Jacksonville Neighborhoods Improve Child Welfare Service
Heitfield, Heather, Nation's Cities Weekly
Five neighborhoods in Jacksonville, Fla., representing 7,000 of the city's 700,000 people, have undergone noticeable child welfare changes within the past few years. Children and families are witnessing -- and actively participating in -- transformations in the way their communities are addressing child abuse and neglect.
These innovative efforts began with the Community Partnership for Protecting Children -- a collaboration between local and state leaders, social service providers, clergy members and business owners -- which has shown tremendous dedication to the protection of children and families.
When alarmed citizens in Jacksonville voiced their concerns about the Department of Children and Families, they urged the agency to focus more on providing families with necessary supportive services rather than just investigating reports of abuse or neglect. After a series of public hearings, the state of Florida modified its child welfare approach to include more comprehensive family assessments and evaluations following child abuse and neglect referrals.
Housed in one of the city's Full Service Schools, the Community Partnership is sustaining these child welfare changes by engaging five communities near the school in efforts to protect children and strengthen families.
The Partnership has mobilized tenant groups, local businesses, churches and neighborhood residents around local child protection efforts. Local residents have canvassed neighborhoods to identify existing community resources and needs, and then committed to providing designated high-risk areas with additional support services.
By working with community centers located in each neighborhood, the Partnership -- with support from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Center for the Study of Social Policy -- is helping children and families receive comprehensive educational, financial and social services from school social workers, child guidance therapists, teen counselors, family liaison workers, child protective service workers and other local organizations.
In addition to changes in neighborhood activities, child protection agency staff now works closely with neighborhood providers to extend additional services to families.
Families in Jacksonville can receive extensive support from friends and family living with in their own communities, which eliminates the need to involve child protective workers in low-risk cases. …