A History of Family Connections

Click on the year to find out what happened that year in the history of Family Connections.

University of Maryland School of Social Work in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics successfully received a five-year federal grant from the USDHHS, Children’s Bureau (CB) to develop, implement, and test a community based program to prevent child neglect.
After working with a community advisory committee for 10 months, this program was named Family Connections (FC) and established its first office in the Washington Village/Pigtown Village Center at 904 Washington Blvd. The first field instructor was hired through the Social Work Community Outreach Service (SWCOS), and the first five social work interns joined the program in the fall of 1997. 30 families were served in the first official year of operation.
The decision was made to expand services to reach more families and a rental lease was signed on a row house on West Barre Street, just a few blocks from the Village Center. A partnership was developed with the Title IV-E Education for Child Welfare Program which brought funding for a second field instructor and an academic coordinator. Ten social work interns joined the program in the fall of 1998. 64 families were served between 1998 and 1999, and the first two FC newsletters were distributed to families and community providers.
The FC program developed a 12-month collaboration with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS) to establish a FC unit in the Penn-North office to work with families when children entered foster care for the first time because of neglect. A third faculty field instructor and a second academic coordinator were hired and 18 MSW students joined the program operating in two sites for the 1999-2000 academic year. This one year project demonstrated that intensive FC services could help children reunify with their families, even when their parents had serious drug or mental health problems. During this same year, FC obtained a grant from the USDHHS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to replicate a parent group program - Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities. Families served by Family Connections had the opportunity to participate in parent groups that were held in various faith based settings in West Baltimore. During the 1999-2000 year, 60 families were served in the original demonstration project, seven families were served in the FC-BCDSS project compared to the same number served by BCDSS, and two parent groups were held. In preparation for moving SSW research activities to the new Law-Social Work building, the Helena Foundation contributed to the building fund which supports space that now houses the research staff members who conduct FC research.
By the end of this year, FC had accepted the last family to be served by the original demonstration project and we proceeded to serve families through support from the SAMHSA grant, using the CB grant to conduct follow-up research interviews with the first 154 families and 473 children served by FC. Several more parent groups were implemented. The Helena Foundation provided a second gift to the building fund and after the doors were opened in the new building, the research operations moved into the space at 550 W. Baltimore St.
FC obtained an Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) Baltimore Direct Services Grant to enhance the parent group program so that transportation and refreshments would enhance participation in these services. FC continued to provide home-based services for families served through funding from SAMHSA and Title IV-E. The FC program received the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Martin Luther King Diversity Award. This award recognizes achievements in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness and represents equality, justice and opportunity for all peoples. The recipients serve as models for the entire campus of the personal and professional commitment to the ideals epitomized by the life and work of Dr. King.
FC continued to serve families through combined support from Title IV-E, AECF, and SAMHSA. Families were served with home based and group services. The final report was submitted for the FC five-year federally funded demonstration and Family Connections was nominated as a demonstrated effective program. Based on promising results related to preventing child neglect and avoiding the need for formal child welfare services, the Maryland Department of Human Services (DHR), Social Services Administration (SSA) began to financially support FC program operations. Based on a recognized need of grandparent families previously served by the program, FC partnered with the Schools of Nursing and Law to tailor and pilot FC for grandparent families with combined support from Georgia State University, the Hasbro Foundation, the Maryland Children’s Trust Fund, and the Maryland, and SSA. The pilot involved implementing an interdisciplinary FC intervention for grandparents raising grandchildren and facilitating a Saturday Youth Academy and support groups based on the Georgia State University’s Project Healthy Grandparent project. A paper testing a neglect scale used with FC families was published in the journal, Child Maltreatment and a paper exploring the strengths perspective based on focus groups with FC families and others was published in the Family Preservation Journal.
Gaynell Simpson, a PhD student who worked as a Graduate Assistant in the FC research office successfully defended her dissertation, An exploration of social support and coping and the impact on caregiver well-being among African American grandmothers who provide care for their grandchildren - a qualitative study with grandparents who had previously been served by FC. FC was selected as a demonstrated effective program by the U.S. DHHS Office of Child Abuse and Neglect. In September 2003, DHHS developed cooperative agreements with eight organizations around the nation to replicate FC through five-year cooperative agreements. One of these agreements is with the SSW to replicate FC with intergenerational families. After a year of planning that included substantial involvement of a community advisory committee, Grandparent Family Connections (GFC) was developed as a program of FC. Funding for program services continued to be primarily supported through MD DHR/SSA and the Title IV-E grant. The USDHHS CB with a match from the AECF supported legal and health services and research to test whether differential interventions resulted in differences in terms of outcomes and cost effectiveness. The SSW provided technical assistance and training through mentoring agreements with all programs replicating FC.
FC continued to provide services to families and their children in West Baltimore. Student interns within the FC program received the (UMB) Martin Luther King Diversity Award to recognize UMB students who demonstrated that they carried out the ideals of Dr. King in advocating for equality, justice and opportunity for all peoples. GFC opened recruitment to grandparent families. FC services and education continued to be funded by DHR/SSA and Title IV-E, the CB and AECF continued to support research on the replication of FC with grandparent families, and mentoring and technical assistance continued for other programs replicating FC. Diane DePanfilis was recognized as the UMB founders’ research lecturer of the year, primarily based on research conducted on FC. A paper on the relationship between housing adequacy and the quality of physical child care, based on families served by FC was published in the journal, Child Welfare.
FC and GFC continued to provide services to families and their children in West Baltimore through support from DHR/SSA and Title IV-E. Mentoring continued with all programs replicating FC and the CB and AECF supported research of the GFC replication. Through a generous grant from the Helena Foundation, FC/GFC was able to plan for a technology upgrade and a move to larger space. The results of the FC demonstration project were published in the journal, Child Maltreatment.
While FC services continued on the west side, services by GFC expanded to all parts of Baltimore City. The program moved from the row house on Barre Street to the Nimrod Center with new equipment and furniture provided by the Helena Foundation in 2005. Funding partners continued their support of services and research and the Oros Foundation provided a grant to support concrete services provided to families by FC and GFC. The Helena Foundation provided a second gift to the program to support the FC/GFC Multi-Family Events and to support a grandparent housing-service initiative planned for 2007.
In 2007 GFC, with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Isabelle and Zanvyl Krieger Fund, and the Helena Foundation, we became the lead agency in the development of a Baltimore City Intergenerational Housing and Service Initiative that will develop a plan for the initiation of agrandfamily housing and service model in Baltimore City. Services continue to be provided by FC and GFC and research on the GFC replication continue. The University of Maryland (UMB) Family Informed Trauma Treatment Center was awarded a SAMHSA grant to develop family based trauma treatment models. The UMB Department of Child Psychiatry, the Kennedy Krieger Family Center, and Family Connections collaborated to develop models of service; FC specifically created a Trauma Adapted Family Connections design. 2007 is the last year of CB supported mentoring of the other federally funded programs replicating FC.
Family Connections was rated as a Promising Practice by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. Family Connections was also identified in the Pew Charitable Trust report Time for Reform: Investing in Prevention Keeping Children Safe at Home as a promising program developed to prevent child abuse and neglect from occurring in the first place. A study on the cost effectiveness of Family Connections was published in Child Abuse & Neglect.
A Special Edition of Protecting Children was dedicated to the replication of Family Connections across eight sites in the United States. In this edition, an article focused on the Baltimore replication, Grandparent Family Connections, and the lessons learned from grandparents. During this year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration subcontracted to replicate TA-FC at The Center for PERC, Colorado State University School of Social Work.
Caring for others as a Positive Experience (COPE) a four year, four state NIH/National Institute of Nursing research grant was awarded to examine the differential effectiveness of parent training and cognitive behavioral therapy on the psychological adjustment of both custodial grandparents and custodial grandchildren.
The University of Maryland (UMB) Family Informed Trauma Treatment Center was awarded a one year extension to the SAMHSA grant to develop family based trauma treatment models. This extension included a continuance of the Trauma Adapted Family Connections design. Also, the Trauma Education Connections Initiative at UM, SSW adopts TA-FC within the curriculum as evidence supported prevention intervention for MSW students. In a special edition of Child Welfare, an article on the development and implementation of TA-FC was published and dedicated to trauma informed child welfare practice.
The University of Maryland (UMB) Family Informed Trauma Treatment Center was awarded an additional four year SAMHSA. The UMB Department of Child Psychiatry, the Kennedy Krieger Family Center, and Family Connections Baltimore collaborated to develop a model for working with families experiencing complex traumas. Additional joint efforts were developed and afamily practitioner toolkit. Its dissemination and assessment tool (FANS Trauma) was also developed to apply a family lens for those experiencing trauma. Trauma Adapted Family Connections replicated its design at two sites during the course of the grant, developing training tools, and worked collaboratively with other sites conducting community-based services in addressing staff compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue.
TA-FC was identified as one of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Empirically Supported Treatments and Promising Practices.

This year the 2014 Maryland Charities campaign is about Sharing and Helping others in our own communities. We are all readily aware that there are many worthy choices to consider, especially a number in the SSW that directly work to achieve this goal. Please give some thought to Family Connections at Baltimore (FCB). FCB an in home family strengthening program of the Ruth H. Young Center for Families and Children, is now in its seventeenth year of successfully providing services to families who have difficulty meeting their children’s basic needs. We have been recognized as a promising practice by the U. S. D.H.H.S. Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, the California Evidence-Based Clearing House for Child Welfare, and the Pew Charitable Trust. The model has been replicated in several locations across the country and results from a Children’s Bureau cross-site analysis indicated that the model demonstrated the same promising results while suggesting fidelity to the model makes a difference in improving outcomes. Over the years FCB has developed augmented service models to meet the needs of special populations such as Grandparent Family Connections and Trauma Adapted Family Connections. Trauma Adapted Family Connections (TA-FC), funded in part by a grant form the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, has demonstrated results indicating significant positive outcomes working with families who have experienced trauma, especially complex developmental trauma. TA-FC is identified as one of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Empirically Supported Treatments and Promising Practices. In addition, in the past couple years we have included the use of other evidence supported models and worked to apply them to our specific population . All of this underscores our efforts having served over 1,00 families and 3,000 children, having taught models of best practice to over 213 interns, and continuing to evaluate the impact of our services in promoting protective factors and reducing risk factors for child and families at risk.

This would be impossible without great staff, students, and faculty working together in the provision of services and conducting research. Over the years there have been many community partnerships that have been essential to our achieving our mission. FCB partners with a variety of public and private sources and here are some key examples. A core part of our funding for operations has been through funding from the Department of Human Resources, Social Services Administration because we have demonstrated that most families with whom we work are successful avoiding the need for formal child welfare services. Local program operations are funded independently from the research and replication activities. We maintain a strong partnership with the SSW Education for Public Child Welfare Program and other components of the SSW. We also have a relationship with the Helena Foundation that supports our program. Generous private donors, faculty and staff have contributed to our multi-family events including giving their time at the event itself. We are grateful since all this makes the program work. This means that personal involvement including donations have always been crucial to our operations.

In the past, you have generously contributed to Family Connections and we want to thank you for your support. I know I’ve said it many times before but - YOU REALLY DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. We hope that you will continue to strengthen our efforts by including us in your Maryland Charities Campaign donation this year. There is no online option to choose any SSW preference. You must use the paper option to designate your Maryland Charities Campaign Contribution for Family Connections by first completing the pledge card filling in Book # code 5384 at the bottom of the Pledge Card. Yes keep going down the form following the instructions it’s there. Then, a supplemental foundation form must be submitted indicating that you choose your pledge to the foundation to be designated for Family Connections. PHEW!!

If you have any questions please contact Fred Strieder at 410-706-5479.

Frederick H. Strieder, Ph.D., M.S.S.A., LCSW-C
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work
Director, Family Connections at Baltimore
525 West Redwood Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Phone: 410-706-5479 Fax: 410-706-1462