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Hope for Children surpassing goals

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By Leslie Williams

RALEIGH, N.C. — After 15 months of operation, a partnership among three Raleigh-based agencies to provide services to children affected by domestic violence is within reach of many of its goals.

The program, Hope for Children, is a joint effort of Triangle Family Services, Interact and SAFEchild to provide comprehensive care to Wake County children in unstable home situations.

At the outset, the collaborative effort set a goal to serve 1,800 children over three years.

As of early November, Triangle Family Services alone had served 499 children and expects to meet its three-year goal of serving 600 people about a year-and-a-half early, says Lisa Allred Draper, the collaborative initiative’s project manager, who is housed at Triangle Family Services.

SAFEChild is ahead of schedule as well, says Marjorie Menestres, the group’s executive director.

“The program is in unbelievably great shape,” she says. “We’re able to do so much more as a collaborative than we were doing apart.”

Menestres says SAFEchild had seen 86 children at the half-way point in the program’s year, surpassing its goal of serving 60 children annually.

Funding for the project comes from three-year grants from Local Initiative Funding Partners, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.; the John Rex Endowment in Raleigh; and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem.

MEETING KIDS’ NEEDS

The three child-services agencies work together through a screening and referral process that allows intake counselors to determine which agencies can best address each child’s individual needs.

“It’s a huge boon to me to be able to communicate with other professionals who are working with children in these situations,” says David Farrell, the children’s crisis counselor at Interact.

The three groups are still smoothing out the kinks in the system and come together at weekly team meetings to evaluate progress and discuss cases, says Draper.

“We’re continuing to grow as a collaborative and learning how to work with each other,” she says. “I think that we are making improvements and changes on a weekly basis.”

One of those improvements is the creation of a standard “safety plan form” that will help the three agencies provide more consistent care and transfer client records more easily, Draper says.

Consistency is a challenge, she says, given that each agency has a distinct area of service.

But it is critical when children are receiving services from more than one of the agencies, she says.

The partners also have begun to restructure how they measure progress, given that the children in the system do not always complete recommended courses of treatment.

“We don’t always know where we are in that progression with families, because women may go back to an abusive situation or families may move to a different area,” Draper says.

To counter that, the agencies have developed a plan for parents to rate their children’s development on a weekly basis, based on their goals for improvement established at the beginning of treatment.

In addition to helping the groups track progress, Draper says, the plan also helps parents become more engaged in the whole process.

“We ask families what they want to get out of it,” she says. “We want to get them to think about where they want to be.”

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