Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System: Wraparound Service Program in Santa Clara County, California . 2.5 Services

12/01/2001

Because each family, and hence their service plan, is unique, providers organize a wide array of services to meet families' needs. A majority of services are sought out in the family's community. In fact, identifying and accessing community services for families is a major function of family specialists. The program prefers relying on community resources rather than directly providing or purchasing services to better ensure that these services will remain in place after wraparound services end. However, services are provided directly by program staff until alternative community resources are in place or the family is functioning without assistance. A brief description of the most commonly provided services follows.

  • Mental health. Families who need mental health services are referred to the Mental Health Department. Mental Health, in turn, refers eligible families to contracted community mental health agencies. The wraparound provider occasionally pays for mental health services for families who are not eligible for other public or private programs.
  • Crisis line. Every family has access to the providers' 24-hour crisis lines. Responsibility for crisis calls rotates among facilitators who triage the calls. In many instances, the facilitator can deescalate the crisis via phone but, if necessary, will dispatch a family specialist to the home. Having thorough safety plans in place and training families to use community police and hospitals in emergencies prevent overuse of the crisis line.
  • Family support. Typically, children have difficulty adjusting to their community schools. Family specialists will often meet with the school and make arrangements to attend classes with a child who needs support. In addition to attending school with children, family specialists will go to the home to help get them off to school -- coaxing them out of bed and the door. Before and after school are generally times when problems can erupt in the home. Specialists assist the family with these transitional times by being on hand to motivate children to do their homework and chores. In addition to accomplishing the task at hand, specialists use these occasions to teach parenting skills and anger management.
  • Financial assistance. Providers will financially assist the family if necessary, but only temporarily. Financial assistance may be given as a one time grant or loan depending on the family's circumstances and ability to repay the debt. Usually financial aid is offered in order to stabilize family functioning. For example, the program will pay delinquent utility bills or rent to reduce financial strain on the family and to ensure that their housing is maintained. In one instance, the program supplemented a mother's income by $1500 a month to enable her to return to school. She completed her training and landed a job that paid three times her previous hourly rate.

In addition to those already mentioned, Compadres has organized several other supportive services for parents. A parent support group meets monthly to provide a place where parents can share their stories, frustrations, and successes, and link up with other parents. For families who can't attend these evening support group meetings, the parent partners sponsor roaming coffees. The coffees are held at libraries around the county at various times of the week and on Saturday morning. The program has also established a resource center that provides parents with information and access to the Internet.