As casework manager for the Family Outreach Center of East Dallas (FOCED), Jane Collins has always believed that volunteers are the “complete heart of the center.” In light of the center’s state funding being cut, that has never been more true.

 

          Collins started with the neighborhood center in November 1988, when it opened due to a high number of area referrals to Child Protective Services (CPS). Formerly a CPS investigator herself, Collins wanted to tackle the preventative side of child abuse.

 

I was very drawn to the idea that families could avoid that type of pain, and children could avoid that harm,” she says. “I really do believe that adults love their children and want to take good care of them.”

 

          Before the funding cuts, there were 18 such centers across Texas . Now there are eight. Collins cites community help and volunteer commitment for our neighborhood’s location being among those that survived.

 

          Services provided by the center include parenting classes, in-home parent mentoring, and educational programs for the community as well as teenage parents. Taking a hands-on approach, volunteers actively participate by going to meetings with families and modeling appropriate behavior.

 

           Although the center occasionally has at-risk families referred to it, all of those the group works with must voluntarily participate. Partly because of this willingness on the part of the parents, the neighborhood center has been successful: Statistics show that 88 percent of the families served have had no need for continued CPS intervention.

 

          Yet despite the proven effectiveness, Collins says the problem is a continuing one.

 

“We are positioned where the data supports — serving five of the top seven zip codes of referrals [to CPS] in the city.

 

“We are very committed to the wisdom of prevention,” she says, “and we know East Dallas is a community that will help kids bloom where they’re planted.”

 


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