FamiliesFirst Network provides child welfare, foster care and adoption services in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. Our specialized team is passionate about helping abused and neglected children and their families. We collaborate with partners throughout the state, in Northwest Florida’s four-county area and within our faith-based communities to ensure the safety and well-being of children.
Specially trained case managers support children and families with a wide range of needs – from outside of the home in foster or adoptive care, to prevention services inside the biological home, working to keep families together. In cases of suspected abuse, it is everyone’s responsibility to make a report.
When a child is removed from the biological home, reunifying that child with their family is always the initial goal. But when that goal shifts to adoption, we recruit some incredible people to wrap the children in love and provide safe homes. For those interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents, FamiliesFirst Network provides training and support to help you along your journey. We also offer young adult services to guide and assist those transitioning out of foster care.
When you think of child welfare, many people think of foster care and adoption. At FamiliesFirst Network, these are important parts of our work, but about 1/3 of our cases involve working with families whose children remain in their homes with their biological parents. In cases where we can identify that a parent needs help with something like anger management, financial skills, food, housing, a job or transportation, we create a case plan that helps the family achieve those basic needs required to stay together.
Our foremost goal is to keep children safe in all situations, but we know that families experience poverty, illness, job loss – ingredients for anxiety and stress that can lead to dire circumstances and poor decisions. Sometimes we do have to place a child in foster care or with a close family member or friend while the parent works through a case plan. Our process involves three main action steps: 1) protect the child 2) assess the situation, and 3) link the parents to the resources they need to be successful parents.
In instances where the parents don’t engage in their case plan, we turn to adoption, but studies show that removing a child from a biological home is traumatic. We know that unless we tackle the root problem, the cycle of abuse and trauma will repeat. Often, all that’s needed is a case plan led by a child welfare expert to help parents learn how to manage the life stressors that lead to challenging behaviors.
When someone sees abuse or neglect and reports it, our team takes seriously the fact that a family is in danger, and we work to make them whole again if possible. We provide the services we would want for our own families.