History of the Efforts to Involve Faith-Based Organizations with Child Welfare
Efforts to forge relationships between the Children & Family Services Bureau and faith-based organizations in East County began in the spring of 2002. The Bureau was involved in a program called Family-to-Family; the goal of which was to change the way child welfare work is done. Briefly, it is a program in which community involvement with families and children-at-risk is increased, and preventive services are developed to reduce the court’s involvement with our families. If families in crisis receive appropriate services early enough, the possibility of abuse or neglect of the children is decreased.
An audit of the system revealed how ineffective the current process was. Among the issues revealed were:
¨ Timely reunification of children with their parents,
¨ Getting children adopted whose parents are not able to reunify with them,
¨ Causing trauma to children by making frequent changes in placements, and
¨ Placing children outside their communities.
As a result of the audit, the beginning of 2004, the Bureau embarked on a commitment to completely redesign its operation. The strategies of this redesign effort included the Family-to-Family strategies as well as major internal changes. Family-to-Family was, in fact, rolled into the Child Welfare Redesign effort. Part of the redesign work included conducting a survey of the target areas in order to determine the needs of the lower income families in the community. Based on the outcome of the survey and other strategies to increase community engagement, workgroups were established on a number of topics. One of these workgroups comprised faith-based organizations.
The group developed a mission statement and wrestled with how to draw more faith-based organizations to the table. In the spring of 2005, the workgroup decided to hold another luncheon for faith-based organizations, with the goal of sharing with others in the community its goal for supporting East County families and the Child Welfare Redesign. Over 70 individuals representing at least 25 different organizations attended this luncheon, held May 5, 2005. A panel, made up primarily of clergy, eloquently called for the collaboration of faith-based organizations with the Bureau to support our families and children. The response was very positive.
Currently, the faith-based workgroup has evolved into an organization which holds a 501(c) (3) non-profit status. This organization, originally named “ECFBA-East County Faith-Based Subcommittee To Child Welfare Redesign,” now renamed "SHIFT-Supporting Healthy Individual & Family Transitions" will act as an advisory committee to the Child Welfare Redesign effort in East County. It will also provide services and resources for children and families in the area. Many goals and objectives have developed by this organization, including:
¨ Focus on youth,
¨ Respite care,
¨ After school programs,
¨ Job training,
¨ Teaching life skills,
¨ Providing food,
¨ Community Resource Fairs
¨ Furniture Delivery
¨ Kitchen Start Up Kits
¨ Entrance and Exit Survival Kits
¨ Zoo Safari Annual Post Permanency Event
¨ Ginger Bread House Decorating Annual Post Permanency Event
¨ Post Permanency Support and Education
A goal of this organization is to give smaller churches and other groups the opportunity to participate in collaborative programs that provide needed assistance in the community. The larger goal is to develop a resource-clearing house for the East County community.