FARMINGTON — As children enter a new school or environment, they are most vulnerable to intimidation, dating violence and relationship abuse, according to the director of Sexual Assault Victims Emergency Services in Farmington.

Three separate Franklin County social service agencies that focus on families and children and preventing sexual assault and domestic violence will be sharing a $5,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation awarded to the Peace in Our Families initiative.

The one-time award will be used to strengthen their existing collaboration and reach more kids by finding creative ways to share the workload.

The agencies involved are the Franklin County Children’s Task Force, Abused Women’s Advocacy Project, and SAVES.

“All three agencies do some things in the schools but none of us has the resources to go to all the schools in the county,” said SAVES’ Director Judy Rawlings. “We know we cannot reach every child. We need to find the most vulnerable.”

“None of us has the money we once had to provide services. Now, we have to find a way to use the money we have as wisely and effectively as possible,” she said.

The Task Force, under Director Renee Blanchett, focuses on programs for elementary school children. AWAP, under Director Jane Morrison, will have a community educator concentrate on middle-school children; and SAVES’ school-based advocate, Kristin Plummer, works at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, Rangeley Lakes Regional; and Mt. Abram in Salem Township.

Rawlings said there is enhanced communication between the agencies as they develop transition programs for children and training sessions for parents. The goal is to eventually offer services to every school in the county.

The topics at community awareness nights will include bullying, dating violence, child-victimization prevention, harassment via texting and social networks, and dating violence involving older teenagers.

And if those situations arise, kids and parents need to know how to react — either reaching out for help or offering help.

According to a release, Peace in Our Families is helping to reduce the negative effects of relationship violence and provide consistent, age-appropriate messages about healthy relationships and safety.

The Children’s Task Force can be reached at 778-6960. The 24-hour helpline numbers for AWAP is 1-800-559-2927 and for SAVES, 1-800-871-7741. All three are United Way agencies.

From left, Jane Morrison, director of Abused Women’s Advocacy Project, Judy Rawlings, director of Sexual Assault Victims Services, and Renee Blanchet, director of Children’s Task Force, are working together to help children in transition.

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