Morgan County Family Connection Co-Hosts Legislative Question and Answer Forum

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Morgan County Collaborative members meet with their legislators
Morgan County Family Connection and the Madison-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce recently co-sponsored a Legislative Question-and-Answer Forum with Sen. Burt Jones (third from left) and Rep. Dave Belton (fourth from left).

by Krystin Dean

Morgan County Family Connection (MCFC) and the Madison-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce recently co-sponsored a Legislative Question-and-Answer Forum with Rep. Dave Belton and Sen. Burt Jones, allowing constituents to meet face-to-face with their representatives and ensuring that partners are well versed in upcoming legislation affecting the region’s children and families.

“The best thing you can do is to keep us informed of what your issues are,” said Jones. “We can’t make magic happen, but we’re a partnership with local government. The communities that have the most economic growth and success are the ones that have their act together. Their counties and cities are working for a centralized goal.”

The Georgia legislature delegated authority to MCFC in 2000 to be the catalyst for addressing the needs of the county’s children and families. “From that time until now, we have leveraged every dollar allocated to achieve that mission,” said MCFC coordinator Velde Hardy. “We’ve learned that leverage is best created through partnership.”

The Collaborative has seen a significant increase in actively engaged partners in recent years, thanks in part to the creation of strategy teams that regularly bring dozens of partners to the table for various community efforts. Additionally, a strengthened Local Interagency Planning Team (LIPT) assembles an average of 15 partners each month to ensure effective mental health services for youth.

Sen. Burt Jones
“The communities that have the most economic growth and success are the ones that have their act together. Their counties and cities are working for a centralized goal.”
—Sen. Burt Jones

MCFC keeps legislators informed about its initiatives by inviting them to attend Collaborative and strategy team meetings, along with one-on-one conferences to share data and trends. Belton will provide updates from the 2016 Georgia legislative session during the Partner Spotlight section of MCFC’s monthly meeting in April.

Legislators also work with MCFC’s Children Safe and Families Strong Strategy Team to build awareness about top concerns related to local families, including the increasing number of child abuse and neglect cases. The rate of children with a substantiated incident of child abuse is 8.6 (per 1000 children under age 18), well above the state rate of 3.6. The rate of children with a substantiated incident of child neglect is 11.4 (per 1000 children under age 18). The state rate is 7.6. 

“During the annual Child Abuse Prevention Month Proclamation event, Rep. Belton was present not only to hear about the work being done at the local level to address child abuse, but also to share updates on the work being done at the state level to help support and strengthen families, including the passing of his bill, Kelsey’s Law,” Hardy said.

MCFC also recently partnered with Belton to host the first annual State of Morgan County Forum, where local elected officials and high-ranking community leaders from the Board of Education, law enforcement, and city and county governments shared the latest data from their organizations and discussed opportunities for new and continued partnerships.

“Rep. Belton was present to hear updates about increased employment opportunities for families,” said Sonya Hope, a Georgia Family Connection Partnership community support specialist. “Velde Hardy shared how these opportunities fit seamlessly into the Morgan Works! Certification Program that was launched thanks to MCFC’s Educated and Working Strategy Team’s vision to ensure an employable workforce.”

Jones and Belton stressed the importance of education during the forum. “We have an 87-percent graduation rate in Morgan County. That’s the 14th best in Georgia, which puts us in the top 8 percent,” said Belton.

Rep. Dave Belton
“We have an 87-percent graduation rate in Morgan County. That’s the 14th best in Georgia, which puts us in the top 8 percent.”
—Rep. Dave Belton

According to Hardy, MCFC is working diligently to improve attendance, teen births, and alcohol use—indicators that are worse or aligned with the state rate.

MCFC focuses on the region’s youth with signature events like the Back-to-School Rally and Community Health Fair that aim to ensure all students have the tools to start the school year successfully and in good health, and the Teen Maze that addresses issues including unsafe driving, drug use, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.

These initiatives enlist the help of hundreds of community volunteers. “All these partnerships are made possible through only one paid staff position using Family Connection funds,” said Hardy. “That’s a volunteer-to-staff ratio of 350:1 and provides a true testament to the power of leverage.”

Every dollar that MCFC spends is matched via in-kind contributions or volunteer services from the community. “This level of dollar-to-dollar leverage speaks volumes to the value our partners place on the effectiveness and relevancy of our Collaborative,” said Hardy. “We hope our legislators also see the intrinsic worth of Family Connection Collaboratives as we continue to leverage more services through the expansion of partnerships.”

Contact:
Velde T.  Hardy
Coordinator
Morgan County Family Connection
706-343-5907
[email protected]

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-739-0043
[email protected]

Follow us on Twitter: @gafcpnews