Recently a representative from Herkimer County was invited to The White House - present their program to help at risk youth. Over a decade ago Herkimer County received a grant from New York State to address rising levels of at-risk youth placed in residential facilities or foster care. Herkimer was one of twelve communities chosen to participate along with cities like Philadelphia and Boston. Darlene Haman Herkimer County's Strategic Planning Coordinator says, "We have a number of at-risk kids and very often people forget smaller communities have those kids in their community. And our poverty issues are here, there are more dispersed across the county as opposed to in concentrated areas like a Boston or Chicago, but we face the same issues and concerns that any community would face."
The program in Herkimer County is not only about making an investment in the children but for the taxpayer as well. County Administrator James Wallace says, "I look at it as a real win win situation, both for the families, the kids and also our tax payers. You know we've seen our foster care case load go from 138 down to 64. We've seen our placement days in residential care cut almost in half and that saved us a couple million dollars over the last couple of years." Haman added, "It's very costly to put a child into residential placement and the research out there doesn't support that putting a kid into residential placement actually achieves better outcomes for that child or family. So with investing in that front end, we keep that kid in the community."
As a result of the community collaborative effort Herkimer County has seen a 54% percent decrease in the number of children in foster care in under a decade.