The Help Me Grow program will run through a hotline to connect families to educational and health services for youth throughout the state. Photo courtesy Flickr/Gatanass
JACKSON Mississippi Families for Kids, a community service organization that works with adoptive and foster-care families as well as children with mental-health challenges, received an $850,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to start a Help Me Grow program in Mississippi, a hotline to help connect families to services in their area for children.
Linda West, the executive director of Mississippi Families for Kids, said her organization will partner with Families as Allies to implement the program. West said Help Me Grow is aimed at identifying potential health or educational challenges in kids early, so families can access services quickly, by collecting information about services already available. Mississippi currently has no integrated statewide system that addresses children's early developmental needs, West said, and the Help Me Grow program would help fix that.
"The ultimate goal would be to provide the early identification of medical problems or education problems with vulnerable children and families," West said. "Utilizing the call center as a tool to link them to services they need."
The call center will consolidate a list of all of the state's available physical and mental health service providers as well as educational services, and service coordinators would be able to direct callers to an appropriate service to fit their child's need, hopefully in their area.
Calls to the hotline would also provide a feedback loop, ensuring that families are served by providing documentation to the family and following up with them after.
Transportation to access services can be challenging in Mississippi, and West said the call center would hopefully alleviate some of that stress.
"A person may not have to drive from the Delta to Jackson to access services," she said.
If parents can call in to the Help Me Grow center (there is no official or additional title for the program yet), they can, hopefully, find services they need in their community.
More than 20 states have implemented the Help Me Grow program nationwide, and while the program does not provide direct services, it would provide a centralized point of reference for any family looking for physical or mental health or early education services.
West said the partnering organizations are planning a kick-off for September, when the hotline should be up and ready to use. In the meantime, she said any questions about the program could be directed to her office at 601-957-7670.
Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at [email protected].