Florida increases investment in child abuse prevention, restores healthy families home visiting program

The Florida Legislature appropriated, and Governor Scott approved, a $3.9 million increase in funding for Healthy Families Florida, a nationally accredited network of community-based home visiting programs. The funds will be used to strengthen the 37 existing community-based programs, expanding 14 of them to serve additional families and restoring services in six counties that lost services after the program suffered a $10 million budget cut back in 2010. The Healthy Start Coalition of Jefferson, Madison and Taylor Counties will be the community-based agency charged with implementing the program in five of those counties – Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Lafayette and Hamilton – which will be known as Healthy Families Seven Rivers. “With this budget, Florida’s leaders have embraced the wisdom that an ounce of prevention outweighs a pound of cure,” said Healthy Families Executive Director Jennifer Ohlsen. “Investing in Healthy Families Florida, a program proven to prevent child abuse and neglect in high-risk families, is a sound investment that will pay dividends for generation. Not only are Healthy Families’ home visiting services far less costly than treating the consequences of child abuse after it occurs, they promote healthy child growth and development – the key to building safe and prosperous communities throughout Florida.” “Our Healthy Start Coalition is privileged to be the conduit to deliver these much needed services in these counties,” said Donna Hagan, Executive Director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Jefferson, Madison and Taylor Counties. “We are grateful to the Legislature and the Ounce of Prevention for making our children a priority.”

Families who face a combination of challenging circumstances linked to increased risk of child abuse and neglect, such as teen pregnancy, single parenting, lack of a high school education, unrealistic expectations of parenting and child development, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues, voluntarily participate in home visiting services that begin during pregnancy or shortly after the birth of a child. Healthy Families equips parents to overcome their challenges and provide their children with safe, nurturing experiences that promote healthy growth and development. As of June 2014: • 98 percent of children were free from abuse and neglect during and one year following completion of services • 99 percent of mothers did not have a subsequent pregnancy within two years • 99 percent of participants and 100 percent of their children were connected to a primary healthcare provider • 84 percent of participants improved their self-sufficiency With the support of private donors and a variety of community-based partners, Healthy Families provides resources and referrals to meet specific family needs beyond those addressed through its home visiting services. “While parents are ultimately responsible for the healthy development of their children, many parents lack the knowledge and skills to provide the safe, nurturing environments children need to thrive,” said Douglas Sessions, Jr., president and CEO of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida. “We are thankful for the Healthy Start Coalition of Jefferson, Madison and Taylor Counties and their community partners who are working together to address the needs of vulnerable families so every child can have the opportunity to reach their full potential.” For more information on Healthy Families Florida, visit www.healthyfamiliesfla.org.

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