“Our goal is to put ourselves out of business,” says Brevard Family Partnership’s director of communications, Geo Ropert. “We know that’s a lofty goal but in trying to attain it we strive, each day, to reduce the incidences of child abuse, neglect and abandonment to the lowest levels possible.”
Brevard Family Partnership is the lead child welfare agency in Brevard County. It is a private, nonprofit organization, under contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families to manage the local child welfare system of care. BFP’s mission is to “protect children, strengthen families and change lives through the prevention of child abuse and the operation and management of a comprehensive, integrated, community-based system of care for abused, abandoned and neglected children and their families.” It manages abuse prevention services, as well as foster care, adoptions for children permanently removed from their homes, and transitional services for youth who age out of foster care without being adopted, helping them adapt to independent living as adults.
Since it began operating in 2005, BFP has helped to reduce the number of children in the formal child welfare system by almost 50 percent, from a high of over 1,500 to approximately 850 today. This has been accomplished by creating a locally managed, community-based system of care that is family-centered, strength-based and outcome-driven. This model allows a community to care for its own, knowing what works best and what doesn’t when it comes to providing for the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens: children.
BFP’s innovative abuse prevention and family preservation program, Brevard C.A.R.E.S. (Coordination, Advocacy, Resources, Education and Support), is recognized nationally for its unique and successful approach to stabilizing families who may be suffering from stressors before they lead to child abuse or neglect. Utilizing the models of Wraparound and Family Team Conferencing, Brevard C.A.R.E.S. teams, consisting of care coordinators, family partners and youth liaisons, work with families in crisis to get them the services they need, in the time that they need it. They also bring together professional and natural supports (e.g. family, friends, teachers, clergy) to stand with and help a family identify their strengths and create a personalized plan to become stable, safe and healthy.
At any given time, 400-500 children and their families are participating in Brevard C.A.R.E.S., and since 2005, over 13,000 children and their families have successfully exited the program – these are families who have not entered the formal child welfare system and instead have remained safely in their homes, schools and communities.
When a child has suffered abuse or neglect, BFP, working with over 70 local community partners and service providers, ensures that the child is given the greatest of care. BFP has consistently ranked among the top performing community-based care agencies in Florida, ranking among the top three in case worker visits to children and families, timely reunification when a child and his or her family are separated, and exceeding the federal measures for placement stability for children who are removed from their homes, meaning children don’t bounce from one foster home to another. And when adoption becomes the only option, BFP has great success finding children “forever homes.” To date, over 540 children in Brevard have been placed with families who have welcomed them as their own.
Brevard Family Partnership truly does keep the “community” in community-based care.