ONE ON ONE | David Arnold Agency director works to strengthen families

Have you always worked as an administrator for social service agencies?
I worked at Lordstown for a number of years on the line. And then, beginning in 1975, I went to work at Mahoning County Children Services and worked there for 27 years.
When did you move to Family Service Agency?
In February of this year.
Why did you make the switch?
The agency I worked in was a fine agency. The county can be very proud of Mahoning County Children Services, but I'd gotten to the point in my life where I was looking for something else, looking to move up to the next level. To become the director of an agency like this was a dream of mine.
Tell me about your agency's programs.
The largest program is our family counseling program. In the family counseling program we have 4 1/2 equivalent full-time counselors.
The next largest program is one of our newest -- it is the guardianship program where our agency is given guardianship of incompetent seniors. Then, we run a runaway program for kids called Daybreak, which has been around for 26 years.
The next oldest program we run is the rape crisis and counseling program. It's been around about 20 years.
Then we have the kinship program. The kinship program was developed over the last couple of years. We have so much of a problem with poverty and drug abuse in the community that some people aren't able to raise their kids. Because of that, many relatives, particularly grandparents, are put in the role of raising their grandchildren or other kin. This program was developed to provide education and in some ways, supportive services to those people who are raising their kin.
The newest of the programs we have is called family financial educational services.
If you notice, the key thread that runs through all these programs is that they are all related to family living. The goal of our agency is to strengthen families, help them do their jobs.
How many people do you serve?
Each program has a different client base. In the family counseling program we service about 350 clients. In the Daybreak program we serve about 200 kids a year. In family financial services we will see about 220 individuals and about 600 people in group settings. In the guardianship program we have 134 people that we're working with. In the rape crisis program, we'll service 75 women in a year. Most of our clients are from Mahoning County. Our service area is Mahoning County and parts of Trumbull and Columbiana.
Any new programs on the horizon?
The most exciting thing we're doing is the planned move of Daybreak. It involves so many different partners.
Mahoning County Board of Health has given us the building. A number of local businesses are providing material and labor to renovate the building so we can use it. We've got the Better Business Bureau working with some of their member companies to donate materials. We've got a couple of local unions volunteering labor.
What is your philosophy?
I really believe we need to work very hard to support families and allow families to remain together. We look throughout society and as families are becoming more and more separated, both in terms of younger members of families moving away and in terms of kids being removed from families and adults being removed from families through the criminal justice system, I think it really has weakened our society. I really believe strongly that we as a society have a responsibility to give families what they need so they can do what families are meant to do and that is to provide strength and support to all their members.
There are a lot of people in this Valley who if they had a job at GM would never think about leaving. Why did you?
I probably would have stayed there forever, but my wife really pushed me to use the degree that I'd gotten before I went to work there.
When do you plan to retire?
Ten years. That's my goal. We just had our reaccreditation, and one of the people who came here as a peer reviewer was in his late 70s and still directing an agency. So, who knows?