Bright Futures for Youth has greatly expanded social-service outreach efforts the past few years, ensuring that children and youth get what they need, from access to health care to food and housing.
The demand for social services has increased across all three Bright Futures for Youth Programs – The Friendship Club, NEO and SAFE, a program that assists children and young adults experiencing housing instability and could become homeless. The three programs reach about 200 youth every week, with a majority needing at least some social service assistance.
“We are noticing that our youth and their families have so many layers of needs,” says Aurora Packard, Program Director of SAFE. “And the more we are able to support them, the more people come forward with needs, seeing that we are able to help.”
It’s a big challenge. The organization has more youth participating in its programs – and more have “intense” needs, said Jennifer Singer, Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth.
The demand is also likely increased by Covid, which has greatly widened the income gap, along with more families learning about Bright Futures for Youth and its far-reaching social service efforts in Nevada County.
“More people know what services are available to them, and there is less of a stigma in asking for help,” says Packard, who currently helps more than 50 youth experiencing homelessness through the SAFE program. “It’s essential that we help, because when parents can’t meet their most basic needs, they are more at risk of homelessness.”
Those basic needs can range from clothing and food to housing. But also access to health care and counseling, and learning about what social-service programs are available – such as Cal-Fresh and Medi-Cal – are part of the effort. In addition, Bright Futures for Youth helps children and young adults apply for college and file for much-needed financial aid and scholarships.
Bright Futures for Youth works closely with county government agencies, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools and other nonprofit organizations, as they team-up to stretch limited resources as far as possible. “There has to be a collective awareness of community needs,” Packard says. “We have more that we can do, and do so even better together.”
Financial support and volunteer efforts greatly help, ensuring that youth get the social services they need.
“It’s often about navigating resources and services,” Singer says. “We have developed excellent partnerships, such as with Western Sierra Medical Clinic and Dr. Rockwell at Dental Wellness Center, but we also have more youth with more intensive needs, and they require more coordination with other service providers in the community.”