Share this article

print logo

Support center has waiting list

The Depew School District Family Support Center has a waiting list for its services as it nears its one-year anniversary.

James LiPuma, director of pupil personnel services, said the program -- which assists families with issues affecting students' abilities to learn -- has counseled about 14 families since its inauguration in February.

The program, with a budget of about $8,000, runs four hours every Wednesday in the Terrace Education Center. Four families can be accommodated, with an hour of counseling for each. Sometimes, utilizing two rooms, more families are counseled.

"The program is housed at Terrace because it's comfortable and inviting, and we hope it doesn't offer any stigma, because it's more anonymous than going to the school buildings," LiPuma said.

He said he also believes the site's accessibility is a draw.

"People are not going outside Depew for help; some don't have cars and have to rely on public transportation," he said, making it unlikely they would travel to agencies farther away that offer similar counseling.

LiPuma said he always attends along with two of the district's nine school guidance counselors and two interns from the University at Buffalo's department of counseling and School of Educational Psychology. A UB supervisor also is on hand as an observer.

The program, approved by the Depew Board of Education, is a collaboration with the Cleveland Hill School District in Cheektowaga under auspices of Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

"We run it independently," said LiPuma, who said the collaboration -- a coordinated service program -- was for funding purposes under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Similar programs are offered by about 14 Western New York school districts.

"The idea is to offer brief solution-focused therapy" in an effort to assist families in dealing with issues affecting student learning, LiPuma said. Hopefully, the end result will be improved grades and attendance, fewer suspensions and an increase in the graduation rate. Families are referred to the free program by school guidance counselors "who know they fit the dynamic," LiPuma said.

Therapists deal with a range of matters, including how parents can get their children to do homework and relationship issues such as divorce and the absence of parents from the home, perhaps in the military.

LiPuma said there is a mix of philosophies in the operation of Family Support Centers by school districts. "We often work with families a bit longer. We've had families for three sessions and one I believe nearly for the whole semester," he said.

The center sometimes links families with human services organizations and other community resources that can help them with specific needs. "We have no way of knowing whether they follow up," said LiPuma, primarily because of confidentiality issues.

The Family Support Center also was part of the district's recent "community safety net" program at which agencies dealing with heating assistance, food stamps and health care were represented.