Strong Families, Strong Children Evaluation

Prepared for: Strong Families, Strong Children: The Strong Families, Strong Children (SFSC) Collaborative

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 Orange County 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 Families.

SFSC’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of veteran families, 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 themselves and/or military connected through their own family. Peer Navigators have lived military/veteran 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 that is needed to engage and retain this population.

They provide outreach, engagement, linkages to referrals, education and case management services for military and veteran families. Peer Navigators are supported by Masters-level Clinical Case Managers who also hold a shared understanding of the impact of military service, and who have specialized clinical and case management skills needed to address mental health issues in order to strengthen and support the recovery of the veteran family.

With this model, the Peer Navigator and Clinical Case Manager have the personal knowledge and experience, along with the training and skills needed to work directly with veteran families. They can also engage with agencies and/or systems that are not familiar with the barriers and needs of military-connected families. Referrals are received from community-based agencies, veteran agencies, family agencies, Veterans Treatment Court, Domestic Violence Veterans Court, Veterans Diversion Court and numerous other community, state, and federal agencies serving families and 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 family specific training and services with 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 and their partners on military family culture to identify and engage this population; and having Clinical Case Managers and Peer Navigators available at FRCs to provide veteran family specific behavioral health and supportive services throughout the county, in the communities that they live, rather than at a centralized location.