All families go through tough times, experiencing challenges related to parenting, illness, employment and income, substance abuse and/or the cycle of childhood adversity, abuse and neglect. In times of challenge like this, it is vitally important that communities offer services to strengthen families and ensure the safety of children. Family preservation services — provided by state and local child welfare agencies to preserve a family so they can stay safely together — offer a system of support to strengthen families in crisis and prevent children from entering foster care whenever safely possible.
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“Families want to remain together,” said Elizabeth Croney, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., Executive Vice President of Clinical Advancement at KVC Health Systems. “A lot of times, family preservation services can give families a leg up and help them in a crisis in a way that can be successful. That’s what family preservation does. When you use a team approach and wraparound approach, you will have a very high success rate of keeping families safely together and healthy.”
What Is Family Preservation?
Family preservation services vary by state but often include case management, individual and family therapy, parenting skills training, support services and referrals for families to community providers if they need help finding a job, securing housing, or accomplishing any other goal.
The United States is in crisis. In 2017, the number of children in foster care rose in 39 states according to the Children’s Bureau, making it the fifth consecutive year of increase with now over 443,000 American children in foster care. This rise can be attributed to many factors including how states determine the need for foster care, support services available or not available to families, and an increase in opioid use and addiction. While KVC trains foster parents to care for youth when foster care is necessary, we believe that children grow best in families and in their own families whenever safely possible. That’s why we work to strengthen families and keep them safely together. Any disruption in a child’s life, even one intended to ensure their own safety, can be traumatic and have negative physical and mental health repercussions for years.
Working Through Trauma, Overcoming Obstacles
“Many of the families we encounter come from a background with complex trauma and limited resources available,” said Krista Bundy, L.M.S.W., KVC Kansas’ Director of Family Preservation in the Kansas City Region. “If we can help these individuals, parents and families work through the trauma and strengthen their family bond, this increases the chance of a child being raised in a safe, nurturing environment in which they can grow. The services KVC provides have shown to help reduce domestic violence, substance use, child maltreatment, neglect and abuse.”
KVC has created a broad continuum of services across the country that are family-preservation-oriented to stabilize and strengthen vulnerable families by providing:
- Family therapy
- Parenting skills
- Therapeutic solutions
- Behavioral health treatment
- Additional community resources
Family preservation programs aim to help families remain safely together, divert children from entering foster care or a residential treatment center, and improve family relationships.
One of the important contributions KVC has made nationally to the practice of family preservation is using expert teams that provide substance use, addiction and mental health assessment and interventions to help achieve positive family preservation outcomes.
The Family First Act Increases Funding
The Family First Prevention Services Act signed into law in February 2018 is the result of researchers informing policymakers about the positive outcomes families and communities experience when child welfare systems devote more resources to preventing the need for foster care. Traditionally, resources are available to families who have had their children placed in foster care, but very few resources are available to strengthen families and prevent foster care. This legislation provides matching funding to states so they can increase family preservation services. By preventing removals of children from their homes, children and families can avoid the often damaging effects of long-term involvement in the child welfare system. KVC also emphasizes these preventative family preservation approaches because they are the right way to treat children and families facing challenges. The hope is that the Family First Prevention Services Act will inspire the allocation of more public dollars and resources to enable KVC and other providers to increase this important work.
In addition, KVC works to help state and federal policymakers to better understand and advocate for American families who face growing income inequality, lack of medical and healthcare access, the limited opportunities and resources for rural and inner-city citizens, and other challenges.
- Donate or sponsor a fundraising event
More funds are needed to help families when they struggle to fix their car, buy groceries or pay for childcare. Please consider a donation that will help families overcome their challenges and remain safely together. KVC also hosts three major fundraising events each year: The KVC Hero Luncheon, The KVC Kids Classic Golf Tournament, and The KVC Gala at the Station. Corporate sponsors help underwrite many of our services and enable us to provide much-needed training to our clients.
- Educate and advocate
Stay informed about what’s happening with the U.S. child welfare system and advocate for prevention efforts that strengthen families in your local community. Follow your state’s government agency responsible for providing child welfare services, and follow KVC’s blog and social media channels. We regularly post articles, highlight success stories and share free resources about child welfare and behavioral healthcare. Inform others about the challenges families are facing, and rally them to get involved and make a positive impact in their community.
Get Assistance With Your Family Preservation Services
Are you part of a child welfare agency that wants to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act and increase preventative services to families? KVC Health Systems provides training, consultation and direct services to help leverage prevention dollars into positive outcomes for children and families. Read some of our case studies here and contact Erin Stucky, Chief Operations Officer, at (913) 322-4900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, if you are a professional eager to help families and safely prevent children from entering foster care, join the KVC team! We are hiring family preservation therapists and other professionals in Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska and West Virginia.