Families come into the Child Welfare Services (CWS) system for a variety of reasons. Whatever the risk factors that lead to CWS intervention, the experience can be frightening and upsetting. The Enhanced Healthy Start program is designed to partner with those families with children under the age of three, to alleviate some of the discomfort and provide support for resolution of the risk factors that led to CWS involvement. We promote changes in family functioning that enable CWS to close their cases and families to provide nurturing care for their children.
Our program offers in-home services including information and referral, developmental screening, parent education, counseling, and nursing consultation. Services are provided primarily to biological families, but are also made available to the temporary caregivers (foster families) provided by CWS. Needs of these caregivers are identified through a parenting assessment tool; caregivers are then provided an in-home curriculum that is coordinated to those needs. This curriculum includes not only information but also activities for the caregiver to do with their children during home visits that cement the lessons provided. Regular developmental screening of infants and toddlers is part of the program, as is referral to special assistance that may be needed to address developmental delays.
A special recent addition to the program is the ABC (Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up) intervention, developed at the University of Delaware and identified by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child as one of three promising models nationally for children who have experienced significant neglect and other forms of maltreatment. This intervention is used with both biological parents and foster parents and is designed not only to strengthen the attachment between caregiver and child, but also to strengthen the ability of the child to later attach to others.
Though our families are either court-ordered or strongly encouraged by CWS to participate in our services, we generally succeed in forging strong partnerships with them. Likewise, we pride ourselves on providing support to CWS workers, proactively recommending services and serving as a liaison between them and the families they hope to strengthen.