The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 14, 2013

Coalition: Everyone can help troubled kids

By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

— MIDDLEBURG — Law enforcement alone isn’t enough to slow down the growing number of kids in Snyder County exhibiting behavioral problems, including drug abuse, said an adult probation officer at Monday night’s meeting of the Snyder County Coalition for Kids at Midd-West High School.

The coalition exists, organizers said, simply to make the county a better place for kids. But how to do that is the challenge facing us all, explained Coalition director Deborah Shaffer, of Selinsgrove.

Speaking before an audience of 60 people representing different sectors of the community, including parent and school groups, church groups, and government agencies like children and youth, Adam Wagner detailed some of difficult challenges facing his department, where parents are sometimes enablers, drug abusers, or just absent from their children’s lives.

That point was hammered home by another speaker, Justin Dively, the Midd-West High School psychologist. He has been collecting data on students and their families for some time and noted the many factors that contribute to bad behavior. “Parents are working two, three jobs and don’t have the time to supervise their kids behavior. Others are receiving some kind of government assistance and are not looking for work. I mean, what kind of role models are they for their kids? We have to do something about that.”

Midd-West Superintendent Wesley Knapp said one of the area’s major problems is lack of transportation. “Even when we have a great facility available, such as the Middlecreek Area Community Center, in Beaver Springs, a lot of kids can’t get there. We have to solve the transportation problem. It’s a big issue.”

The importance of a meeting like this,” said Michael Piecuch, Snyder County District Attorney and chairman for Snyder County Coalition for Kids, “is it’s a call for community engagement. “We can’t do this alone, either as community members, as parents, as government officials. The era of letting government shoulder all the responsibility has passed and, actually is ineffective. It has to be a community driven effort.”

Monday night’s meeting was all about networking, Shaffer said. “We are constantly networking, inviting the community into our events because we need the community to be involved in what we are doing to be successful. So we want to educate them on who we are and what we are doing and how they can help. This meeting is a second step. Our first meeting was in December. We are looking for volunteers on several committees.”

For Shaffer, her involvement has been personal. “I live in Snyder County, and have two little girls, 1 and 3 and-a-half, so I want to help ensure that they have a safe and healthy community to grow up in.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? added Piecuch, after the meeting.  “We’ve got a great bunch of really committed people here, who really believe in the cause and believe in the method, which is a way of building the community effort. Helping people get involved who want to help but might not know how. So we’re inviting them to join us.”

For more information go to the group’s Facebook page: Just type in Snyder County Coalition for Kids.