• April 2012
  • Vol. 13, No. 3

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Fostering Hope in Oregon

Catholic Community Services, along with a host of local and State organizations, is implementing the Fostering Hope Initiative (FHI) in Salem and McMinnville, OR, to serve families in three high-poverty neighborhoods who are at-risk for child maltreatment. The project is funded through the Children's Bureau's Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood (QIC-EC). FHI is seeking to reduce the incidence of child maltreatment and ensure that children are well-prepared to enter kindergarten. The project is designed to work at the four levels of the social ecological model: families, neighborhoods, collaborations, and policies.

Family level. FHI established a suite of services for families in the three neighborhoods. The project conducts parent education and training within walking distance of the target population and also provides home visitation services and care coordination. Additionally, the project is implementing the Safe Families for Children program through which it finds volunteer host families who can temporarily care for children when the biological family experiences a crisis. For example, a pregnant mother in one of the neighborhoods was experiencing complications from diabetes and told by her doctor that she would need in-patient care. The doctor knew that the woman did not have any appropriate care options for her young child and referred her to FHI. The woman was connected with a host family and then was able to get the necessary medical care without risk of neglecting her child.

Neighborhood level. The project has helped the three neighborhoods establish community cafes, which give residents the opportunity to discuss issues and concerns, brainstorm ideas for improving the neighborhood, and develop a greater sense of community. When possible, FHI provides the neighborhoods with the support needed to turn their ideas into realities. For example, one neighborhood wanted to develop stronger social connections. The project worked with them to set up a weekly neighborhood dinner at a local church. Child care is provided at the dinner, and parenting classes are offered after the meal. Nearly 200 people regularly attend. The project also seeks potential leaders in the community to facilitate the community cafes. FHI has a part-time neighborhood mobilization coordinator to oversee the work in all three neighborhoods and a part-time staff person in each neighborhood.

Collaborative level. To help holistically serve children and families, FHI sought the input and assistance of various social services agencies, the medical community, and the education community. Accountability is a key component to the collaboration. The project tracks the supports and services each partner agrees to contribute and whether the partner followed through on the commitment. This information is presented at monthly project meetings. If a partner was not able to uphold the commitment, the team discusses how the goal can be achieved and what resources other partners can provide. FHI utilizes a part-time collective impact coordinator to help engage existing partners and bring additional partners to the table.

Policy level. FHI's regional council developed a list of priority issues designed to make Oregon public policy more family friendly. The council is chaired by FHI's official spokesperson, the Chief Justice Paul De Muniz of the Oregon Supreme Court. Having a well-respected spokesperson from this level of government has greatly assisted the project's efforts and has helped bring policymakers at various levels throughout the State together to address FHI's priority issues. As FHI partners speak to policymakers, they focus on why it is in their localities' best interests to have healthy, well-prepared children entering the school system and the role that the policymakers and localities can play in improving well-being.

Jim Seymour, the Executive Director of Catholic Community Services, has been with the organization for more than 40 years and says he has never been more excited about any initiative. Seymour noted, “After years of trying to pick up the pieces after families fall apart, it is great to be part of an initiative where families are getting stronger, local residents promote family protective factors in their neighborhood, social service, education, and health care practitioners work together, and elected officials are getting on board."

FHI uses a utilization-focused and participatory evaluation that employs three comparison neighborhoods with comparable demographics to study effectiveness. Although the evaluation is still in process, preliminary findings are promising, showing decreases in child maltreatment substantiations and foster care rates.

For more information about FHI, visit the QIC-EC website:

http://www.qic-ec.org/projects/salem

Many thanks to Jim Seymour of Catholic Community Services for providing information for this article.

Related Item

The Fostering Hope Initiative and other QIC-EC projects were highlighted in the February 2011 issue of CBX. Check out "Keeping Young Children Safely With Their Families: The QIC on Early Childhood."
 

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