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Keeping a family together

When Christy’s job was eliminated, she lost health care benefits for herself and her children. Her 11-year-old son was born with a health condition that required regular medical care, but now without health insurance, Christie missed a medical appointment.

Knowing that ongoing medical treatment was critical for this boy, the doctor called child protective services. This was Christy’s first interaction with the child welfare system.

The Department of Children and Family Services did not remove her son from her care; instead they referred the family to the Paths to Success Program (P2S) at Family Support Services, a family preservation program that works with intact families living in the Alameda County zip codes where entries into foster care are highest. Because the family was now part of the child welfare system, Christy’s son became eligible for MediCAL insurance, and by receiving services from P2S, Christy and her family were able to receive immediate support and services.

Over the course of six months, the family’s P2S advocate visited the home weekly, sometimes more. Together, they focused on Christy’s son, who had some developmental problems in addition to his medical needs. He was overweight, reluctant to go outside and play, and had few friends. They enrolled him in therapy and in an after-school program where he had to climb stairs and went swimming every day. He lost weight and gained confidence. 

Christy’s advocate also helped to balance some of the other challenging aspects of Christy’s life. She referred Christy to individual and family therapy for both her and her son, encouraged her to take parenting classes, and helped her write a resume and look for a job.

The benefits of P2S for Christy were obvious. Their family dynamics had changed for the better. Christy pointed out that her children don’t argue as much as before. “They used to fight constantly, and that has totally stopped,” she said. “Sometimes I think, ‘Am I in the wrong house?’”

Christy’s case is closed now, and she knows that she will not lose her children. On her last court date, “I just started floating,” she said. From her work with P2S, she knows more about handling stress, and all of her children are healthy and happy. Christy believes now that she will never be in the child welfare system again.

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