Parent-Child Assistance Program

Another good program... this one proving that not only can people change, but programs can.  When this program was Families For Kids Partnership, they focused on finding permanent families for kids in foster care. Now, they are the Parent-Child Assistance Program, seeing to the real needs of at-risk families towards goals of keeping them together, reunification, or reunion, depending on what the case may be.  Reunification is when a foster child returns to his mom or dad or both. 

Best kind of family reunion

By Jerry Large
Seattle Times staff columnist

People change, families reunite.

That's the mantra of a coalition that's trying to reunite families broken apart by parental drug or alcohol abuse. The rest of us tend to give up on those parents, or leave them to social programs that can be well-meaning but ineffective.

Everyone knows something's not working right. Now, finally, it seems there is a light shining in the dark.

Leaders in the child-welfare system are realizing that to be effective you have to know what the people you are trying to help really need.

You have to listen to them. Not just listen, but get them involved in helping other parents.

Out front on this new path is Catalyst for Kids, a coalition that includes representatives from the state Children's Administration, the courts, the Legislature, the Governor's Office and private organizations such as Casey Family Programs and Children's Home Society of Washington.

The coalition used to be called Families for Kids Partnership and was focused on finding permanent families for kids in foster care.

Three years ago, the coalition decided that was not enough. It changed its name and added reform of the child-welfare system to its mission.

A key part of that effort is using the experience of parents and children who've been through the system.

At the coalition's second annual summit Monday, members listened to the stories of four parents who beat their addictions and are raising children in stable homes.

The parents said what they needed most was a safe, sober place to live, guidance and empathy from people who understand their world.

Tamara May's meth addiction resulted in her first three children being taken from her.

May said she found the social-service system confusing and frightening. She had 11 different caseworkers and "all but two treated me with disdain."

They didn't know much about drug use, and when she was homeless they just said go find a shelter.

Finally she was assigned a counselor with the state Parent-Child Assistance Program (PCAP) who told her what to do to get clean and stay clean.

PCAP is doing the kind of work the coalition champions. It pairs drug- or alcohol-addicted mothers with advocates who work with them for three years, helping them stay in recovery, set goals, get services and housing — and more.

LaShaunda Harris, who spoke at the summit, is a PCAP program manager. Two daughters were taken from her because of her alcohol addiction.

Today she is sober, married and raising a daughter and two sons. She just earned her B.A. in business administration. Change is possible when people get the support they need.

Nancy Roberts-Brown, director of Catalyst for Kids, is pushing that message and working to put more resources into healing broken families.

She said the bulk of federal money for child welfare by law must be spent on children in foster care.

Helping families reunite isn't on the funding agenda.

It should be, now that we know how to do it.

Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.

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Is this an out-reach program, trying to reach-in?

"Leaders in the child-welfare system are realizing that to be effective  you have to know what the people you are trying to help really need."

"Helping families reunite isn't on the funding agenda."

To think it's a matter of funding that's keeping families apart is unacceptable, especially knowing once a child is put in foster care, that child can become a candidate for adoption.  It's almost like a cruel sick human Combat roach motel commercial:  "kids check-in, but they don't check-out".

Good behavior has to be rewarded, everyone knows that... why those who have suffered hard times are excused from this is beyond me.  If a person proves him/herself serious and sincere in changing his lifestyle, that should be supported and encouraged.

Not everyone was granted loving supportive parents.  Social workers need to be taught a more nurturing aspect in human care in this regard.  This is where long-term follow up is critical.  Perhaps the answer is through some sort of "parent-company" support and interest?

Pound Pup Legacy