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Residents to help CPS reach goals
Written by Staff Reporter   
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:22

CPS has a new plan to protect children.

The Family to Family Program, created by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is changing the face of child welfare.

The program asks the community to get involved in deciding whether a child needs to be taken from their home.

District 3 Family to Family Coordinator Ginny DeBartolomeo said Flagstaff has already seen a drop in the number of children they are taking out of homes since starting the program.

They have found ways to make kids safer, are cutting down on the trauma children get from being removed and are finding better ways to keep them in their family and community.

On Friday, Oct. 24, CPS District 3 Program Manager Gary Arnold met with community agencies and the public at the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church in Cottonwood to present the new plan.

Arnold said CPS is often viewed by the public in a negative light and the program is part of the solution.

“A child’s safety is paramount,” he said, “and they belong in families. And families need strong communities.”

What happens to kids in foster care, he said, is that they are already traumatized from the abuse they have suffered. Then they are re-traumatized when they are taken away from their family. The third trauma they suffer is being taken away from their community.

CPS is working to involve the community in assessing the safety of children and the need to remove, Arnold said.

A big part of that process will happen at meetings called Team Decision Making. The family of the child will bring their friends, pastor or anyone they believe is important in their life, he said. The caseworker, their supervisor and a facilitator, to direct the meeting, will be there as well.

Together, all of the people at the table will discuss the concerns and what is in the best interest of the child, he said.

District 3 Area Program Manager Cindy Trembley gave an example from a decision meeting that took place in Flagstaff.

She said the caseworker was set on taking the child from the home, but during the team decision meeting, had a change of heart. The team was able to find a way to protect the child while keeping the child in the home.

“Listening to the family is part of the process,” Arnold said, “and the worker has to be able to look them in the face and tell them what the problems are.”

Trembley said when families come to the attention of CPS, there is a lot of work being done by the agency, therapists, judges, lawyers, probation officers and others. This often means the agency does not have people in the child’s life who could be a support or stay involved.

The goal of the program is to get more of the community involved to support the family and make children safer.

Part of that step, Arnold said, will be working to find homes for children in their school district. This is because school is a child’s life and taking them from their school tears them away from some of the most important people in their lives.

At this time, he said, the decision meeting will occur mainly after a child is removed due to a lack of staff. They will still happen when the child’s parents meet the foster parents and begin working together.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Trembley said, has guidelines and expectations for when the decision meeting happens. CPS’ goal is to meet those guidelines and to have the decision meetings before the child is removed.


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