Week 34: Protecting Children in Crisis: Paint-&-Sip with Family Intervention Services
According to the NJ Department of Children and Families, there were 59,151 referrals for child abuse and neglect in 2013. All were referred for investigation. Just about 10,000 of them became active/open cases. Ongoing neglect, physical and/or sexual abuse, domestic/school/community violence… these are the environments of children living in trauma… of families in crisis. It’s a world behind closed doors, a secret space in society. It is into this world that Family Intervention Services (FIS) steps, with the goal of protecting children and rehabilitating families.
A private, non-profit organization, FIS is one of the most innovative New Jersey family and youth service providers. Their family-centered and family-driven programs are designed to protect the children and stabilize families through over 30 types of supports and programs.
The effects on children who live in toxic stress and significant trauma are severe. Children in these environments adapt ways of coping which allow them to function day-to-day but have negative long-term consequences including social-emotional and behavioral issues, trust issues, neurodevelopmental and cognitive deficiencies and more.
A landmark study in the late 1990s performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente examined potential links between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and health and social problems as an adult. The results were astonishing. The higher the ACEs scores, the greater the risk of academic failure, social issues and behavior problems as children and suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, chronic disease, mental illness, and premature death in adulthood. These children also have a far greater likelihood of either inflicting or being the victim of violence later in life. The findings have been widely validated by additional studies.
I met Jeanne Warnock, LCSW, who founded FIS in 1981 and is now its President/CEO, at a Paint and Sip fundraiser for the organization. A few dozen people had gathered together to enjoy dinner, paint ceramic plates/bowls, share stories and support this wonderful organization. I was fortunate to have chosen a seat across from Jeanne and in the midst of several of her counselors and staff.
After selecting our pottery, our hosts at Arts & Creations in Woodland Park, NJ helped us choose our colors and work on our designs. Thoughts of Valentine’s Day and Spring were in the air in the chosen dish shapes and colors! Most of us were hesitant to start painting because mistakes could not be erased, but the staff at Arts & Creations were on hand to help us as we worked! Lori Henry, FIS’ Director of Community Development, was our cheerleader….. encouraging us in our designs, ensuring we had plenty to eat and drink, and calling out numbers for the ongoing raffles of the night!
Having began in 1981 with a staff of 2 serving 5 families in Morristown, NJ, the organization has grown to over 105 full-time and 40 part-time employees who support 30 programs across 6 locations in NJ. Since inception, FIS has served over 50,000 individuals, children and families.
FIS believes all families needing help should have convenient, timely access to support and services they need to be successful. They offer creative solutions to provide supports such as a Children’s Mobile Response and Stabilization Service which provides immediate, in-person response 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They also offer several different types of intervention and counseling programs such as the Family Intensive In-Home Treatment Service, which provides intensive in-home treatment to prevent out of home placement when the safety of the child is at risk. Counselors provide up to 20 hours of in-home counseling/therapy a week for up to 6 months with the goal of stabilizing the family and helping them build effective skills.
Jeanne firmly believes it is essential to prevent unnecessary removal of children from home and to return them from out of home placement whenever it is viable to do so. FIS works intensively with families to help them build and sustain healthy, parenting skills and productive relationships so families can be self-sufficient and independent. They use a family-centered approach where families and children participate in helping plan and identify the services most appropriate to achieve success.
Many of the services include a preemptive approach – designed to intervene with families BEFORE they reach crisis stage that warrants removal of children from the home. Early engagement and outreach through partnerships with schools, churches and local organizations allow FIS to develop creative solutions to support families and communities before crisis level intervention is needed.
Crisis intervention, family education and counseling, outpatient services, pre-and post adoption counseling and parent support programs (skills training, budgeting guidance, stress management skills, etc.) are just some of the other programs available to families who need them. In addition, they can refer families to a myriad of services outside their scope for basic needs (food, medical, housing, etc.), psychiatric therapy and more.
All of the programs and services provided by FIS are free to their client families.
In addition to working with families, FIS offers a highly-respected training institute for professionals working in the human services field, with programs in clinical supervision, assessment and interventions. And they provide training workshops to businesses, non profits, schools, county and state government and community groups on a variety of topics such as adoption, family functioning, cultural competencies, difficult to engage adolescents, cognitive distortions in school-aged children and much more.
The Paint and Sip event provided a fun and relaxing backdrop to get to know Jeanne and her wonderful staff. Her passion for working with children in crisis and families in need was palpable. It was evident her employees were just as passionate.
As we cleaned up our areas and handed our pieces over to be fired in the kiln, I reflected on the event. Listening to Jeanne and her staff share their stories and learning about the many FIS programs, I was touched by their passion and desire to help others. It is clear that the organization has tremendous impact on children and families in need in New Jersey.
You can learn more about Family Intervention Services and their programs, or make a donation, by visiting their website at:
FIS held their Paint and Sip at Arts & Creations Pottery Studio in Woodland Park, NJ. I’m looking forward to going there to pick up my finished piece! You can check out their website here: http://www.artscreationspotterystudio.com/