By Geo Ropert
April is recognized as national Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month. In Brevard, that means a dedicated time to call attention to what the Space Coast community is doing to keep our most vulnerable children safe.
People say, “If I could prevent just one instance of child abuse, it would mean so much!” So what if over 14,000 children were prevented from being abused, neglected, or abandoned? What would that mean to our community; our children? To answer that question one just has to look at the number of children who have been served in Brevard’s unique, child abuse prevention and family preservation organization, Brevard C.A.R.E.S.
Since its inception in 2005, Brevard C.A.R.E.S. has helped over 14,000 children and their families avoid abuse, providing services, support, counseling, and a chance to build a family that is healthy, safe, and remains in the community. It means over 14,000 youth have not entered the formal child welfare system but rather have remained safely in their homes. Over the last three years, Brevard C.A.R.E.S. has served an average of 658 children and their families each month.
Brevard C.A.R.E.S. (Coordination, Advocacy, Resources, Education and Support) was developed by Brevard Family Partnership, Brevard County’s community-based, lead child welfare agency, in an effort to identify and reduce or remove the stressors in a family’s life that may lead to child abuse.
Prior to privatization of the child welfare system in Florida, verified instances of abuse or neglect resulted in, a child and their family entering the court system and, in most cases, the child would have been removed from his or her home and placed in foster care to receive any services that would help them recover from the abuse and reunify the family. During this time, services to children and families were bundled and given to each family in a cookie-cutter fashion; they were the same for each circumstance, with no consideration whether it was the right service at the right time for the right family.
When Brevard C.A.R.E.S. came on the scene all of the old ways of under-serving children and families were discarded and a new approach called “Wraparound” emerged. Using a first-in-the-nation recently enacted waiver from the federal government called a IV-E (Four-E), funds that could previously be accessed only for children and families going through court-ordered supervision were made available for prevention and diversion programs and services on the front-end of a potentially abusive situation. The result has been an astounding number of children and families who have not entered the formal dependency system.
Wraparound is named for the formal and “informal” or natural and physical supports and services that are “wrapped around” a family. Family voice and choice drives the planning process and families are valued as equal partners at the table. Positive change is attained through motivational practices that support and celebrate positive outcomes of family success. From professional therapists, counselors, and social service organizations, to friends, relatives and clergy members, or anyone else the family may identify as a support, all become part of the Family Team, helping the family focus on their strengths, identify the programs and services that will best suit their situation, and answer the question, “Life will be better when…”
Brevard C.A.R.E.S. is a voluntary program, which has helped to reduce the stigma attached with asking for assistance and encourages families to seek help prior to an abusive situation occurring. In fact, 20 percent of families self-refer themselves into the program. Others are referred by child protective investigators, law enforcement, teachers and others who interact with children and families.
Research and data have proven that the C.A.R.E.S. model results in improved functioning and independence of families upon successful completion of the program. This is evidenced by a high rate of consumer satisfaction - 99% of consumers are satisfied with the Brevard C.A.R.E.S. program - and low recidivism rates at the six, twelve, and eighteen-month follow up of 100 percent, 80 percent and 92 percent, respectively.
Brevard C.A.R.E.S. and its community partners approach the prevention of child abuse with a “Whatever it takes” attitude and work closely with the children and families in their care. They must be doing something right; over 14,000 children are safe.
During the month April, the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force of Brevard County will plant blue pinwheels in landscaped areas of businesses in Brevard County, including Community Credit Union of Florida branches and select Starbucks locations to remind residents that children still suffer abuse and neglect and that it is everyone’s responsibility to help prevent it.
On Thursday, April 26, the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force of Brevard County and Brevard C.A.R.E.S. will present the 16th annual Child Abuse Prevention Awards at the Melbourne Hilton Rialto Place. The event begins at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $30 per person and a reserved table for eight is $240. Reservations are required.
Reservations can be made by visiting www.BrevardCARES.org or calling (321) 632-2737.
For more information about the programs and services offered by Brevard C.A.R.E.S. visit www.brevardcares.org. If you’re experiencing stressors that you believe may lead to child abuse or neglect call