Longtime Leadville local and LCCF Board Member Gloria Perez spearheaded the Lake County Wraparound Program 12 years ago and has since seen it grow into the team-oriented, diverse resource it is today.
Wraparound continues youth support
by Emma Gadeski Herald Reporter
Apr 12, 2023
See the article on the Herald Democrat’s website HERE
Longtime Leadville local Gloria Perez spearheaded the Lake County Wraparound Program 12 years ago and has since seen it grow into the team-oriented, diverse resource it is today.
Back in 2013, Lake County received a state grant which tasked local advocates with creating a fund that could support youth and their families ranging from zero to 21 years old.
“The target population is youth that have challenges across life domains,” said Perez. Life domains can be anything from education, juvenile justice and child welfare to both mental and physical health.
As Wraparound’s program supervisor since the beginning, Perez said she initially only understood bits and pieces of what the work entailed, like helping families receive support in their treatment plans and collaborating with different service providers, but it’s since become much more than that.
Through high-fidelity wraparound services, youth and families who are referred to the program can work with a care coordinator for six months to a year or even longer if necessary to create a team of professional and natural support systems and develop a long-term solution to resolve their unique challenges.
Wraparound helps youth facing all kinds of challenges including absences and failing grades, expulsions and substance use, to name a few. For Perez, helping students reach milestones they never thought were possible such as graduating from high school and going on to college has been a joyful and beneficial experience — mostly because those were barriers she experienced growing up.
“Once I was in this position, my inspiration on a daily basis became supporting children, youth and families to break the barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential,” said Perez.
Although Wraparound prioritizes keeping families together and connecting youth with people close to them, it’s not always easy for those aging out of foster care or who are on their own completely. These youth are referred to as unaccompanied minors.
Perez said there are many reasons why someone might fall into this category, whether they immigrated here without any family or just aged out of foster care. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re officially emancipated from their parent or guardian.
Some of the minors Wraparound works with are seeking asylum after fleeing their home countries, often in Central and South America. This coincides with an increase of migrants to Lake County over the past few years, with a significant increase in the last year alone, said Perez.
During the March 30 State of the Community event, County Manager Tim Bergman highlighted Wraparound’s connections with these immigrant youth. “These individuals traveling here to work and chase the American dream is a key piece of the county’s overall economic development,” he said during the event.
One student Wraparound is working with, whose identity is protected to maintain confidentiality, arrived in Lake County as an asylum-seeker and found herself dealing with housing insecurity after her father lost his job during the pandemic.
Wraparound stepped in and helped the student pay rent and purchase books for concurrent enrollment classes at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) so she could keep focusing on school while working part-time instead of worrying about finances.
With these resources and perseverance, the student successfully graduated from Lake County High School and is now enrolled at CMC.
Perez said regular meetings and check-ins with staff made a key difference in helping her and other youth plan for the future and react to difficult situations.
Another unaccompanied youth Wraparound served did not have stable housing and instead got by with several temporary living situations, but these issues were only part of the full picture.
Shortly after arriving in Lake County, the individual was diagnosed with a critical illness which prevented him from working and earning money. He found himself visiting the ER every time his symptoms became unbearable.
Doctors would give him instructions to see specialists, but he couldn’t get there without transportation and also encountered language and insurance barriers, meaning he’d end up right back in the ER despite other options.
To combat this, Wraparound staff helped him schedule these vital appointments and arrange transportation, turning his medical trajectory around for the better.
Another group the program has historically served is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) youth, also known as Dreamers. These protections don’t always feel secure, especially since new applications can be suspended at the whim of U.S. District Court, most recently back in 2021.
“It is a fear and burden to think that [DACA] will go away,” said Perez.
Regardless of what someone is dealing with or their background, Perez emphasized that Wraparound does not need proof of documentation to provide services, adding that clients are fully informed and give permission before being referred elsewhere.