By Pat Jenkins
The Family Support Center serving the Bethel area will stay open, but four other centers will close as a result of lost funding, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department announced.
The action is the result of a $626,000 reduction in funding for the department’s Family Support services programs this year. The agency’s Early Family Support Services (EFSS) contract with Children’s Administration ended Dec. 31, 2013. EFSS was a home visiting program for clients who needed help with parenting skills but weren’t active Child Protective Services (CPS) cases.
Those services have been “a critical part of the fabric of our community,” said Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, director of health for the Health Department. “Closing Family Support Centers is a sad outcome of the ending of a significant contract, but we’re keeping our focus on preserving services to as many people as possible.”
One of the centers is operated in a partnership with Bethel School District. Other agencies that run centers include Pierce County Community Connections, Children’s Home Society, Catholic Community Services, Centro Latino, Orting School District, Hope Sparks, and MultiCare Health System.
The Bethel center will stay open, as will the Sumner, Orting, Key Peninsula, Eastside and White River centers. But four other centers – Puyallup, Parkland, Lakewood and Hilltop – will close Feb. 28.
The centers that are continuing were chosen because their geographic locations can maintain the greatest level of client access countywide, officials said.
Chen said the centers serve 38,000 people throughout Pierce County by connecting them with parenting services, healthcare-related serves for children, home nurse visiting and other resources.
Family Support Centers have been on the brink of closures previously. Last March, several of them faced budget challenges with a $1.6 million cut in federal Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match funding. In July, the Board of Health convened a task force to study how communities can work together to preserve family support services.
The focus now is “on looking at the task force recommendations in the areas of structure, funding, advocacy and communication,” said Sebrena Chambers, director of the Strengthening Families division.