Marion County, Indiana

Initial Funding:

October, 1999


The mission of the Dawn Project is to provide new and improved levels of help and assistance to children with serious emotional disturbances and their families. This mission is founded in the belief that children and their families are remarkably resilient and capable of positive development when provided with community-centered support, which is truly defined by what is in the best interest of the child. The Project has three overarching goals: To incorporate full parent involvement in the design, implementation, and evaluation of Dawn and its services at each level of the system of care, from the child and family team level to that of city, county, and State governance; To provide a single comprehensive system of care that allows children who experience emotional disturbances and their families to receive culturally competent, coordinated, and uninterrupted care, regardless of whether their primary system of involvement is Child Welfare, Mental Health, Juvenile Justice, Correction, or Special Education; and To develop a system of care in which all child serving entities achieve positive outcomes through early intervention and increased understanding of and adherence to a strengths-based and values-based approach to care. Four specific objectives have been developed to help achieve these goals. These objectives include expanding services to three new populations, expanding the family organization (Families Reaching for Rainbows), participating in an external evaluation process to validate system activities, and developing a social marketing plan on system-of-care principles.


The catchment area for the Dawn Project is all of Marion County, which is comprised of the City of Indianapolis. The greater Indianapolis metropolitan area, which extends into eight other counties, is not included in the catchment area. The population of Marion County, according to the 2000 census, is approximately 860,000, with 221,000 children under age 18. Demographically, 70 percent of the population is non-Hispanic White, 26 percent African-American or biracial and nearly 4 percent Hispanic. In December 2004, 55 percent of the service population was African-American or biracial and 45 percent non-Hispanic White. The target population for the Dawn Project is children between the ages of 5 and 17 who are residents of Marion County, who meet the criteria for serious emotional disturbance, and who are involved with two or more child-serving agencies. The service population also includes youth returning from a correctional facility or State hospital and youth at risk for out-of-home placement. Since May 1997, 991 children and their families have been served through the Dawn Project. Of these, approximately 752 were served through the original and expanded Dawn, and 239 were served through the three pilot projects with the Marion County Office of Family and Children (OFC), Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and Marion County Juvenile Probation. From the 2003 to 2005 site visit, 160 children and their families have been served, 86 through regular Dawn and 74 through the three pilot projects.

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