Belong in partnership with DePelchin Children Center

Jaci Gonzales

Texas Family First Pilot- court ordered evidence-based services for families to alleviate safety concerns and prevent child removals

SAN ANTONIO – The 87th Legislative Session enacted HB 3041 that requires the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to pilot a program that provides court-ordered evidence-based services to prevent removal of children. The services are piloted in areas presently contracted for Community Based Care.

The Texas Family First (TFF) program is designed to prevent children from entering foster care by providing court-ordered evidence-based services to families to alleviate safety concerns. As directed by HB 3041, 87th Texas Legislature (2021), DFPS is piloting Texas Family First under the federal Family First Transition Act in targeted areas of the state and will report back to lawmakers upon the one-year anniversary of implementation.

We are happy to announce that the SSCC, BELONG, in partnership with DePelchin Children’s Center, has been awarded the contract to provide services in five counties for the HB 3041 Family Preservation Pilot. These counties include Edwards, Bandera, Comal, Gonzales, and Karnes. The start date is Monday, October 31.

Child Protective Investigations will identify families who meet the criteria to participate in the pilot and will refer them to the Texas Family First caseworkers (the Family Based Safety Service staff designated to work with this population). The Texas Family First caseworkers will maintain case management responsibilities and collaborate with BELONG by making a timely referral for a contracted service noted below.

Belong and DePelchin will provide the following services for families who are court ordered to participate in Family Preservation services.

Functional Family Therapy

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is a short-term prevention program for at-risk youth and their families. FFT aims to address risk and protective factors that impact the adaptive development of 11 to 17-year-old youth who have been referred for behavioral or emotional problems. The program is organized in multiple phases and focuses on developing a positive relationship between therapist/program ad family, increasing motivation for change, identifying specific needs of the family, supporting individual skill-building of youth and family, and generalizing changes to a broader context. Typically, therapists will meet weekly with families face-to-face for 60 to 90 minutes and by phone for up to 30 minutes, over an average of three to six months.

Brief Strategic Family Therapy

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) uses a structured family systems approach to treat families with children or adolescents (6 to 17 years) who display or are at risk for developing problem behaviors including substance abuse, conduct problems, and delinquency. There are three intervention components. First, counselors establish relationships with family members to better understand and ‘join’ the family system. Second, counselors observe how family members behave with one another in order to identify interactional patterns that are associated with problematic youth behavior. Third, counselors work in the present, using reframes, assigning tasks and coaching family member to try new ways of relating to one another to promote more effective and adaptive family interactions. BSFT is typically delivered in 12 to 16 weekly sessions in community centers, clinics, health agencies, or homes.

Parents as Teachers

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is a home-visiting parent education program that teaches new and expectant parents skills intended to promote positive parent-child interaction. PAT aims to increase parent knowledge of early childhood development, improve parenting practices, promote early detection of developmental delays and health issues, prevent child abuse and neglect, and increase school readiness and success. The PAT model includes four core components: personal home visits, supportive group connection events, child health and developmental screenings, and community resource networks. PAT is designed so that it can be delivered to diverse families with diverse needs, although PAT sites typically target families with specific risk factors. Families can begin the program prenatally and continue through when their child enters kindergarten. Services are offered on a biweekly or monthly basis, depending on the families’ needs. Sessions are typically held for one hour in the family’s home, but can also be delivered in schools, childcare centers or other community spaces.

DFPS, BELONG, and the Children’s Commission have worked together to successfully launch the pilot program.

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