While the state may have cut local funding for a program designed to prevent child abuse, county officials and the United Way of Portage County have found a way to keep it going.
The program, formerly known as POCAN (Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect), operated for nearly a decade in Portage County on a mostly state-funded $100,000 annual budget, and its purpose was to provide counseling, resources and other services to at-risk families to prevent possible abuse and neglect incidents that may result in a child being removed from a home.
This scenario, said Teresa Kovach, Child Welfare Services supervisor for Portage County Health and Human Services, is expensive, so when the state cut funding for the program at the end of 2010, the county looked for ways it could continue to fund it.
The United Way of Portage County came to the rescue, partnering with the county to bring the program back in 2012. With $40,000 in county funds and $60,000 in United Way funds, it resumed operation in May under the operation of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services, which was contracted to run it.
Kovach said families come to the program in several different ways – through cases referred to Portage County Health and Human Services that don’t meet maltreatment statutes but demonstrate at-risk factor, and through outside sources such as The Salvation Army and the Right from the Start Coalition. “We’re getting referrals from all over the community,” she said.