The Chester County Youth Center’s partnership with Brandywine Valley SPCA’ and its “SAFE” program has garnered national acclaim.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) has recognized the County’s Youth Center and the Brandywine Valley SPCA (BVSPCA) with a 2022 Achievement Award, which honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.
The BVSPCA’s SAFE program (Shelter Animals For Enrichment) was initially proposed by Chester County Youth Center caseworker Kristi Washington to fulfill community service hours and provide a positive enrichment experience for youths receiving services at the County’s Youth Center.
Chester County Youth Center Director Deb Maccariella said, “Our connection with the BVSPCA helps to fulfill community service hours for our delinquent youth, but it also provides a therapeutic experience for them and introduces them to future volunteer opportunities.
“Just as importantly, the connections made between the youth and the shelter dogs helps with the socialization required by the BVSPCA before it can place the dogs up for adoption.”
In less than a year, the SAFE partnership helped 255 Chester County Youth Center juveniles fulfill community service hours and transition out of the facility. This service was especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when other community service opportunities were restricted.
Hailey Marcus, from the Brandywine Valley SPCA noted, “While the success of our SAFE program can be measured in ‘community hours served’, its value is really found in the effect that it has on those in the Youth Center and the County staff who are working with them. The program fosters an environment of judgement-free love and really builds beneficial relationships with everyone involved.
“And, at the end of the week, each animal is eligible for, and is typically successful in being adopted to a permanent home. Many animals have found their second chance with help from the SAFE program.”
The NACo Achievement Awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.
NACo President Larry Johnson said, “All across the country, counties are working tirelessly to support residents and drive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Achievement Award-winning programs showcase how counties work every day to build healthy, safe, and thriving communities.”