Director on Illinois’ new family support plan: ‘Our kids are best in a family setting’ | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – Illinois’ Family First Prevention Plan was recently approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The federal government is providing funding to states to focus on transforming their child welfare systems by focusing on supporting families. By using research-proven interventions, Illinois’ plan aims to strengthen families in crisis to prevent situations where children end up in foster care, according to a news release from the state.

Program Manager Kevin Gordon says there is a stigma around kids in the foster care system.

“The traumatic events that happen to a child from entering the system have a long-term effect, and so these are some of the things we are trying to deter by not even having them enter the system in the first place,” he said.

Keeping kids at home whenever possible is the goal, he says.

“Keeping our families together, trying to give them the support that strengthens the families, but hopefully to realize their dreams ultimately, because our kids are best in a family setting,” he said.

Gordon outlined three main areas of focus.

“Those evidence-based interventions fall within about three areas, and so that’s mental health, substance abuse and parenting programming,” he said.

There are eight interventions in all including home visiting, nurturing parenting programs, multi-system therapy and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, according to Gordon, but they are very excited about one in particular called motivational interviewing.

“It gives those parents, it gives the children, the confidence that they need, the self-esteem, to want to change and not get frustrated when there may be a setback or a challenge that comes about, but that they will continue on with the plan because they have the necessary skill set,” he said.

He hopes this will help families break cycles.

The nurturing parenting program will help instill parenting skills into young parents while the multi-system therapy will focus on communities and families and aims to help juveniles who are already in the system, according to Gordon.

Gordon pointed out the state of Illinois has over 3,100 direct service case workers and providers in this program.

“It’s a monumental effort,” he said.

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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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