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‘Graduating’ Families Beat The Odds on Child Abuse

They come from every background, every culture, and race, but the families graduating Saturday have one thing in common – all come from backgrounds and  circumstances that may put them at high risk for possible child abuse. However, thanks to their involvement in a nationally sanctioned prevention program called Healthy Families, 98 percent of the children were not abused or neglected while in the program, and 99% remained free from abuse and neglect two years after completing it.

Locally, Healthy Families is a program of Families First of Palm Beach County. The statewide evidence-based program, Healthy Families Florida, is part of the national Healthy Families America. So successful is the Florida program that it received its third national accreditation in 15 years. Each program site faces rigorous evaluation activities every five years to ensure that they adhere to the program’s standards.

On Saturday, May 3, a total of 52 families with a total of 134 children will gather at Lion Country Safari to celebrate their successful completion of this program that starts working with families either before birth or soon afterward. While staff can work with each family for up to five years, the average is three years.

In the past five and a half years since Families First has been providing the program 845 families have participated. Since state data indicated it costs taxpayers $72,709 for every abused child in terms of services required, including child welfare, hospitalization, special education and juvenile justice services, Healthy Families, which costs $1,882 per child, is saving Palm Beach County taxpayers millions. According to these figures from Healthy Families Florida, it costs Florida 38 times more to care for an abused child than to prevent a child from being abused.

The program, funded locally by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and through the state’s Ounce of Prevention fund, attributes its success to its early start in the child’s life – from before birth to three months - and to its home visitation model. (A DCF Child Fatality Trend Analysis shows that in-home services reduce a child’s odds of death by 90%). Trained staff teaches families child development milestones and positive parenting skills. They connect parents and children to medical providers and other community resources based on need and screen for maternal depression and child development delays. And, they help parents set goals that lead to self-sufficiency.

73 Families in Palm Beach County Attend Self-Sufficiency Graduation


Families First’s Healthy Families Program Holds Annual Graduation at Lion Country Safari

Palm Beach, FL, November 12, 2012 – Last month 286 caregivers and children from 73 families enjoyed graduation festivities from Healthy Families at Lion Country Safari. “The graduation is a Healthy Families tradition to celebrate all of the participants’ hard work in meeting their own goals,” said Kathy Tancig, Healthy Families Director. “These families voluntarily participate in this home visiting program that lasts on average of three years.”

Thirty-eight of the 73 families completed the three year program while the other 35 are on track to graduate next year. “We invite future graduates to the event so they can see how we celebrate their accomplishments,” said Julie Swindler, LCSW, CEO of Families First. The event began with a bus tour to see all the animals, follow by lunch and ceremony for the families. The afternoon concluded at the waterpark and rides. One of this year’s graduates, Marla Samuels, was also awarded the Chris Evert Vitas Gerulaitis Memorial Scholarship earlier this month.

Healthy Families is a nationally accredited, voluntary home visiting program that is proven to prevent child abuse and neglect before it starts. Trained home visitors provide parents and caregivers with information, guidance, emotional and practical support.


Families First is helping families learn how to become productive and successful members of their community. It has established a 22 year history of ensuring families develop resiliency to crisis situations, learning how to increase and maintain social connections, and enhance the knowledge and implementation of parenting and child development skills. Families First staff works with each of its 1,300 families in Palm Beach County, teaching them how to create a safe, secure and nurturing environment for their children. Families who seek to build a better quality of life for their children benefit from the agency’s six diverse programs that provide a way to reduce barriers impacting family stability. For more information, visit

Shred Party 5/18/13

Click on the flyer below to see pictures from the event.


7th Annual Children's Day Luncheon 10/4/13

We are excited to announce Suzanne Boyd from CBS 12 will be our Mistress of Ceremony. Our 7th Annual Children’s Day Luncheon is scheduled for Friday, October 4, 2013 at the Kravis Center. This year’s keynote speaker is internationally-known author and child abuse prevention advocate, Gregg Milligan who will discuss his latest book, God Must Be Sleeping. In addition to an art show and musical performance by U.B. Kinsey/Palmview Elementary School of the Arts, we will be presenting the Harriet Goldstein Award to Dena Foman, Esq. for making a difference in the lives of families in our community, and the Betty Bell Scholarship to a local student pursuing their masters in social work.

The silent auction and U.B. Kinsley art show begin at 10:30 a.m. with lunch at noon.

Click here for more information on becoming a sponsor

Click here to purchase tickets or a sponsorship

To purchase multiple items, please contact Samantha Whiteman at 561-318-4219 or by email.

Chance to win:

Featured Family: Ms. Carreno and her family

Ms. Carreno was referred to the Healthy Families Florida (HFF) program in February of 2011 by Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies program. At the time, Ms. Carreno was a teen in her senior year of high school, and was open to receiving guidance and assistance from HFF. Ms. Carreno was determined to continue her education and seek support that would assist her as a first time parent to be a good mom to her child.

During her pregnancy, Ms. Carreno’s grade point average was a 3.89. She was in the top five percent of her class and a member of the National Science Society. She was awarded a scholarship from the school district and her high school. After giving birth to a healthy son, Ms. Carreno graduated from high school.

With the guidance and support of her family support worker (FSW), Ms. Carreno continued with her goals of enrolling in school to obtain her degree in Elementary Education. The FSW also assisted her with applying to colleges and completing her financial aid application. In January of 2012, nine months after her son was born, Ms. Carreno was enrolled at Palm Beach State College with a major in Elementary Education.

In addition to supporting Ms. Carreno with her personal goals, her FSW continued to work on strengthening her parenting skills through the use of Growing Great Families and Growing Great Kids curriculum in order to teach her how to bond with her child. The FSW continued to work on teaching Ms. Carreno about the benefits of being a good mom which included providing information on health education, home safety, and administering developmental screens to keep her abreast of how her child should be developing according to his age.

While in school, Ms. Carreno maintained a GPA of 3.98. She was awarded several scholarships through the college for her excellent grades and was also awarded work study. Ms. Carreno was enrolled in an educational program through Palm Beach County School District where she completed her student teaching hours and obtained experience in her field of study. Ms. Carreno notified her FSW that she completed her Associates Degree from Palm Beach State College and her graduation was December of 2013.

“I would like to thank my FSW for all of her encouragement and support throughout the years because I probably would not have made it this far without her.” - Ms. Carreno

Although Ms. Carreno experienced several challenges and setbacks in her past she did not allow them to hinder her from achieving her goals. Ms. Carreno has successfully achieved one of her goals and now will continue to further her education by obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Palm Beach State College or Florida Atlantic University.

(In the picture is Father (Efrain) and son (Alfonso)

In 2013, Healthy Families served 376 families with 763 children. Since 2008, the program has served 2,120 children. 100% of these children remain free from abuse and neglect.


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