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NFSC Preventive Services Recommendations
Increase preventive services' linkages with and presence in schools and daycare centers.
Schools and daycare centers are key sites in neighborhoods that have daily contact with children, often from infancy. Staff at these sites are frequently the first to recognize signs of abuse or neglect and to identify families who are struggling and need support and assistance. Out-stationing staff at schools and day care centers presents the greatest opportunity to recognize and address signs of trouble at the earliest stage and to monitor children and check in with families on a daily basis, even after formal ACS service with them ends.
Support a stable and experienced workforce, provide budget support for more MSWs and reduce preventive caseloads to 12 to 1.
Modify the model budget to increase starting and general salary rates, allow for more masters-level staff and provide automatic cost-of-living-adjustments to enhance staff retention and professionalization. The emphasis on BA-level staff due to budget constraints, overall too-low salaries, and too-high caseloads contribute to high turnover and lack of seasoned staff in this critical work. Improving on staff retention and skill level would dramatically increase the quality of preventive services.
Increase the ability of preventive providers to provide psychological and psychiatric services.
Families in crisis benefit from the therapeutic intervention of a trained mental health professional. Over time, providers' ability to offer these services has been diminished by insufficient funding in the model budget.
Increase the engagement of at-risk groups by supporting group work and increased auxiliary services.
Preventive agencies need the flexibility to offer auxiliary services like group work, which is particularly effective in engaging troubled individuals and breaking down the isolation often characteristic of high-risk families. Increased resources and flexibility within the model budget can support this goal and ACS should also allow for reinvestment dollars to be utilized for the staffing of group work programs that serve at-risk populations within the context of a general preventive program.
Support aftercare services.
We know from experience that many families that have benefited from preventive services achieve a level of stabilization such that their case can be closed but still continue to need support. ACS could provide additional funding to enable programs to offer aftercare services to these families. This will support families, keep them engaged, and offer the opportunity for extended observation and informal "check-ins" with children and parents, allowing them to access preventive services before a crisis escalates.
Add resources to cover service-related technology costs and data entry requirements.
The issue here is two-fold. First, because the costs to implement and maintain mandated technology requirements are not covered in contracts, funds for these purposes must be redirected from program services. The recent addition of $2,000 per site is important but dwarfed by the vast learning and maintenance investment that technology requires. Also, because resources are insufficient to support data entry staff, case workers and clinical staff must devote significant time to data entry that would be better utilized working with clients. During times of great stress due to systems changes such as now when agencies are struggling to learn and implement Connections and Promis, permit lower caseloads to insure that the cases receive the levels of intervention needed.