Cherokee Healthy Families is the local site of HFA, and the program, which started in 2001 or 2002, was originally run through the Public Health Department. Cherokee's program is now completely funded by the Northwest Iowa Community Empowerment Area, and is a Prevent Child Abuse Program. They are the only Healthy Families program in the four county "cluster." which also includes Lyon, Plymouth and Sioux Counties, which is not under the county public health department.
Daedra Collins came to Cherokee from Dow City in 2007 to serve as program manager and get the program accredited by Prevent Child Abuse America, and that mission was accomplished recently. At a site visit to Cherokee by PCAA in March 2009, the accreditors looked at the records of Cherokee Healty Records and talked to staff, clients and client families and determined that the Cherokee program met all 12 critical standards at a 90% or higher rate, and it was not necessary to do a further review. Cherokee Healthy Families received their accreditation in May 2009, and Collins said it is "rare" for accreditation to be awarded that quickly after a site visit.
Collins,who has a Bachelor's degree in Health and Human Services, has just one other worker in her office, Shannon Goth, who works as a Family Support Worker.
All services provided by Collins and Goth are provided in the client's home, and the clients (an average caseload of between 23 -28 Cherokee County families) receive such services as information on child development, showing parents ways to interact with children which can help ease stressors and methods of positive discipline (as alternatives to spanking). The clients of Healthy Families Cherokee range from mothers who are pregnant to single mothers or fathers to entire families, and the program's goal is to prevent abuse.
All appointments are voluntary and are scheduled. Following a pre-screening for depression and knowledge of child development, Level One clients are usually seen at least once a week; Level 2 clients are seen twice a month; Level 3 clients once a month; and Level 4 clients are seen once every three months, with monthly phone contact. During the sessions , the client and worker work on promoting self-sufficiency, and building a support system so the client knows where they can go if problems re-surface.
Healthy Famiies collaborates with several public agencies, including Mid-Sioux Opportunities and Catholic Charity Food Pantry. Many of their referrals come from local physicians. Clients are not accepted because of financial need, but it is based rather on the perceived level of risk of child abuse, with factors such as parent unemployment, teenage parents, or parents going to college taken into account.
It seems to be working. Daedra Collins said that figures show that Cherokee County was 59th of 99 Iowa Counties in founded Child Abuse cases in 2007 and Cherokee County now ranks 79th of 99 counties.
The HFA site in Cherokee is located at 1231 West Cedar Loop, Suite 3, and 712-225-6941 is Daedra Collins' contact number.