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Local group trying to bring online tool to Western New York to help families in need

The tool is called "Care Portal" and will help social workers put what a family needs into a system, which will then immediately notify those who can help.

GETZVILLE, N.Y. — Care Portal is an online tool which connects families in need with resources in the community, and because it's not in Western New York right now, the Every Child Ministry of WNY is hoping to change that.

"In 2019, there were about 9,000 CPS calls made in Erie County and about 3,000 in Niagara County. Those 9,000 calls can be reduced significantly through the preventative measures Care Portal brings," said Steve Poissant, with the Every Child Ministry.

He says the counties of Western New York need the online tool. 

So how does Care Portal work? 

Social workers put in something a family needs, then they're connected to one of the churches who could fulfill it.

Don Stoffel with the Every Child Ministry says social workers end up having to do less legwork because needs are met almost instantly.

"Whether it be beds, car seats, bedding, cribs. Or it could possible be meeting a financial need. If there's a family in danger of losing a child to the foster care system because they don't have their utilities turned on because they can't afford to get them turned on, then the social worker can put in a request for a financial need," Stoffel said. 

Care Portal meets needs using three tiers. The first is basic needs such as materials and finances. The second is emotional support and the third is looking for a foster or adoptive family. 

Stoffel says they've presented it so far to Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties. While Erie and Chautauqua counties are figuring out funding, Niagara County is already in the application process. 

Once implemented, they could see results like Monroe County, who started using it in October 2019. 

"Is (Care Portal) working? Absolutely," said Ashley Cross.

Cross runs the non-profit theHub 585, which assists families in need in Rochester, and helped bring Care Portal to Monroe County.

"CPS workers are happy because what it's doing is alleviating the pressure for them to find all these resources quickly for families," Cross said. 

Nearly 500 kids have been helped in Monroe County so far and now the county is also seeing a financial gain.

"We've already had about $180,000 economic impact here in under two years in Monroe County," Cross said. "Sometimes within a matter of five minutes, we have three or four people within three or four different churches saying 'hey I can meet this need' and they're doing it so quickly where it's saving CPS dollars because now they can reallocate their time to doing something else instead of looking for resources." 

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