Congratulations to the Citizen-To-Citizen grantees. Following are stories that highlight four innovative programs funded via the Tax Check-Off Fund. Thanks go to the Illinois taxpayers who contributed to the worthy cause of child abuse prevention.

SHAWNEE HEALTHY FAMILIES HELPS RURAL FAMILIES AT RISK

In 1993 DCFS began replicating one of the nation's most widely recognized prevention programs into Illinois communities. Healthy Families is a hospital-based intake program for "at-risk" mothers giving birth. Originally developed in Hawaii, the program contacts mothers prenatally or just after birth to assess risk factors and determine which families would benefit most from at home parent education and other family support services.

Established in 1994 and largely supported by Child Abuse Prevention grants, the Shawnee Healthy Families Program has provided voluntary neonatal home visitation services for nearly I00 "al-risk" families. One measure of the program's success is that only one family served by the program has ever been indicated for abuse or neglect.

Serving families in Jackson, Perry, Franklin and Williamson Counties, the program, based at the Adolescent Health Center in Carbondale, reaches a traditionally under-served area of the state. Referrals are made through local hospitals where Shawnee program staff make their initial contacts. Services begin within three weeks after the first hospital visit with the mothers, and even those ineligible for Healthy Families services are referred to other potential resources of support.

"We stay fairly close to the national model," said project director Tess Ford. "But we cover more of a rural area than other programs, and we focus on first time mothers."

Families accepted into the Shawnee Health Families Program are generally expected to stay with the program for three to five years. Home visits are initially scheduled on a weekly basis and follow a curriculum guide developed by the Shawnee staff. The 340-page guide, called "It's a SNAPP," emphasizes parent-child interactions, child development, safety, positive disciplines and other skills commonly found in healthy families. After a year, participants are graduated to biweekly meetings, then monthly and quarterly meetings as the family progresses. Some families may be placed on a creative outreach status with only limited contacts, as needed.

The program provides a wide variety of services including parenting education, linkage with resources, family support, follow-up, medical care and transportation services -- much needed in rural areas where clients may live dozens of miles from medical and social services.

Ford said that Shawnee's programming approach is unique in its flexibility. "You can do creative outreach here. We keep evening and weekend hours so we can work around parents' schedules. Also, high-risk families tend to drop out of services and you can lose them. This program is designed so that you don't drop them if you don't see them for a couple of months. We don't actually close those cases. We keep making contacts with the families."

Coordination is also important in a region where human services are scarce. "One of our special strengths is that we work very closely with other agencies and we work very closely with the Local Area Networks," Ford said. If clients can be served by an existing teen parenting program that serves Franklin and Williamson Counties, they are referred to the program so the empty slots in the Shawnee Program can serve additional families. Shawnee staff are also familiar with community service agencies and other helping programs to which clients can be referred, and staff keep in contact with local hospitals to identify families in need of their services, Ford explained.

The Shawnee Healthy Families Program is growing. A second referral hospital was recently added and social work students at the nearby Southern Illinois University are being recruited for internships. In November the program held its first Advanced Parenting Training Seminar class, which was made possible by a Family Centered Services grant from LAN # 4.