Elementary in Van Buren, highlighted the isolation her students have been feeling on account of not being in school due to the pandemic. 

"A lot of kids are dealing with anxiety because they feel behind or overwhelmed," Hurst said. "We have lots of families that didn't have what they needed." 

Not only are students feeling overwhelmed and isolated with all the changes in the school, but when the pandemic affects the parents it affects the children as well. 

"We had one family that dealt with their dad losing his job, which led to him attempting suicide," Hurst said. "This led to violence in the home. There have been some big events in the lives of our kids."

Charlotte Douglas, coordinator for 100 Families in Van Buren, connected these issues with poverty in the county. When students are required to do their schooling from home, their lack of resources can hinder their ability to get their work done. This leads to their feelings of falling behind. 

"Sometimes they feel more isolated because they don't have any support at home," Douglas said. "They are left on their own."

Brandi Brogan, family liaison for Alma schools, said that students she has worked with have parents that want to help their kids, but don't feel comfortable helping with their virtual assignments.

According to Literary Specialist Rhonda Jennings, 23% of adults in Crawford County cannot read above a third-grade level. 

Alma has after-school programs where students can get help with their work, as well as the option to come into school or learn virtually on Wednesdays.

"Because of the lower numbers on campus, those students received more one-on-one help from teachers," Brogan said. 

Hurst pointed out that teachers and counselors are not getting enough training on dealing with students who are having problems at home, especially foster kids. Since the schools have been so busy keeping up with the academic and virtual learning aspect of the pandemic there hasn't been enough time to learn how to properly handle these problems. 

"I think it was needed before COVID," Hurst said. "I definitely feel like it's needed now."

Douglas believes she could find people to provide trauma training for the teachers and counselors. On the other side, 100 families have the opportunity to get involved with a group called H.E.L.P that specializes in providing resources for families in jeopardy of having their kids taken away. 

H.E.L.P is part of the Department of Children and Family Services and is currently active in Sebastian County. 

In order to help the families, Brogan explained that families tend to be hesitant to reach out for help because they fear that they may get in trouble. Douglas said that 100 Families does not report information to the police or DCFS, unless the children are in immediate danger. 

"We're there to support them totally and get them back to health, said Douglas. 

100 Families launched in October, and currently has over 60 collaborative partners that they utilize to help families in need. This includes local churches, resources for employment, rehabilitation services, and adult education.

They have worked with 115 families with over 263 children since its launch in September of 2020. Currently, there are 88 families active.