Implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act aims to improve outcomes for children
NORFOLK, VA – Keeping kids with their families and out of foster care has long been the focus of family services staff in Norfolk’s Department of Human Services (DHS).
This July, implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 provides new funding for these services and supports family-based placements for children who must enter foster care.
DHS Family Services Manager Pam Wong said the act underscores the importance of raising children in families and seeks to avoid the traumatic experience of separation. Wong said DHS will shift staff and align resources to prioritize prevention efforts. New funding will provide for services including trauma-informed mental health services, substance abuse disorder treatment and in-home parenting skills training.
Additionally, the act aims to improve the well-being of children already in foster care by incentivizing states to reduce placements in treatment settings such as group homes, and instead place children in the least restrictive, most family-like settings appropriate to their needs.
“Families are the experts about themselves. Kids do best when they are with their families. We will do everything in our power to keep kids safe and with their families,” Wong said. “We are accessing a funding stream that has never been available before to prevent kids from going into foster care. That is historic.”
Norfolk averages about 200 children in foster care on any given day, Wong said. Once in foster care, laws can make it difficult for a child to return home. Wong pointed to statistics from the Poverty Law Center that show Virginia’s low rates of family reunification: 26 percent of Virginia children who enter foster care are reunited with their parents, as opposed to 50 percent nationally. That makes foster care prevention efforts crucial.
Among the free, voluntary programs already available through DHS are classes in fatherhood development, family conflict resolution, home visits, short term counseling, and parent education and support.
“We’re going to give families additional support and services to make families stronger, to keep children safer, and to keep families together,” Wong said.
Norfolk’s Family Services team can help your family remain stable at home, connected to services, happy and healthy together. Call 757-664-6372.