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$2.7 million grant to help Mahoning Valley’s children

Will fund early intervention programs for families

WARREN — A pilot program now in the planning stages will use a $2.7 million grant to create and implement programs in the Mahoning Valley to establish early intervention programs for families at risk of becoming involved in the child welfare system.

“From a child welfare perspective, we know that there are many families who are experiencing challenges, but they do not rise to the level that they can be screened in for our services. We know that other states such as Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin have family resource services available to families who have been screened out of the child welfare system. We know that these services produce good outcomes for the family and they reduce the number of times the family is referred to child welfare for services,” said Timothy Schaffner, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services.

“The services that will be developed through this grant will be a major prevention tool for child abuse and neglect. It will address a broad range of needs for struggling families and will assure that they receive services that will meet their needs and prevent the level of stress and reactivity that can lead to abuse and neglect,” Schaffner said.

The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund was one of nine entities in the nation to receive a Strengthen and Preserve Families grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, said Lindsay Williams, executive director of the trust fund.

In October, a 10-month planning period for the project began and a community implementation team is meeting monthly in each county. Each group will have a representative on a state implementation team. The projects will begin in August 2020.

“The community-based prevention model will offer primary prevention services both universally and to at-risk families with the goals of preventing child maltreatment, reducing entry into the child welfare system and improving the overall safety and well-being of Ohio’s children and families,” Williams said.

The goals are to make services like parenting education, financial literacy training and basic life skills available to all families and children in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, prevent child maltreatment by reducing family risk factors, reduce entry into the child welfare system and improve the overall safety and well-being of program participants.

About 85 percent of the funds will support program staff, training, marketing and program evaluation. The rest will cover administrative support and travel costs.

There also will be some money for one-time financial help like emergency assistance payments for rent or utility bills and items like diapers, food or clothing for program participants on an as-needed basis.

The program will use six principles — family coaching, parent education, basic life skills, financial literacy, service referrals and concrete financial supports.

“Through this holistic, family-centered, solution-focused approach, families will be supported by specially trained ‘family coaches’ to increase their protective factors and adopt new behaviors to strengthen their family unit and mitigate risk factors for child abuse and neglect,” Williams said.

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