50% of mothers in the Virginia Healthy Families Program last year reported they were abused as children.

That has been my experience working as a guardian ad-litem also. Abused and neglected children grow up to have families of more abused and neglected children.

Once the cycle is broken, children grow up to be normal productive citizens and happy families. Until the cycle is broken, children go on to lead dysfunctional lives and spend years in and out of institutions, failing in school, personal development, and their communities.

This Danville-Pittsylvania program has been helping at-risk children avoid abuse by providing parental guidance and connecting families to other resources; Danville news http://www2.godanriver.com/gdr/news/local/danville_news/article/executive_director_budget_cuts_would_affect_at-risk_children/18842/

Executive director: Budget cuts would affect at-risk children
Published: March 10, 2010
Updated: March 10, 2010

Local children may not get the developmental support they need if state legislators cut funding to Healthy Families Virginia.

The local Healthy Families program, operated by Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services, serves 60 families in Danville and Pittsylvania County every year.

Fewer local families and children would be served if funding gets cut, said Executive Director Jim Bebeau of DPCS.

The program helps at-risk children avoid abuse and neglect by providing parental guidance and connecting families to other resources like counseling, said Johanna Schuchert, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, the state organization that coordinates Healthy Families Virginia.

“That level of support would be gone,” said Lisa Briggs, local Healthy Families coordinator. “Sometimes these people don’t have anybody else.”

The program already received a 10 percent cut from $5.4 million to $4.9 million in the state’s introduced budget. Gov. Bob McDonnell recommended eliminating all state funding for the program.

Legislators continue to debate how to make up for more than a $4 billion state revenue shortfall for the next two-year budget.

So far, both the House and Senate would continue the 10 percent cut for both years. The Senate Finance Committee would cut another $2 million the second year — a 41 percent cut. The House Appropriations Committee would additionally cut $1.37 million (28 percent) the first year and $1.76 million (36 percent) the second year.

Healthy Families Virginia supports the Senate version because it gives the program a year to find additional funding, see what federal health-care reform brings and gives the economy time to turn around, Schuchert said.

Healthy Families guides first-time parents from pregnancy to when the child reaches age 5. Family support workers make home visits to provide information and also to connect parents with needed resources, Briggs said.

The program ensures children receive medical care and screens them for developmental problems, so they get connected to an intervention program early on. For instance, family support workers detect whether children need speech therapy so the child isn’t at a disadvantage upon entering school.

Often, many parents in the program statewide come from abused homes or have other problems like mental illness or substance abuse, Schuchert explained. The program breaks the cycle of abuse.

Fifty percent of mothers in the program last year reported they were abused as children, Schuchert said. Less than 1 percent of the 5,000 families served statewide reported children experiencing abuse last year.

The program prevents at-risk children from developing behaviors that result in use of more resources later on, like incarceration or counseling for disorders or abuse, Schuchert said.
“At times like this, it’s very difficult for our legislators to understand the value of prevention when the squeaky wheel is driving their budget process,” Schuchert said. “We encourage them to set aside as much as possible to support the prevention end of the continuum.”

For every dollar spent on Healthy Families, $4 to $7 in saved in intervention and health care costs, according to program statistics.

Healthy Families also helps parents set goals like finishing their education and getting jobs. Many of the parents helped locally are single moms, Briggs said.

Most of the local program’s funding comes from the state with 39 percent coming from the Virginia Department of Social Services and 18 percent coming through the local social services department with funding from the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program.

The local United Way provides 7 percent of funding and the rest is picked up by Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services.

DPCS still waits to see how budget cuts could affect Community Services, which must have its budget in place to start the next fiscal year in July, Bebeau said. The local agency already absorbed $600,000 in general fund cuts in the past two years.

Now, legislators are talking about additional cuts in general funds and cuts to Medicaid reimbursement, which serves as another major funding stream for Community Services.

The agency instituted a hiring freeze and uses flexibility in staffing in anticipation of cuts, Bebeau said.
“It could be a particularly difficult year,” he said. “All services across Virginia will receive cuts in funding. The depth and breadth of them are what we don’t know.”