Social services offers supportive family meetings


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Johnson County Social Services officials hope a new trial program, starting Feb. 10, will assist struggling families to prevent future problems.

Social Services has allocated $2,000 of state funding to create support sessions under the Family Team Meetings Program.  

These meetings will offer a combination of advice, as well as planning, for families in need in order to lower the use for foster care or juvenile correction.

Lynette Jacoby, the director of Johnson County Social Services, outlined the goal of the meetings and how they intend to alleviate pressures families may be facing.

“The purpose of Family Team Meetings is to bring families together to help them identify key players in their lives, such as relatives, educators, etc.,” she said. “The purpose is to engage families and identify their strengths, their recourses, and their barriers to help them overcome problems.”

Jacoby spoke about how the community partnerships for protecting children, a subcommittee in Johnson County Social Services, decides on where funding will be spent. This year, the group has chosen to invest into offering meetings for families who are not in the Iowa Department of Human Services system.

Johnson County’s Community Partnership for Protecting Children coordinator LaTasha Massey stressed the importance of initiating the meetings and allowing for more public access.

“We want to offer families a chance to work out problems without getting involved with state agencies, as a preventative measure to help them from needing foster care or other services,” she said.

Massey said by helping families address issues before they get out of hand, officials will lower the number of families who need to enter the Department of Human Services’ system. She feels that this will reduce the reliance of foster care and curb the need for juvenile correction, in turn, lessening Johnson County’s spending on those services.

During a Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 30, Jacoby informed the supervisors local officials plan on contracting through a program in Linn County.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan voiced some apprehension over outsourcing the meetings.

“We feel that some of the Social Service efforts have been centered in Linn County,” he said during the meeting.

Jacoby indicated Johnson County lacks both the manpower and infrastructure to hold the meetings locally, so in an effort to save time and money, Jacoby plans to work through an established group in Linn County.

As of now, the plan is to contract a trial run with partnerships for safe families, lasting until June 30. If the demand is high, then Social Services will investigate full-term contracts.

Massey aims to have the family appointments organized and running by Feb. 10. People seeking to utilize the service are to contact Massey through the group.

“Our goal is to see how many families utilize this service, and if we see many, we’ll look for additional funding to expand the program,” Massey said.

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