Fred Cowan sees differences agency makes during ‘shadow’ visits
February 18, 2016
During a recent meeting of the Family & Children’s Place Board of Directors, member Fred Cowan, a former Kentucky attorney general and retired Jefferson County Circuit Court judge, shared that he had shadowed some agency staff in two program visits. He visited HANDS, which works with new parents to provide babies a happy and healthy start, and Families and Schools Together (FAST), an after-school program that works with at-risk students at Meyzeek Middle School.
I’ve served on many boards and we always hear that we’re doing good work, but this gave me a chance to go out and see the work, to decide for myself what we do, how we do it and the impact we are making.
I am fortunate in that I am retired, so I have some time to spend with staff in the field. I started with our HANDS program (in-home visitation with new parents to give babies the best start possible). I met in the home of a young woman – maybe 19 – way out Dixie Highway, and her baby, along with one of our Family Visitation Workers. It was very interesting.
HANDS is state funded, but we’re (Family & Children’s Place) the only agency providing the service in Jefferson County. The goal ultimately is to help prevent child abuse, but the program also helps build connections between a parent or parents and their baby, helps them establish a healthy home, and connects other family members to the effort to get the baby’s life off to the right start.
Services can begin even before the baby is born and last until the baby is two years old. Staff uses proven tools and resources with the parents, talking with them about how to manage stress, the changes and the needs of the baby. It’s all about raising the consciousness of the parent to the child’s needs. It’s a really deep program.
Last year, HANDS worked with 558 families, about 1,200 people. That sounds like a lot, but when you think of the need, the number of new parents each year in Louisville who could benefit from this program, we have a lot of room to grow and lots of good we can do.
The wonderful thing about HANDS is that our staff is directly impacting the health and welfare of a child and his or her family, making a real difference. But we are also directly impacting their future, their potential and their future roles in our community.
We’re building better and stronger families and giving children the best start to be committed and engaged citizens.
Cowan also shadowed our Families and Schools Together (FAST) program staff, part of the agency’s Family & School Services program, at Meyzeek Middle School.
This is an after-school program that goes from 2:30 to 5 or 5:30 daily. The day I was there, they were working on art skills, homework, reading and crafts. These are at-risk kids in middle school, one of the most challenging times for young people – imagine the stresses and pressures they are under from parents, peers and others.
I saw this program have great impact on these kids. They were interested, engaged, willing and open to learning and finding ways to get along. It was inspiring. Staff works with parents, too, and the school – it really is a partnership and everyone benefits. We’re doing wonderful things there and we can prove it.
We measure, we track kids and their progress – behavior and grades, so we can see the impact we are making. By the end of the program, the kids are doing better in school, significantly better. They are doing better with other students and at home. The program creates these positive outcomes. We are making an important and necessary difference for these kids.
By going out and spending time with these programs and our staff, I have even more confidence in our work, in the contributions we are making to this community. We have lots of programs beyond the two I visited with and I am convinced they are creating just as much change as these two.
I saw it for myself. I saw the tools, the resources, the talents of staff. I was part of the process to measure and track results to prove positive outcomes. We (Family & Children’s Place) are making a real difference for children in Louisville and these are stories people need to hear.
Thanks, Fred Cowan, for helping us tell and share these stories.