The grants themselves are not a huge amount of money — $5,000 for each agency — but the rewards of respect, acknowledgement and gratitude for each agency’s service to crime victims in Kane County are priceless.
At the Dec. 9 Kane County Board meeting, 16th Circuit Court Judge Judith Brawka awarded Probation Services Fund grants to three Kane County agencies whose efforts during the past year have helped make the county a better place to live and work: CASA Kane County, Family Service Association of Greater Elgin Area and Youth Outlook, which offers support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth.
“They do a fabulous job,” Brawka said. “They save countless dollars to the taxpayers, they save numerous lives.”
The Kane County Victim Services Fund was established to provide services to crime victims and their families. The grants are funded from a portion of court-ordered probation fees, and recipients are approved by the chief judge after consultation with Kane County Court Services. Each of the following received a grant in the amount of $5,000.
CASA Kane County
The mission of CASA Kane County is to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children, from birth through age 21, within the Kane County Juvenile Court system.
“CASA believes that every child has the right to a safe, nurturing and permanent home and deserves the support and involvement of the community to make this all possible,” Brawka said.
For 26 years CASA Kane County has been recruiting, training and supervising community volunteers who are appointed by the Juvenile Court Judge to be a child’s Court Appointed Special Advocate and Guardian ad Litem in the courtroom.
CASA/GAL volunteers collect information after spending time with the child and speaking to the family, teachers, therapists and medical professionals. A report is compiled for the judge prior to every court hearing. Staff then guide the CASA volunteers through the duration of their cases, assist in writing reports, attend all court hearings, track case data and pertinent dates and collaborate with caseworkers, attorneys, foster parents and others to help ensure permanency for each child.
“If not for their CASA volunteer, victimized children might not otherwise have a voice in court,” Brawka said in a letter to Executive Director Gloria Bunce. “Thank you for the work you do as the agency which provides information to judges to assist in making the best interest decision for a safe, caring and permanent home for each child.”
Organization Leaders Recognized at Kane County Board Presentation:
- Gloria Bunce, executive director
- Vicki Shaw, director of advancement
Mental Health Juvenile Justice Program at Family Service Association of Greater Elgin Area
The goal of the Mental Health Juvenile Justice program is to identify major mental illness in youth involved in the juvenile justice system that might otherwise have gone untreated.
MHJJ strives to support identified youth and their families to help prevent their victimization, works to prevent further involvement with the legal system and advocates for youth to remain in their communities when possible and clinically beneficial.
The program works to strengthen youth and families’ relationship with courts, probation, detention, schools, health care, mental health and other community based services. This is accomplished through case management, linkage to community agencies, court advocacy, and monitoring the progress in treatment.
MHJJ can aid in consultation and coordination with schools, hospitals, court, detention and probation personnel. The MHJJ liaison may be able to connect the family with financial resources to help strengthen the family. Individualized treatment plans are developed to address needs and build on strengths.
“This is truly a community-based service,” Brawka said.
Family Service Association of Greater Elgin Area is a private, not-for-profit agency offering services to children, adolescents and adults of all ages. Founded in 1931, the organization has grown to a multi-service agency currently serving more than 3,000 clients annually. The goal of Family Service Association is to strengthen individuals and families so that they can meet the challenges of modern life in positive and constructive ways.
“While all youth are vulnerable, those who are mentally ill are especially subject to victimization,” Brawka said. “Thank you for the work you do as the agency which strives to support identified youth and their families.”
Organization Leader Recognized at Kane County Board Presentation:
- Bernadette May, director of clinical services
In the last decade, we have experienced many changes around the issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, both locally and nationally — Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, employment non-discrimination bills, civil union legislation, same sex marriage.
Youth Outlook, the only not-for-profit agency in the western suburbs organized to support LGBT youth and young adults, has been working in Kane County since 1998. This past summer, Youth Outlook assisted in developing training for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit that has opened dialogue about how LGBT people are seen, how they are referred to and how they are treated upon contact with the Kane County court system.
This kind of professional development is only one of several things that Youth Outlook provides our community. They offer drop in center services to LGBT youth, partner with one of the Aurora high schools to offer onsite programming for youth who can’t attend the drop in center, provide information to at risk youth on issues such HIV prevention and healthy relationships, and they work with youth to develop leadership skills that will take them into college and then into their careers.
“LGBT youth are at increased risk of victimization, and more than twice the risk for mental health issues, chemical abuse issues, homelessness, and dropping out of school,” Brawka said. “These youth are up to eight times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual youth. With one full-time person who organizes a team of highly motivated volunteers and part time employees, Youth Outlook supports LGBT youth across a five county area — Kane being right in the middle of those five counties — striving to decrease the sense of isolation and alienation that those youth face, keeping them sober, healthy, at home and in school, as well as working to support the professionals who work with these youth in other settings.”
Organization Leader Recognized at Kane County Board Presentation:
- Nancy Mullen, executive director