Project FOCUS truly meets community needs by working with children who are living in alcoholic and other drug addicted environments. Six years ago, several counties collaboratively identified the need to provide prevention activities for children living in high stress situations. These activities include building resiliency skills, recognizing safe people (safe communities), building a sense of self through service, and adopting healthy life habits. Not surprisingly, these activities align with CARE’s most recent appointment as a Metro Detroit Site of Promise.
The collaborative and other local agencies that identified the need for a safe learning environment for some of the most vulnerable populations based their recommendations on facts. The University of Michigan survey provided data specific to Macomb County youth. Sixty-one percent of Macomb County 12th graders reported using alcohol and other drugs during the past month compared to the national average of 51 percent. Twenty-three percent of the nation’s 12th graders had used marijuana within the 30 days prior to the survey while 32% of Macomb County 12th graders reported use. Additionally, Macomb County ranks 62 out of 83 counties in teen suicide while the local child welfare agency reports that approximately 80% of their substituted child abuse and neglect cases involve the parent’s use of alcohol or other drugs.
The collaborative decided that they would offer children an opportunity to learn about alcoholism and other drug addiction, family dynamics along with skills that would help them make healthy choices as they grow older. Project Focus offers two summer programs and two year-round programs that keep children, ages 3-13, and their families engaged. The messages are continually reinforced through hands on activities, mentors, and service learning projects. Both of the programs are offered at faith-based community centers that allow families’ access to other services. This strengthens the family’s ability to develop healthy family characteristics.
Project Focus is innovative in the respect that it offers long-term assistance to those children at high risk for alcoholism and other drug addiction. Most prevention programs are short in duration and offer somewhat of a band-aid approach to hard problems. Project Focus curriculum was developed by Maplegrove’s Children Program, a leader in the field of addiction and treatment. Jerry Moe, M.A., author and director of Children’s Programs at the Betty Ford Clinic says about CARE’s Project Focus, “This unique service provides summer (year round) support for youth who benefit from student assistance services through the school year. The professionalism, passion, and caring of your staff shines through.”
Over 550 families have participated in Project Focus over the past six years. Many of the children who took part as participants have returned as teen volunteers. In part, because CARE offers this program, the local child welfare agency has housed a Family-to-Family Project at a community center. Family to Family increases services to at risk families.