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Making a difference

Carl Scheib, pictured here as he photographed the start of Saturday’s 5K Run/Walk for the Prevent Chld Abuse Council, is regional director for the Children’s Bureau.

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Carl Scheib’s career has taken him full cycle in the world of social services.

Scheib started his career working to with juveniles who were on probation for something they had done, supervised a detention center, moved on to a state welfare agency, and he now works at trying to keep families out of trouble. He is the Region 12 director for the Children’s Bureau Inc., serving six counties from an office at 2508 Western Ave., Suite E.

At more than 170 years, the Children’s Bureau is the oldest child-serving non-government agency in Indiana. It bills itself as “Community Partners for Child Safety.” It works in partnership with the state of Indiana’s Department of Child Services (DCS) and with many other agencies that deal with families.

Scheib’s journey to the Children’s Bureau has been roundabout and he’s a believer in its work.

Scheib’s been in his social work career for 36 years, nearly one-third of that with the Children’s Bureau. But he started his career at the opposite end: working with young people who were already in trouble.

As a child, he wanted to be a police officer, Scheib said. In college, he became interested in social work and sociology “and decided I wanted to be on the clean-up side of it.” He worked three years in juvenile probation and then served as director of a juvenile detention center for another three years. Then he became a chief probation officer.

After those nine years, he became involved with Koala, an adolescent drug and alcohol agency based out of Indianapolis.

Then, a friend in state government called and recruited him as deputy commissioner in what was then the welfare department, serving all 92 Indiana counties. That was eye-opening.

“I thought I was in a position where I could make a difference that would trickle down,” he said. But he didn’t enjoy the politics of that job and left -- without a job prospect in sight -- after three years. For about 18 months, he worked three jobs to help his family stay afloat.

Scheib then went to work at a mental health center, offering adults and children what is now called “wraparound services.” He worked on an access coordination team for 14 years, helping families connect with helpful services.

That same kind of wraparound service is what the Children’s Bureau does, he said.  

Much of the Children’s Bureau’s work comes in helping people snatch success from the jaws of defeat. One of its programs is called community partners and it involves getting people in touch with services that will help them in their own lives.

“If you are involved with community partners for more than eight visits, there’s a 99 percent chance you won’t need to get involved with DCS,” he said.

He gives the example of a woman who is down on her luck. A single mom, she’s fractured her hip and is missing work. She’s not getting paid. She can’t pay her rent. So she becomes homeless. DCS steps in and removes the children from that homeless situation.

“We are all just one paycheck away from being in her situation, under the bridge with her kids,” Scheib said. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. The family could stay together. “DCS doesn’t want her kids.”

Community partners might have intervened: meeting with her landlord to explain the situation, helping her find money to bring the rent and utilities current, maybe connecting the family with food resources such as SNAP (food stamps) or WIC (a nutrition program). 

Beyond that, counselors in the program could work with that woman on job skills, if she needed that. They could help her write a resume. If she had only hiking boots, they could help her get nicer shoes to wear to a job interview. Perhaps they’d help her get vouchers to pay for child care while she looks for a job or goes to work.

Key to those services is the Children’s Bureau local resource guide. There’s a different one for each county where the Children’s Bureau works, Scheib says. Fayette County’s covers the front and back of a sheet of copy paper. It lists more than 70 places to find help, from food and shelter to mental health and addiction services.

The community partnership program will help people connect with those resources, Scheib said. The agency’s staff may need to teach a person how to call a helpful agency and connect with it.

Some families come to the Children’s Bureau on referral from DCS when there is substantiated proof of child abuse or neglect in the household. In those cases, the Children’s Bureau can provide home-based case work to help keep the children safe. Sometimes it may involve showing people how to budget their money. Other times, the adults may need to learn good parenting skills.

“If you weren’t parented well, you’re not going to know how to for your own kids,” Scheib said. “You only know what you know.”

Another facet of the Children’s Bureau program is father engagement. DCS looked at why fathers are not present in many households. In many cases, the male wants to be a father but feels as if he isn’t wanted. Before, the feeling was that these dads are “a bunch of deadbeats that have babies and run away.”

DCS found that many are scared, believing the mother only wants them for child support or that they’ll be thrown in jail if they show up and owe support.

The Children’s Bureau wants to work with those men. It asks them, “What kind of father do you want to be? To you want to be involved or do you want to sign your rights (to the children) away?” 

The goal is to get mother and father on the same page about their children, not necessarily to bring the parents back together but to work together in raising them “because of their love for the child. It’s all about bringing dads back to the table, educating them about the process.”

Scheib is passionate about his work. He believes the program and the professionals with whom he works are making a difference.

And, he said, “That’s why you get up in the morning.”

PINWHEEL CELEBRATION

A Pinwheel Celebration serves to bring attention to child abuse prevention. A parade featuring children and those who work with them will take place Friday morning.

The parade starts at 8:45 a.m. from 7th and Central. It will go south on Central to the Fayette County Courthouse lawn. The children will sing and plant blue pinwheels in the lawn. Various speakers will make remarks.

The activity is organized by the Every Child Matters Prevent Child Abuse Fayette County Council, a group of interested agencies and individuals.