The following Op Ed from the January 17, 2015 Barre Times Argus explains how OCPCC fits into the state-wide picture.

 

HELP VULNERABLE FAMILIES

By Scott Johnson

Parent Child Centers are the answer to many of the issues the state is facing this year with regard to child protection and preventing adverse childhood experiences. Especially with even bigger budget challenges, the investments we make to do important prevention work with vulnerable families with young children can pay off both economically and socially. All of the centers help Vermont families get off to a healthy start, promote well-being and build on family strengths. This support and education can and does prevent problems such as school failure, poor health, welfare dependency, family violence and abuse.

We are particularly proud of the Strengthening Families demonstration pilot project that has had great results in its first year. We know that 70 percent of all Department for Children and Families open family support cases have a child under the age of 3. Open cases are situations that have been assessed as being at high or very high risk of maltreatment and need services so they do not come into custody. Historically (without Strengthening Families), 30 percent of children with open family support cases came into state custody. With Strengthening Families, only 7 percent of such children have come into custody. We want to bring this program to the whole state, and we believe that this statewide approach will help to reduce the risk for children and help families stay together.

In fiscal year 2013, through the combined work of the 15 Parent Child Centers, 37,493 home visits were provided. Home visiting by the center staff helps to improve health and developmental outcomes for at-risk children and their families, including prevented child injuries and abuse, improved school readiness and achievement, and improved family economic self-sufficiency. Also, at the 15 centers across the state, 1,702 adults participated in parent education, to build skills and proficiencies to help their children get off to a good start and keep their families healthy.

Parent Child Centers are a network of community-based nonprofit organizations, serving all of Vermont. The focus of each center is to provide support and education to families with young children. The centers have been providing services to Vermont families for nearly 30 years and are a key part of ensuring that families get the help and support they need to give their children the best possible start in life. As policymakers make tough budget choices this year, we hope they will keep Parent Child Centers in the forefront of our work to support vulnerable families.

Scott Johnson is executive director of the Lamoille Family Center and chairman of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network.