Montrose, COLO.—Montrose County Human Services recently opened the doors to its new in-house visitation program: Family Togetherness—Guidance and Support Program. The program is available for those who have court-ordered visitation and have a case with Montrose County’s child welfare program. The focus of the program is to increase the frequency and length of family visitation, increase parenting skills, decrease the amount of time families are involved with Montrose County child welfare, and decrease the time children are removed from their home and without permanency.
“In just a month of operations, we have had a tremendous amount of interest in the program but are limiting referrals to Montrose County caseworkers at this time,” said Alicia Nelson, Montrose County Parenting Time and Coaching Supervisor. “From our nurturing parents curriculum to cooking and household skills—the goal is to provide a strong foundation for families to succeed together. I look forward to the program’s continued growth.”
“For me, the best part of this program is that we work with the families where they are at—it’s a customized approach to address the greatest needs for the family to eliminate future child welfare involvement,” said Montrose County Human Services Director Jennifer Sherwood. “Child Welfare’s goal is family reunification (as circumstances allow), and this is a great tool to support that initiative.”
From infant rooms to a teen room, the Family Togetherness suite at Montrose County Human Services has it all. The county’s facilities team and contractors remodeled vacant offices to create this space as well as an adjacent, small playground area. While a part of Human Services, the suite entrance is separate for the privacy and safety of families. There is a kitchen area with a washer and dryer to provide educational opportunities while integrating family time. There are several spaces designed for children of different ages. For instance, the infant rooms has diapering supplies and baby swings, toys, and comfortable areas for infants. The toddler room features purposeful play items, couches, friendly wall decals, and art supplies. There is a teen room with approved video games and another space with an air hockey table and vintage Pac-Man arcade game. These spaces promote family engagement in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.
Another big benefit to the system is the integrated video surveillance system, which provides a level of security and privacy for the visits. Supervised visitation is provided by a neutral party and is intended to provide a safe environment for children to visit with parents and caregivers to promote reunification. At this time, one staffer is able to supervise visitation for 5-7 families at separate times, and an additional staffer is completing training to be able to handle another 5-7 families.
In addition to the Family Togetherness—Guidance and Support Program, Montrose County contracts with local vendors to provide visitation services. With changes in legislation, visitation mandates are increasing and vendors are frequently overwhelmed with visitation requests. This program will reduce the spending of outside vendor visitation services by an estimated 50 percent through in-house services. More importantly, the Family Togetherness Program’s integrated parenting programming works to provide skills that aim to eliminate future involvement with child welfare.
To learn more about the Family Togetherness—Guidance and Support Program, please visit montrosecounty.net.