A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the Art of Childhood, an annual event honoring The Children’s Cabinet, and on this evening also celebrated the organization’s 30th year of helping the children and families of Washoe County.
I knew a little about The Children’s Cabinet before the event having participated in their Holiday Adopt a Family event for several years. But this evening taught me about the history of The Children’s Cabinet, and its future as well.
In 1985, Michael Dermody, a local business person and owner of Dermody Properties, began assembling a cabinet of business owners, legislators, and public officials to begin addressing the needs of under-served children and families. This public-private organization worked side-by-side with public agencies to develop programs ranging from tutoring and health services to parenting education and family counseling programs. Mr. Dermody continues to work with The Children’s Cabinet and was honored for his ongoing support and commitment as he was named the 2015 Dixie May Award Recipient that evening.
While the evening looked back on the organization’s 30 year history, it also focused on its future. The Children’s Cabinet continues to build a foundation of support with local and state government officials, community leaders and representatives from social, juvenile and judicial agencies. Each of these groups is vital to identifying the gaps in services for more than 11,000 families each year and also in alerting the organizations to emerging and growing needs.
A great example of an emerging program is the Transitional Living Center for Youth. Expected to open in early 2016, the center will give older children, from 12 – 17, a safe place
to live while they work on strengthening their family relationships and returning home or transitioning to an alternative living arrangement. With more than 400 homeless youth in Washoe County, the center is assured to be an invaluable landing place for many, many children. The Transitional Living Center also will have room for those who are 18 to 24 that have aged out of the traditional foster care system, but need help adjusting to living on their own.
Three of The Children’s Cabinet beneficiaries spoke to us that evening. These kids, who were still teens, had already faced so many obstacles and accomplished so much. The support they received from the organization, from counseling services to financial help, allowed them to learn the skills they need to take on new challenges from finishing high school and starting college to finding a job and an apartment. Hearing their stories only made the need for the Transitional Living Center even more important to our community and me.
I was lucky to have a few minutes to speak with a Children’s Cabinet Board member at the event. Judge Egan Walker a judge with Washoe County’s the second judicial district court family division, has a deep understanding of the needs of local children in foster care and juvenile services. In addition to The Children’s Cabinet, he is also on the Board of Directors of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ).
“As a community, we have to take ownership of all the children in our community, because they are an important part of our community and all of them have needs, and the needs are overwhelmingly large,” said Judge Walker.
“They are so big, so vast and so complicated that it is difficult for any one organization or any one thing, like a court system, to help meet the needs of kids,” he said. “What The Children’s Cabinet does, and organizations like the Cabinet, is they provide multi-faceted, multi-pronged cabinet of resources for kids. That is the best thing they do.”
“Kids don’t fit in square little boxes, each kid is an individual, and each has a range of needs. And what is so remarkable about the Cabinet is that they fit those needs in a lot of different areas of resources, and that’s critically important to me as a judge, but really more important as a citizen.”
It was an honor to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Children’s Cabinet, a critical, life-saving resource for not only our children but also our community.
The Cabinet offers Early Childhood programs and Family and Youth services. Would you like to help the Children’s Cabinet, check out ways to support their programs, such as the Transitional Youth Center for Youth, here.