By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer

Last week, agency heads from several departments that service the residents East of the River laid out their plan for comprehensive programs that would service residents over the upcoming months.

On hand were, Director of Child and Family Services Brenda Donald; Director of the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Michelle M. Garcia; Executive Director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement Delbert McFadden and Executive Director of the Office of East of the River Services Timothy White. Together they are in charge of millions worth of staff, personnel and services and investments.

Families First D.C. is an initiative which will offer Success Centers throughout Wards 7 and 8. (Courtesy Photo)

They gathered at the 2235 Shannon Place S.E., which is “the new reconstituted office that the mayor has focused solely on services East of the River in improving the quality for residents,” White said.

Director Donald highlighted the Families First D.C. initiative, a plan to create 10 Families First Success Center sites across Wards 7 and 8. These sites include the following area:

WARD 7

  • Simple City (Benning Terrace/Benning Park)
  • Clay Terrace (Richardson Dwellings)
  • Mayfair/ Paradise
  • Stoddard Terrace/ 37th (Fort Dupont)
  • Benning & Minnesota- Minnesota Ave. and Ridge Rd.

WARD 8

  • Woodland
  • Anacostia
  • Congress Heights
  • Condon Terrace/ Wahler Place/ 3rd World/ 6th Street (Washington Highlands)
  • Wingate/ Forester/ Elmira (Bellevue)

The centers are a part of a $4.7 million investment in the area, in the FY 2020 budget. Each location will have a budget of about $450-500,000, Donald said. Each area will have about two or three staff members.

“The idea here is we want to support families further upstream,” Donald said. “We know that families may be be struggling with a number of challenges- maybe mental health issues, maybe housing, employment- things that get in the way of families being able to take care of their kids. And if we can find them earlier and intervene and provide services and resources to these families then we don’t have to see them come to the deeper end of the system.”

Donald said this initiative is a part of a larger primary prevention model that has been implemented in other cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“The model is simple. It’s about having small community based resources in neighborhoods where families already congregate,” Donald said. “Families go where they are comfortable, where they have relationships, where they know they can access services in a way that is supportive and not judgemental.”

Donald said that while there are lots of services, sometimes those services are in remote locations or services are scattered about the city making it harder for residents to access them. Families First D.C. puts access to services in areas where residents already go.

The agencies would work with communities to find out locations where residents go, say a library or a local church. “

The Families First in D.C. initiative will also be buoyed by other agencies and services. For instance, Three new trauma centers, where residents can get care and services and community leaders can learn techniques to address trauma, will also be set up as well as designatinging community schools where students and their families can also get wrap around services.

The budget for the community schools is and the trauma care centers are about  $1.6 million for each initiative according to the budget.

The Families First in D.C. initiative is not meant to duplicate services Donald said, adding, “The point is not to build in seices that we already have available.  It really is to provide and access to those services.”

The District will be looking at a number of large scale and individual measures of success, from looking at specific neighborhood outcomes to family success plans, Donald explained.

If the D.C. Council approves the budget, the District will be working over the next four or five months to get the centers up and running. To see highlights of initatives and plans please see the Mayor’s full FY2020 budget and proposal at https://dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-presents-fiscal-year-2020-budget-proposal.