Safe Children Coalition staff members (from l-r) Sherri Weiland, CAPTA Unit Supervisor; Stacey Schaeffer, Sr Director of Prevention & Diversion Services; Michelle Gaines, CAPTA Program Manager; and Marlena Calzavara-Right, CAPTA Unit Supervisor

SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – With National Child Abuse Prevention Month (April) concluded and National Foster Care Awareness Month (May) well underway, those working in the child welfare realm continue to recognize and affirm the importance of communities working together to help families thrive and prevent child maltreatment. Thanks to federal funding as well as strategic local partnerships, Safe Children Coalition (SCC) has recently launched the CAPTA Home Visiting Program, a new endeavor that aims to promote infant health and safety.

This new program is federally-funded through the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA), and is focused on one of our community’s most vulnerable populations: substance exposed/affected newborns and their families.

One of the primary reasons calls are made to the state’s child abuse hotline and screened-in for investigative services is due to substance abuse issues, many of them opioid-related. Since July of 2021, Circuit 12 has received 165 reports to the hotline due to substance exposed newborns; of those, 117 were screened-in for investigation.  

SCC’s CAPTA Home Visiting Program is a voluntary, evidence-based program with family-focused services for those who are at risk for entering or have a history of being involved in the child welfare system of care. The program goals are to decrease substance exposed births, substance exposed removals, and increase child and family well-being.

At the core of the CAPTA Home Visiting Program is the Plan of Safe Care, whose purpose is to identify pregnant women and new mothers with substance misuse (controlled substances and alcohol), connect them with resources, and provide ongoing supportive services. A plan of safe care must address not only the immediate safety needs of any affected infants but also the health and substance use disorder treatment needs of the affected family member(s) or caregiver(s).

“A Plan of Safe Care explains the supports that are available to help a pregnant or new mother to be the best possible parent to her baby, listing all of the important people who are part of their support team – such as a partner, family, friends, doctors and other treatment providers,” explained Dena Michelle Gaines, SCC’s CAPTA Program Manager. “Not only does the CAPTA Home Visiting Program let parents and caregivers know they have a support system in place, it also calls for the building of a plan that includes their aspirations and dreams, priorities, strengths and barriers, and celebrations of success, so that they can start believing in and building a better future.”

From July 2021 – when the contract for CAPTA services under Florida’s Department of Children and Families started – through March of 2022, the program provided 351 families monthly home visiting services.

For more about Safe Children Coalition, visit sccfl.org.

About Safe Children Coalition, Inc.
Safe Children Coalition, Inc. (SCC) serves as the lead agency for community-based care for Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. SCC is a collaboration between local community agencies that provide services to children and families in need. SCC is committed to protecting children, strengthening families, and building community. The core functions provided by SCC include: child welfare case management, foster care, adoption, independent living, prevention, diversion, quality management, and support services as well as other social service programs. Visit sccfl.org or call 941-371-4799.

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