Ending Homelessness and Securing a Future - the PACS Team

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Our Parental and Adolescent Counseling Services (PACS) shared an inspiring story about having the opportunity to work with a woman and her daughter struggling with domestic abuse and homelessness. 

PACS provides intensive services to preserve families that are at significant risk of having children removed from the home due to abuse, neglect or severe family conflict in Island, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom Counties. We also support reunification of families that are currently separated due to an open dependency case. Our in-home counselors work with the parents and the children to identify specific barriers, challenges and needs. Each family learns to develop a plan and follow it. Goals are focused on specific issues the parents and/or youth need to address to realize positive change and move toward stability.

Pictured Left: Cynthia Morrison, Behavioral Health Clinician II, PACS

Meeting Sara
Sara and her daughter
had been living in a shelter for almost three years. She was trying to escape from an abusive spouse. Sara is from Africa and her primary language is French, with very limited English speaking capabilities.  

Cynthia Morrison, a PACS counselor, met Sara at the shelter while working with another family involved with the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). Cynthia shared, “There are times when families have to seek help from us, but our ability to help them is limited because we can only assist the family if they are involved with DCYF. Therefore, the families would need to call an intake to Child Protective Services to receive our services. Because of a grant from the Whitehorse Foundation, we have been able to help these families (specifically those living in Snohomish County) without needing to involve the department, which could be a difficult system to work with for some families.”

Sara was overwhelmed and stressed from dealing with homelessness, immigration, safety issues and divorce proceedings with limited English. The PACS team found that she was struggling to be a good parent to her daughter with all of these obstacles. 

Securing Housing and Services
When Cynthia began working with Sara, the priority was to move her out of the shelter and into stable housing. Cynthia said, “We were thrilled to assist Sara secure permanent housing within three months, especially after she had been homeless for three years!” 

The PACS team then recommended that Sara enroll in a few parent programs. She has made significant progress in programs including, SafeCare, Family Preservation Services (FPS), and the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P). Sara learned skills to increase attachment and bonding with her young daughter.

SafeCare is an evidence-based training curriculum for parents where counselors visit the home to improve skills in several areas including: home safety, health care, and parent-child interactions. Sara set and met her goals of improving her child’s health (dental care) and learned skills to deal with her stress to more effectively parent. FPS helped our therapist to build trust with Sara by listening to, validating, and supporting her family goals. Sara learned new parenting and problem-solving strategies, and worked with Sara on life management skills. Cynthia also provided Triple P services, a parenting and family support system designed to prevent – as well as treat – behavioral and emotional problems in children and teenagers. It aims to prevent problems in the family, school and community before they arise and to create family environments that encourage children to realize their potential.

Accomplishing Goals
Sara was assisted by Cynthia in accomplishing several goals to include passing her driving test, renewing her “no-contact” order to her spouse, and navigating divorce proceedings. Sara has made enormous positive changes for her family with the support of our PACS team and other community partners. Her stability and housing security have created room to focus on the health and well-being of herself and daughter. 

“My work on the Whitehorse grant and the African francophone population has given me such great satisfaction that it is hard to express. Being fluent in French provided me with a level of connection right away. These mothers are some of the most vulnerable I have seen. I am personally grateful to my PACS supervisor, Barbara Sharpe, for spotting this need on one of her own shelter visits, and asking me to work with Sara and her friends that speak French - with limited English,” shared Cynthia.

The PACS team is so proud to have had the opportunity to assist Sara and her daughter in building a bright future.