West Virginia State Code defines a Family Resource Network as “a local community organization charged with service coordination, needs and resource assessment, planning, community mobilization and evaluation.” The purpose of every FRN is to facilitate planning and develop solutions within the community to improve the system of services for children and families.
According to Joyce Harris-Thacker, Upshur County FRN executive director, the FRN works to identify community needs, find resources to meet those needs, promote agency collaboration, secure private grant funding on behalf of other interagency and collaborative groups; and coordinate action and planning.
“We operate on a $40,000 grant each year,” Harris-Thacker said. “We do a lot with that money.”
The program started in the early 1990s and every county was required to have a FRN that was part of the Governor’s Cabinet, she said. However, Gov. Joe Manchin moved the control of the FRN to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
“Without the help of the city of Buckhannon and the Upshur County Commission it would be hard to operate on the $40,000 grant,” Harris-Thacker said. “The city gives us free office space at the Stockert Youth Center and the county supports us through their budget.”
The FRN falls under the Bureau of Children and Families with the DHHR. FRNs provide a neutral table for problem solving and collaboration by giving communities a voice in policy and planning, Harris-Thacker said.
FRNs operate from a board of directors representing individuals from key agencies, families and interested community members.
A recent grant from the DHHR provided new computers and money for mileage allowance, she said. This really helped out with our budget. “We also have several volunteers and those volunteers are what holds things together,” she said.
According to the Mission Statement of the West Virginia Family Resource Network, a FRN is a community-based organization, a local forum for deliberation and problem solving, a model of inclusiveness, a local change agency and a group of concerned citizens who want to make life better in their community. It also stated a FRN is not a club, an exclusive group, a protector of the status quo, an agency, a fundraiser and an interagency council.
Some of the projects and issues that have been addressed by the FRNs across the state include the following: Alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention and intervention activities; economic and poverty activities; education, early childhood and literacy activities; health care and wellness activities; service issues; safety, justice and natural disaster activities; and youth issues and youth program activities.
In 2005, the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Families was discontinued. In order to maintain funding for Family Resources Networks and other Cabinet grants, the grants were transferred to the DHHR, Bureau for Children and Families. FRNs continue to receive technical assistance from the bureau, through the Office of Social Services and the Office of Finance and Administration. As of 2008, there are 46 FRNs, covering all 55 counties of the state with all receiving DHHR funding.
Harris-Thacker said the Upshur County FRN was instrumental in getting public transportation into Upshur County. “We worked with the Randolph County Senior Center to get Country Roads Transit into Upshur County.”
FRNs allow services to be provided at the local level in a coordinated way that serves varied needs across the state, Harris-Thacker said. FRNs improve families’ access to the public and community-based services they require, and they provide a local system capable of adapting quickly and effectively to major federal or state policy changes.
Harris-Thacker has been the executive director of the Upshur County FRN since November 2005.
The current board members of the Upshur County FRN include Mary Austin, Ginny Dixon, Kathleen Neetz, Lisa Osburn, Keith Rowan, Amanda Nesbitt, Carol Duffield, Laura Queen, Suzanne Bohman, Lee Ann Brown, Debra Brockleman and Donnie Tenney. Staff members include, Harris-Thacker, LaShawn Lewis, Lesli Beavers, Leslie Batove and Jessica Auxier. Community members of the FRN include, Daisy Arbogast, Linda Feola, Phyllis Sembello, Vicki Snyder, Tracy Bennett, Judy mcCauley, Liz Cross, Idress Gooden, Nancy Bradshaw and Cathy Coontz.
The Upshur County FRN has developed a 59-page resource directory with important information and phone number of different agencies, Harris-Thacker said. Funding for the directories was provided by the DHHR, Buckhannon Wal-Mart, Reach Out and Read program and the United Way of Upshur of Lewis and Gilmer counties, she said. The directories are free and available at the FRN office located at the Stockert Youth Center 79 E. Main St. in Buckhannon.
For more information about the Upshur County Family Resource Network, call 473-0945 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The Inter-Mountain/Gary Mallonee)
HARD AT WORK — Joyce Harris-Thacker, director of the Upshur’s Family Resource Network, is hard at work providing services to county residents.
Fact Box“We operate on a $40,000 grant each year. We do a lot with that money.”
Director of Upshur County FRN