The Philanthropy Corner for May 28th-June 3rd

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Collaborating for our children

Children struggling at home or school often receive help from family, but in serious medical situations, children are also referred to state agencies for help. In Beaufort County those children also benefit from the help of COSY (Collaborative Organization of Services for Youth), a network of professionals dedicated to creating treatment plans that work for local youth.

A celebration from the day COSY’s accounts were established at Coastal Community Foundation.
A celebration from the day COSY’s accounts were established at Coastal Community Foundation.

Navigating through the system of youth services agencies can be difficult for parents and ineffective for children. Consider a child with undiagnosed mental health illness who does poorly in school and shoplifts drugs to self-medicate for the illness.

In a typical South Carolina county, that child’s parents will have to schedule separate meetings with each relevant agency. This is a burden on the parents’ time, and because the agencies don’t work together on a treatment plan, possibly less effective for the child.

With COSY, representatives from each youth services agency meet together with parents to determine a coordinated treatment plan that works for everyone. This ensures professionals approve the treatment plans, avoiding simple mistakes a parent could make trying to piece together sessions and advice.

“COSY isn’t just another layer of bureaucracy,” explained Fred Leyda, a state contractor who has worked as COSY’s facilitator for nearly 20 years. “It’s a better way of doing business.”

This way of doing business is possible because of existing trust and respect between state agencies formed from Beaufort County’s Human Services Alliance (HSA).

Founded as the Human Services Coordinating Council in the mid-1970’s, this network brings together human services professionals across Beaufort County quarterly to learn what each group does and how they can help each other.

In 1994, the state government approached the HSA because Beaufort County’s child outcomes were different than other South Carolina counties. The HSA was tapped to run a pilot program – COSY’s predecessor – for children in state’s custody.

However, members of the HSCC, who grew up together and were raising children together, were not interested unless they could help all children.

“We started to recognize that it wasn’t about dividing our kids,” Fred shared. “They’re all our kids. We’ve got to be working with all of them.”

After finally receiving the state’s approval to serve all children, COSY opened in 1995. Since then, COSY has seen vastly improved metrics for its clients. The average client now only spends 11 days outside the home, down from 477. The average cost per closed case is just $3,064, compared to $15,781 when COSY began.

Despite all of its success to date, COSY faces two challenges. Because Fred’s contract to facilitate COSY depends on the state budget, it could be cut from year to year. Additionally, sometimes the COSY team believes certain treatments, like after-school activities, are in the best interest of the child, but because they are not therapeutic, the government does not fund them.

COSY addressed both issues by setting up an operating account and organizational endowment at Coastal Community Foundation. The operating account provides a mechanism for the community to make tax-deductible donations to COSY, and a small percentage of all donations also go towards building the endowment.

The COSY model is an innovative, effective system to help youth in need. Its possibilities reach far beyond youth in Beaufort County. To learn more about COSY, please visit www.cosybc.org. To donate, please visit www.helpalowcountryfamily.org.

Each week, Coastal Community Foundation highlights organizations, donors and other charitable news in The Philanthropy Corner. If you’re interested in learning more about philanthropy in the Lowcountry, reach out to our regional Stewardship Officer, Gloria Duryea, at Gloria@CoastalCommunityFoundation.org or (843) 379-3400. 

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