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Nonprofits appeal for county funding
Applicants must have ties to juvenile justice system
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Forsyth County News

The needs for social services for youth continue to grow in Forsyth County, and with them the need for funding.

A committee tasked with awarding $435,000 in county grant money for 2014 met Friday to interview the agencies applying, which must work in some capacity with the juvenile justice system.

The local nonprofits typically requested the same amount of funding as in 2013 or an increase to meet the growing populations they serve.

Scott Wilbanks, director of Forsyth County Department of Family and Children Services, said the grant funding has helped supplement what they receive from the state, allowing for two case managers who process several applications, including for food stamps.

The work for those employees illustrates the county’s increasing need for services.

“Forsyth County has had the largest growth in the state of Georgia from 2007 to 2011 … or about a 320 percent growth in food stamp applications,” Wilbanks said.

DFCS again requested $171,000, which it has received from the county for several years.

Wilbanks was unsure how the state’s juvenile justice reform bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, would impact the number of children they serve, but expected they might see an increase.

On May 2, Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill, which rewrites and reorganizes the law.

County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who serves on the committee, discussed the potential impact of the reform with the different nonprofits.

Most were not sure how the changes would affect them, but Forsyth County Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, likely has the closest ties with the Juvenile Court.

The volunteers advocate for the child’s best interests within the court system.

The nonprofit’s top priority is to provide an advocate for each foster child before branching out to assist in other ways, said Janet Walden, executive director.

The agency asked for $70,000 in grant funding this year — twice the $35,000 it received in 2013 — to allow for hiring a fourth case manager to handle those outside cases, Walden said.

Mills said it would be helpful to direct grant funding in whatever ways may offset the costs of the juvenile justice reform, and the competition for the awards is tight.

“The commissioners have not upped the money that we’re funding,” she said, “and, of course, most agencies are requesting more.”