_SFP8646Two year ago Consuella, a single mom with four children ranging in age from 2 to 12, was totally overwhelmed.

Her ex-husband had recently started a life sentence in prison. A fire at her apartment complex, later followed by a flood, destroyed most of the family’s belongings. They were crammed into a two-bedroom apartment awaiting their next move.  And her two-year-old son Malik was having signficant speech problems.

“I was so stressed and unorganized. I didn’t know what my next move was going to be,” she said.

The family was referred to the Early Childhood Mental Health Program (ECMHP) for wraparound mental health services, a team-based strategy to support families with complex needs. Wrap teams made up of service providers, a family advocate, and the parents’ friends, ministers, or family members help the family to set and meet goals.  The idea is to reduce stress so parents can focus on developing healthy relationships with their children – the key to young children’s optimal social and emotional development.

For Consuella’s family, the wrap team helped her connect to the Red Cross for new household items, Section 8 for subsidized housing vouchers, and speech therapy for Malik at a local early intervention school, where teachers say he’s made major improvements.  She also began parent/child mental health therapy with Malik, which continues today.

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Consuella and her Family Advocate Laurie

The team helped her to set goals focused on anger management, getting organized, and ways to talk more positively to her children.  The best part, says Consuella, was the ongoing support. Her family advocate Laurie checked in with her weekly in addition to the regular wrap team meetings.

“I never had anyone check up on me before like they did with wrap. The team helped me sort things out in my head and opened my eyes to the world,” said Consuella. “It helped me grow not just as a mother but as a person. I now have a totally different outlook, and my kids see that.”

In the last ten years, more than 1,100 children with emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems and their families have participated in wraparound or mental health services supported by First 5. Services have resulted in decreased aggressive behavior in children and lower incidences of child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.

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