New county program to help at-risk youth


By Supervisor Dave Roberts

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

That’s the adage, coined by none other than Benjamin Franklin. Considering that he lived until age 84 and he lived at a time when few effective medicines were available to fight all manner of disease, he must have known what he was talking about.

It’s not 1706 to 1790 anymore, but at the County of San Diego we like to apply this Founding Father’s adage into workable programs aimed at prevention.

That’s why recently the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a new demonstration program, the California Well-Being Project, which will be a collaboration between the county’s Director of Child Welfare Services and our Chief Probation Officer. In plain English, with this action, our county was granted a Title IV-E waiver and new funding so that the county’s Child Welfare Services staff will be able to expand recruitment efforts to find more adoptive families for children who may be the most challenging to place in forever families.

Partnering with Supervisor Greg Cox, and garnering the unanimous support of the Board of Supervisors, we had established the Exceptional Families program and the Quality Parenting Initiative. Because of this Title IV-E waiver, we will be able to implement greater services to a broader group of at-risk youth.

Since joining this Board in 2013, I have passionately supported critical initiatives that would strengthen our county’s Child Welfare families.

To be frank, a kid living in a caring home has a better chance of making it than a kid living in a home where the parents don’t care. Maybe it does take a village to raise a child, but I’m a firm believer that first and foremost, it takes parents who care.

This waiver can also be used by the county’s Health and Human Services Agency to strengthen the relationship among foster parents and Child Welfare Social Workers. We will do this by providing more comprehensive training and reaching out to better support more quality foster homes for children in the foster care system because every child deserves a loving and permanent home.

How did this new program happen so quickly? This past January, I joined Supervisor Cox, Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione and Child Welfare Services Director Debra Zanders-Willis on a critical trip to Washington, D.C., to persuade federal officials to grant us a waiver and new funding.

We met with the entire leadership team of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families, who oversee all child welfare programs and funding in our nation. We presented our “Live Well, San Diego!” initiative and showcased how we could help our foster children and adoptive families if we were granted more flexibility. In other words, we pitched the idea of why a waiver would substantially help us improve our outcomes.

We also discussed how the Title IV-E program would further support our efforts to help at-risk families and children throughout all of San Diego County.

As taxpayers like you — who open their laptops or the newspaper each morning to read the sobering news — we sometimes wonder whether Washington ever listens. This time they did listen. And the results will be astounding here in San Diego County.

I am so encouraged by today’s Board action. This Title IV-E waiver represents a new, powerful tool for our county staff to help improve the lives of kids and families in our county. We can now etter help children heal from trauma they may have experienced from neglect or by living in an abusive home, and we can better support the well-being of our local families.

These foster kids will have a better chance to grow up to be productive, happy adults.

Prevention is a powerful tool.

Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.