When people hear the word "charity," thoughts of feeding the poor or giving shelter to the homeless are common. But people have needs far beyond the basics. Since its inception, Catholic Charities of Buffalo has offered services to strengthen families and communities. From domestic abuse counseling to school intervention to parenting classes, Catholic Charities works to support the family unit.
"I always think of what we do in this department as the heart of Catholic Charities. It's rooted in the beginnings and traditions of Catholic Charities," said Maria Picone, director of Family & Community Services. "We provide services that are geared toward helping individuals and their families, as well as the neighborhoods in which they live."
Programs cover the individual from cradle to adulthood, helping children and parents live as close to that Norman Rockwell image as possible.
"We do a lot of family work in this department," said Picone. "We really believe that if you really want to help children, then you really got to help their families. So, (that means) strengthening the relationship between parents, helping parents and their families communicate better. We're very invested in helping families and working with them as families."
Anybody can call one of the community-based offices with an issue and get an appointment and an assessment. The assessment will look at what is happening in the client's life to understand the roots of the problem. From there a plan of action will form.
"We try, as much as possible, to look at a person and their situation and really take a look at the whole picture, because of you only look at the problem or you only look at a piece of something, then you can help, you're just not helping as fully as possible," said Picone.
Catholic Charities just celebrated 20 years of Multi-Systemic Therapy, which helps very high-risk delinquent youth. It's for kids whose behavior causes nearly daily problems in two or more settings, such as school, home and community. It could mean curfew violations, vandalism or truancy. When the problem gets so bad that the child is at risk of being placed outside the home, MST goes into action.
"Our job is to work with the family to really put the parent back in charge of their kids behavior and to help those parents get some natural supports instead of legal supports," said Picone.
It's considered a short-term program at three or four months. The program offers 24/7 care for a family that takes place in the family's home, so as not to cause any further burdens to the family by having to come into an office. If a child is having trouble getting to school on time, the meeting will take place in the morning to deal directly with that issue. "We are really trying to be practically helpful to people," Picone said.
"We have amazing outcomes with that in terms of kids can stay home with outcomes where they're going to school or working, where parents are in charge, and the six-month follow up shows they are still doing well," she added.
Catholic Charities' commitment to child welfare comes in the form of a foster care program and a preventative services program that works on behalf of children at risk of being placed outside of their homes due to neglect, abuse or maltreatment.
"We work with those families to help those parents develop their parenting, solve the problems that are getting in the way, get connected to other specialized resources like addiction counseling," Picone explained. "The whole point of that is to help them create safer homes for their children, so they will not need to be placed outside the home."
At the Bailey and Broadway office, they have court-related services that include Therapeutic Supervised Visitation, needed when there is tension between separated parents and a child is visiting the non-custodial parent. This may include providing a safe place for both parents to drop off and pick up their kids, when there is conflict between the two parents.
"When there are children who a court has decided need to have visits with their non-custodial parent and that that must be supervised by somebody, we provide the service," said Picone. "But, we do more than provide them a place. We actually seek to heal that relationship between the non-custodial parent and that child."
Some of the programs offered are in partnership with Erie County. Some programs have no cost, others have a sliding scale fee. The Catholic Charities appeal funds many of these programs.