Economic downturn affects families

Wanda English Burnett

Connie DeBurger, executive director of Family Connections, Inc., in Versailles has lost two thirds of her staff and 60% of funding in the past three years.

That loss translates to a loss of services for some of the most vulnerable populace - women and children in our community.

Family Connections went from being able to serve 210 families to less than 100 and was completely shut down the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September this year due to delay of payment from the state, according to DeBurger.

When told from state officials she should always have a cash reserve of two months on hand, DeBurger said, “I just laughed.” But to her, it was really no laughing matter. It was a matter of not being able to pay her staff, so she had to made the decision to close. The vicious cycle has a trickle-down effect, that hits bottom when families do not get the needed services.

DeBurger said the non-profit group went from having a budget of over a million dollars in 2008 to $476,128 now.

Family Connections is funded through state grants and local fundraisers. They have a couple of fundraisers in the works now. One is a night at Gold Star Chili in Versailles. On November 30 from 5-9 p.m. 10% of what is made will go to Family Connections. People are encouraged to get the best out of the deal by buying their dinner at Gold Star Chili and helping Family Connections all at the same time.

Then the group has a card fundraiser. On the card are a number of local businesses who have teamed up with Family Connections to give great discounts. The card only costs $10. Family Connections is co-sponsoring the card project with Project T3 this year. This is another non-profit group that helps children.

Banks and businesses locally that have the cards available include: FCN in Sunman and Batesville, MainSource and The Friendship State Bank, Lisa’s Sew and Tux and Joan’s T-shirts. The Napoleon State Bank will have them available at the Holton, Osgood, and Napoleon branches.

DeBurger has been with Family Connections nearly 28 years. In her career, she has never seen the need so great for families to receive their services, nor the funding so low to provide them. She said, “We want to see these families succeed.” She also told The Versailles Republican, she wants to see Family Connections remain independent, but isn’t sure that will happen. In the end, she said they will do what’s best for those they serve.

What is Family Connections all about?

They provide services and assist families in receiving assistance and services that include: promoting positive parent/child bonding and interaction; promoting healthy childhood growth and development, make sure children have a medical provider, make sure children have on-time immunizations, assist new parents with concerns, help with financial management training and link their clients to community resources.

Those working with Family Connections realize the crucial years from childbirth to five years of age as the “golden years” to make sure children receive the best guidance. When they see statistics such as three million cases of suspected child abuse and neglect are reported each year in the United States, they feel the importance of their job. Each day three children die from abuse and/or neglect across the country.

Some of the benchmarks noting the progress of Family Connections are that 100 percent of their clients have: children who have been fully immunized, families who have a medical provider, pregnant women receiving assistance accessing primary medical providers and receive HIV, folic acid, pre-term labor, nutrition, infant feeding choices, and risky behavior education. Also, 100% of the pregnant women receive an assessment of risk factors including ;smoking status and tobacco exposure.

Reduced smoking in identified pregnant women is at 45%, with alcohol use at 60% less, and street drug use reduced by 80% due to the program.

Their mission is to assist families in reaching their potential through education and advocacy. DeBurger is afraid if their services are not available, families will not be able to reach their potential, which in turn will affect the local and surrounding communities in a negative manner. “We want to build strong families,” DeBurger concluded.

To learn more about Family Connections, you can visit