Wednesday, October 15, 2008

First 5 Solano wins CSAC Challenge Award

First 5 Solano wins CSAC Challenge Award
Preventive, intervention approach earns award for innovation in government

Focusing on programs that provide preventive and early intervention services has earned a Solano County agency an award for innovation in county government.

First 5 Solano, along with its community partners that implement the programs it funds, will accept the California State Association of Counties 2008 Challenge Award at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 7. Only 10 such awards were made this year out of 255 entries from all over the state.

“First 5 Solano targets services that make a fundamental difference in the lives of children and their families and, thus, the entire community,” said Supervisor Barbara Kondylis. “By investing in front-end services, we are avoiding unnecessary human hardship that would cost millions of dollars down the road if not addressed now.”

The Challenge Award recognizes how First 5 Solano targets its funding on such programs as the Integrated Family Support Initiative, BabyFirst Solano and School Readiness. First 5 Solano calculates this strategy of focusing on front-end, prevention and early intervention services may have saved as much as $3.7 million in long-term foster care and pregnancy-related health care costs.

The Integrated Family Support Initiative (IFSI) targets high-risk families and provides home-visiting services orchestrated by a multi-disciplinary team that includes a Child Protective Services social worker, a Public Health nurse, Substance Abuse staff and a Family Resource Center specialist. In FY 2006/07, 98 percent of the 133 children served by IFSI remained out of foster care placement and in their homes and communities.

“IFSI helps families with a much higher risk of ending up in the foster care system to stay together,” said Christina Arrostuto, executive director of First 5 Solano Children and Families Commission. Besides the direct costs of foster care, there are court, medical and developmental/education-related costs, which Arrostuto points out far exceed the $924,000 annual cost of the IFSI program.

The BabyFirst Solano program targets pregnant and parenting women with documented health disparities in birth outcomes (premature birth, low birth weight and infant mortality). The target groups include teens, African-Americans and women using or at risk of substance abuse during pregnancy.

In FY 2006/07, 22 babies were born substance-free to the high-risk mothers served by BabyFirst Solano, representing savings of $1.7 million based on the average Neonatal Intensive Care Unit costs of $78,000 per infant. The savings exceeds the entire $1.4 million cost of the BabyFirst Solano program.

In addition, the preterm birth rate for BabyFirst teens last year was 5 percent, lower than the California rate of 12 percent and the Healthy People 2010 target of 8 percent.

First 5 Solano also funds school readiness programs that are producing increased numbers of at-risk children who have mastered cognitive and behavioral competencies by the time they start Kindergarten, which avoids special education costs. Program sites are in Dixon, Fairfield-Suisun, Vacaville and Vallejo school districts.

“The First 5 Commission could not have achieved the program results that earned this award without our community partners,” Arrostuto said. She noted that the County Health and Social Services Department, local school districts, the Children’s Network of Solano County and the Family Resource Centers in every city in Solano “are First 5’s ‘early warning system’ for young children’s safety, healthy-development and family security. She added, “This award is focused on saving taxpayer dollars, which is a fine achievement, but the savings in human costs are priceless.”

In 2007, First 5 received a CSAC Merit Award for its strategy of leveraged funding that nearly doubled the funds received by grantees.

Released: Oct. 3, 2008