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MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel visits family resource center in Flint that helps Keep Kids Safe

Program is one of 11 in state that prevents child abuse and neglect

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel today visited the state-funded family resource center at Voices for Children Advocacy Center in Flint for a discussion about how the center prevents child abuse and neglect by providing services to children and families.

Family resource centers are a key part of the department’s Keep Kids Safe Action Agenda that highlights the many initiatives the department has undertaken to protect children.

Voices for Children runs one of 11 family resource centers located around the state that received funding from Children Trust Michigan, the state’s agency solely focused on child abuse and neglect prevention that is within MDHHS. Voices for Children serves Genesee and Shiawassee counties.

“Family resource centers are a key part of our Keep Kids Safe Action Agenda,” Hertel said. “When we connect families with services and resources, that early intervention can strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Voices for Children is an invaluable resource for parents in Genesee and Shiawassee counties, which is why Children Trust Michigan selected the organization to be one of our first family resource centers.”

Michigan’s family resource centers in fiscal year 2023 served 13,696 families. This included 7,603 adults and 19,654 children. Family resource centers provided 9,375 services, including education and parent training. The most common service was nutrition and food assistance, which was provided 2,002 times.

Hertel and other MDHHS and Children Trust Michigan officials today participated in a roundtable discussion with staff and families from the Voices for Children family resource center, including Children Trust Michigan board chairperson Amy Tattrie Loepp and executive director Suzanne Greenberg.

Each family resource center provides a different array of services and resources based on local needs.  

“By raising awareness and providing resources, parents can learn effective parenting strategies, coping mechanisms and support networks that can help create a safe and nurturing environment for their children,” said Demetrius Starling, senior deputy director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Administration. “This proactive approach not only benefits the well-being of children, but also mitigates the long-term effects of trauma within families and communities.”

The Keep Kids Safe Action Agenda highlights the many initiatives the department has undertaken to protect children. It relies on best practices in child welfare and commits the department to the nation’s highest standards. The action agenda will evolve as new research and data are released to keep kids safe from harm.

“Children Trust Michigan provides financial support to community-based family resource centers and works closely with them to build protective factors for children and families,” Greenberg said. “This makes safe and healthy childhoods possible for Michigan’s children.”

Services and resources in Flint include classes, group activities and supplies such as diapers and other household items. Activities cover parenting skills or tools that families can apply to situations at home.In Flint, some families participate in activities simply for the social support and come to the center through word-of-mouth.

“I am thrilled to receive support from MDHHS and Children Trust Michigan to provide services to families in Genesee County that can prevent child abuse and neglect,” said Claudnyse D. Holloman, president and CEO of Voices for Children Advocacy Center.

“The family resource center is an answer to an issue that we have been wrestling with for a long time,” she said. “It ensures that families have access to familial services provided by parents and caregivers right here in their community. We are grateful to have a robust and diverse parent advisory group that includes mothers and fathers, grandparents raising young children, and caregivers who are Black, Indigenous and people of color who support families in our community. I am so pleased to share the work of the family resource center with Director Hertel and other members of the MDHHS team.”

Erick Hamilton of Flint Township is part of the parent advisory group. He spends time at the family resource center to assist other families. Hamilton said he wants to give back because he and his wife Carrie received services from Early Head Start when they were experiencing unemployment following the birth of their son James, now 6. Now they’re both working.

“I go back to that community feel that we experience at Voices for Children,” said Erick Hamilton, who participated in the roundtable discussion today. “Parents and caregivers can come here and get any kind of services or resources that your family may need. It might just be to sit down and talk to somebody for a while. That may bring you from a place where it seems rather hopeless to a place where you know you have support and there are avenues to success so you don’t feel like it’s a dead end.”

The Flint family resource center currently serves 50 families and has assisted 253 families since it started in 2022.

It was one of six pilot locations selected by Children Trust Michigan in 2022. Others are for families in Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw counties; Calhoun County; Kent County, Macomb County and Washtenaw County.

Five additional family resource centers now serve the following counties: Alcona, Ingham, Saginaw and Huron, Tuscola and Wayne.

Michigan is part of the national family resource center movement, which is made up of community-based resource hubs where people and families can access formal and informal supports to promote their health and well-being. While family resource centers have many things in common, they are designed to reflect and be responsive to community needs and interests. They build parenting skills, connect families to resources and develop parent and community leadership.

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