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Policy Recommendations for Casa de Los Ninos
The agency of focus for this paper is Casa de Los Ninos. Casa de Los Ninos’ mission is to assist children and families throughout the community in having a safe and healthy home. They do so through, “prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies to effectively address the needs of at-risk children and their families within our community” (Urizar-Faught, 2019). Through these services, families are informed about various resources and aided in developing the skills needed to prevent child abuse and neglect. Overall Casa de Los Ninos is important because it offers such a large variety of services and resources for families throughout the community and there are programs that can help everyone.
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The agency has various locations for different services provided and in total there are 3 locations. Within the three locations there are administrative offices, supervised visitation services, behavioral health services, foster care and adoption services, and the nurse-family partnership & parents are teachers program. The agency is governed by two groups of community volunteers. The Foundation Trustees manage the Casa de los Ninos Foundation while the Board of Directors supervise the everyday operations. The agency also has partnerships with a large variety of agencies such as BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona, Arizona Complete Health, and the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. According to the 2017 annual report, $84,000 was raised through local businesses and partners. The majority of funding is through all of their partnerships however, the agency does receive state and federal funding as well. Casa de Los Ninos is far more reliant on the funding of their partnerships because often times state and federal funding changes and the agency will lack the resources to provide families in a crisis.
Casa de Los Ninos serves children and families at risk of abuse, neglect, and crisis.
As previously mentioned, Casa de Los Ninos offers a variety of services such as prevention, intervention, and behavioral health treatment services. Prevention services include free parent enrichment classes, child development coaching through nurse home visits, and developmental, vision, and hearing screenings. Through invention programs families are provided supervised visitation, assisted with child welfare case plan goals, and the foster home placement process. Behavioral health treatment services focused on the treatment of parents and children through services such as psychiatric evaluations, substance abuse treatment, in-home therapy, school-based counseling, and crisis care. As a result of the services provided by Casa de Los Ninos, 6,012 children and 4,139 families were served in 2017.
Casa de Los Ninos seems to be a great agency and they provide such a vast range of services to families and children. I believe this is a major strength of the agency because often times children are the only focus of the agency and the causation of the neglect or abuse is not further examined. By providing both prevention and intervention services, I believe it will aid in decreasing the number of cases of abuse and neglect in the community. However, like any other agency, Casa de Los Ninos also has shortcomings. One of the shortcomings of Casa de Los Ninos is that their prevention programs is implemented through home-based instruction and in-home nursing visits which, empirical data suggests is not the most effective method of prevention. Another shortcoming would be the lack of multiple early education centers and as of right now, Casa de Los Ninos only has one center. However, Casa de Los Ninos announced the opening one of in April and seem to constantly be striving for the best.
As previously mentioned, Casa de Los Ninos has two weaknesses that I am attempting to resolve through policy recommendations. My first policy recommendation is to implement a more comprehensive, community-based CAP programs in order to yield better outcomes for families targeted by the programs and that are at high-risk of child abuse. While home-based instruction and in-home nursing may assist some families that are at-risk of child abuse, I want to implement a policy that has a greater outcome based on empirical data. Also, home-based instruction and in-home nursing alone cannot sufficiently address the multifaceted risk factors of child abuse.
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The study that best supports my policy recommendation is titled A Multilevel Evaluation of a Comprehensive Child Abuse Prevention Program and was implemented by Michael A. Lawson, Tania Alameda-Lawson, and Edward C. Byrnes. The purpose of this study is to analyze the improvements in protective factors related to CAP and whether the improvements relate to decreased odds of child abuse as a result of more comprehensive, community-based prevention programs. In order to conduct the study Lawson and his collogues used, “multilevel growth modeling, our analyses focus on an economically poor, culturally diverse sample of 1,184 mothers who maintained their involvement in the program for at least 6 months” (Lawson, Alameda-Lawson, & Byrnes, 2012).
The program that was in this study is referred to as safe families (SF) and this program has six essential factors which includes: a paraprofessional home visitation program, a multidisciplinary team of social workers and mental health care professionals, a family resource center program, a family support collaborative, a lead intermediary organization, and a lead government fiscal agent. All of these components are tactfully integrated in order to provide comprehensive support for families within the program. Most of the parents in SF are new or expecting mothers and 95% are mothers that became involved with the program before their baby was 6 months old. Parents may be referred to the program through family resource center, CPS, human service provider, or previous participant referrals. While participating in the program, participants are assessed within the first 45 days and then again, every 3 to 6 months.
The results of this study showed there was a slight association between program participation and improvement in protective factors. However, there is a significant relationship between improvements in maternal social support and mental health and reduced odds of child abuse as a result of comprehensive intervention programs and support. In other words, “Given the relationship between improvements in social support, mental health, and reduced odds for child abuse found here, creating systematic opportunity for social interaction among program participants, especially those who live in the same neighborhood communities, may represent an important first step toward developing the community-based social networks needed to reduce child abuse on a broader scale” (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000; Ross, Reynolds, & Geis, 2000). In conclusion, I would like to implement a policy implementing more comprehensive intervention programs in order to enhance the overall outcomes for families at risk for child abuse.
My second policy recommendation for Casa de Los Ninos would be to strive toward opening more early education centers. There are many benefits of early education centers for children within the system and as of right now Casa de Los Ninos only has one center. The center is called the Kelley Early Education Center and it has the capacity to serve 100 infants and children from the ages of 6 weeks to five years old. If the agency opened more centers, then the lives of more young children involved in the child welfare system could be positively impacted.
The study I chose to support my second policy recommendation is titled The Benefits of Early Care and Education for Child Welfare-Involved Children: Perspectives from the Field. This study was conducted as a result of the lack of research regarding the benefits of ECE for children involved in CWS. The study also discusses the benefits for caregivers and child welfare staff as a result of more ECE. For this study, focus groups were chosen and asked various questions about their thoughts on ECE and how to improve it. The study used a convenience sampling method in an urban area in the western region of the United States. Also, “Targeted parents and caregivers were defined as birth parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, relative/kin caregivers, and/or non-relative extended family members with CWS-supervised children under five years of age residing or placed in the targeted service area” (Klein, Mihalec-Adkins, Benson, & Lee, 2018). The participants were gathered by recruitment flyers through clients caring for ECE-aged children, caseworkers, nonprofit foster care agencies, Head Start, and local trainings.
Through focus group analysis, there were five major benefits of ECE for children in the CWS determined by the groups. The benefits include socialization and social skills development, early intervention for developmentally delayed children, school readiness and future educational attainment, developmental stimulation, and structure and stability. Another positive outcome of ECE determined by the caseworker focus group is that children in the CWS are able to form healthy relationships with ECE providers. Also, “Three cross-cutting themes emerged identifying benefits of ECE services for the parents and other caregivers of children in CWS. These include ECE programs’ abilities to provide: 1) parent/caregiver involvement and training components, which can improve parenting practices at home, 2) respite from the rigors of parenting, and 3) access to community resources and social services for vulnerable families” (Klein, Mihalec-Adkins, Benson, & Lee, 2018). In conclusion, I would recommend the policy of opening more early education centers to Casa de Los Ninos because there are many beneficial results in assisting children in the child welfare system as previously discussed.
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