Healthy Families Alexandria, a program of Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS), is designated for major expansion by Healthy Families Virginia. “Alexandria was selected for the expansion project due to their excellence in service and outstanding results,” says Maria Brown, the Director of Healthy Families Virginia. “The local funding they receive from the city, foundations and individuals demonstrates a broad base of support in the community.”
Healthy Families Alexandria works with first-time parents who are evaluated as having significant stressors in their lives that could adversely impact the health and development of their child. Healthy Families Alexandria has operated since 1992, when the city approached NVFS to spearhead it. The program currently serves 219 families; after expansion it will serve nearly 475.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the Alexandria community,” said Carol Freeman, Director of the Alexandria program. “If funded by the General Assembly, Healthy Families Alexandria will serve an additional 238 new parents each year, providing them with the support they need to raise children who are healthy, happy and ready to learn.”
The program is voluntary and involves regular home visits by a well-trained family support worker. Having started in Hawaii in the 70s, it has now spread to 35 states, including the District of Columbia. Debra Collins, Alexandria’s Assistant City Manager for Human Services, comments: “We look forward to the expansion of this very effective prevention program. We predict excellent outcomes for families and children in our community.”
There are 38 Healthy Families programs in Virginia, but only the Hampton program currently serves all of the families eligible for its services. The expansion project selected two additional programs for growth to include at least 75% of eligible families in their communities. The expansion evolved from two studies of the Hampton program, which showed lower infant mortality, reduced child abuse and neglect, and significant savings under the Virginia Comprehensive Services Act, which provides services to high-risk children and their families.
Funding for the expansion project must be earmarked in the budget by Governor Tim Kaine and approved by the Virginia General Assembly. Some additional funding will be required to meet the program’s goals.