Supporting Loving and Lasting Families Goal of Every Child Inc.
Oct 01, 2017 11:09AM
By Hilary Daninhirsch
Meghan Veglia, ECI foster care caseworker, Foster Care Supervisor Alexa Crippen, and foster parents George and Crystal Dufour.
Every Child is a nonprofit organization that supports and advocates on behalf of children and families, whether it is to support foster families or to help families dealing with a physical or mental health diagnosis to stay together. We spoke with Executive Director Laura Maines about the important work her organization is doing.
North Hills Monthly (NHM): What is the organization’s mission?
Laura Maines (Maines): Every Child develops, preserves and strengthens the relationship to family and community that is essential to every child’s growth and development through child-focused and family-driven programs.
NHM: What is the organization’s history?
Maines: Every Child was founded in 1997 by a woman named Susan Davis on the belief that all children, no matter age, race or special health care need, deserves the opportunity to grow up in a loving and lasting family. We started working with kids and families with special needs, both in terms of providing in-home supportive services and foster care for medically fragile youth.
NHM: Has that goal changed?
Maines: Over the years, the agency has grown, though we really have stayed true to that initial ideal, which is every child deserves a healthy, loving, safe, nurturing home. What started as in-home support and foster care has grown to include prevention programs as well as community-based behavioral health services.
NHM: What is the scope of your services? Let’s start with Child & Family Services.
Maines: Overall, it’s focused on strengthening and preserving families. We want to make sure families stay together. Our ultimate goal is to avoid an out-of-home placement for a child. If that is not possible, we want to provide a safe environment. We certify foster homes, recruit and train foster parents, and support foster families in working with kids living with them.
We also have foster-to-adopt families, as well as a number of families who just do foster care and in some ways serve as mentors to biological parents whose children are placed with them.
We also provide in-home family preservation services; these are services for families who are either at risk for having a child removed from care or who have already had a child removed and are working on addressing their challenges so they may be reunified with their child. Services can include parent education and budgeting; we link families to community resources.
We also provide medical wraparound services; this is like in-home family preservation services, but these are families not active with CYS, and we’re trying to prevent them from becoming active with CYS. We work with families with complex medical needs and help families understand diagnoses and help manage a child’s needs. Finally, we have pregnancy support with trained doula service, working with moms who are at high risk of having a negative outcome with their pregnancy.
NHM: What about the scope of your clinical services?
Maines: Our clinical services provide an opportunity for families to address a behavioral health diagnosis in a structured way, led by a team of highly trained clinicians. There are two basic types of service—family-based mental health is our most intensive clinical service. Services are offered in the home for families with children with significant behavior problems who have had no progress from less intensive therapies, have a mental health diagnosis and a risk of hospitalization.
We also have a family-based autism team that provides a specialized focus for children with autism for whom less intensive treatment has not been successful.
Our family-focused, solution-based services are slightly less intensive—they’re preventive in nature and designed for families with a parent or child who suffers from a serious behavioral or emotional issue. We’re trying to reduce the risk of out-of-home placement. We meet in the home to develop a treatment plan and work with the entire family.
NHM: Are there other organizations like this in Pittsburgh, and if so, what sets your apart?
Maines: I think there are other agencies that provide similar services and unfortunately, there is plenty of need to go around, so we all work together in addressing that need. I would say what makes us different is our size. We’re a small to mid-sized agency, and that allows us to really get to know the families we are working with. Our size affords us a lot of innovation and ultimately a lot of professional intimacy with each other and with the families and children that we’re serving. That is the Every Child difference.
NHM: Can you estimate the number of children and families that Every Child has impacted?
Maines: Our average per year is about 500-600 individuals, but we work with the whole family—if you take into account the whole family, we are touching 1,500-2,000 lives per year with our work.
NHM: How can people become involved?
Maines: We are always looking for foster families willing to open their homes. Unfortunately, there are more kids in care than foster homes available. It really doesn’t take a special skill set to be a foster family—all that is required is that you have a heart for kids and are willing to open your home and bring them into your life for however long they’re there. If anyone is interested in dipping a toe in but not really sure exactly what to expect, we often need respite foster care families willing to take a child for a week or weekend.
NHM: Are there also other ways people can help?
Maines: We certainly are always accepting donations through our website. We can always use baby clothes and use gift cards. With respect to events, we are always looking for silent auction donations, and an opportunity to buy an ad in our event program.
NHM: Do you have any special fundraising events in the wings?
Maines: On November 10, we’re doing an event at Heinz History Center to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We’re doing cocktails and a silent auction, and we'll have great music and a scavenger hunt. That is our biggest fall fundraiser. Closer to the holidays, we do an angel tree, asking individuals and companies to be a Secret Santa. This year we’re also going to be doing a golf outing at Laurel Valley Golf Club in May, a first for us.
For more information, visit www.everychildinc.org or call 412-665-0600 or toll-free at 1-888-665-2940. n