Webinar educates on supporting young children, dually involved youth through Family First

Lutheran Services in America (LSA) members are studying various aspects of the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) as they work alongside partners and stakeholders in their states to implement the new federal law.

In a November webinar entitled “Family First: Opportunities for Program Populations,” Saint Francis Ministries and Grutza Consulting highlighted the opportunity to focus on the distinct needs of specific populations as states implement the Family First Act, a federal law that went into effect in 2018. The event was part of a multi-part series, organized by Sheila Weber, LSA Director of Strategic Initiatives, designed to offer robust supports for successful implementation to LSA members.

Marlo Nash, National Director of Partnerships & Policy for Saint Francis, and Jody Grutza, Principal for Grutza Consulting, offered the webinar, which was recorded and posted on LSA’s website along with the PowerPoint presentation that was designed as a takeway resource guide on the topic.

Nash is working nationally to support states and stakeholders as they meet needs of young children who are involved in the child welfare system and their families.

“With the advent of the Family First Act, there is a renewed and important opportunity to respond to the distinct needs of young children, and their families, when they become involved with the child welfare system,” she said. “The early childhood years are sensitive periods of neuro, bio, psycho, social development and even short amounts of time where young children don’t have both their safety and well-being needs met can have lifelong impacts.”

Nash cited the Harvard Center for the Developing Child’s “InBrief: Applying the Science of Child Development in Child Welfare Systems,” along with providing many practical tips and insights for focusing on young children when designing and implementing child welfare systems and practices.

After providing information related to youth dually served in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, Grutza focused on opportunities to leverage services for their distinct needs within the framework of the new IV-E Prevention Program established by the Family First Act.

“Just as in the early childhood years, science now tells us that the teen years are a heightened period of neurological development,” Grutza said, “so we can apply that research and knowledge to better respond to our youth and to better utilize our systems to support this unique population.”

Participants also received an update on relevant federal legislation, and an overview of a case study for how Saint Francis developed a data-informed thought piece to share with public agencies leaders in Kansas in response to a call for input on the Family First prevention approach the state designed as an early adopter of the Family First Act. Nash and Grutza encouraged participants to be active and engaged partners with their public agency counterparts and other key stakeholders.

“Our parting advice was to speak up for populations with specialized needs; get equipped with data and information that supports focused efforts based on those needs; and join up with other stakeholders, both traditional and non-traditional,” Nash said.

Grutza Consulting and Saint Francis Ministries have teamed up to deliver technical assistance and consultation to child welfare provider organizations, as private system as system leaders are working with their public sector partners to swiftly and effectively address myriad changes and opportunities to successfully align with the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First). This webinar is one example of the type of technical assistance, expertise and consultation the partnership can provide. For more information, contact: Marlo Nash (marlo.nash@saintfrancisministries.org), Dr. Page Walley (page.walley@saintfrancisministries.org) or Jody Grutza, (grutzajm@gmail.com).

Picture of Beth Cormack
Beth Cormack

Beth is the project manager for the Saint Francis Ministries Marketing and Communications team.

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