Catholic Charities

Filling the Gaps

Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas, based in Salina with offices in Hays and Manhattan, serves individuals and families living in 31 counties of the Salina Diocese. With its commitment to reducing poverty, Catholic Charities works to fill gaps between other public and private social services. Michelle Martin, executive director, says that one of her organization’s biggest challenges is reaching rural areas where people must travel to access the help they need for food, clothing, counseling, and financial assistance.

“Groups like ours are able to access resources for community aid through the Foundation and its affiliates,” Martin said. “Because the Foundation accepts applications for most of the year, Catholic Charities knows that we can go to it for immediate needs that can’t wait a whole year. Knowing the grant process is open helps us respond to changes in the counties we serve.”

One of those needs emerged in the past year when Catholic Charities and other local groups learned about the lack of local housing placements for children who are taken into police protective custody (PPC). Children who end up without a parent or adult to care for them because of situations like parent arrest, car accidents or abandonment can end up being taken into custody by law enforcement to ensure their safety. Until recently when this occurred, children from Salina usually would be transported to an institution in Wichita for the 48 business hours protective custody allows.

“A local judge challenged our organization, along with Saline County Community Corrections, St. Francis Community Services, and CAPS, to find a way to keep children in our community when they are removed from their homes pending this initial investigation conducted by Department of Children and Families social workers,” Martin said.

A Foundation grant allows the PPC program to compensate volunteers for taking children into their homes for the short time it takes for social workers and law enforcement to investigate and for the legal system to determine whether the children need to be placed in foster care and a case opened, Martin explained. “We put together a process that volunteers don’t have to be a fully licensed foster home in order to help children for a short time. Community Corrections handles background checks, CAPS helps train the families who will host children, and Catholic Charities performs the home studies.”

Because the local program doesn’t go through the state system, no reimbursement for foster care is provided. That’s where the Foundation’s grant stepped in. The partnership took on its first cases in November and is seeking five more volunteer families to participate.

“Charities need to pool resources because the community benefits from such collaborative efforts,” Martin said, “and the Foundation helps us do that.”

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