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Every Child Provides Intensive Mental Health Services to Children and Families
By Nancy Kennedy

Dennis Falo, M.A., Director of Clinical ServicesEvery child should feel safe and loved and have the chance to grow up to become a successful adult.  Every child, however, does not have an easy path to adulthood; for many children, there are barriers and challenges along that path that take many forms: medical fragility, disability, family dysfunction, abuse and neglect, and disorders such as autism. Special attention must be given to meeting the needs of these children and their families – attention that is expert, professional, child-focused and highly individualized.

Fortunately for children and families in southwestern Pennsylvania, there are numerous services and agencies devoted to the welfare of vulnerable children. One of the most effective is Every Child, a small but mighty human services organization that has been successfully supporting children and nurturing families for the past twenty years. Originally created in 1997 to provide services to medically fragile children, Every Child has expanded in scope and mission to include Child and Family Support Services and a comprehensive Clinical Services program. Child and Family Support Services encompass In-Home Family Preservation; Pregnancy Support with Trained Doulas; Foster Care and Adoption services and Medical Wraparound Services. The Clinical Services program consists of Family-Based Mental Health Services and Family Focused Solution-Based Services. In all of Every Child's services, says Laura Maines, Executive Director, the goal is the same: "Every Child develops, preserves and strengthens the relationships to family and community that are essential to a child's growth and development."

Dennis Falo, M.A., Director of Clinical Services, says that the two clinical programs serve children with a wide variety of diagnoses. "In the family-based mental health services program, we see children ages 5 to 21 with an existing diagnosis of depression, anxiety, attachment disorders, grief and loss, adjustment disorders and other mental health issues. We see kids who are recovering from emotional trauma. For children with mental health issues, the family-based mental health program is the last line of defense before placement into a residential treatment facility or hospital. It's an intensive program and is entirely home-based; we want to see the child and family in their own environment. We also transition kids to home after they have been in a facility, from residential care.

"Our teams each have five or six cases and they make home visits two to five times a week, for a period of several months. They provide therapy; crisis intervention, 24/7; they also provide service coordination, case management and advocacy. We have two teams and they do an outstanding job; each team has a senior clinician who is prepared at the master's level, plus a group of 18 clinicians who may have degrees in psychology, social work or education. They all have completed a special training program at WPIC."

Family Focused Solution Based services are less intense but comprehensive.  According to Falo, the Family Focused program serves ages 5 to adult, as long as the adult is a caregiver of a child or adolescent, with suspected mental health disorders. Ages 8 – 14 is the average for children in the program. The teams will work with any family member, the family system and the outside systems that interact with the family – the school, church and the community. "This program is a step down from Family Based Mental Health; these are families that probably have not previously had mental health services.  The families function better and our teams can manage larger caseloads."

Holly Livingston, M.S.W., Director of Child and Family Services, says that Every Child works through its entire continuum of services to ensure that every child has a safe and loving home to grow up in. "Our staff sees this work as a calling," she says. "The staff has enormous experience in the field and they care passionately about helping families succeed. Families define their own success, and their success is our success."

Livingston adds that Every Child is seeking foster families and she encourages interested adults to visit the web site or call Every Child to learn more about the program and register for an informational meeting. Foster parents can be single or married, working or retired; above all, they must be motivated and able to make a commitment to a child. Prospective foster parents attend three full day training sessions and undergo three home visits and personal interviews.

To learn more about Every Child, visit www.everychildinc.org or call (412) 665-0600.

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