KISRA (Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc.), was recently awarded $1.5 million per year for five years from the Office of Family Assistance in the Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services to launch the WV ReFORM Initiative (WVRFI). This grant was only one of five awarded nationally. WVRFI will provide employment training and placement as well as cognitive behavioral skills to non-violent/non-sexual ex-offenders who have served their time and are now faced with re-entering their communities.
There are many challenges that ex-offenders face prior to their incarceration, during incarceration and these challenges still remain when they return home, these include substance abuse, mental illness, housing, and employment. KISRA learned from running West Virginia’s only federally funded fatherhood program.
“The new WV ReFORM Initiative will focus on providing the skills and resources needed to allow ex-offenders to build a ‘career’, not just get a job,” said Dr. Michelle Foster, Chief Executive Officer for KISRA. “Pushing ex-offenders to quickly get a low-wage and dead-end job increases the likelihood of them reverting back to previous criminal activities,” Dr. Foster continued.
There is a dire need for skill-building, hands-on training, job development, job placement and post-placement services. Therefore, the WV ReFORM Initiate will have a transitional employment element, which will provide participants with paid work experiences that will lead to stable employment opportunities in demand occupations. This element includes possible assignment to KISRA’s social enterprises, which are in the urban agriculture, food aggregation, catering, and garment printing sectors. Additionally, GED/TASC preparation assistance, entrepreneurship education, access to business start-up capital, mentoring and leadership development will also be supplemental engagement options for participants. In addition, case management and an array of support services will be available to participants, including mentoring, transportation assistance, housing location, childcare assistance, substance abuse and mental health treatment referrals and legal assistance referrals.
As KISRA gears up to launch this new and groundbreaking initiative, they will be wrapping up the very successful Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood Initiative that has served thousands of people since it was launched in 2003.
“We have learned so much running West Virginia’s only federally funded fatherhood program. The partnerships that we have built since 2003 have laid the groundwork to allow us to even imagine the next phase of our work. We envision this next phase to be a continuation of our past work and as such will continue to work closely with our partners.”
The next phase of KISRA’s work will change some of KISRA’s hub locations but services will still be provided in the same facilities and communities as before. Effective November 1st, KISRA will no longer have offices located in Berkeley, Cabell, Mercer or Randolph Counties, but services will still be offered at neighboring locations. To find out more about the WV ReFORM Initiative or to learn how to receive services in your area, visit kisra.org or call Carl Chadband at 304.768.8924
KISRA (the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc.) is a faith-motivated initiative that was started by Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church in 1993. Through the program areas of Heath, Employment, Asset Development and Learning, KISRA works to HEAL and strengthen families.