In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, this week Jewish Family Services of Western New York launched a new partnership with Erie County Child Protective Services (CPS). The partnership aims to educate refugee parents and caregivers about child protection mechanisms that are in place in the US and how families can work with CPS to prevent family separation. The program is framed as a discussion between JFS, CPS, and the New Americans.

JFS is a long-time provider of refugee resettlement and asylee services, most recently supporting the arrival of more than 200 Afghan evacuees who entered the United States on humanitarian grounds. The breadth of the agency’s services goes beyond Afghanistan to include those from Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, and Somalia, to name a few. In addition to a multi-week parent education and support group series the agency runs throughout the year, JFS felt that a workshop that incorporated CPS into the fold would minimize cultural misunderstandings and help facilitate the process of promoting positive parent and child relationships for the long term.

Jill Gavin, Manager of Community Education at JFS said that “we know that child protection mechanisms are an intimidating concept for most parents, let alone for those who have fled war and persecution and come to the United States in search of refuge and asylum.” The partnership with CPS seeks to empower parents with the knowledge, resources, and skills they need to preserve their families and raise happy, healthy, and thriving children. “Each touchpoint that we have with a family offers them a certain level of stability and community that strengthens the odds for a successful life in the US. We could not do what we do without the partnerships we have built, such as with Vive and CPS,” Gavin added.

A program of Jericho Road Community Health Center, the Vive Shelter provides temporary housing, medical care, and legal aid for more than1,000 people annually, primarily from the asylum-seeking community. JFS and Vive have had a long-term collaboration offering a variety of parent, family, and acculturation workshops for the residents.

“Individuals and families who are staying at our Vive Shelter have greatly benefited from our ongoing partnership with Jewish Family Services of WNY,” says Dr. Anna Ireland Mongo, Jericho Road’s chief program officer. “JFS has been bringing its Raising Children in America parent education and support group series to the shelter on a weekly basis and will now be launching their partnership with Child Protective Services here too. This workshop will help inform our Vive parents on what CPS is and what they do and will also explore cultural differences in child-rearing in the United States versus places that our shelter residents have grown up or lived.”

While this first workshop is exclusive to the residents of Vive Shelter, JFS and CPS look forward to offering this workshop at other locations throughout the area in the coming year.