Mitchell Sheriff Office Reaches Out to Relatives as Parents Program
Chief Deputy Josh Sparks of the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office was the special guest speaker at the Mitchell-Yancey county Relatives as Parents Program during the group’s October 31 meeting. In addition to providing handouts for Halloween safety, Sparks offered helpful information to those present regarding some of the area’s most pressing concerns facing area families today.
“We cannot express our appreciation enough to Officer Sparks for his time and interest in our families and the obstacles they are up against,” said program facilitator, Sherrie Norris of Boone. “We are also grateful for the support that Sheriff Donald Street has shown to our families and for arranging Sparks’ visit.”
According to Norris, Sparks helped the program participants realize many things they can do to help keep their families as safe as possible “and especially the children in their care” in an ever-changing society. “He pointed out that, even though we are in small, relatively safe communities, we are not immune to crimes that are infiltrating the area from larger, surrounding towns.”
Sparks stated that the rising use of drugs, both illegal and prescription medications, and the effects thereof, are having a devastating impact upon our local families. “Drugs are our number one concern right now, and overshadows other problems that we are experiencing in Mitchell County,” he said. “And, we all know that drug abuse and alcoholism are key factors in most of our other problems.”
Sparks referred to the problems facing families today, and especially the younger generation as “mind boggling,” and praised the participants of the RAPP group for their efforts to offer stable home-life environments for the children they are raising.
“Adults can take care of themselves if they choose to do so,” Sparks said. “Children can’t. They deserve someone in their lives who have their best interest at heart. It takes special people to do what you are doing.”
Sparks reminded the adult caregivers the importance of “reinforcing the positive,” regardless of their dire circumstances.
Other topics of discussion included those related to scams and the importance of being vigilant to same, especially during the holidays.
“Mitchell County is very fortunate to have law enforcement officers like Deputy Sparks who have a vested interest in our young people and their families,” said Norris. “It is comforting to know that we can call his office, as he has asked us to do, if there is any need or concern, or if we simply have questions regarding our family’s safety.”
RAPP has been serving the Mitchell-Yancey county area since early 2017 as an extension of the Boone-based High Country Caregiver Foundation. The group meets monthly at the United Methodist Church in Spruce Pine.
HCCGF is a nonprofit organization which serves kinship caregivers in a seven-county region and operates in partnership with the Area Agency on Aging/ High Country Council of Governments. RAPP has been serving families Avery and Watauga counties since 2008 and has plans to expand into Wilkes County, as well.
According to HCCGF executive director and program founder, Brenda Reece, there is a growing need in the area for this well-received support group.
“RAPP is designed to assist grandparents and other relative (kinship) caregivers who have taken on the role of primary caregiver for related children,” Reece said. “RAPP provides education, training to learn new parenting and coping skills, mutual peer support groups, limited financial assistance with legal, school-related and recreational expenses, inter-generational activities, respite, referrals and access to appropriate community based services and resources.”
The mission of RAPP is simple, Reece adds. “It is to make a difference in the lives of relative caregivers and the children they care for by providing education and support. RAPP is committed to assisting caregivers and youth in building and strengthening family ties.
For more information, as well as an application for participation, visit www.hccgf.org, (look under the program tab), call (828) 265-5434, ext. 128, or email Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Josh Sparks, Chief Deputy of the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office, offers helpful information to participants in the local Relatives as Parents Program during the group’s Oct. 31 meeting. Photo by Sherrie Norris