Rep. Chris Latvala filed another appropriations request Monday seeking funds for a non-profit program that works to prevent children from entering the child welfare system.
The representative is requesting $670,000 from the Department of Children and Families for the Pinellas County non-profit Directions For Living’s BabyCAT program.
The program places parents identified by child protective investigators as having a substance abuse or mental health issue that contributes to abuse or neglect of their young children, between the ages of 0 and 5, into the BabyCAT program to reduce the risk of children having to be removed from their home.
The program provides intensive in-home therapy, case management and care coordination services to address issues that could risk children’s safety.
The goal is to reduce the number of children entering the child welfare system and increase the number of children entering trauma-informed early learning centers.
It also aims to decrease the number of parents arrested because of drug abuse, domestic violence or child abuse or neglect. Directions for Living uses jail data to determine if parents in the program were arrested while receiving treatment or within six-months after completing the program to monitor success.
The program links all of the adults involved in the program to job placement help through a local Career Source program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and to applications for a Pinellas County Health Plan or Medicaid, according to the request. The program serves between 100 to 200 individuals.
The funding requested in the appropriations bill would specifically go to the salaries of the program’s 12 employees ($586,000), as well as to resources like drug testing supplies, travel and cell phones ($84,000).
Last year, the program received $550,000 from the state, less than the $734,000 originally requested.