RECONNECTIONS PROGRAM

 

CATHY WATERS

Director/Case Manager
 

Reconnections is a prisoner re-entry initiative developed through a partnership between Urban League of Union County, United Way of Greater Union County (UWGUC) and the County of Union County Department of Human Services (DHS). Other affiliates include, New Jersey Department of Parole, Union County Vicinage of Probation, Federal Probation, N.J. Department of Corrections, and Union County Division of Social Services, Neighborhood Healthcare Services and Legal Services of New Jersey, Union County Re-entry Task Force, Community and Faith Based Organizations. The Program is funded by the Union County Department of Human Services and is housed in Union County’s One Stop Centers which are located in Elizabeth and Plainfield.

 

Reconnections assists formerly incarcerated individuals gain access to services and resources so that they may develop meaningful, productive skills that they can use to make their lives better. The program also provides essential supportive services to address an individual’s immediate needs to ensure his or her successful re-integration to the community. The primary goal is to lead the individual to self-sufficiency and to reduce the recidivism rate in Union County. During 2017, (170) clients were enrolled in Reconnections and (888) referrals were generated for supportive services. Only 3% of the clients returned to jail or prison which is commendable and proof positive that the program has had an impact on the self-sufficiency of the reentry population and leading to a safer Union County Community.

 

The Reconnections program services individuals within 180 days of their release from prison or Jail and beyond. Upon entering the Reconnections program each client is assessed by an experienced case manager in the areas of social services, education and employment. The Case Manager works with each Reconnections client to develop a clearly defined goal action plan tailored to meet their specific needs. The client is empowered to set goals that they desire to meet and the Case Manager guides the client to the necessary resources needed to achieve those goals. The Case Manager coordinates with community agencies who are members of the Union County Community Resource Network, coordinated by the United Way of Greater Union County. The program utilizes a supportive team approach to meet the client’s needs. As needed the individual is provided career planning assistance, referrals out to Union County Division of Social Services, New Jersey Department of Labor and Community Resources, Mental Health Counseling and Substance Abuse Counseling. The individuals attend Employment Readiness, Life Skills and Legal Workshops at the Reconnections One Stop Center site or at the Urban League of Union County.

 

As needed the clients are referred to the Union County Division of Social Services and where they meet with a Case Manager to determine their eligibility for G.A., TANF, Medical Assistance, Food Stamps or Transportation benefits.

 

Individuals interested in advancing their education are referred to the appropriate academic resource and receive guidance in enrolling in basic skills, G.E.D., Vocational Training Classes, Certificate Programs or Higher Education. Clients seeking employment will be referred to the Department of Labor staff located at the Plainfield and Elizabeth One Stop Center. The client will receive resume writing and job placement assistance.

 
In 2017 the Urban League of Union County continued to collaborate with the Department of Labor and hosted Job Fairs geared at offering job opportunities for the Reconnections clients. The Job Fairs are held at the One Stop Centers. Employers are recruited to attend to provide a second chance to returning citizens. The Urban League of Union County also oversees the Reconnections Alumni Association. The Alumni share their success stories and encourage new Reconnections clients to have patience and perseverance as they transition back into the Union County community.
 

The Urban League of Union County Reconnections program incorporates a mentoring component and partners with Fountain Baptist Church in Summit and First Baptist Church in Hillside. Mentoring support is provided in group sessions and individually.

 

The Reconnections Program Manager Chairs the Union County Re-Entry Task Force. The Task Force, organized in 2006, focused on the needs of the parole population in the areas of employment, drug and alcohol addiction, faith based initiatives, family restoration and mental health treatment. In subsequent years the Re-Entry Task Force expanded its focus to include the county jail population – Union County Probationers and the United Way of Greater Union County became the sponsoring organization. In October 2011 the responsibility of the Task Force transitioned to the Urban League of Union County.

 

The Task Force members include staff from N.J. State Parole Board, Union County Probation, N.J. Department of Labor, Union County One Stop Centers, Federal Probation, Union County Drug Court, Union County Department of Human Services, Union County College, housing agencies, healthcare providers, various community agencies, faith based agencies, attorneys, businesses and the ex-offender population. The committee members work diligently to develop resources, support systems and promote solutions to successfully transition the re-entry population back into the Union County community.

PROGRAM STAFF

Joann Ellis – Case Manager Assistant