More than one year ago, Mobile Response and Stabilization Services (MRSS) in Mercer County, a program of Children and Family Services of Catholic Charities, was selected out of all the mobile response programs in New Jersey to take part in a special pilot initiative for the state’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P).
The initiative involves staff being dispatched to children in foster homes within the first 24 hours of placement to help put measures in place to decrease the number of missed or failed placements and to ensure a greater number of successful placements. The premise of the pilot is to lessen any additional trauma the child has to endure due to being removed from their families.
This process allows the opportunity for staff to identify any challenges from the onset and initiate services to offset those challenges. The pilot program also allows foster families to receive support and guidance in learning and utilizing strategies that would lessen the trauma faced by the child placed in their homes. Since the pilot program’s inception, MRSS has been able to preserve approximately 90% of placements in the Mercer County area.
Through its participation in the pilot program, Catholic Charities’ MRSS served as a model for other counties mobile response programs to then follow. This has led to more than 20 additional counties joining the DCP&P initiative, all utilizing the model that Catholic Charities’ MRSS staff helped to establish.
In early January, MRSS Program Director, Cynthia Bediako, MSW, LCSW, was invited to take part in a meeting with DCP&P to give input into creating a survey for the initiative that follows up with foster parents to determine what has been most helpful and what could be improved upon. Catholic Charities MRSS, represented by Bediako, was the only mobile response program represented at the meeting. Her input regarding the pilot program and review of the initiative over the past year was essential in helping DCP&P formulate questions for the survey which is currently in the review and approval process with the state.