By: Geo A. Ropert, APR
Ten years after Brevard County put into place a locally developed and managed child welfare system of care, more children are being kept free from abuse and neglect. And more families are getting the help they need to keep stressors in their lives from reaching a point of crisis that threatens the safety and well-being of their children.
So it’s fitting that Brevard Family Partnership, the lead agency for child welfare in Brevard County looks back on the many positive changes in the community since its inception in 2005. That was the year that it began delivering services to reduce child abuse, as well as the number of children and families entering the formal judicial dependency system through innovation and strong community partnerships.
A Look Back
When it became evident that the state system of caring for abused, neglected and abandoned children was ineffective and inefficient, the Florida legislature, in 1998, authorized the privatization of the child welfare system. Counties and regions were given local control to build systems that fit their communities’ unique needs. It was then that several private, nonprofit organizations, including Community Based Care of Brevard as it was then known, came into existence.
The agency was formed through the long and enduring work of committed residents and business and community leaders including the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners who looked at every aspect of child safety and well-being, and developed what would be the charge of CBC of Brevard.
Seven goals were identified as chief priorities: Implement an aggressive, front-end abuse prevention and diversion program; establish a single case-management model; utilize Family Team Conferencing; create an emergency response system; become nationally accredited; maintain caseloads below a ratio of 1:20; and ensure Brevard’s children remain in Brevard. The agency achieved all of those goals within its first five years of operation.
A Look at Today
In 10 years, Brevard Family Partnership and its nationally recognized child and family Wraparound organization Brevard C.A.R.E.S. has helped to reduce the number of children in the formal child welfare system of care, from a high of over 1,500 children in 2005, to less than 900 today. By reaching families in crisis and getting them critical services before stressors can lead to issues of child well-being and safety, Brevard Family Partnership has kept over 13,000 children and their families from ever entering the dependency system. For those children permanently removed from their parents’ care due to abuse or neglect, adoption partner IMPOWER helps find adoptive families. To date, over 680 children have found permanency in “forever homes.”
Brevard Family Partnership is led by CEO Dr. Patricia Nellius, a nationally recognized leader and expert in child welfare and systems of care. She is Brevard Family Partnership’s first and only CEO. Its board of directors is comprised of local business, government and community leaders. The funding the agency receives from the state – over $210 million since 2005 – goes directly into the Brevard economy to provide critical services for children and families.
This year, Brevard Family Partnership is sharing the “Decade of Difference” it has made in the lives of those it serves. The agency isn’t so much “celebrating” – as the work it does is often the result of things not worthy of celebration – but rather recognizing the milestones it’s reached and accomplishments achieved, and the many people and organizations it’s taken to get to where it is today.