Strong Families Strong Children Evaluation
This collaborative was established in Orange County in 2013 to respond to the needs of veteran-connected children and families. Child Guidance Center, the lead agency, partnered with four other non-profit organizations, Human Options, Children and Family Futures, Families Forward, and Veterans Legal Institute, to form the SFSC Collaborative – A Partnership to Support Veteran and Military Families. SFSC’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of veterans, military families, and their children throughout Orange County by engaging the community, providing needed services, building resiliency, and creating safer, more stable home environments. Fundamental to the SFSC service delivery model is the innovative incorporation of “Peer Navigators,” who are veterans or military connected. Peer Navigators have lived military experience similar to the service member (or the service member’s family), enabling them to form a relationship based on trust and a mutual respect. They provide outreach, engagement, linkage and referral, education and case management services for military and veteran families. Peer Navigators are supported by Masters-level Clinical Case Managers with a shared understanding of the impact of military service, case management skills, and specialized, clinical, Masters-level training needed to address mental health issues to strengthen and support the recovery of the veteran family. With this model, the Peer Navigator and Clinical Case Manager staff have the personal knowledge and experience, along with the case management training and skills needed to work directly with the veteran families. They can also engage with the agencies and/or systems that are not familiar with the strengths and needs of military connected families. Referrals are received from community based agencies, veteran agencies, Veterans Treatment Court, Domestic Violence Veterans Court, Diversion Veterans Court and numerous other community, state, and federal agencies serving veterans. In addition, SFSC operates the Continuum of Care (COC) for Veterans and Military Families’ project whose goal is to increase access to behavioral health services for military-connected families by integrating veteran-specific training and services into Social Services Agency (SSA) Families and Communities Together (FaCT) Family Resource Centers (FRCs) throughout Orange County. This integration is achieved through two separate, yet related, efforts: Training FRC staff on military culture so that staff can identify and engage this population; and having Clinical Case Managers and Peer Navigators available at FRCs to provide veteran-specific behavioral health and supportive services throughout the County, rather than at a centralized location.