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New hope for kids in the system.
The most recent Department of Social Services statistics are grim: 10,860 children are now in the care of the state, 2,743 of whom are awaiting adoption. Though it is difficult to humanize data, DSS Comimissioner Harry Spence's bold new initiative may put a lot of smiles on the faces of these children. The Home for Little Wanderers, the nation's oldest child welfare agency, supports the new focus on helping children and families stay together, and when that is not possible, move purposefully to a permanent family situation. The Home is proud to have been selected as the Park Street Area Lead Agency and a partner to DSS in this extraordinary effort.
There are successes from which to draw inspiration. Our Parent's Center at Saltonstall House focuses on early intervention - it is a very effective program that provides high quality therapeutic childcare, assessment, counseling, parent education and support in an effort to keep families together. The Home's Safe-at-Home partnership with Boston Medical Center, Children's Hospital, Carney Hospital, and the Cambridge Health Alliance works to stabilize families in crisis.
As a Lead Agency, The Home will establish and oversee an extensive network of community-based services dedicated to achieving permanency for children through family stabilization, preservation, and reunification. In other instances, the network will ensure placement in an alternative home or work with older adolescents to prepare them to live independantly.
The key tenet of this approach is reducing the need for out-of-community placements through the creation of a new community-level infrastructure. Managing transitions, successfully, practicing strength-based service planning, and offering flexible services through a range of community providers will now help make it easier for DSS to partner with families.
This will not be easy, and we will learn a great deal as the initiative progresses. The concept of "dignity of risk" suggests that if we want families to play an active role in determining their children's futures, we have to be prepared to integrate their values into our service delivery. There are many positive ways to love and nurture children, and in the interest of permanency, agencies like The Home must be prepared to actively support families in their various configurations and childrearing approaches.
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