A three-pronged approach was developed by the county and multiple stakeholders to strengthen and enhance the current system of care in Herkimer County:
1. DESSA (Devereaux Student Strengths Assessment software) will be purchased for 6 corridor school districts, covering K-12. The DESSA software tracks multiple student markers in order to derive a psychometrically-sound measure of social and emotional competence among individual children and groups of children. This will allow the schools to identify early children with SED or those who are at risk of SED. The software interfaces with the current student management system, SchoolTool, to provide intervention management capabilities and progress monitoring.
2. 5 Family School Navigators will also be provided to those schools (one district already utilizes a navigator). These navigators will create relationships with the families in each district These navigators will be charged with identifying families who have just given birth and reaching out to begin forging a positive, strength-based connection with the school from day one that persists though the child’s elementary career. These ongoing relationships between the navigators and the families position the navigators in such a way allowing them to observe the family in their homes, and identify any emergent needs or changes in the family environment which may pose a risk to the children in the home (toddler age and up) of developing an SED. The FSNs will also make themselves available to assist families with everything from basic to more complex needs, to refer to any appropriate programs or services that could stabilize or strengthen the family/child, and to support the families in ways tailored to match their individualized need(s). FSNs, therefore, act as a referral source and supportive intervention to increase early identification of children with SED, or at-risk of SED, and their families and to connect them as quickly as possible with appropriate school-based and community resources. To fully accomplish this, FSNs also work closely with school personnel including teachers, counselors and social workers, as part of a child-focused care team. Therefore, in addition to these children undergoing assessments via the DESSA software, the FSNs will also be able to monitor the child and alert the school to anything the DESSA might not capture, acting as a secondary identification system.
3. A resource inventory of mental, behavioral, and supportive services available in the community will be created by the county and distributed to the schools. This inventory will allow schools to easily and quickly match the needs of a child/family with the appropriate program to address the issue(s). In addition, the Human Resources Planning team (the SOC oversight body) in conjunction with the schools and family advocates will ascertain which programming is the most impactful. This information will then be cross-referenced against needs of the children and families in the community and the capacity of the current programs to determine which program/service would benefit from enhancement and increased capacity.