The Mary C. Jackson Center for Family Research, a nonprofit organization in Great Falls that provides assistance to Healthy Family programs in Virginia and Maryland, has received a grant from the Freddie Mac Foundation to purchase equipment and devise training to allow those centers to be more self-sufficient.
“We support programs and organizations that provide direct services to families at risk for abuse and neglect,” said Donna Klagholz, Ph.D., director of the program, which is named after a colleague of hers who passed away a few years ago and was a key supporter of bringing the Healthy Family programs to Maryland.
“This program is consistent in establishing and maintaining assessments of people in their environment and helping to make sure a child’s needs are being met in the home,” she said. “We’re looking to help these [Healthy Family] sites with transportation and funds in order to become self-sufficient and sustained. We’ve had tremendous outcomes.”
The Freddie Mac Foundation is one of the principal donors to the Jackson Center, providing funding to not only the local programs in Fairfax County, Maryland and the greater Washington area, but nationally as well.
“They have invested in Healthy Families as an asset, and having seen the success in our program, they wanted to make sure we could achieve the depth of contact we want to establish,” Klagholz said.
Initially, she had applied for a $50,000 grant when Dean Klein, their Freddie Mac contact, called to ask how the money would be used if an additional $50,000 were received.
“He wanted to make sure the resources were accepted and usable to the sites we couldn’t personally go out and train ourselves,” she said. “I told him if we were able to train more sites, it would speed up the process for a Web-based database to find grants and obtain funding. He told us that was exactly what he was hoping to hear and gave us twice what we asked for.”
The grant will be used on the database but also to train workers at the Healthy Family sites to use the technology and train more staff to go into homes and assess the family situation of clients, she said. “We want the sites to become able to write strong and more solid proposals for grant funding. Our office is not directed towards the clients per se, but to empower the organizations to develop sustainability.”
Workers trained through Healthy Families learn how to “assess family members for depression, especially mothers right before and right after a baby is born,” she said. “There is a high rate of maternal depression, especially for women who begin to feel disconnected with the rest of the world while they stay home to care for their baby. That personal contact is so important, even just meeting with the social worker helps alleviate that,’ she said.
Most clients stay in the Healthy Families program for between 18 months and two years, she said, but a few stay the maximum time of five years.
“The Mary C. Jackson Center offers a very important service to the community and the 10 Healthy Family centers in the region,” said Shawn Flaherty, spokeswoman for the Freddie Mac Foundation. “We’ve been a longtime support of the Healthy Families program, they’re so effective in preventing child abuse and doing other great things for children and families.”
HEALTHY FAMILIES provides in-home services for first-time parents, Flaherty said. The thought behind the program is that “if you help people who are first-time parents from the prenatal stages through the first five years of the child’s life, you’re more likely to eradicate child abuse. The program has proven to be highly effective, over 90 percent,” she said.
By giving the parents the guidance and support needed, children who go through the program are more likely to be prepared to start school on time, with all required immunizations and ready to learn at grade level, she said.
“This is very exciting,” said Karin MacKinnon, director of the Northern Virginia Family Services office in Oakton. “We’ve worked with Donna for many years. They’d put together a good program before to help us find grant resources and help write higher quality grants, and the money they received will be used as an extension on that program.”
In the Northern Virginia area, there are eight Family Services site, which help make up the Healthy Families program, along with the Health Department, Reston Interfaith and United Community Ministries, she said. There are two sites in Prince William County, one each in Arlington and Alexandria and four in Fairfax County itself.
“Freddie Mac has always been very supportive of Healthy Families within the state and the region,” MacKinnon said. “To support the Center is a wonderful effort on their part.