Wabash County Health Department
WCHD Prevention Office
Phone: (618) 263-3873 ext. 234
Ties that Bind Communities Together
Wabash and Edwards counties are located in the south-central region of eastern Illinois, along the banks of the Wabash River. Farming, manufacturing, education, and healthcare jobs help contribute to the economic base of these counties. Wabash and Edwards Counties are mostly rural and have a combined population of approximately 18,626 residents in 2010 with 1,039 being children under the age of five. ‘Farm, Family, and Faith’ is the resounding mantra of local residents. The region is known for being a rich family friendly community with interesting historic sites. As with most rural locations, the advantages of living in small towns and rural communities are the peaceful and safe environments it offers to families with young children.
One of the greatest challenges faced by rural communities is isolation when it comes to accessing services. Often the closest clinics, hospitals and social service agencies may be a couple hours away. Accessing needed services for young children can be extremely challenging for families who have no idea what is available in their county. The Wabash and Edwards County All Our Kids (AOK) Early Childhood Network has been striving to keep providers and families informed of all the services that are available in the area. Business leaders, program directors, early childhood and health professionals, teachers, child advocates and many others have come together at AOK gatherings to create better ways of bringing awareness of available and needed services to families, and service providers.
In rural settings such as Wabash and Edwards County families and providers report feeling disconnected or unaware of necessary programs. And with the changing economy, often programs become funded and de-funded while service providers are left unaware of these changes. The Wabash and Edwards County AOK for the past decade has gathered service providers and businesses from all around the area to better understand what supports are available to families with young children. Network partners have made it a regular practice over the years to introduce new programs, businesses and resources to the Network as they learn about them.
This AOK Network through collaboration and network meetings learned about a tool to help providers keep track of services available to families they serve. Network partners decided that the best way to showcase the resources in the community is to create a Resource and Referral Directory and Card. These tools were simply created by providing a template to service providers who then returned valuable information that would help the community and families have a better understanding of services available to them. The information was then compiled together to create a Resource Directory that is made available to families with young children.
The Resource Card is a quick reference available to service providers to get easy access to information that they can pass on to a family. These cards include enough information like agency name, contact information, website address, services provided, eligibility criteria, and a specific person to contact if they have questions, to help providers connect families to appropriate programs. As some families struggle to gain access to updated information (even online) in very remote areas of Illinois these resource tools serve as a quick and easy way to connect people to services when they need them. The Resource Directory and Card has been well received by network partners and public alike and will continue to be prioritized by this AOK Network to ensure all valuable and necessary information is available and up to date. This ensures that families can continue to enjoy the advantages of living in rural communities by reducing barriers such as access to services so families can feel connected to the supports they need.
What resources are necessary to replicate this approach?
- Mapping of Community Resources
- Coordination to gather, compile and update information
- Materials to publish directory and cards in large quantities (or publishing resource)
- Partners who agree to update and disseminate resource tools community-wide