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First 5 LA Shown to Curb Child Abuse Risk

Partnership for Families' Program Shows Promising Results

Partnership for Families (PFF), a 5-year, First 5 LA initiative aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect in Los Angeles County, has produced promising results determining that the program helps families at risk for child abuse and high risk pregnant women improve how they function, which may reduce or eliminate the need for child welfare authorities to intervene with them in the future. Given the encouraging findings, First 5 LA Commissioners voted recently to continue the PFF program evaluation for another two years. "By extending the evaluation, we have the opportunity to determine just how effective PFF is at strengthening vulnerable families, curbing child abuse and even saving young lives," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, chairman of the First 5 LA Commission.

Now in its fourth year, PFF is based on partnerships between First 5 LA and Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), in collaboration with community-based service providers.

"Through an intensive case management and home visitation model, the collaboratives provide a wide variety of direct services designed to support at-risk families by improving family functioning," said Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of First 5 LA.   "All of these services are working to engage and strengthen families."

PFF provides families with emergency needs assistance, workforce development programs, parenting education and financial literacy education. It also includes advocacy and leadership development programs as well as substance abuse treatment, domestic violence interventions, family literacy programs, connections to early childhood education programs, counseling and mental health support to adults and children.     

PFF's service and community capacity building approach has led to a reduction in the number of referrals of potential child abuse cases to DCFS.  And most importantly, it has reduced the number of families who are re-referred to DCFS and has lowered the numbers of children and families entering into the child welfare system.

One of PFF's unique characteristics is its evaluation component. Expert evaluators from USC, UCLA, Claremont Graduate University and the Juvenile Protection Association have gathered informationfrom PFF-funded agencies and PFF families on an ongoing basis. Program evaluations are usually completed at the end of a project cycle, however this evaluation design has allowed for continuous monthly data-sharing with the PFF agencies, resulting in ongoing improvement of direct services for families.

Some of the key evaluation findings include:

By June 2008, PFF grantees had served more than 500 high risk pregnant women. DCFS regional offices had referred a total of 2,075 families to the eight PFF collaboratives. 

The average rate of voluntary engagement of DCFS referred families across Los Angeles County is 78 percent.

The percentage of DCFS re-referrals for PFF enrollees was significantly lower than for non-enrollees (13 percent vs. 29 percent).

Sixty-five percent of parents participating in small focus groups reported that, overall, their family situation was a lot better after participating in PFF.

In survey responses, PFF agencies agreed that PFF collaboratives are characterized by mutual respect, understanding and trust.

"The PFF collaboration between First 5 LA, DCFS and our contracted agencies has been extremely successful," said Patricia S. Ploehn, director of the L.A. County DCFS. "Parents have learned valuable skills that allow for optimal family engagement. Furthermore, agencies have gotten the needed support to effectively implement PFF, which has reduced the number of children in out-of-home care and improved child safety and well-being throughout the county of Los Angeles." 

First 5 LA, a child advocacy organization, was created by California voters to invest Prop 10 tobacco tax revenues, it supports programs for improving the lives of children from prenatal through age 5 in Los Angeles County. First 5 LA champions health, education and safety causes concerning young children and families.

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