Austin Children’s Services (ACS – formerly Austin Children’s Shelter) is taking the lead role in a major evidence-based child abuse prevention program in Travis County called Project HOPES (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support). Lead funding of $1.8 million over 14 months from the Texas Department Health and Human Services will provide intensive home visitation and parent education to 574 at-risk families with children ages 0-5 over 14 months.
Project HOPES is a collaborative effort of ACS’ Strong Start program, SafePlace, Any Baby Can and CommunitySync. Organizations throughout the Austin community, including Austin and Manor school districts, Communities in Schools, Goodwill, Avance, and others, will refer families to Project HOPES. Parents will be able to receive a combination of home visits by trained parent-child specialists, access to other community services, and ongoing support groups, coaching sessions and classes.
ACS’ Strong Start program has a long history of providing effective child abuse prevention programs that will serve as the platform for assisting families who are at a greater risk of trauma and abuse. Parent education is delivered through home visits and group parenting classes using the evidence-based Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) method. Triple P gives parents simple and practical strategies that enrich the relationship between parents and children and help build strong, healthy relationships.
“We are eager to bring these life-saving services to families in Central Texas who need them desperately,” explained Kelly White, CEO of Austin Children’s Services. “Families under stress can be very dangerous places for young children, and the programs and services we’ll be providing through Project HOPES have been proven to reduce stress and keep kids safe.”
“What we’ve learned through Strong Start is that parents who have a history of abuse in their own lives often don’t know how to respond to their kids. They know they don’t want to repeat their parents’ mistakes, but they don’t know what to do instead,” explains Lori Seeds-Martin, Director of Strong Start. “When we teach parenting techniques and tools that work, the stress level in the entire family drops. The parents feel more in control and the kids feel less anxiety.”
The goal of the program is to reach 574 families over the next 14 months. “Studies have shown that each non-fatal case of child abuse carries a lifetime cost to society of more than $210,000,” says White. “Those are costs that get spent on medical services, police, the judicial system, the child welfare system, and the prison system – all those systems that respond after the fact. So not only do programs like this actually save money in the long run, but the ripple effect of kids growing up in homes that are happy and stable instead of insecure and dangerous is truly incalculable.”
Working at the community level, a fourth grant partner, CommunitySync, will ensure that local systems are communicating and collaborating in ways that enhance the safety and well-being of kids. CommunitySync will provide evaluation, facilitation and identification of critical areas where community organizations can come together for a greater impact in ending abuse and trauma.
“It’s this sort of coordination that will keep paying off years from now, long after the grant period is over,” explained Seeds-Martin. “We’ll be working to optimize the entire infrastructure of services in Austin on behalf of kids at risk. That’s a great win for our city.”
Individuals and organizations throughout the Austin community can refer families under stress to Project HOPES by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Austin Children's Services provides a continuum of services designed both to treat and prevent child abuse and neglect through residential and community-based programs. Our residential program, Austin Children’s Shelter, provides emergency shelter for children removed from their homes; a transitional living program for youth preparing to age out of foster care; and a teen parent program to help break the cycle of abuse. The children, youth, and teens in our residential programs all receive intensive educational, counseling, medical, and case management support to help them feel safe, heal and make a positive and lasting difference in their lives. The community-based programs include foster family placing services through Foster in Austin; therapeutic prevention programs that work with at-risk families through Strong Start; and Care Academy, a child development and family support center that offers affordable child care, parent education and coaching, and more. For more information, visit www.austinchildrensservices.org.