Earlier this year, an alert Family Services Counselor at Family Support Services (FSS) took decisive action that gave a struggling mother the help she needed to turn her life around. The mother, Kathleen, had been referred to the High-Risk Newborn (HRN) program at Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) after her child had been admitted to a local hospital.

“High-Risk Newborn is important for families in the Jacksonville community, like Kathleen’s,” says Rebecca Levin, Senior High-Risk Newborn therapist at JFCS. The program provides support and advocacy for parents facing mental health and parenting issues. “The families we serve often deal with environmental stressors and barriers,” Levin continues. Those problems can lead to a “cycle of abuse and neglect. HRN helps families break the cycle by overcoming the issues they face, so they can lead more successful and productive lives.”

Kathleen was able to discuss her anxiety with therapist Brittany Carter, who helped her distinguish healthy coping skills from the unhealthy ones she had used in the past.

One of Carter’s challenges was to establish trust with Kathleen. Slowly she built rapport, supporting her without judging her. Through in-home counseling services, Kathleen learned effective ways to deal with stress and anxiety, tips for bonding with her child, and ways to address negative thought patterns. They also explored her protective role as a mother. “Kathleen was really able to grow as a parent and personally,” Carter says.

“This case is a wonderful example of the great work being done between JFCS and FSS,” adds Carlos Cruz, director of family preservation at FSS. “Though the case had many high-risk factors, we were able to provide the right services to preserve the family. This is what it’s all about, keeping kids safe and families together.”

Kathleen and her son participated in the HRN program from January to April 2020. When they successfully completed the Family Assessment Support Team (FAST) services, they received a graduation gift that included electrical outlet covers, cabinet locks and safety doorknob covers.