Building Families program helps stabilize at-risk families
To understate what every parent knows, parenting is very difficult. Sometimes families need some extra help to deal with life’s challenges, but they may not know where to turn. Thornwell’s Building Families program may be the prescription for a healthier future for parents and their children.
Morgan Ednie, the program’s director, said it is a natural extension of what Thornwell already does for children.
“Thornwell has a residential children’s home in Clinton,” she said. “That has been there since the 1800s.”
Ednie said the home is one of the oldest children’s homes in the country. Children come there for a variety of reasons, including placement for some who are in the child welfare system. Founded as a Presbyterian ministry in 1875, Thornwell has now grown to serve families and children in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
“Building Families came about five or six years ago,” Ednie said.
Ednie described the program as a way to bring Thornwell to families to stabilize the child, stabilize the family and prevent the child from coming into care in the first place. Family specialists provide in-home, individualized, therapeutic services to families to help with behavior and other issues.
“It definitely runs the spectrum,” Ednie said. “In some families, the child might have a diagnosis, like ADHD or ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). We are giving the parents really specific tools. It’s a customized approach. We go to the school to observe them as well, so everyone is on the same page. We also have a lot of kiddos who, maybe it’s their first time going to school and they are really struggling.”
A diagnosis is not required and families may self-refer for help. Children typically range in age from 2 – 18.
“With teens, you’re more likely to see defiant behavior, school refusal,” Ednie said. “With younger children, it might be having to accept ‘no’ for an answer. Sometimes a parent might be hesitant or unsure if this is the right fit for them. Your experience is your experience. If you feel there is something you want to improve upon in your family, we want to help you make that next step.”
Building Families provides a free consultation in the home. The program typically lasts for 12 – 15 weeks, with in-home meetings about twice per week, scheduled around work and school commitments. A year of follow up support is also provided. For families with Medicaid, the program is free. Others pay on a sliding scale, with the cost at $5 – $45 per session, but scholarships are available to assist with those costs if needed. Unlike traditional therapy fees, the cost for the program is per visit, not per hour.
“We work with the whole family system,” Ednie said. “The parents learn skills right alongside the child.”
The program has been so successful that Ednie said she has seen children go from being targeted for expulsion to entering their school’s gifted program.
“It’s an evidence-based program,” she said. “It has been shown to be effective, regardless of their family makeup. There have been incredible gains.”