I would like to take a moment to comment on your cover story from last week related to budget cuts for youth service agencies. As the executive director of YES Community Counseling Center, our communities' local resource for children and families, I am writing so that our community truly understands the effects of this decision.

Our agency has been serving the needs of children, families and adults since we opened our doors in 1979. For over 30 years, YES has responded to cries for help due to physical and sexual abuse, domestic abuse and family violence, depression, suicide and bereavement, divorce and family trauma, school failure, financial stress and many other issues. And with one signature on a letter, YES has lost over $220,000 in funding.

The impact for our children and in our community will be devastating. We have laid off professional staff that provides the services to many of our children and families. We will no longer be providing our Friday night program at the local middle school. We have had to refer others who are looking for help outside of the community. We have terminated our program that prevents children from becoming involved with the criminal justice system and we have terminated our program that helps children develop vocational skills and their first employment experiences. We no longer will be providing our babysitters training program.

We live in beautiful communities, yet we are living in a time where the economy is dictating that very difficult and harsh choices be made. However, what is very clear is that when we make decisions and when we support decisions that others have made that affect our children, we put our beautiful communities at potential risk. And not just for today, but for the future. We all know that it is far more cost effective to prevent problems than to pay for incarceration, emergency room visits and hospital stays.

Those whom we elect to protect our quality of life must understand that regardless of our economic times, children must be a priority, and the strength of our families must matter. Those whom we elect to represent our voice must understand that decisions made that eliminate resources for our children hurt our community and impact our future. Now is not the time to eliminate resources, now is the time to strengthen them.

Please know that we will continue to do the very best we can to serve the needs of our community. However, also, please understand that our inability to meet those demands is based upon funding decisions made that are beyond our control and in the hands of our government.

We hope you will continue to speak out in support of restitution to not only YES, but to all those organizations that assist our children throughout the county. Our children deserve to hear our voices and know our support.

Jamie E. Bogenshutz, LCSW, R, CASAC

Executive Director

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