- St. Johns
Community Partnerships Help Children and Families Succeed
Over the past year, the Northeast Region worked to establish several major partnerships to help improve the lives of struggling children and families. Working with Casey Family Programs, one of America’s most highly respected foundations for children, DCF developed and organized a series of Community of Hope initiatives in neighborhoods across Jacksonville and Gainesville. The events brought together local leaders to develop solutions to real-life problems afflicting local neighborhoods, including family poverty, infant deaths, unemployment, teen pregnancy and homicide. The region has established a good foundation and will continue to build on the success of this initiative and our partnerships.
What is a Community of Hope?
Casey Family Programs, through its Community of Hope initiative, seeks to partner with communities and invest in their desire to build hope for children.
Communities of Hope are coalitions of government agencies, schools, local businesses, nonprofits, philanthropies and faith-based organizations.
—Shawn Salamida, CEO of Partnership for Strong Families
Elsewhere in the region, Volusia County was one of only six communities in the United States to receive a federal grant to help families. DCF reached out to the Chadwick Center for Children & Families to launch a three-year project to educate and train agencies on how to best prevent child abuse and neglect. The project also aims to reduce trauma and psychological effects of abuse in families and children.
Highlights of prevention Programs:
- In the Daytona Beach area, Community Partnership for Children supervised a Family Transition Program. Led by Children’s Home Society, this program provided comprehensive in-home services to families at risk of losing their children due to abuse or neglect. After families went through the program, 97 percent of the children served had no later findings of abuse or neglect.
- In a 13-county area including Gainesville and Lake City, Partnership for Strong Families has increased the amount of services that it provides to families by 43 percent over the past four years.
- In the Jacksonville area, Family Support Services of North Florida employs Community Resource Specialists who work on-site in schools and community centers.
- In St. Johns County, the Family Integrity Program sponsored several events to help families and children, including a Toys for Tots Holiday Gift Distribution in conjunction with the Marine Corps Reserve. The initiative helped 750 children.
- In Clay County, Kids First of Florida helps operate a Neighborhood Resource Center, which provided 700 families with information on community resources.
Investing in Child Protective Investigators
Recognizing that stability among its frontline investigative staff was critical to ensuring child safety, the Northeast Region began placing more emphasis on recruiting and training quality Child Protective Investigators. As a result, the region saw a significant decline in turnover, and improved communication among leadership, supervisors and employees.
The process for selecting and training new supervisors was improved. Training was upgraded for new CPIs to better prepare them for their jobs and responsibilities. The region also focused on creating more manageable workloads for investigators.
Not one to sit on the sidelines, Regional Managing Director David Abramowitz personally went out on more than 80 child protective investigations to learn first-hand about the challenges investigators face. He routinely calls a handful of employees each weekday to find out if there are any concerns on the front lines.
As a result, turnover among CPIs in the region has declined to 6 percent.
Prevention Programs Promote Child Safety and Strong Families
DCF’s community based care partners in the Northeast Region provided prevention services to 16,077 families and 15,211 children during fiscal year 2012-13. Services ranged from therapy, counseling, parenting and anger management classes to substance abuse treatment for parents. Services like these are essential to help stabilize at-risk families and prevent future abuse and neglect, keeping children safely in their own homes and out of foster care.