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Commissioners Establish Integrated Human Services Pilot To Support Black Youth, Families

Family Stabilization Unit to Work Across Agencies to Address Social Determinants of Health 

Columbus, OH – A new Franklin County pilot program will work across local government agencies to help Black boys and their families successfully navigate the challenges of a complex and too-often siloed human services system.

The Franklin County Commissioners voted Tuesday to establish a first-of-its-kind Family Stabilization Unit that will provide wraparound assistance, while taking a tailored approach to meet the unique needs of each family – all through a social determinants of health and racial equity lens. 

“We know that racial disparities are further fueled by siloed systems,” Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services Director Joy Bivens said. “This is the first time that County human services agencies are collectively partnering and integrating our efforts to eliminate barriers for families that need it the most.”

The Unit will initially serve boys and young men of color who are involved with the justice system and who have lower-level offenses such as truancy and/or minor delinquency. Instead of focusing solely on preventing boys from future interactions with the justice system, it will assess needs to the entire household and use a holistic, multi-generational approach to ensure the family gets the assistance and resources it needs to thrive. 

The Commissioners also appointed the County’s first two Family Stabilization Specialists, Christopher Hunnicutt and Walter Dillard, to staff the Unit. They will report to Director Bivens over the course of the two-year pilot.

“We are no longer accepting the things we cannot change. Instead, we’re changing the things we cannot accept” Hunnicutt said. “This unit will provide tangible wraparound services through realistic and attainable case plans.” 

In addition to providing access to core public assistance programs administered by Job and Family Services, the Family Stabilization Specialists will undergo cross-training with an array of partner agencies. 

“This is not just another social services unit for Franklin County; this is a social justice unit,” Dillard said. “We are going to confront both the visible and invisible harsh realities that dictate the social determinants of health for these families.”

The Unit will collaborate with the courts, primarily through the Juvenile Court’s Truancy Intervention and Prevention Program; Board of Commissioners agencies like Office on Aging and Child Support Enforcement; as well as levy-funding social services agencies including Children Services and the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board to create an integrated network of support for families. The Unit also plans to incorporate a workforce development component for families that are unemployed or underemployed through a partnership with Columbus State Community College. 

The Unit was conceived as a byproduct of interviews with hundreds of residents that informed the development of the Commissioners’ Rise Together Blueprint to Reduce Poverty in Franklin County. It will focus on boys and young men of color throughout the two-year pilot – a recognition of deep-rooted health and socio-economic disparities borne out across racial lines with the county and across the country – with the goal of eventually expanding to serve the broader youth population. 

The Commissioners also tasked the Unit with producing annual reports outlining successes and challenges, as well as conducting a comprehensive assessment of the pilot’s efficacy no later than July 1, 2022. 
 
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The Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services provides timely public assistance benefits and builds community partnership through inclusion, responsiveness and innovation. Learn more at https://jfs.franklincountyohio.gov and follow FCDJFS on FacebookTwitter and YouTube