Making kids’ lives better

Great Kids helps train social workers

Nancy Springer, photography by Ellie Bogue

How is a choir director like the head of a social service agency? Well, both need to be able to work with a variety of people, handle budgets, carry out events and make beautiful music. At least, that’s how Nancy Springer, head of Great Kids make Great Communities, a program supervised by the Allen County Superior Court, sees it.

In Springer’s case, her past as a choir director segued nicely into her role with Great Kids. Springer, originally from Arkansas, has a master’s degree in choral conducting from Ball State University, which is where she met her husband, Jeff, a pastor who is a Fort Wayne native. She spent four years conducting the choir at Emmanuel Lutheran, where Allen Superior Court Judge Charles Pratt sang in her choir. When the executive director position of Great Kids opened in 2012, he urged her to apply.

Great Kids make Great Communities helps social workers receive training at no cost that help them perform better, ultimately improving lives for the children they oversee. The agency hosts conferences and training sessions for social workers who work with children, but its offerings are also open to parents and non-social workers who just want to help make the lives of children better.

Guided by the “40 Developmental Assets” program developed by the Search Institute of Minneapolis, Great Kids helps workers get training in developing children’s resilience by developing both “internal” and “external” assets, including family support, safety, boundaries and expectations. These assets are also something that Singer said are important for the community to support as well. Great Kids make Great Communities is mainly funded by the Foellinger Foundation.

“What we’re trying to do with Great Kids is to reach out and give support and give resources to those youth workers on the front lines,” Springer said. “We can provide the training, and be a go-to resource of evidence-based practices.

“The assets apply to all children,” she added. “What we’ve seen is the assets make a huge difference. They have the power to promote healthy behaviors and protect against risky behavior.”

Every fall, Great Kids presents a conference that brings in experts to talk about issues and best practices in helping troubled youth. There’s a minimal fee to attend, and the conference is open to anyone, including parents, caregivers and educators.

“We allow people to get that training locally, where normally they’d have to travel,” Springer said.

Even better are the community partnerships Great Kids has forged with other agencies, such as Park Center and the Allen County Public Library.

And much like a choir, they are essential to bringing the sweet music of a happy child to life.


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