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Miami Family Resource Center of South Florida Aims to Prevent and Treat Child Abuse

By Kelly Church

As a company that considers itself a "champion" for children's rights and safety, the Family Resource Center of South Florida actively works to ensure children have a safe, happy and healthy environment to grow up in. Considered a Full Case Management Agency, the Family Resource Center focuses on more than just placing a child into an immediate safe home.

The Miami, FL organization offers an array of services that address all aspects of a child's needs, from education to clothing to dental care. Dorit Matthews, Director of Development for the Family Resource Center, says these services, along with programs specifically designed for at-risk parents, help the organization reunite two-thirds of foster children with their families.

"As a Full Case Management Agency, our work is to ensure that the children have a safe and stable placement home and provided with any necessary wrap-around services," Matthews says. "These services include medical, mental and dental health services; transportation; supervised visitations with their parent or family members; after-school tutoring; clothing and school uniforms; school supplies, and anything else that they might need."

The organization, which was founded by a group of concerned Miami citizens, offers services in English, Spanish and Creole. The goal is to help children in foster care have a support system, both within their biological families and outside of them. The Family Resource Center's mission includes preventing and treating child abuse and neglect, much of which also includes working with the child's parents or guardians. As the child is being cared for, other steps are taken to ensure parents are receiving proper care as well.

"Simultaneously, we work to link the parent with court-mandated services such as parenting education, domestic violence counseling [and] substance abuse treatment," Matthews says. "One way that we achieve this is dual track case planning. What this means is that we work with the child's parent or parents on reunification, while simultaneously working to identify another loving adult who might be willing to adopt or do permanent guardianship."

The Family Resource Center offers one of only 10 parent education programs in the area that is approved by the Chief Judge of the Dependency Court. Through a series of 16 classes, parents are taught skills that support positive family relationships, ultimately preventing instances of child abuse in at-risk families. The program is based off of more than two decades of research. Each class is 120 minutes and the organization calls it, "community-based, culturally and linguistically sensitive."

"A large part of our work is ensuring that children are able to achieve permanency in a timely way, as opposed to languishing in the foster care system for many years," Matthews says. "Our case managers monitor each family and provides the overseeing judge with information about progress and compliance. In about two-thirds of cases, the parent [or parents] are successful in their services and can be reunified with their children."

The organization also hosts events that help raise money for the cause, including the recent National Adoption Day that celebrates all the children who are adopted during the month of November. Matthews says the 2015 event celebrated the adoption of 18 children. Other events throughout the year include the Strike Against Child Abuse Bowling Tournament, an annual bowling event in June that will celebrate its 20th year on June 4, 2016.

The 2015 bowling tournament attracted more than 250 people to fundraise for children in foster care. However, community members don't need to wait until an event to support the Family Resource Center. Donations can be made throughout the year via the Family Resource Center of South Florida website on a one-time or monthly basis.

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