Safe Harbor Family Preservation is a program which helps families alleviate crisis and maintain the safety of children in their own homes, as well as assists families in obtaining services and supports necessary to address their varied needs. Services include in-home counseling, parent support and education, individual counseling, transportation, and childcare.
For the purposes of confidentiality, the real names have been changed.
Jane was initially referred by DFCS to family preservation in mid 2015. There were many identified needs with Jane and major concerns with her ability to function with major depression. With many attempts to reach out to Jane, it took 2 months before she finally answered. After explaining the purpose of the call, she discussed her issues with unemployment, lack of transportation, lack of health insurance for the children and herself, and her inability to control her 4 year old son. She explained how she was diagnosed with major depression and how she would get anxiety every time she would attempt to seek help with services. After the call, Jane seemed willing to begin services and said that she looked forward to making progress. All areas of need were needs that could be addressed by family preservation. The next week at the scheduled appointment time, she did not show up and her contact number was disconnected. Her DFCS case was also closed soon after the missed appointment.
A little over a year later, Jane had a second DFCS case and was referred again with the same issues. But this time, Jane called family preservation to notify of a family team meeting arranged by all DFCS caseworkers who were involved in the meeting. Additional problems were discussed during the meeting, including issues with co-parenting between her spouse John and herself. Their relationship had become more dysfunctional and their inability to afford childcare became an issue. Another major concern included Jane’s hoarding of a variety of items. The clutter in the home was becoming a hazard to the children. DFCS and family preservation worked together to design a case plan that would meet all of her needs. Everyone was in agreement, including Jane, that she was to participate in parent education, individual counseling, life skills coaching, utilize the transportation services when needed and to take heed of when given information and referral to other community agencies. Family counseling was also recommended by DFCS to address the issues between Joe and Jane. In return with her cooperation, DFCS agreed to pay for her son’s child care services with the guarantee that she would get him to school on time.
Jane attended her appointments every Monday. She learned how to clean her home, become more firm with her son, and co-parent with Joe. By attending counseling, she learned different methods of coping and managing stress from co-parenting and learned effective ways to communication with Joe. About 4 months into Jane’s appointments, she began to digress. Her speech became more slurred, her thought process became slower, and she became more inconsistent with her daily routine and family preservation appointments. She avoided phone calls and home visits. It was soon discovered that she was addicted to her prescribed psychiatric medications. She eventually had a psychotic break and was admitted as an in-patient into a rehabilitation program at Gateway Behavioral Health Services. During her stay in the program, she became sober and eventually jumped back into family preservation. She continued with all the services initially planned for her.
Overtime, DFCS saw major improvement in Jane’s ability to cope with stress, clean her home, and co-parent with Joe. Jane was able to create a routine for her family in which she was able to finally cook breakfast and dinner and sit at the table as a family (due to the clutter being removed from the kitchen and dining areas), get her child to school on time, grocery shop, clean her home, and have spare time for herself to relax. She has been more proactive and no longer feels anxious when searching for more employment. She has obtained food stamps and family Medicaid and has reliable transportation. She felt proud of being able to manage her time and actually felt productive. She and John also expressed a change in the way they communicated with one another. Jane’s communication was more fluent and clear. Her thought process more quick and structured. Her skill even appeared to be more bright and healthy. Joe learned about the effects of substance abuse and gained more patience and understanding with Jane which was a major alleviation for stress for Jane. They were no longer blaming one another, not focusing on the past, and taking responsibility for their own actions. They finally were able to truly listen and hear one another. The home was becoming clutter-free as time progressed with participation. Every time she met with her family advocate, it became easier to let go of clothes and toys. She began to accept that change had to start with herself because she could not control others.
Currently, her DFCS case manager is finally working to close the case. Although the family has completed their case plan, they have chosen to continue with the family counseling services, and Jane still chose to finish her parent education services. She has also taken the initiative to make time to attend support groups that encourage positive coping skills, stress management, and healthy living.
Jane is one of many substance abuse related cases that demonstrates the effects of the illness within the family and how it takes the willingness of the client and the collaboration and determination of community resources to heal all members of the family affected.