Local News

Program geared toward birth to age 3

Finney County will be seeing a new program by April through Kansas Children's Service League aimed at enhancing child health and development, preventing child abuse and neglect and promoting positive parenting.

Date: 1/30/2009

Posted by Kansas Children's Service League on 4/15/2009

Author; Stephanie Farley  sfarley@gctelegram.com 

Finney County commissioners approved earlier this month for the Finney County Health Department to use funding through the state to implement a local Healthy Families program. Healthy Families is provided in Johnson, Reno, Shawnee and other counties in the state.

According to Lisa Knoll, development manager for Kansas Children's Service League (KCSL), KCSL serves more than 280 children through the Head Start program.

Head Start helps support families and parents through, among other services, helping them set goals for themselves and accessing resources to meet those goals, and encouraging them to volunteer in the classroom, as well as obtain their GED or college diploma and attend English as a Second Language classes.

Head Start serves children from birth to age 5, but only about 55 of the children served are birth to age 3, Knoll said. So a majority of the children Head Start reaches are between 3 and 5. Adding the Healthy Families program will provide more support services to children birth to 3 in families currently not served.

Knoll anticipates Healthy Families will start by April 1.

Initially, home visits occur every week for each family, Knoll said. The idea is that as families proceed through the program, they'll grow to be more independent and the number of home visits will decrease.

The program, she said, ensures there are supports in place for children and families that will prevent, among other things, child abuse. Knoll said there can be child abuse risk factors present in a family, and if those stressors are present, they may lead to abuse.

By being in the Healthy Families program, Knoll said, the hope is that the chance of child abuse occurring decreases. She said the program works to build the parental bonds with the child early on -- either working with the parents prenatally or within the first three months or so of the family's first child.

According to KCSL, core services through Healthy Families include ensuring families have a medical provider, educating parents on a child's development processes, assisting families in completing recommended immunization and well-child schedules, assisting families in identifying their baby's needs, supporting families in the home and helping families feel more empowered.

Healthy Families won't receive its funding through the county. Instead, the funding for the program funnels through the Finny County Health Department to KCSL.

According to KCSL, Medicaid match funds are available through the Kansas Health Policy Authority for the program and must go through a governmental agency.

The Medicaid match is a dollar-for-dollar match with the funds raised by KCSL to provide the program -- half of the funding providing the program to seven additional counties already has been provided through Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) funds. Matching the ECBG funding with Medicaid dollars will provide all of the funding for the program for the first year.

Knoll and KCSL estimate first-year funding for the program will be enough to serve 20 families at about $5,500 apiece -- the program will have about 2 1/2 employees in its first year.

The cost of serving a family decreases as the number of staff increases, with the program hoping to get a full team of about five home visitors to serve about 100 families as the program grows.

According to KCSL, growth is based on the number of family referrals and the need seen in a community -- some programs take longer than others to expand based on the need.

The health department is allowed to keep up to 1 percent of the program's funds to cover the time spent by health department staff on a one-page report based on the KCSL quarterly report.

The health department then submits it to the Kansas Health Policy Authority for approval and transfer of funds.

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