YOC reorganizing to adapt to changing child welfare landscape

05 May YOC reorganizing to adapt to changing child welfare landscape

The Youth Opportunity Center, a residential youth treatment facility in Muncie, recently reorganized its administration, according to Senior Administrator Rick Rowray, to adapt to a constantly changing child welfare environment.

Part of the change was Rowray leaving the chief executive officer post to transition to senior administrator. His duties now primarily focus on child welfare policy at the state and national levels. In addition, he will be monitoring child welfare funding.

Rowray, who has been with the YOC for 30 years, said he had already been pursuing those matters as CEO.

Rowray’s duties will emphasize fund acquisition, resource allocation and strategic planning, according to the press release. He will continue his service on the YOC’s Board of Directors.

Jeff Helm has been promoted to CEO at the YOC. He now has responsibility for YOC’s service delivery and over-all performance.

Helm holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice and criminology and an master of science degree in information and communication sciences from Ball State University. He has served as YOC’s chief information officer since 2017. He is the current chair of the Muncie Community Schools Community Engagement Council and is a member of the Hillcroft Services board of directors, where he served as board chair in 2018 and 2019.

The move will allow for fresh leadership at the YOC, Rowray said, as challenges for the agency continue to align with the depth of problems faced by troubled youth.

The YOC receives primary funding from the Indiana Department of Child Services and can receive children from around the state, often after other types of intervention have failed. The agency receives children with psychiatric and behavioral issues who have been placed in the YOC through a court.

Rowray said the number of children the YOC cares for decreased during the pandemic but is returning to a pre-COVID level. There are now about 50 youths at the center. But the problems many of the children are experiencing are more intense.

“It’s more acute than it has has been,” he said.

Part of Rowray’s focus will be seeking funding to increase salaries for people who work directly with children at the YOC, he said.

Other changes in the reorganization include the promotion of Tony Mekelburg to director of information technology. Mekelburg has been with the YOC for eight years and previously served as IT security manager.

In addition, Valerie Tharp has been promoted to director of facilities after being assistant director of facilities. She has been with the YOC for seven years. Tharp is also responsible for food services and maintenance personnel at the agency.

YOC’s Board Chairman, Jeff Parsons, said that “these positive changes respond to the post-COVID child services landscape the YOC now operates in and effectively reflects how YOC roles have evolved to best execute our important mission for children and families.”

Thank you to David Penticuff, Muncie Star Press.